Dan's Blog

Please stay out of the trees.


John King of the famed Kings Schools which offers many aviation training videos has a common way of closing his video “By all means, stay out of the trees”. I forgot to provide similar advice to my 11 year old son this past weekend. By the time I told him to stay out of the trees, it was too late. In the end, all was fine but only after a lot of head scratching.

First off, I’m talking about the remote-controlled aircraft he bought himself prior to Christmas. No, I do not make my kids buy their own gifts but I think they have hit the age where they understand, “If you really want something, prepare to buy it yourself”. Both boys did well this year in the gift department. My youngest, knew an RC aircraft was not going to be under the tree for him and he knew he had the funds to get one himself. He really wanted the P-51 Mustang model but the Hobby store advised the Champ as a good beginner model which he ultimately bought. I believe the manufacturer is ParkZone and is an RTF (ready to fly) model.

My son flew the Champ a few times over the Christmas break and the model has “transparent” duct tape over the wings and vertical stab as proof of his “accomplishments”. The Champ still flies well. For a variety of reasons, I have also recently determined that model building (flyable or not) will be a skill I’ll work on in 2012. It’s shaping up to be a nice father / son journey.

This past weekend, he wanted to fly the Champ and so we went to the park. There were some people practicing baseball so we restricted ourselves to another part of the park. The first flight went well and was short as he wanted to land it on another ball field. After launching for the second time, the Champ entered a good climb and began its usually left upward spiral. We never have been able to trim it straight but I haven’t tried that hard. I let the boy fly his model and give advice. The plane was starting to fly over some tress and I advised him to bring it back towards us. He said the plane was responding and ended up near the top of a very mature Cottonwood tree. I suspect it was 50 feet up (maybe 60). This occurred at about 4 pm.

We tried throwing sticks up to shake the limbs in hopes of shaking the plane free. Neither of us could get a stick that high though. Someone came by and suggested casting a fishing pole with a good size weight. I went home and got the pole and brought along extra nuts and bolts since I only had one good size weight. Surprisingly, it only took about four casts to get the line in place to shake the limb. Due to the low strength of the fishing line, I started with a slow and light tug. Eventually the limbs swayed more and more and the plane dropped.

It didn’t drop to the ground though. It landed on another limb about 20 feet up. The fishing pole was broken at this point. The sun was also below the horizon, so time was running out. This was the easy part though. I had some rope and was able to sling it over the lower branch.  A few tugs and the plane was free and plunging to the ground again. Since it was in a clear space, the Champ did a nice glide before its final nose dive to the ground. My son was quite impressed with its ability to fly so we talked about airspeed over the wings creating lift (until it stalls).

I have a lot more to say regarding lessons learned about patience and problem solving. That will be another post.

In the end the plane was really no worse than when the day began. We both learned a few things. While the flight time was short, we went home with smiles.