This article was originally published in Fly RC’s January 2016 issue.
Sure, most of us as modelers and RC pilots have a favorite airframe. Perhaps it’s the hot new EDF out on the market or the latest aerobatic offering for 3D performance, but more often than not, it’s a classic-type aircraft that has been around for a while. Maybe you have a certain sentimental link to it, maybe it’s a kit you always dreamed of buying as a kid, but couldn’t afford it in those years or just maybe it’s a kit or ARF that has stood the test of time. In a hobby where there is a dizzying array of products hitting the shelves on a daily basis, there are still models that sell themselves, based solely on word of mouth or tall tales at the local club.
The Top Flite Contender is one of those kits. It has been in production for decades and still continues to sell in high numbers. Of course, there have been revi- sions to the kit over the years in the form of updated hard- ware and the fashion in which the wood is cut, but the air- frame has not changed. Another kit that has always been predominant at club fields is the Big Stik. This is another model that has stood the test of time, no matter who the manufacturer might be. Many pilots owe their flying skills to the Stik and for that reason, they keep it around.
The same holds true for full scale aircraft as well. Just look how many J-3 Cubs are still gracing the skies today. For float and bush pilots in Alaska and Canada, the go-to air- craft for transport and supply runs aren’t some new-fangled, computer laden modern marvel. The de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, Cessna’s 172 and 185 as well as the Maule M-7 are all still well in service in the great white north. The original release dates of these aircraft reach as far back as the 1930s and 40s. There’s something to be said for their design and flight characteristics, not to mention their longevity and reliability. Of course, many of these old school airframes have been updated with modern avionics and power-plants, but even the true originals can hold their own and deliver their cargo promptly and safely.
Another great example is in the Case of the Navy’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Sure, this is the most modern, fly-by-wire, armed to the teeth physically capable machine the US Navy has ever enlisted, but each one costs 148 million dollars! That’s a load of tax dollars right there. Consequently, the Navy cannot afford to replace all of its aging F-18s with the new F-35s. For this reason, Boeing has worked out a deal to keep the strike fighter numbers where they are supposed to be by refurbishing the first generation F/A-18s. With a service life of 6000 hours, these older Hornets will reach their shelf life maximum sometime in 2017. While it can be argued that the F-35 is a more potent fighter, there is something to be said for the F-18 and that’s why the Navy is working with Boeing to keep those Hornets on the prowl for years to come.