By Scott Copeland
It has been said that one learns more from his failures than his successes. Undeterred by my prior washouts, I vowed to improve my RC skills although those little green demons of haste and impatience continued to hound me. At some point, I acquired a Pronto kit designed by Dave Robelen. It was a cute little low-wing sport machine that reminded me of the PT-19, especially in Robelen’s original, yellow and blue between-the-wars color scheme. As soon as the kit was in my possession, I had to start building!
In retrospect, I have come to the conclusion that all projects have an appropriate pace. That pace may be different for each individual modeler and each individual project but there is certainly a proper speed with which one should proceed. This ideal pace is the perfect balance of progress and sound decision-making. Work too slow; you succumb to every pitfall and never finish the project. Work too fast; you make rash decisions that doom the project to eventual failure. At the time in my life that I built the Pronto, I had not yet had this revelation.
Instead of carefully studying the plans and building instructions to make sure I understood every step, I simply bulled through the build trying to get things done ASAP. Around this same time I also got quite familiar with another factor of modeling which demands recognition; the modeling budget. Rushing through the building process is certainly one way to make sure things get done wrong, but also not realizing that a project is beyond monetary capabilities can lead to just as many mistakes.
At some point in the project, I ran out of epoxy. All my greenbacks had flown the coup, so I substituted. Surely other glues would be sufficient for things like wing spar joinery… I can’t recall which glue I substituted for the correct one, but that point, my friends, is now moot. Additionally, I could not afford the Monokote that should have been used to cover the Pronto. Instead, I had inherited an old roll of iron-on fabric covering that my grandfather had collecting cobwebs in his shop. I decided to use this instead. I quickly learned why this stuff had never been used. It was quite heavy and did not stick well to the framework. Luckily the Pronto had no compound curves because I am sure this mystery fabric would not have conformed to them at all. The covering looked, as Dave Platt might say, “Like a pig’s breakfast”, but there was the Pronto, ready to fly in record time.
I could not wait to test-fly this thing. My friend Chris was always semi-interested in my aeronautical exploits and decided to come along for the maiden flight. My flying field, prophetically, was at the edge of a cemetery. It had a nice open field and a paved strip that could be used as a runway, and the neighbors were quiet. I quickly assembled the model and filled the tank. I rushed through the pre-flight check, failing to check the center of gravity, thinking forward about how great this plane was going to fly. I started the trusty O.S. .15 and set the needle. I did manage to check the controls, and then goosed the throttle. The Pronto lept into the air after a 10 foot rollout and was climbing at about a 45 degree angle! I quickly gave down elevator and managed to keep it from stalling. I hurriedly fed in full down-trim but could not keep the nose level without massive amounts of down-elevator. The Pronto was barely controllable, intermittently climbing and diving at 45-degree angles. I did manage to avoid the trees at the end of the field but couldn’t wrangle my horribly tail-heavy machine into any semblance of a controlled flight pattern.
After about 20 terrifying seconds of piloting that must have given the impression to all bystanders that I must have stopped at the pub before the flying field, one of my sub-standard glue joints finally decided to give up. I made a quick diving turn to the right and as I pulled out, the two wing halves clapped together as if mockingly applauding my stupidity. The Pronto did its best impression of a V2 rocket and plunged vertically into oblivion, the roaring engine stopping with a thud. The thud was followed by a brief silence, interrupted by the uproarious laughter from Chris, who could no longer contain himself. Insult added to injury, the Pronto managed to seek out and find the paved strip amidst the preponderance of nice soft field turf. The tail group survived; that’s about it. My trusty O.S. .15 had a bent crankshaft and my receiver was cracked. To paraphrase Carl Bachhuber, I was learning by trial and error… mostly error:
- Never substitute when you know consciously that you are using the wrong glue!
- Haste makes (Pronto) waste!
- Sometimes, I am an idiot.