All posts by Eddie

Find the helicopter


This summer, I finally made good on a promise I made to myself a few years back, and attended the International Radio Control Helicopter Association(IRCHA) Jamboree, held at the Academy of Model Aeronautics(AMA) headquarters in Muncie, IN.It was a wonderful experience. I met several new friends from all over the States, as well as from other countries, one of whom said simply, “This is paradise!”

I drove down there with a local pilot from my field, and we met up with two more local pilots and one of their spouses.Here’s the gang:


Here’s a picture of one of the gang, Marco, flying inverted, and one of me and my cowboy hat doing the same.



One of the major manufacturers of helicopters is Align, and they held a group photo of EVERYONE who attended who flies their stuff, along with their helis. You can spot me on the right with my hat.


One of the many events held during the Jamboree is the Speed Cup. Just a couple of years ago, the top speed record(two way average) was 138mph. This year, the winning record was 153mph! Here’s a close up of the type of heli flown for this event. Notice the skinny, fully enclosed airframe and thin wires that serve as landing gear:


Another event is a scale competition. Someone brought a flying scale model of an Sikorsky MH-53, otherwise known as the Jolly Green Giant, complete with 8 bladed main rotor and powered by a miniature jet turbine. But the picture I wanted to share was the tremendous scale detail on another model:


There were several demonstration flights by pilots with amazing skill. I believe this is 3D World Champion Kyle Stacy flying his Goblin sideways at incredible speed:


Our flight tent was, by accident, set up right next to a huge tent that, at night, was the sight of a cool party, with free food. This is run by pilots from all over the States, but originally Wisconsin. There was a DJ, and the food was amazing, with BBQ pork, hand breaded corn dogs and sweet corn harvested from the field on the site:


As night fell, the flying continued. Several pilots had these multirotor machines equipped with GPS and capable of station holding. At first, they look like UFO, with lights bright enough to light up a good portion of the field. This particular craft was built by an elderly guy who designed and programmed his own custom PC boards to control the lights just the way he wanted. At one point, he lifted a disco ball higher than any discotheque hall ceiling, while someone on the ground lit up the ball with their laser:



A few years ago, night flying was a rare thing, and the night flying contest at IRCHA was one of the few places where it could be seen. This year I was totally surprised by the number of pilots who brought and skillfully flew these very cool machines. Here is one of them ready for take off:


And this brings us to the fireworks finale, with several show pilots flying their lit up helicopters THROUGH the fireworks display. In these last photos, you can spot the helicopters because their flight path does not follow the ballistic path of the fireworks; with my shaky hands and the long exposure, they trace out some neat patterns. Now that you’re trained to spot them, can you find the helicopter in the first image in this post?



Flight of the Bumble Helicopter

Most of you know that I’ve been flying my little Align T-Rex 450 remote control helicopter since 2011. I’ve been wanting to fly a larger helicopter since the end of last year, but this spring I decided that I didn’t want to spend the bucks to purchase and maintain it. When one flies R/C helicopters, the word maintain means “buy replacement parts when you crash it.” Larger helicopters have larger, more expensive parts…

But at the end of July, I ran across an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up (especially when I got permission from The Boss to not pass it up. Love you, honey): a used 2009 Align T-Rex 600 Nitro Super Pro, in flying condition, with a OS 55HZ engine, CY ATG v3 governor, GY520 gyro, two step voltage regulator and SwitchGlo on board glow driver. Oh, and a whole BOX of spare parts, including a second muffler.

How much did it cost? Add up all this, and divide by a factor of at least 3. Now you understand. Incidentally, this is how I got into the R/C hobby in the first place. I found a deal on used equipment: everything needed to fly. And similar to that occasion, I asked the previous owner to fly his bird so I could be sure it was in working condition.

Needless to say, I’m very happy with the value. And the thing is a BLAST to fly. I like flying big maneuvers that eat up a bunch of sky, but that’s challenging to do with a smaller heli that gets hard to see when it’s way up there, or way out there. But this big brother to the 450 is plenty large enough. It’s also very powerful, and surprisingly agile, even though this one has a fly bar(the 450 has a 3-axis gyro and no fly bar). I’m still getting familiar with it’s flying characteristics, but below is a video shot and edited by a friend at the flying field during a windy day. At the end of the video, I perform a full auto-rotation from a few hundred feet up with a sliding landing(that maneuver isn’t possible with the smaller heli). This past weekend, I did a few more autos, and I put the last one right at my feet with no sliding! I’ve already flown two gallons of fuel through it in about four weeks…

Hang on to your hats

We spent one week this summer with some of our closest friends from MIT, and some of their kids.We all shacked up together at Wolfville, a large house in Bartlett, NH.Among the activities we enjoyed together were canoeing/kayaking on the Saco River, hiking Cathedral Ledge/White Horse Ledge, Arthusa Falls, Diana’s Baths, zip lining at Bretton Woods and chilling at Echo Lake.What follows are some pics and a video of these places.

