Planes, Trains, Bots & Games (and a few gadgets too)

The Hobby Guy

April 6th, 2010 at 6:54 am

Something Different: An RC Story (Fact or Fiction?)

Bill stared out the window with distance in his eyes, studying a bird
glide down from a nearby branch. He noticed the anhedral of the
starling’s wings and wondered if that made them more stable or more
agile. Thoughts about aerodynamics were rudely interrupted as a ping
announced new e-mail, dragging Bill back to his day job. It would be
another four hours until he would head home, and by then the spring sun
would be setting.

Perhaps not that unusual, Bill preferred his evenings to his days, and
was often in his workshop in mind before body. There he was not a
shuffler-of-paper, or a runner-of-meetings, or a taker-of-notes, he was
a builder. A builder of daydream ships. And his favorite craft where
remote-controlled, RC airplanes which could be as realistic as museum models or as
fanciful as spring flowers, but above all, they could fly.

This evening, Bill was putting finishing touches on an RC foamy
for the upcoming, weekly get together in a local gymnasium. In this
particular plane, form followed function for about two feet of wing and
a bit more of fuselage. It was made of sheets of thin, strong foam cut
into clever polygons and a line of carbon fiber; these space-age
materials were the frame for the plane’s incredible flying ability. He
strung the carbon from one wing to tail, around, back to the other
wing, and back again, tied it off, and squared up the airframe, not
once but twice. It needed to be as straight as the Arrow it was named
for. He sealed each intersection of carbon and foam with a small point
of glue. To an engineer’s eye, it was a work of art; to a pilot, a joy.

After the workshop light clicked off for the night, it was a weapon of


There’s no denying that Harry had been pretty happy almost all his
life. To the eyes of many, he was poor, but he had a large extended
family, a full social calendar, and … a fine set of whiskers (if he did
say so himself). It had been a few days since Harry was last scolded by
his sister, the last time for venturing into the neighbor’s workshop;
he disclaimed with a tale of irresistible whirring noises, discovery of
an electric motor, and the fact that nobody had been hurt; she remained

The rain that falls in each life came when Edgar moved in next door a
fortnight ago. No, Edgar was not spring rain, he was a fierce storm.
The menace had been the literal downfall of many of his uncles and
aunts­, and the resulting panic reduced family get-togethers to
memorial services, and those held hurriedly out of fear. Something had
to be done.

A family council had been held, again, furtively. Again complaints,
desperations, and fears outweighed anything of use. Amidst the
confusion, one elder claimed that bullies were cowards, a remark lost
at the moment. However, that evening, when Harry heard the whirring
noise again, he hatched a plan to challenge the courage of Edgar.

There were two difficult things to figure – how to connect the battery
and how to get a door or window open. The latter sounded less scary, so
he asked his sister about that first. She was suspicious of mischief
but was easily distracted by the puzzle; she pointed out that some
doors had flat handles to which one could affix a string, pull to
release the handle, and open the door, if there were a sufficient
length of string and enough hands to help with the pulling. (Harry had
seen black string in the workshop, and the Oktoberfest gave evidence of
the pulling power of a tug-of-war team.) “For fun”, he put it to her,
how to connect a battery to a motor? She hesitated because little was
known about batteries beyond their weight, but opined that if the two
connectors could be aligned, enough force could be applied to connect
them using string looped around both and pulled tight, if such strong
string could be found. (That clinched it for Harry too.)

Harry did not deceive his extended family. This would be no picnic.
Some scoffed, other squeaked in disbelief, but in the end, their
desperation made them willing to try. Harry waited until the neighbor’s
light switched off, and led the teams into the workshop. One took a
spool of string out to the doorway while another found a short length
and started to connect the battery. His sister said he’d probably
regret this but kissed him as he climbed aboard.

Edgar was not hard to find. If the door were open, he often stalked
into the garage, or for that matter, into any room with an open door.
Harry flew out the workshop door, down the hall, and spotted Edgar
curled up by the fireplace. Edgar might have heard the whirr, though it
was fairly quiet, but if he did, he didn’t show it. Harry made a low
pass, nicked Edgar’s ear with the propeller, and elicited a shriek from
the adversary! Edgar scamped to the next room, but he was not fast
enough. Harry zoomed faster and clipped Edgar’s furry tail. Another
delicious shriek! Edgar tried to bound out, but Harry was between him
and the door. Harry made another pass; Edgar hissed and swiped; and the
propeller caught a paw. Shriek the third! Edgar darted under the couch,
through the kitchen screen door, and out into the night. Harry brought
it back to the workshop to the accolades of his family. His sister
painted a small cat’s paw on the foam airplane, just below where Harry
had sat, to “commemorate the victory”.


Bill took his morning coffee into the workshop and nearly tripped on a
spool of carbon fiber on the floor – they did tend to roll off the workbench.
He picked up the Arrow he’d finished last night. Yes, he’d remembered
to glue the intersections, and yes the airframe was still true.
Somehow, he knew this one would fly well. He headed off to work with a

About the Author

J. Curtis is an engineer who lives with his family in the state of Washington. When he is not
typing at a computer, he daydreams about building and flying RC foam airplanes.


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