Originally appeared in R/C Report magazine in December 1996
By Robert Osorio, The Flying Penguin
In this first of a series to appear sporadically in this column, The Flying Penguin answers your write-in questions on the subject of model aeronautics. All answers represented here are the views of this columnist and are strongly influenced by his many years involved in the hobby, his lack of a formal education, the three-quarters of a bottle of scotch he drank while writing his responses, and the fact that he was going through a difficult divorce settlement at the time.
Our first reader writes...
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I'm just getting started in the hobby and I'm trying to choose a good first plane. What would you suggest? - John Peanuts"
John, I suggest you buy something large, really large, with a big engine up front. Ya know, something that has to be primed by three men turning the prop over their heads. Try a 1/3-scale DC-3 or B-17. You know, they say big planes are easier to fly. Don't bother asking any of those losers at the field for help, just take it up yourself the first time - it's easier than it looks. Make sure you have someone videotape the first flight - it should be memorable. Also, get your name changed - you don't want your son going through school with a last name like that.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, Is oil content really all that important? I've been using fuel with twenty percent oil. - Charles Slick"
Certainly is, I like to put at least a bottle and a half of olive oil on my salads.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, what exactly is the recommended procedure for flying near an airport? - Windham Sock"
Windham, I personally don't recommend that you fly near an airport. You see, your plane can actually appear on an airport controller's radar screens and be confused for a full-scale plane. I suggest that you drive right out onto the runway and fly from there. That way the control tower can keep an eye on you, and steer clear any incoming traffic.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, do I have to fly from at a model flying field? There's an empty lot nearby that I'd like to fly from, but I want to be sure I'd be covered by my insurance. - Not L. Thear"
No, it's really not recommended, but I've got an even better idea for you. Fly at the nearest golf course. There's probably one right around the corner from you. These places are normally a terrific waste of space, but some of the holes have real long, empty stretches you can fly from. As long as you don't setup on either the tee-off area or the putting green, you shouldn't be in anyone's way.... too much.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I have a 1.08 cu inch two-stroke engine that I crashed last week. It looks like I've bent the crank real bad, and I was wondering how much I could expect to pay to get it fixed if I send it back to the manufacturer. - George Bent"
Heck George, I wouldn't pay anything. Send it back to them with a note saying that was the way you got it new. You tried to fly it anyway and it caused your plane to crash. You should be able to get it fixed for free, and they might even pay for a new plane.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I have an Egg-Beater .60 heli I recently purchased from a homeless person on the street. On days when the sun sets in the west it seems to fly okay, but on days when the sun sets in the east the gyro tends to drift. Could this be caused by solar flares? - Lowell IQ"
Lowell, I seriously doubt that solar flares could have anything to do with your problem. A more likely possibility is that your heli's radio is picking up broadcasts from alien space ships in orbit around the earth. Frankly, I'm not certain what to make of your letter as everyone knows the sun sets in the same direction everyday... the south.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I've been told that glue fumes can cause brain damage. Is there any truth to this? - Manny Vapors"
Nonsense, I've been sniffing glue for years and I'm perfectly normal.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I want to get into flying electric planes. I've been told that 'peak' charging the batteries is very important for maximum performance. What's your suggestion? - I. M. Fried"
Personally, I never use a peak charger on my electric packs. I generally connect them straight to a car battery, and use the "flow" technique to tell when they're charged. In other words, when the straps connecting the individual cells start to melt and flow, it's a good sign that the pack is fully charged.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I wrote you earlier about a suggestion for a first plane. I took your advise and purchased a 1/3 scale DC-3. I had a lot of trouble putting it together and on it's maiden flight it crashed and smashed into a thousand pieces. Everyone at the flying field told me that whoever suggested that type of plane to a first-timer should be horse-whipped. I am including the videotape of the flight with this letter so you can appreciate the sense of my loss and humiliation over this incident. I'm seriously considering filing a lawsuit against you and your magazine. - John Peanuts"
Yeah, I just watched the tape along with some of the other staff here, what a great laugh! Everyone was in stitches. I haven't seen a crater that size since I visited Crater Lake Park on my last vacation. I loved the part where one of the engines smashed through the windshield of the minivan and everybody in the parking lot ran for cover! You're wife's a great camera operator, by the way. Anyway, listen up you sniveling little weasel. You don't know the favor I just did for you. Send that tape in to that Stupidest Videos show right away. I guarantee it'll win the $100,000 grand prize.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I just love Ugly Sticks. I own five of them, ranging from a 25 size on up to a giant-scale. My next project is going to be a tail-less Ugly Stick. I just wanted to ask you if you have any technical specifications for tail-less design planes you can provide me. I'm particularly worried about aileron size. Do the ailerons have to be larger on a tail-less design? - Eric Eindecker"
