RCU Review: Operation RC

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    Contributed by: Greg Covey | Published: September 2005 | Views: 48094 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Operation RC

    Story by: Greg Covey

    Sometimes an opportunity to help someone comes along when you least expect it. For me, it all started one day at work last spring when I received an e-mail from a soldier in Iraq. The e-mail read as follows:

    Sgt. Laine Stahr: Sir, would you be willing to take a little time to help me out. I am in Iraq for 10 more months. This is my second year long tour over here. Last year I had my helicopter over here, but the sand was too harsh on it. This year I have my (Great Planes) Slinger over, but I'm selling it and replacing it with a brushless Tazz. I haven't had any Zagi before but I read your posts about building it so that helps. Basically what I need is a very complete list of what I need to order as it takes weeks to get things over here. Since I have no experience with building a Zagi, I don't want to forget anything. You seem to know what batteries, charger etc... work the best for the Tazz. I have never had a brushless power system so I would appreciate your experience with this.

    Some of you may have heard about Frankie Mayo's inspiring effort to provide air conditioners to as many soldiers as possible in Iraq. The effort became known as Operation AC.

    After I received the e-mail from Sergeant Laine Stahr (RCU member 'lmopar69') stationed over in Iraq, I learned about his desire to fly a brushless Zagi Tazz since the sand and harsh conditions grounded his R/C helicopter. The troops can go for days without an assignment so they often look for ways to keep busy. Sergeant Stahr had seen my Zagi Tazz review thread on RCU and wanted to know what other support items would be needed so it could be shipped all together. Shipments take a while to get to the soldiers so it is a priority to have everything you need in one shipment.

    With the help of a co-worker that was a Navy veteran, I decided to provide more than just advice to Laine and try to solicit exactly what he needed to make his Zagi Tazz fly in Iraq. This effort became known as "Operation R/C" out of respect for Frankie Mayo.

    You can read more about Sergeant Stahr on the Web site created by his brother, Van, at Stahr Enterprises or on the RCU forum thread aptly named Operation R/C.

    Operation R/C Start Up:

    Sergeant Laine Stahr (RCU member 'lmopar69') proudly displays his Zagi Tazz while stationed over in Iraq

    Everything seemed to have a snow-ball effect after that initial effort of contacting vendors for support and the so-called "Operation R/C" began to have a life of its own supported by vendors, hobbyists, veterans, and even other on-line forums.

    The Zagi Tazz rips up the dessert terrain with brushless motor power and Lithium battery technology.

    Hobby Lobby Int. became the initial sponsor for "Operation R/C" by donating a complete Hitec Laser 4 FM Radio System with 555 receiver and two HS-81 servos. The 72MHz. radio system included elevon and V-tail mixing. It is a perfect compliment for my target Zagi Tazz project and provided further inspiration to acquire other components.

    After only a single e-mail to Joe and Jerry Teisan of Trick R/C, the brushless Zagi Tazz was on its way! FMA Direct also supported the cause by donating a complete Lithium package that included a Kokam Lithium pack and charger. The 3-cell Kokam 3.2AH Lithium pack is a perfect fit and weight for the Zagi Tazz to make it a ballistic performer!

    I sent the Lithium pack, charger, radio system, and Zagi Tazz via USPS to the Army Post Office (APO) address that Laine had given us. It turns out that the local Post Office in my suburb of Rochester was the only place I needed to go to. The customs page is a small sheet the size of an old charge card receipt so I grabbed a few extras to have them filled out in advance. I simply put "toy airplane" for the description of the contents.

    Unlike UPS and Fed. Ex., the USPS does not fill out a mailing label so you need to address the box in advance. They sell mailing labels for $0.49 cents so I filled one out. It made me laugh because it had some kids designs on it almost like it was for a present. I said to the clerk, "Do you know that this is going to a U.S. soldier?!", and they said that's all they have. I just smiled and shook my head.

    Everything seemed to have a snow-ball effect after that initial effort and the so-called "Operation R/C" began to have a life of its own supported by vendors, hobbyists, veterans, and other on-line forums. Sergeant Stahr became a bit overwhelmed and offered this message of thanks…among many others.

    Sgt. Laine Stahr: First off, THANK YOU ALL!!! This really is more than I ever would have expected anyone to do for us! I really don't think I can express just how much this will mean to my buddies and I. You guys are just great!

    I will start to list some info on the soldiers that have expressed interest in learning to fly. I am sure 90% of them would do it given the opportunity, but they just haven't asked. Anyway, here are a few of them, I will also put our address at the end.

