Sunday, December 19, 2010

Little Again

“How did this end up behind the toilet?” Aimee asked, holding a splintered piece of wood up for me to see. She did not ask what the piece of wood was, because she already knew what it was. Her only query was in regard to the catastrophic event which ended with the wood in such an unusual place. At this point, my ruse had unraveled.

I learned a lot this week. Check all your servos before attempting a flight. If it looks like a part is missing, it probably is. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve had an Esky Lama V4 helicopter for quite a while, and I’m reasonably good at flying it. I also have an Esky Belt CP V2 which I am terrified of. My classification method for model helicopters is to base their class on the cost of a crash. A Lama 4 is a $20 crash helicopter. The Belt CP V2 is a $50 crash helicopter. In spite of numerous attempts at flying the Belt CP, I have never gotten it to so much as hover without a spectacular crash ensuing.

Despite my terror, the helicopter was a graduation gift from my brother and sister-in-law, and it would be an insult to them for me not to master it. Keeping that in mind, I spent hours this week learning how to maintain blade pitch, align the flybar, fine tune the gyro, and make the best use of the remote control.

As it turns out, our new house has a wonderful heli-pad and workshop. We call it “the pool table”. For the Lama, it’s perfect. For the Belt CP, it’s probably best not to use the pool table for a heli pad. During my many tuning attempts, though, I needed to spin it up to check things out, and the table worked great. Aimee crabbed pretty regularly when I did this with the larger helicopter because it’s, well, huge. It’s got a 22” span on the rotor. I assured her that she need not worry.

This morning in the shower I had an “Aha!” moment. Rather than running the motor at low speed with lots of blade pitch, maximum stability could be best achieved by running the motor at a very high speed with a very small amount of pitch. This would create a gyroscopic stabilizer effect, like a spinning bike wheel. As soon as Aimee left for the store, I put my plan into action.

I set the pitch on the remote to 0 and spooled the motor up to about 50%. That doesn’t sound like much, but the main rotor blades were moving plenty fast. The torsion was tremendous, and the helicopter tried spinning in circles. This should have warned me that something was very wrong. Instead of turning the model off to consider why it was turning so much, I decided instead to find out if I finally had the pitch right on the rotor. I grabbed the tail to stop the helicopter from spinning and turned up the speed just a hair. It started taking off in earnest, which would be a bad thing in the house, so I tried to shut it down. In my panic, though, I pushed the throttle the wrong way and instead set it to full! Within a fraction of a second my arm twisted up over my head and the helicopter self-destructed into the ceiling, demolishing a hanging light in the process.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”

Aimee was right, but now wasn’t the time to dwell on that. I cleaned up the mess as best I could, just like any kid would do after destroying something while Mom is out of the house. It was only after I began taking a broken parts inventory that I noticed two things. 1) The helicopter is missing a part, and has been since the day it arrived. In fact, I had often wondered why the post coming out of the swash plate didn’t seem to attach to anything. 2) The tail servo is dead, which explains why the confounded machine was so intent on spinning in circles. Had I looked into both of these problems earlier, I probably wouldn’t have had to tell my wife how a shredded rotor blade came to rest  behind the toilet in a bathroom fifteen feet from our pool table. Yes, I learned a lot this week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!

As it turns out, this is also good advice when dealing with contractors: "Will you need more outlets in your garage?"


"Do you expect to use more than 15 amps between your kitchen and garage?"


"Do you need more than 15 amps just for your garage?"


You can stop saying yes when they stop asking questions. Otherwise, just rinse and repeat. Else you might find yourself in the un-enviable position of trying to run a mill, its stepper motors, control PC, a small space heater, garage door opener, air compressor, and kitchen all at the same time on a 15 amp circuit. You can image how well that ended!

When I opened the panel and saw the 15 amp breaker, I was once again tempted to track down the scurvy rat that built our house so I could throttle him. He's a contractor though, which means he'd probably take me. A shame.

Location:S Walnut St,Lansing,United States