Cathedral Ledge(Cyndi in red shirt)

White Horse Ledge, over looking Echo Lake

Arthusa Falls(some of the gang that hiked that day)

Dianna’s Baths(me)

Zip Lining(Aaron coming in with great form)

Zip Lining Video, shot by one of our guideswith our camera.

Your Car Was Built in a Minor Key

Every day on the way to school, Arianna and I pass an automotive repair place with a bright, animated LED sign in the window. The message says what kinds of repairs the place can do, what hours they are open and so on. This morning, Arianna had one of her frequent epiphanies, and declared the following:

“You know, each time I see that sign say ‘We do major and minor repairs on any car’ I keep thinking of major and minor keys in music!”

So we had a good laugh when we imagined the owner of a less capable repair shop telling a prospective customer, “Sorry, we can’t work on your car. We only do major repairs. Your car was built in a minor key.”

I Finally Get to Set Up The Nativity Scene

For as long as I can remember, my maternal grandparents had this large manger set up in their house for Christmas, but we kids were NEVER allowed to touch it. But this year, at my mom’s house, Grandma and I set it up together! Grandma says this set is about 20 years old, but I think it’s older.

They are kept in a large, plastic box with all the pieces very carefully wrapped up in foam and tissue paper. We took them out and unwrapped them together, and she told me where each one belongs in the scene. We found baby Jesus in a special box with one of the small lambs. We needed to figure out which king was bearing which gift. But first we needed to find the camels, which were in the bottom, yet needed to go into the scene first. Halfway into the scene, I needed to repair the hook in the back, where the angel ‘floats’, while Grandma looks on.

Here’s Grandma, showing her picture of one of the shepards while holding the ‘real’ one:

Here’s Grandma placing him into the nativity scene

Here she is arranging one of the lambs.

And here’s the finished scene:

La Familia Hernandez y Las Nubes

During one visit to San Antonio in 2006, I brought my digital recorder and recorded my dad(accordion) and my brother Mike(guitar) playing Las Nubes. I had forgotten that I recorded this until last week, when I stumbled across it on my computer. I guess I got home and dumped a bunch of files from my camera and recorder on the computer without really processing them. Anyway, this is a favorite song of my extended family, and many of us know the words. Hope you enjoy it!

Touch the skies

Like most of us online folks, I’ve been enjoying some pretty nice videos created and posted to the internet. Some of them are made using small high resolution cameras, like the Go Pro. If you visit that site, you’ll see some high quality, creative and innovative work, often set to just the right music. I wanted to give this a shot, but since I couldn’t afford the Go Pro,I searched for a smaller, cheaper alternative. This winter, I purchased a small camera that is literally the size of a keychain. In fact, it is called a 808 HD Car Key Micro Camera (#16). The only details I will bore you with is that it records using a 1/4” CMOS WXGA HD Sensor using H.264 video format with 1280 x 720 resolution. In other words, true 16×9 HD format. If you want to learn more, RC Groups has a well maintained forum here. For about $40, I couldn’t resist seeing what I could do with it.

The main reason I wanted something like this was to fly my remote control airplanes and helicopter with it. I’ve made a few test recordings with my heli, but the first one I wanted to publish was a recent flight with the Sig FourStar 40 airplane that Adam and I built some years ago. The kit was a gift from Adam’s godfather, Dr Jeff Morgenthaler. Adam has flown it in the past quite a bit, but not in a while. He let’s me fly it now, but I give him title of Owner/Builder. On this day, it was very windy. The plane is fairly light, so my take off was poor; the landing was worse, but the plane is fine. My ego, thanks to the peanut gallery, is in tatters. However, when setting the flight to music, the video seems to take on a somewhat more acceptable life of it’s own. Being the perfectionist, I’m now scripting a series of maneuvers for a higher quality flight video, as well as designing some better camera mounts. But for now, I hope you enjoy the movie

PS: The music I used is entitled “It’s for You,” recorded by Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny in 1981 on the album “As Falls Witchita, So Falls Witchita Falls”. I discovered it in a movie I saw in high school called Fandango, recommended by my high school buddy, Marc Eckhardt. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I think the song communicated what I was trying to capture in my little video.