Eric, unfortunately you are member of that most common of all the human genus - namely A COMPLETE IDIOT! The very fact that you own five Ugly Sticks means there four too many Ugly Sticks in this world today. I have an excellent suggestion for you: a controlled gasoline fire.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I have a 1/5 scale P-51 that I would like to add a smoke system to, but there is very little room in the plane for a second fuel tank. Any suggestions? - Rob Cough"
Yeah Rob, right before you screw on the wing, light an emergency flare and shove it inside the fuselage. Work quickly though, you should have about five minutes to start it up and takeoff before things get really interesting.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I have a gas engine with a magneto ignition system that won't start. I'd like to check the ignition system for proper voltage. What sort of tester should I use? - Ernie Kilowatt"
The simplest way to test a spark ignition system is to first remove the spark plug. Then, with the wire connected to the plug, touch your tongue to the tip of the spark plug while grasping the engine with your hand. Then have someone turn the engine over with a starter. If you jump back any farther than ten feet when the spark hits you, you have proper voltage.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, is there a simple way to remove air bubbles from monokote? - Steve Irons"
I don't know what you're talking about, all my monokote jobs have bubbles, and I've been in this hobby for years.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I'm looking for a good first scale subject. I'm not a very experienced pilot, so I would prefer something easy to fly. - A. Wol"
I would suggest you build a scale model of Howard Hugh's Spruce Goose. This plane never really flew except for a brief run a few feet off the water during which it never broke out of ground effect. You should be able to convince the judges that in order to qualify for the maximum points in scale flight realism, your plane should never fly either.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I'm in the process of building a 1/3-scale P-51 Mustang that I hope to campaign at several national scale meets. I would like to add working machine guns as a scale feature. First off, is this legal? Secondly, do you have any suggestions as to how I would go about building this feature? - Ivabig Gun"
Sure! Not only are working machine guns a neat feature on any scale aircraft, but they never fail to impress the judges. I have a Messerschmitt ME-109 with working guns. After demonstrating it's operation by shooting up another contestant's scale P-40 Warhawk, I then turned the plane on the judge's stand and waved my finger menacingly over the gun channel switch until they awarded me the maximum number of points for scale accessories.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I was hoping you could elaborate on the proper technique for spin recovery. - I. M. Dizzy"
The method I use involves chopping the throttle, dropping the gear and flaps (if any), feeding in full aileron opposite to the direction of the spin, and hopping on one leg while screaming at the top of my lungs "PLEASE, DON'T CRASH!". Doesn't always work, but it's worth a try.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I was told by some fellow modelers at the flying field that after a crash, the most prudent course would be to send your radio back to the manufacturer for servicing, even if there was no obvious damage. Would you concur? - Bashm Goode"
I generally don't even think about sending a radio back to the manufacturer unless I can see some of the innards dangling out of it. All the manufacturer is going to do is place the receiver in a special rig that vibrates it to simulate engine vibration, while checking the radio's performance. You can generally apply the same test yourself using a bench vise and a ten pound ball peen hammer.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I apologize! You were absolutely right! I sent that video of my DC-3 crash to Stupidest Videos and I won the $100,000 prize! Thanks again! P.S. I'm seeing the judge next week to have my last name changed. - John Peanuts"
Glad to hear it John! I saw the show on TV the other day. I swear, that video keeps getting funnier every time I see it. Hope you daughter's recovering from those lacerations nicely.
"Dear Mr. Penguin, I think it's shameful that you would use such an obscene piece of writing as exemplified by the 'Ask The Flying Penguin' article in your column. Do you have any idea of how many impressionable people are out there reading your column thinking it's a serious piece of work? I can't believe you or your editor would be so reckless as to print such abhorrent trash for public consumption. Where is your sense of responsibility, man? - R. Nader - AMA Safety Officer"
Hey, get real, it's just a joke.
#10 - ...that two modelers can never agree on which way a pusher prop should face?
#9 - ...that beginner pilots that drive BMW's and Mercedes' usually put four-strokes and computer radios in their trainers?
#8 - ...that the guy at the field who always claims to be right is usually wrong?
#7 - ...when piloting, two wrongs can make a right?
#6 - ...the guys who have the most fun own the least plane?
#5 - ...that R/C planes fly like full-scale planes on speed and R/C helicopters fly like UFOs?
#4 - ...that the guy who wants to fly your plane usually just crashed his?
#3 - ...that the more body-english you put into your flying, the better the chance of stepping on a fire-ant colony?
#2 - ...that when a good looking woman shows up at the flying field, everybody goes up and flies like crap?
#1 - ...that the rapidity with which glue dries is inversely proportional to the amount of time you can hold the damn part steady?