Flight Vol. 7 Issue 2
by Stan Yeo
Everyone is no doubt
aware of the sudden proliferation of (EPP (Expanded Polypropolene) models on their local
slopes. Some no doubt loathe them but many more love them. For me the jury has been out
for several months and whilst I view them positively I recognise there are a number of
drawbacks i.e. they have led to some reckless flying which has annoyed a number of people
and they do little to enhance our building skills. The good news however is that EPP
models have drawn large numbers of people into or back to the hobby and encouraged many
other flyers to have a go at slope soaring. I have always regarded slope soaring as the
fun side of the hobby, on a par with the control line flying of my youth, where investment
in time and money was `justifiable` and a much more happy go lucky attitude prevailed.
This to some degree has been lost in the high performance, high tech, high value machines
a lot of modellers operate today. EPP for me has recaptured this nostalgic view of model
flying and judging by the correspondence I get I am not alone in this view. For years
would be modellers have been looking for a low risk, low cost entry into the hobby. EPP
has met these requirements.
Out hobby/sport is
suffering like so many similar pastimes where the initial investment in time and money is
fairly substantial and the risk of failure relatively high. Add to this the pressures of
modern life and it is easier to find an `excuse` not to do it than to take the plunge.
Fortunately for us the desire does not go away as these people (what an ugly phrase)
continue to cherish the dream and to buy the magazines. Along comes EPP and suddenly the
dream becomes realisable. The price of radio equipment is at an all time low, (my first
proportional set, a DIY kit, cost £107 whilst my take home pay at the time was £96 per
month), the skills required to build the model are minimal and when you do make a mistake
(notice - not if !!) the results are not disastrous. Yes these models are being used for
combat flying, they do annoy some modellers and it is a problem we must address but they
have given the sport a real shot in the arm in the form of new blood and the rekindling of
enthusiasm in established flyers. Our problem now is how do we nurture this `new blood`
and capitalise on the enthusiasm generated by EPP so that in years to come we have a new
pool of vibrant modellers to take over from us that are growing long in the tooth. This
can be done a number of ways via publicity, competitions and achievement schemes.
Magazine editors are
universal in their cry for new material i.e. new ideas, new techniques and appraisals of
current practises etc. I hear they are not adverse to the odd bit of club gossip from time
to time either. From a slope soaring point of view there needs to be more effort to
encourage the lone operators (clubs and individuals) that there is a benefit in belonging
to a club or forming a collective. For me there are three elements to the hobby, building,
flying and socialising. If one element i.e. the socialising is missing my modelling
pleasure is not complete. Most modellers are very reserved and tend not to offer
assistance for fear of fluffing it or making a fool of themselves. Yes we all know of
instances where assistance has been given and the model wrecked, I have to admit I have
done it on more than one occasion much to my embarrassment. I felt terrible but it is
worth remembering that if, after carrying out all the necessary pre-flight checks, the
model still crashed then what chance would the inexperienced modeller have stood.
When I flew full size
(I had a 1/2 share in a K6 for a number of years) and was undergoing `ab initio` training,
I was issued with a flight check card, This contained a list of basic flying skills and
after each period of tuition the instructor would initial and grade the skills covered,
This acted as a record of progress both for the student and the instructor. If we had a
similar scheme operating at club level for the various flying disciplines it would
encourage flyers to develop these skills if only to get them ticked off on their card, No
doubt schemes like this do exist but they are not the norm and I have not encountered one
in slope flying circles. The word `publicise` immediately springs to mind, I keep
threatening to design a slope soaring `skills` checklist for my local club in an effort to
`widen` the flying envelope of the flying members but as yet have not got around to doing
it!! This would include such things as trimming and determining the correct centre of
gravity position, basic manoeuvres like diving and turning as well as more advanced
aerobatics. I recently visited a `foreign` slope and met a number of modellers, One was
flying a Wingbat + and whilst it was flying well and the flyer was more than happy with
the model it was not flying as well as mine. Naturally the owner asked me why and after a
minor C of G adjustment it did. Unfortunately his pleasure was short lived as we had a
mid-air a few minutes later. Another modeller was having difficulty rolling - 10 minutes
tuition cured this. Please do not interpret this the wrong way, I am just trying to
illustrate that with a little help from each other we can all improve our flying.
