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  1. #1

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    A Plane That Would Not Die

    Why is it that some planes seem indestructible while others are not rebuildable after a bad landing? I've built more than 50 over the years and some have logged 1000's of flights while others didn't get past their maiden. These were all kits that I built, so it's not due to a flimsy airframe or too little glue (as I have seen in some of the current ARF's). My all-time most survivable plane was a small HOB P-51. Easy to transport and flew forever on a gallon of fuel. The original kit was $20 (I think Tower sells them for $40 now) and only needed a single roll of monocoat.
    I built the House of Balsa .20 sized P-51 (kit K-40) around 1980. This was the first model I ever flew with close to a 1:1 power to weight ratio. I was able to learn to do rolling circles with it, knife edge flight and other aerobatics. It could also do a very tight “pylon turn” and pulled an incredible amount of G’s. They still make it and it hasn't changed in 30 years. I made a few mods to mine which may have increased the life span. It had a .25 FSR because our club was racing them. This plane literally had thousands of flights on it, survived for 30 years (voluntarily retired), and was crashed and rebuilt more times than I can count. The odd thing is the damage was never too severe. This is amazing since some of the crashes were such that I expected to be lucky if the engine and radio survived. Some glue and monocoat and it was always good to go. The planes crash resistance was probably due to luck and perhaps because it was a light well-built model. I retired it to use the body to make a fuselage test mold since I had never done that. Sadly, it did not survive the process.
    I liked the model so much that I decided to scratch build a .60 size version. The wing and tail are sheeted foam and I glassed and painted the entire model. I added flaps just because I could. Unfortunately, all of that glass and paint on the tail forced me to add 1 1/2 pounds of lead to the nose resulting in a 10+ pound plane (ouch). The .25 size weighed 2 1/2 pounds. I was shooting for 7 pounds and would have come much closer with monocoat. I hoped it would at least get off the ground. I’ve since picked up some tips on sheeting foam and glassing that would trim off some of that, but it’s too late now.
    The engine was new so I did some break-in on the stand and then decided to do some taxi tests while I got more time on the engine. I was doing faster and faster tests and a gust of wind gave it that little bit extra and the next thing I knew it was airborne. I should have chopped the throttle and let it settle, but it was near the end of the runway and I was afraid I'd run out of space. I did, but not until later.
    I got it trimmed out and the too heavy (in my mind) .60 sized P-51 flew very nicely. Not as agile as the small one, but basically similar. I was making one last high speed flyby in preparation for landing when disaster struck - flameout. I was too low, too fast and heading down the runway into the wind. If I had been more familiar with the model I might have realized I could do a 360 degree turn and land (maybe). Even a reverse field landing would have been better. I thought it would slow down pretty quickly and since our runway is fairly long, the worst case I'd hit the dirt and high grass and scrub at the end of the runway. Wrong!
    The plane kept going and going and I lost depth perception on it. It ended up hitting a large tree 10 feet off the ground. It impacted on the left wing just in front of the landing gear. Given the speed and mass of this model there is no way anything would be left. I was astounded to find it in two pieces (wing and fuse) without even a broken prop! There was a sizable dent in the LE and the left gear was damaged but that was all! The fuse was undamaged. It hit a tree at landing speed and then fell 10 feet straight down with less damage than I've had ground looping an airplane.
    It seems for me at least, this particular model is charmed. I have rekitted more models than most modelers will ever fly. I've attached pics of the original (30 year old .25) along with the .60. I also included a picture of the mold and first fuse I made. Due to my inexperience, the fuse that survived 30 years of crashes didn't survive my mold making process. I have yet to complete a .25 size with glass fuse (due to other projects) but I hope to soon. This fuse should be invincible considering my luck with the balsa one - or not. Time will tell.
    If you decide to build one of these, let me know and I can suggest some improvements. With the small servos, batteries and rx’s available today I bet it could be built well under 2 ½ pounds. I would also be interested to hear if my experience with this model is unique or if anyone else has had good luck with it.
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  2. #2

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    Tower lists the 0.20 HOB P-51 for $69.99. I've asked them to email me when it's back in stock. I've been looking for a P-51 for quite a while, but didn't want to get a foam plane that doesn't even survive a hard landing in grass. I've seen landing gear ripped off of these types of foam planes many times, and watched the gear collapse even on relatively good landings. Based on your description, this would be the P-51 to get. I will be using an electric motor instaed of the recommended glow engine for power. What recommendations do you have for mods?


    juggler

  3. #3

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    I can't believe how much it has gone up in price! There's only a few sheets of wood in the kit. I got one a few years ago and it was the same kit as 30 years ago. Maybe it's been upgraded but I doubt it.

    The instructions have the entire bottom piece of the fuse from the wing to nose as a removable piece. I wanted more strength so I glued it at the firewall and made a removable hatch between the firewall and nose. Works well for an inverted glow setup. I had also thought about electric and it might work OK as per the instructions for battery access.