    We are a HET (Heavy Equipment Transport) unit. That means we haul Tanks, with really HUGE trucks. We stay pretty busy on the road, but we usually get downtime after each mission to wash clothes, fix trucks etc... and sometimes even entire days where we do NOTHING!! Anyway, you can see the trucks at www.stahrenterprises.com

    Here we go...

    SSG Doug Clayton - Doug has some r/c experience. He has a Associated RC10GT that I convinced him to buy when we came home after our tour here last year. He saw me fly my slinger and asked me to teach him.

    SPC Paul Dowdy - Paul is my room mate over here. He has zero exp. with any r/c but has been bugging me to fix my slinger and teach him.

    SSG Greg Reese - Greg is the Harley guy in the platoon. He also has no exp. with r/c other than he used to have a walmart type r/c car.

    SGT Jericho Beauchamp - Cool guy, he works in our MWR right now, so he gives me unlimited time to send these posts on the computers instead of making me get off after 30 min like everyone else has to! Also no real r/c exp.

    SGT Chris Caron - Chris has a little exp. with r/c cars but not with flying.

    SGT Troy Davis - Troy is another interresting individual. Troy analyzes everything. VERY smart guy and a good friend.

    1LT Fred Kelo - This is my platoon leader (officer). We have to keep him happy, cuz when the boss man is happy, we are happy! He has a degree in meteorology. Go figure, now he is a Army Transportation Officer!

    Once again, I cant thank all of you enough! This is just great.

    Our mailing address is as follows:
    Soldiers Name
    13 CSB, 2nd Trans, 2nd Plt
    FOB Speicher
    APO AE 09393

    Thank you all!

    Building and Flying in Iraq:

    Once Laine received all the parts to build his Zagi Tazz, he realized that he had no chairs or flat table to work on. This didn't seem to slow him down for more than a day as he built a table and chairs from surplus plywood. Apparently, the Army has taught him to be very resourceful!

    Laine: I wanted to start the building today but I had a problem. No place to work except on the floor. So, I had to build a table and chair to have a place to work! Now there is a problem, I'm sure most people in the states don't have! In fact, that's a new one for me too.

    Luckily I brought a bunch of my wood tools over here with me, and have had some sent over too. So, after a days work moving lumber, cutting, nailing, measuring, screwing, sanding etc... I now have a really cool looking table and a double chair with a "table" in between.

    With luck, I will not have to spend all day tomorrow working on my truck and I will get started on the Tazz. I like the idea of using "US Army" on the bottom, or maybe "An Army of one" All I have is the roll of blue tape that came with the Tazz.

    The Finished Zagi Tazz

    Laine started to build the Tazz and was already finished before the first photo came through. The Tazz was completed in only a day. Unfortunately, military duties got in the way of test flying it, (sound familiar?) so we wouldn't have a flight report until another week or so. We wished him luck on the maiden voyage!

    After a week or so, we received Laine's first flight report from Iraq.


    Laine: First IRAQ Flight Today! I finally got to fly the Tazz! But first, let me tell you all about how things went before the flight.

    Laine: The weather today is sunny, about 70 and a 15-20mph wind. Doug had tried to fly his Aerobird before I got back "home" to teach him. Luckily he didn't damage it. So, against my urging not to fly in the wind, we took it out. I planned on putting it in the air and trimming it out for him, then letting him take over. It took off beautifully into the wind in about 5 feet and kept climbing. At about 150 feet the wind was basically overpowering both the motor and the controls. So, I tried to convince it to fly toward us (into the wind) but it had other ideas. So, naturally I cut the throttle and tried to bring it down into the wind so it would come a little closer. Not a chance. I landed it about 500 meters away. We couldn't tell for sure if it was still inside the fence or not! Outside the FOB (Forward Operating Base) would have been BAD! No way to go get it! He now knows why you dont fly an Aerobird in 20mph wind. So, with any luck the wind will die down this evening and we will get some flight time in with it.