60" pylon racing
started out as an attempt to redress the balance between the high performance / high cost
multi-task machines and the sports models that were being flown in slope comps at that
time. Unfortunately this low cost / low tech approach did not last long as a competitive
60in pylon racer now costs around £250 to £300 to put in the air and followers of this
discipline are beginning to count the costs of flying these machines. In fact my latest
60in EPP pylon racer the Enigma was designed in response to requests from
the 60in pylon racing fraternity for a more durable low cost 60in racer (incidentally they
make excellent aerobatic sports models). Please do not get me wrong, in no way am I not
knocking these machines or the people that fly them. Both make a considerable contribution
to the sport and help to keep it alive by exploring/demanding new materials and equipment
plus developing the necessary skills and techniques needed to get the best out of the
models. We sports flyers have benefited greatly over the years from this development
process. Two examples are engine performance (power output has doubled in the last 15
years) and `computer` radios. I personally am a fan of computer radios, with all the
mixing facilities and the exponential control. They allow me to fine tune a model`s
handling characteristics to my personal taste. Years ago when rates were first introduced
I considered them dangerous as they reduced overall control authority and consequently
never used them. I found in certain situations this could be hazardous. Now with
exponential control movement you can `soften control response around the neutral without
compromising overall control authority.
competency, as does performing aerobatics. Competitions are viewed by a lot of flyers as
high risk pastimes and consequently are given a wide berth. Not anymore with EPP which is
a good reason why we need to embrace EPP as soon as possible and design a number of EPP
specific competitions. The rules must be constructed in such a way as to discourage the hi
tech development of these models as this invariably will kill any popular appeal that it
can generate. The rules must also insist that EPP models only fly against other EPP models
otherwise no one will fly EPP in competitions because wood and foam veneer models are
inherently more competitive. This would of course kill any embryonic EPP comps before they
had a chance to mature. My suggestion is that the fuselage and wing must be primarily made
of EPP and for safety reasons a maximum weight is placed on the model. This weight would
of course evolve in the light of experience but for 60in pylon racing an initial max
weight of 3lb or 1500 grams would be a good starting point.
competitions have had little support in recent years and I can understand why, they can be
a high risk, particularly if the lift is poor and judging them is a bit of a chore.
Problem one disappears with the use of EPP and problem two can be overcome if the schedule
is against the clock with only a cursory regard to quality. I can hear aerobatic purist
tut tutting but please remember the best pilots will still win without the disadvantage of
discouraging the also rans who one day could go on to win honours themselves.
Incidentally I regard aerobatics as an insurance policy for when things go wrong as they
sharpen up your reactions and judgement. I used to use them to 'waken' me up after a long
flight when I was flying full size, I like to be 'awake' when I am coming into land, it is
when things are most likely to go wrong!
The only general rule
I envisage at this point in time is that the wings and fuselage must be primarily made of
EPP. However hardwood wing spars and internal ply doublers would be allowed to give
structural rigidity and strength.
60in Pylon Racing
1. Maximum weight of
model 3lb or 1500 grams.
2. Course length is
80 metre to place more emphasis an pilot skill and make an allowance for the models flying
3. Heats are run in
slots with 4 to 6 models as per F3B to determine the flyers in a three heat fly-off.
1. A set schedule to
be performed in set order.
2. The time would
start from time of launch with a mandatory 30 second count to gain height before starting
the schedule and ending with a low flypast in front of the timekeeper.
3. Manoeuvre must be
recognisable by majority vote to count.
4. Time penalty for
non completion of a manoeuvre. This would be based on the estimated average time to
perform the manoeuvre plus a 50% penalty. This would encourage the inexperienced to have a
go knowing that failing to perform a manoeuvre would not result in a no score.
The schedule could be
made up of 10 manoeuvres that are performable in the prevailing conditions i.e. in light
lift conditions height burning manoeuvres such as a three turn spin could be replaced by 3
off 360 degree turns etc.
The above is only a
suggestion to start the ball rolling. As with all things it will no doubt be modified in
the light of experience.
I hope you have found
this article interesting and it has given you some food for thought and encouragement to
widen your flying horizons. EPP is here to stay, it is doing a great job, the models are
getting better, so lets use it to our maximum advantage to further the aims of our