    I would put servos in the wings. I used Hitec 81mg's (when I refurbished the model). Prior to that it had standard servos and the nyrod for the ailerons. Much better control. I recessed them with hatch covers.

    I used 2 nylon bolts to hold on the wing. They will break in a crash rather than the model.

    I don't know if you can see in the photos but I made a fillet where the fuse and wing meet. Gives zero gap.With the wing attached I glued on a strip of balsa the shape I wanted and used lite filler to radius it. Coated it with zap as I built it up.

    You might have prop clearance issues. I was turning an 8X6.

    Make sure to put in shear webs in the wing. I don't remember if the kit calls for them but do it.

    You might want to sheet behind and in front of the canopy rather than sanding the blocks. About the same amount of work either way but lighter with sheeting.

    I will look and see if I forgot anything else. What motor/battery setup are you planing to use?

  4. #4

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    I checked Tower and from the Tech Notes it appears that this kit may be updated since they mention adding retracts which wasn't in the original.

    Since there is so little wood involved, you might consider tracing the parts so you can make your own kit. There can't be more than $20 in wood. The only challenge is the canopy.

    Ihad to fix the tail wheel numerous times so I made the rudder removable with pinned hinges. I also increased the rudder size a little bit. The control throws are correct. It doesn't take much on this plane. Not a problem with double or triple rates.

  5. #5

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die



    Don't know how long those kits are back ordered and how hot you are to start, but since I'm planning on making copies of theparts/plans so I can scratch build one, I could do that sooner and post them. The kit has very few parts- 2 sheets of ribs, thefuse sides and doublers, 7 sheets of 3" X 24"X 1/16 balsa,TE stock and some formers and other miscellaneouspieces.

    I need to cutthe foam cores so I can put it on the fuse I molded, but I was thinking of making an electric too.

    Might be more work than you're looking to do but let me know and I can see what's possible. The manual is 7 double-sided 81/2 X 11 sheets of paper. The plans might be a challenge though. Let me know.


  6. #6

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    If you could post the part outlines, I would gladly build it from scratch. I could also enlarge it slightly (52" wingspan or so), which is exactly what I would like to do. If you don't mind going to thre trouble of tracing the parts and uploading the files, I'll give it a try!

    juggler

  7. #7

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    I seem to have misplaced the 2 rib sheets from when I was making templates to cut foam cores. I have the root and tip ribs but if you're looking to do a built-up, I'll have to look around. Thought I had put them back in the box. There are only a few formers and other parts and I can scan those. The fuse sides and top crutch might be a bit long - I think they're about 2'. I could do them in multiple pieces with reference lines to match them up. I'll play around with things and see what I can accomplish. The instructions would be a snap since they are on 81/2 X 11 paper. What about the plans - I assume you don't have any? A digital picture squared to the plans? I'll try that too and see what it gives. I made a mold of the canopy in the kit and made a simple vacuum forming rig. I can make one of those out of an old plastic container (or buy plastic but why bother when you throw containers away, or I should say recycle them).

    Most of the rest of the kit is sticks and sheets and very little of that. Unless they've retooled and updated this kit they have a lot of nerve charging whatthey are. I swear the kit I bought several years ago is identical to the first one I got 30+ years ago. You could buy all of the materials (less canopy and plans) from one of the balsa places for $10.

    Are you still going to get the kit? When are theydue in?What kind of time frame are you looking at?It won't take long when I have the time - it's just finding the time. Lemme know.

    Does the name (Juggler) refer to a hobby or is it just a name? The reason I ask is I've been juggling for years but I stalled out on 5 many years ago and don't do it much anymore. Couldn't sustain a half or full shower. If you don't juggle this will all be meaningless, otherwise...

  8. #8

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    I had a chance to scan my foam core templates which are essentially W1 and W10 with some extra material added at the LEand TE. For reference since you are looking to scale up, the .60 size I built was 155% which gave it about a 66 inch wing as I recall. That would be about right if the kit has around a 43 inch wing. Unless you are looking to do foam these are just for test purposes. Later today I'll see if I can at least scan the instructions and plans.
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  9. #9

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    I have all of the building materials that I will need, and would very much like to build this kit. If you can make the part outlines available, I'll give it a shot. If you can find the plans and either scan or copy them, I'll try to enlarge them to get approximately a 52" to 60" wingspan. Thanks for taking the time to share this with everyone.

    I've been juggling for over 30 years, and have a friend who is a professional juggler. I used to pass clubs in all sorts of routines, and I still juggle torches occasionally. In fact I put on a show last month for my sister's step daughter's birthday party. They loved it!

    juggler

  10. #10

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    Still looking for the rib sheets. I will post the plans and instructions soon and inventory the other pieces to see what needs templates and then do that. Thomas.

  11. #11

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    RE: A Plane That Would Not Die

    Instructions for HOB P51.
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