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Remote Control Aviation

Instructions - For all the miniature pictures that follow:
click on the pictures to get a normal size view

Gentle Lady at Torrey Pines, 2003
How old were you when you began?
About 18, at home in Massachusetts on winter break from college at UMASS. In school I was pursuing hang gliding with the UMASS Hang Gliding Club. My Dad either gave me the Gentle Lady kit either to steer me from hang gliding or supplement hang gliding learning. Or both…

Gentle Lady at Torrey Pines, 2003
What type of remote control (R/C) aircraft did you fly?
The aircraft can be broken down to powered and un-powered flight. Un-powered gliders need to rely on different types of updrafts to stay airborne, which related well to learning hang gliding also. It ended up taking me about 70 hours to built the un-powered Gentle Lady kit. I learned a lot about modeling, aircraft construction, and patience. It also kept me busy while on break from school.

Gentle Lady at Torrey Pines, 2003
How did you learn how to fly this model?
I would bring it when I went to the Morning Side Hang Gliding park in New Hampshire. When the winds weren’t good enough for hang gliding or teaching hang gliding, I would learn how to launch, land and eventually soar the glider. I had help from one of kids who worked for the park and from some of the other hang glider pilots.

Gentle Lady at Torrey Pines, 2003
Is it hard to learn?
The Gentle Lady glider is a two channel (elevator/rudder), balsa covered with monokote, polyhedral, lightweight glider. Its forgiving characteristics, low airspeeds and 6 foot wing span makes it the perfect glider for learning. It is not a “foam” glider, so it can sustain damage in a crash, so I was careful through the learning process. Mostly I had other people launch it and get some altitude, then hand the controller over to me when there was nothing to hit, and take control again when needed and for landing. I did have one incident where the person helping me crashed it. At least temporarily, he got the nick-name “lady killer” as I found out this wasn’t the first time he crashed this type of glider. I was pretty sad, but picked up the pieces and was able to rebuilt it.

In the end I was able to hand launch the glider, and with decent winds climb in updrafts to altitudes of a few hundred feet, fly as long as I wished and then land by my side. Really fun.

Gentle Lady at Torrey Pines, 2003
How did you continue to pursue?
Actually, I didn’t. When I left for graduate school in Arizona I left the model (and my hang glider) in Massachusetts. Halfway through graduate school I returned to drive my hang glider across the country to Arizona, but the R/C glider stayed behind, being relatively fragile and big (6 foot wind span).

Later, probably when I was in San Diego, my dad figured out a way to package and ship it to me. Due to the long initial building process and the fun learning to fly it, I had become pretty attached to this glider. There was minimal damage from shipping, and with some repairs it looked pretty good as a wall hanging with its see-through green outer skin showing all the intricate woodwork within. It remained un-flown for years again, but this time maintained a spot on a wall from residence to residence, until my ski accident.

Gentle Lady at Torrey Pines, 2003
How did this accident get you back in flying R/C gliders?
In San Diego I would frequently fly my hang glider at Torrey Pines Glider park and share the air with the R/C pilots flying their un-powered gliders. But after I had re-constructive surgery for my left hand after the skiing accident, I wasn’t able to hang glide, but still enjoyed the beautiful setting and folks at the glider port on the cliff by the sea. With time freed up from not mountain biking or playing tennis, I decided to clean the dust off my Gentle Lady Glider/wall hanging, and start flying it again at Torrey Pines. There was a fair amount of certification and memberships required to fly there, but with the help of supportive R/C pilots like Ron and John, I soon had my skills and certification to fly at this crowded but beautiful park.

Whisper molded 2m 6 channel at Torrey Pines, 2003
Did you ever own other gliders?
Even after I had healed enough and returned to my other sports I still was into flying R/C gliders. Being exposed to advanced R/C pilots flying fast (80 mph?), carbon fiber, 6 channel 12 foot wing span models, I took my next step. I purchased a 6 servo 2 meter molded glider called the Whisper. After final assembly (still not easy) of the kit, including purchasing and installing electronics, I brought this model to the 300 foot cliff to have advanced pilots through my $700 aircraft and hope it flies. It did and I was able to take the stick and eventually learn to launch and land myself. But, since this was so different than the Gentle Lady, I eventually botched a landing approach as I was just starting to get competent and badly crashed the glider. Ouch.

Slinger - picture from advetisement on manufacture's web site
Did you just stick with flying the Gentle Lady then?
In this period (bad astrological star alignment?) I also crashed the Gentle Lady pretty bad. I was devastated about this because I had flown and moved with the glider for so many years – I was pretty used to it on a bedroom wall. Over time I did end up repairing the Gentle Lady (still looked good!) but resolved to be careful, but still fly it.

Also, I ordered a foam construction “flying wing” type gliders, called the Slinger. This is an inexpensive, 48 inch wing span, practically indestructible glider. It is highly maneuverable and fun to fly. It includes some of parts to add an electric motor, but I modified it to be un-powered. Due to its hardiness and smaller size, I have been keeping this in my truck and flying it when passing by Torrey Pines or any slope that looks flyable.