Rites of passage

It’s a little ironic that one often speaks of life events from the point of view of a young person. Last weekend, I drove Adam to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. At first, I was thinking of the same point in my life 26 years ago, recalling the excitement, the emotions, the constant discovery, and the transition to independence that all kids must experience when heading off to a college far from home. I sensed Adam bucking at the reins, impatient for me to let go, to leave. But then I found myself thinking of my parents, especially my dad.

22 years ago, after college, and my last summer at home, Dad and I drove up to Michigan, where he dropped me off to start my professional career in the fall of 1990. I remember my mom crying in the driveway as we drove away from the house, and I wondered if I’d do the same. Since I kept the car we drove up in, Dad flew home on an airplane. But last weekend, I knew that I would be driving home from Pittsburgh, so during most the weekend at Carnegie-Mellon, knowing that I faced this long drive home alone, I kept thinking of Dad, and wondered what he felt like flying home to Texas, being alone on the plane for about as long as it takes to drive from Pittsburgh to Detroit. And then he would have to face mom, without me, just like I would have to face Cyndi, without Adam.

So many times during my parenting life, I think of my Dad. This summer, for example, I get up to go to work while my kids are still asleep. The house is quiet, except for my footsteps in the kitchen and the hallway. When I was in middle and high school, my room was next to the kitchen, and I remember hearing Dad’s footsteps in the kitchen, as he ate breakfast and put his dishes away early in the morning, before Mom or my brothers got up. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about this summer in the mornings, literally walking in his footsteps.

Sometimes, things break in the house, or something goes wrong with the car and matters have to be attended to immediately, despite my plans for something else entirely. Once, we had a drainage problem in the sewer line from our house to the connection under the street during a very heavy rainstorm, and I had to drop everything I was doing, move items away from the growing puddle in the basement, mop and wet-vacuum the water, and run to the hardware store for some plumbing equipment to save the basement. During that time, I remembered: when I was a kid, we were all dressed up to head to a wedding or quinceanera, only to discover something was seriously wrong with our car. Dad immediately went back in the house, changed, came back outside, got oily and messy and sweaty, fixed whatever it was, and then cleaned up, got dressed again, and off we went.

At Carnegie-Mellon, Adam showed me the student center, where the campus store was, and I found the section, with all the swag: shirts, sweaters, hats and so on. I started to shop for souvenirs for the family. Then I stopped; I figured if Adam felt strongly about it, he would make time to pick out his own souvenirs for us, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. But I wanted something for myself. And when I found what I wanted, I thought of my Dad yet again, because he has one just like this, just from a different school. Rites of passage aren’t just for kids, are they?

In Which Aaron Submits a Remix to a Contest

One of the things Aaron has taken on this summer is to enter into a remix contest, held by one of Aaron’s favorite online musicians, Dave Brown, of Boy In a Band.

The rules are described here, in a video. Aaron’s remix can be found here, while his tutorial(required for submission) can be found here.

The tutorial is simple, huh? I can probably do this in my sleep. In fact, the only place I can do this in my dreams. Way to go, Aaron!

Mid-American Fun Fly 2012

This weekend, I was able to attend the Mid-American Fun Fly, held at Detroit’s Gross Ile Airport, which is on an island in the Detroit River. Last year, I was only able to attend a few hours at the end of the event, but this year, I could attend for two of the three days. We had use of an 8000′ foot runway, so I was able to fly as often as I wished, but I also spent a lot of time watching the pros.

Unless you are a fan of R/C helicopter flying, you won’t know any of the pro pilots who put on some amazing demonstration flights. In my mind, the best of these pilots is Bert Kammerer. I didn’t take any pictures of him flying because I was too mesmerized by the talent. Here is a video of him from 2011, but this weekend he was flying the SAB Goblin and tossing it around like this. Yes, he flys this low to the ground all the time. Before this weekend, I thought some of what you see in the video isn’t possible, especially the fastest, twitchiest moves, which looks like the camera is misses some frames, but I was standing there about 20 feet away, and I’m telling you, he make the this machine do that in real life!

Here is a a couple of pictures of Bobby Watts, who is best known for his night flying skills. . Bobby and Bert collaborated to produce some inexpensive instructional videos at that I’ve purchased online to help me learn to fly. Here’s Bobby cutting the heads off some flowers:

DSCN043901_web DSCN044101_web

Here’s a friend of mine, Jesse James(yes, that’s his real name) flying inverted as well. Jesse has given me some valuable advice to improve by flying skills, especially explaining the more subtle aspect of helicopter dynamics:DSCN046101_web

I also met Anthony Avalone, who wrote an article in the April 2012 edition of Model Aviation Magazine that prompted me to convert my helicopter to flybarless. He brought helicopters that are almost identical to mine, except his are the next two and three sizes up. So I had to take a ‘family picture’ of our helis: