Filthie's Mobile Fortress Of Solitude

Filthie's Mobile Fortress Of Solitude
Where Great Intelligence Goes To Be Insulted

Monday, 6 December 2021

Sage Advice: Keep Ya Corners Square

Some unsolicited but muchly-appreciated counsel appeared in the comments from one of the wisest Thunderbox's Stubfart Oracles:

"When my ship was in Tokyo a bunch of years back, I was watching Nip TV. There was a guy who had built a HUGE R/C plane. I'm an aircraft illiterate, but this thing had four engines on it. The guy started all the engines, taxied onto the runway, and commenced his roll. As soon as he rotated the plane did a huge wing-over and AUGERED into the ground. The camera panned back to the pilot. He stood there for a few seconds, and then just began to bawl. The plane had apparently taken YEARS for him to build... Yeah; keep it simple this time, Glen..."

It's too late. My heart is lost. I've glued up the wing of the Filthiebird, And ... it is a thing of sheer beauty. By the grace of God, somehow it came out straight and true. There are some gaps, but sand paper and glue and love will fix those. It's okay to look at God's birds and be inspired by their beauty, but you lose the sense of sheer magnitude of His works if you don't understand the physics of how they fly - which is ten times more complicated than how our own fixed-wing birds fly. I am not a Grand Magus Aeronautical Engineer... but I used to be able to integrate, differentiate and iterate like one. I probably could again, given a refresher crash course in math. But it's too much work, and I am too lazy. It is enough for me to see the way loads are distributed, how spars and ribs and wood and glue combine to make something ten times stronger than the components are alone. If the Filthiebird flips and crashes on take off (and I half expect it too)... I will seriously mourn. I have my time, my heart, and my ego invested in this.

Years ago at Stubfart Airfield one of the old boys was garbage picking (it seems to be an old man thing, garbage picking. The guy drove a Z71 Escalade but he always picked the garbage cans looking for goodies or something). I was there with Flapz the day he fished a slender, sleek broken wing out of the trash. "Oh my goodness... will you look at that....?" he said in reverence. Somebody had had a crash, and this splintered, broken was all that was left it. Finding people to listen to them is tough for some of the old buggers (er... and rightfully so, with some of 'em) - but this guy caught my interest. He was a quiet, sad looking man that never said much. But today, he was talking. "I am going to skin this wing, see how it's built, and reverse engineer the rest of it," he said. I asked him about it how one would go about doing that. The guy just talked and talked - and after that I never saw him again. It wasn't unusual, in the fall most of our guys are Snowbirds and peel out to head down to the US and enjoy warmer weather. I assumed that is where the old fella went and didn't think much of it.

The next spring he showed up with the most beautiful plane I'd ever seen. It looked fast just standing still. Maiden flights are serious business for us. With a sweetheart plane like this looking at her first flight, the club's best came in to look it over one last time before it went into the air. They took the wing off and hemmed and hawed as they peered down the fuse interior. They worked the controls and checked the settings in the radio. I ran the radio out about 100 yards and confirmed the range test. The put the wing back on and put it on a cradle and ran the engine up - and it ticked along like a Swiss watch.

Old Ian looked on in trepidation. He was our best pilot and he would do the honours for the first flight. If you were going to have a problem - this was the guy you wanted at the controls. "I don't like the nose on it, and I don't like the empennage at all..." he said quietly.  He had had enough years to appreciate moments and torques and rates... but to me the thing looked like an angel ready to take to the skies. The old boy that built it told us he'd been in the basement all winter putting this thing together ... and he knew his stuff. There wasn't a wrinkle, or a bump or an ugly spot anywhere on the bird. He hadn't worked from any plans, he just built this thing the way he thought it looked like it should be. It looked great to me. Ian tried to beg off, and pleaded with the guy to just hang it up and admire it but we all knew that wasn't an option. 

Long story short, the beauty broke free of the ground, rolled and then piled it in at full speed - just as Pete described above. You could hear a dozen hearts break as we watched it come apart as it crunched into the ground. At length Ian turned around, and said that he was so sorry... but...

Rick The Dick shut him down and forbade any further discussion of it. Our best had taken his shot, it wasn't enough, it's just a hobby and that was that for that. Me and a couple others did The Walk Of Shame that day to pick the wreckage up off the field. We brought it back in pieces, and gently laid them out on the table. The old goats gathered round to see if some kind of post mortem was possible. Ordinarily a crash is an occasion for great sport and merriment at the expense of the pilot... but not this time.

"The design was off," the old fella said. "Ya did ya best Ian, and I really appreciate it." He looked at the sad wreckage and splinters and wires... and ironically, the left wing was almost completely intact. "I am going to rebuild it, and we'll try again next time! Keep your reflexes sharp, Ian!" 

"Keep your corners square," Ian replied. The rest of us gathered up the wreckage, and carefully carried it out to his truck. Of course, the whole incident revolved around physics, surface areas, windspeeds, leverage and all that jazz. Or it was a random malf or failure in the Chinese electronics. But even today I can see that beautiful bird lift, with the flawless engine clicking along without missing a beat, rising into the dawn sunrise... and then flip over and tear itself to shreds. on the ground. A part of me understands the malevolent old Greek and Roman legends of jealous gods that will destroy the works of Man if they threaten to outshine their own.

I never saw that old guy again. Maybe the aviation gods were so worried about him, that instead of merely ripping his plane apart, they decided to take him out of our realm and into theirs where they could keep an eye on him?

What ignorant prattle! My mind wobbles! I hope I see him on the line later in the year, and maybe this time he'll have an aerodynamic treat for us. In the meantime... I shall endeavour  to keep my own corners square - and I hope you do too this fine Monday morn!

Thanks for stopping in.


  1. I remember back when I was a teenager in mid 70's, one of the neighbor kids had a Father who purchased a gasoline powered German Stukka bomber, wing span about 30" or so. Two wires to wingtip with a handle that was manipulated to gain / lose altitude.

    The kid did well for about a minute, until he got dizzy and had to stop. He instead raised his arm over his head which caused the path of the plain to rise and dive. He realized what was about to happen and tried to stop it - but the last revoluation was about an 80% rise that turned to dive and that bitch bit it but good. Parts scattered at least 40 feet around the crash site.

    Felt sorry for the kid, but inwardly, made my kid 'Highlight Reel of Memories', I still laugh out loud when I review that in my mind.

    Yeah, I'm a dick. Tell me something I don't know.

    1. I was one of those kids with the big U-line control planes; a Ringmaster with a 36" wingspan, a Fox .35 engine, and a "U-Reely" control with 60ft of stainless control line. The lines used fishing "snap swivels" to connect to the plane. I had 'er goin' good when the swivel on the "down" line let go. It did exactly what you described; up, over, and STRAIGHT into the ground. When all was said and done it was hard to tell where the wreck ended and the dirt began... Good times...

    2. Yak 9, Fox 35, U-reely, same kit. Didn't stuff it, I was too chicken to do anything radical. Built a heathkit RC set and had fun with a glider and model boats. Good luck with the Ugly Stik!

  2. My brother bought a RC helicopter. He tried to fly it, crashed it, and sent it in for repairs. After repairs, sure of what caused the first crash, he flew the repaired helicopter into the ground again.

    I think he sold it after that. I do know he spent a boatload of money on the thing.

  3. Have a care for the location of the Center of Gravity, it makes an actual difference. Better a little forward of spec than a little back. How would I know something like that...