“You’re gonna put working cabin doors on that new scale job you’re building? And, you’re planning on taking it out and flying it, and flying regularly, not just once to prove you dared to? Yeah, right…”
Once upon a time, admitting to something like this would instantly assign you to the ranks of those gawky, nerdy guys whose model airplanes seldom even made it out of the basement into daylight, and if they did, those special features fell apart or otherwise failed during their single trip to a flying field. Ever since the beginning, way back to when the only practical way to make and fly a scale job was to build a control-line model, when only a few consummate masters had the skill and nerve to turn loose accurate free-flight scale models and reliable multiple control RC was the stuff of dreams, guys who got to fly their scale models a lot learned early on to keep it simple, build it tough and keep it light! Things like working doors could be counted on to break, fall off or otherwise embarrass you even worse by causing some sort of freak crash. But, what about those highend competition scale airplanes at places like Top Gun? They do that stuff, and it works.
That part is right. If you go to a competition like Scale Masters or Top Gun and your canopy doesn’t slide or your doors don’t open, your static (scale fidelity) score will suffer. Scale features like that are part of what adds huge amounts of time and effort to serious scale aeromodeling. You really have to want to do it. So, how do they get away with it?
I have done those things and I can tell you that there is a serious feeling of accomplishment that goes with something like taking your scale job out to the flight line in front of all the judges, having operating doors serve as your only access to radio switches and so on, and having it work every time under all that pressure. It’s not messing around at the field on Saturday stuff but things have been happening in the world of model airplanes that make such an investment a whole lot more practical than it used to be. I’ll address three.
First, reliable radio control is the obvious part. The stuff we have now is so good we take it for granted, especially since the appearance of 2.4GHz radios has pretty much eliminated RF interference as a cause of crashes, and it has come to make a lot of sense for an aeromodeler who buys and maintains top quality equipment and learns to fly well to worry a whole lot less about the inevitable crash that used to loom in every model airplane’s future.
Second is one you might not think of right away. It’s now very practical to build and fly larger model airplanes. Building things like working doors that you can depend on not to fall off makes a lot more sense when you can use off-the-shelf hinges and real world 2-56 or 4-40 nuts and bolts instead of making exotic micro hardware under a magnifier.
The third factor is the one you know I’m going to talk about. Electric power and scale model airplanes are the perfect match for each other. We already know that power, weight and duration have ceased to matter as problems; now we can take advantage of no exhaust, no vibration, no seeping oil, to encourage building those cool working details that make you feel good just looking at them. That’s what’s going on here with the Stinson SR-9. The engineers at Top Flite knew about this stuff when they realized that working doors were pretty much the only practical way to deal with wing panel attachment without making compromises that would mess up the external scale appearance of the model…and…they weren’t even taking electric power into account. With all that going for me I’ve decided to go all out and add inset door and window frames, sheet metal outer door skins and scale-looking working door latches. Let’s build some doors.
This month’s column is based on Building the Stinson SR-9, blog No. 15, on www.rcmodel.com.