I hope you enjoy my blog, a collection of articles and thoughts regarding my interests. I'm a married father of two that loves to write about gliding, hunting, fishing, camping and any outdoor passion. Oh yah, I'm a quadriplegic. I hope this is informative to some, entertaining to others, and interesting to all. Let me know what you think. If you'd like an article for your publication, I've got words I haven't even used yet!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Get Your "Flying Fix" Indoors

OK, still not warm enough for this cold-blooded gimp to go outside and get his flying fix, need to figure out an indoor one. Once bitten by the flying bug, the infection seems to produce a fever and agitated-fidgety state. This seems to intensify with each non-flying day. It is an incurable affliction, and once infected it is a lifelong disease. Consultation with experts suggests that symptoms can be reduced by 1-2 hours of stick-time administered daily. Studies have shown that it doesn't really matter what kind of aircraft you control, so long as it flies.

I have tested these theories in my first life. I was bitten by the flying bug at age 17, and immediately all of my disposable money was redirected into getting my flying fix. It started small with a few lessons, telling myself that I could handle it and only fly once a week or so. But soon that hunger to be in the air was speaking to me more and more, and twice a week wasn't enough. My friends tried to tell me that flying was taking over my life, but I wouldn't listen. Soon I was missing parties, not wanting to spend the money on anything but flying. I found myself not even wanting to buy new clothes. It seemed that flying was on my mind all the time, and I would talk about it for hours to anybody that would listen. I hear that the only way to conquer an addiction like this is to admit that you have a problem, but I wasn't ready to do that yet. I certainly wasn't going to join Aircraft Anonymous.

When tough times hit, I resorted to low-cost air time. I purchased a $300 hang-glider surmising that I'd get countless "free" hours of flying. Along with my brother and a group of friends, we taught ourselves to fly it. This adventure let us know that there are just certain things you should NOT look for a bargain on. The only way to get airborne was to run down an insanely-steep hill, raise your landing gear (Adidas) and trim the grass with your butt, all the while giving thanks that cacti don't grow in these parts. The kite glided every bit as good as a finely-tuned crow-bar, and seemed to sort-of-fly at about 30-50mph, way too fast for a safe landing. Every crash-landing was met with a loud cheer from the 'beer-gardens'.
We next found an old Army parachute, and tied it behind a truck, thinking we had the 'Right Stuff'. There was some low-cost air-time, seemed like a good idea until my friend broke his ankle landing it.

Fast forward to my Second Life. The bug is still in there, it is still incurable. The only difference is now I find myself strapped to an electric wheelchair, requiring more creativity to get my fix. In the summer it is not a big problem to get stick-time with the accessible gliders in nearby clubs, but winters are tough as the fever to get in the air burns.

With a little help, we have figured a way to get the recommended dose of stick-time, by flying radio-controlled aircraft.

The control sticks on the radios for radio controlled aircraft are very small, not very good when you are wearing boxing gloves like me. After some trial and error the best solution we came up with was to cut the end off of somebody's broomstick (while nobody is watching), and drill a small hole in the end of it so that it will fit on top of the sticks on the radio. Short brooms allow you to find the dirt better anyhow.

You might think that radio controlled airplanes would be easier to fly than full-sized airplanes, I know that I did. I guess to some extent this is true, the controls do move the same way, and you don't have to worry about getting airsick or be afraid of becoming injured in a crash. Now I was used to flying light aircraft before my accident, so I kind of figured that this wouldn't be a real big deal. I mean how hard can it be to fly a toy? As it turns out there was a little more to it than I suspected.

To control a radio controlled aircraft that is flying away from you is fairly easy, the controls are exactly the same as a full-sized aircraft. You push forward on the stick and the nose goes down, pull back on the stick and the nose goes up. Moving stick to the left rolls the aircraft to the left, and likewise moving the stick to the right rolls the aircraft to the right. No problem at all.

Then you turn the aircraft around to fly it back towards yourself. Apparently flying radio controlled aircraft back towards you invites Murphy to join the party. Pulling back on the stick raises the nose once again, pushing forward on the stick lowers the nose just like it's supposed to. Moving the stick to the left, rolls the aircraft to the right… Wait a minute… That's backwards! What's going on? Why isn't the aircraft responding? Why is it diving? Uh oh. Pucker-factor is sky-rocketing. Dang, hit the ground. Oops. Going to need that garbage bag.

It took a couple of rebuilds to get used to this situation, when the aircraft is coming towards you the left and right are backwards. Once I got it stuck into my head to move the control stick towards the lower wing, I could fly it back to me. I soon learned to do all the fancy manoeuvres while it was flying away from me until I was really used to this.

After careful study of the situation and much experimentation, I have come to the conclusion that there are really only two types of radio-controlled aircraft. Those that have crashed, and those that are going to.

When a fixed-wing airplane crashes it is usually 100 or 200 yards away from you. No big deal, they will obediently lay there until you arrive at your leisure. Helicopters are another kettle of fish. Before flight you will need your running shoes, and an approved pre-flight warm up and stretching routine. In a lot of cases you spend more time running from the helicopter than you do flying it. I think that a helicopter is merely about 1000 parts flying in loose formation. At at any point they can choose to break formation, causing the resulting shrapnel to force the difficult 'duck-for-cover' manoeuvre. Helicopters are also very good at self-disassembly, giving new meaning to 'flying-fix'. I now have a few partially disassembled helicopters sitting on my bench. One is missing a blade that is now embedded in the drywall, another has the tips of the blades chewed up a 'bit' from furniture-strikes. It seems that they have a talent for becoming a catalyst of family tension. Because of the maintenance and proximity-danger involved I don't seem to fly the bigger helicopters anymore, but I do still get to have a lot of fun with the small and easy to fly coaxial helicopters.

Coaxial bladed helicopters are stable, slow, and relatively easy to fly even indoors. You don't need your tracksuit and running shoes on to fly these, perfect for those of us that are coordinationally-challenged. They seem friendlier and will not go to the great lengths that the big ones will to chase you down. Also their blades are smaller and not so deadly, and once these helis are mastered it is fine to fly them indoors.

If you are unfortunate enough to have been bitten by the flying bug and need your flying fix, R/C helicopters can provide the relief you need, just beware of the big nasty ones.