    Now it was TAZZ TIME!!! The LiPo was charged, the plane was as perfect as I could make it. I stood there holding it, ready to launch, rethinking everything in my head to make sure I didn't forget anything. I checked everything again and noticed my legs were shaking. The guys razzed me a little. "Go man, its just a toy!" yeah right, just a toy plane. I put in a little up elevon just to be safe, gave it about 1/4 throttle and tossed it. With just a slight trim left and centering the elevons again, it flew PERFECT!! Flat, level and HOLY CRAP IS THIS THING FAST!!!!!! I never even saw full throttle! About 2/3throttle is all I had the guts for. I did a few laps and played around a bit at about 100 feet to get used the controls. Very responsive! And power, WOW! Who needs full throttle with this MONSTER! With just a slight flick of the stick it does about a 10 foot loop with about 1/4 to 1/2 throttle. I couldn't even imagine what would happen if I pulled the stick all the way back, or if I wound out that brushless motor! That motor and LiPo battery have more power than I may ever need or want! I did a few loops and rolls, and even accidentally did one loop while rolling...scared the crap out of myself too, but it looked really cool. I flew it for about 20 minutes, knees shaking the entire time, then brought it in slow and low to land in the sand. It skidded to a nearly perfect landing about 25 feet from me.

    I will say it again.... THANK YOU ALL SOOOOOO MUCH for donating the planes, radios, batteries and everything else that you have all sent. Even though the guys didn't get the chance to fly yet, they will tonight, we had a blast. Thank you.


    The Warlock is a military device designed to find a signal, lock onto it, and jam it! The Warlock searches continuously until if finds a signal, then it "changes" the signal so it can't be detected.

    One day when the guys were flying, another soldier decided it would be great fun to knock them out of the sky. Although some had fun, Laine was not amused.

    Laine: Just a reminder, THANK YOU for starting this entire thing! You would not believe the response we have gotten from people asking if they can send us planes, parts etc... its amazing. We have 6 planes here now that people have sent over, 7 transmitters, various motors, batteries, receivers and other parts. Plus we have 8 or 10 more planes and kits on the way. All of us are having a blast. THANK YOU!

    The down side, I had a horrendous, well, to me, crash with the Tazz yesterday due to a schmuck with one of those dang Warlock things. It was intentional too, I could have killed him. I saw it glitch, so I cut the throttle to land quick, and the Warlock took over and maxed out the throttle and spun it in from about 20' nose first. I was HOT! Anyway, the LiPo pack got destroyed and I almost cried. The hatch and motor tray are toast, but that's it. So, I'm ordering the new parts from Trick R/C as soon as they have them back in stock.

    The Warlock is a military device designed to find a signal, lock onto it, and jam it. It is used for stopping the "radio controlled" IEDs the insurgents are putting out. They typically use garage door openers, walkie-talkie type radios, cell phones, or a combination of radio and phone to detonate their devices. The Warlock searches continuously until if finds a signal, then it "changes" the signal so it can't be detected. They have a range of about 100-200 meters. There are 2 types of Warlock devices now and we know that one of the many frequency bands it scans is 72MHz. When FMA Direct heard the news of Laine's destroyed Lithium pack, they quickly sent him a free new pack to keep him flying!

    After several weeks of silence without hearing from Laine, I started asking around to find out what was going on. I received a reply from his brother, Van, that said he was back in the states and would e-mail me shortly.

    Laine: Hey Greg, I just got back from Iraq a couple days ago, and all is good. But you are reminding me of my wife when I don't call! Thanks for the concern though, it's nice to have people who care.

    I will be getting those 35mm pics out to you in a couple days, I hope they turn out well. We aren't professional photographers…so we will see.

    I just got a school date. They are sending me to Warrant Officer School then flight school starting in September. So the unit said I need to stay here in the States to prepare for school and get ready to move. However, there are still a bunch of guys over in Iraq flying and I am working on getting some more stuff together to send over for my buddies and some of the other soldiers. Hope it all works out good.

    Someday, perhaps we'll see Laine or one of the other R/Cers from the military at a flying event or trade show. Until then we hope they stay safe and wish Laine the best of luck in his helicopter flight training. One final note to Sergeant Laine Stahr, his band of R/Cers in Iraq, and all the men and women of the U.S. armed forces...

    Thank you for your service to our country!

    FMA Direct
    5716A Industry Lane
    Frederick, MD 21704 USA
    Phone: (800) 343-2934
    Fax: (301) 668-7619
    Website: www.fmadirect.com

    Hobby Lobby
    5614 Franklin Pike Cr.
    Brentwood, TN 37027
    Ph: (615) 373-1444
    Website: www.hobby-lobby.com

    938 Victoria Avenue
    Venice, CA 90291
    (310) 301-1614

    Todd's Models
    PO BOX 827
    SNOQUALMIE, WA. 98065-0827

    DCRC Radio Control


    Comments on RCU Review: Operation RC

    Posted by: theradioflyer on 03/16/2008
    How cool is that! It's great to see so many come together to lighten the load for other, or just take their mind off of things. We all own so much to those who volunteer to protect our freedom. God Bless and Protect Our Troops Always!
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