Radio Control Jet Rally

Weather was looking rather dull early in the week, but improved as the event drew near. I was still carrying waste in the tanks from the Nova Scotia trip, so I decided to arrive early and stay at a nearby campground. This allowed me to dump the tanks in the morning, starting the event with a ‘clean slate’ so to speak. Being the sole person at the campfire that evening was nice as it allowed me to reflect on the last few months. But it was also way too quiet. I do like my quiet time, but I am a social person and missed the interaction. But that would be corrected over the next 4 days.

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Plum Island had various signs and plaques in the spectator areas so the public could understand what the event was all about. The airport is right on a main road, and the event so prominent to traffic that we had a steady stream of spectators all day.

After dumping the tanks in the morning, I stopped at McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. McDonalds coffee never fails to disappoint. They are consistent, I’ll give them that. I arrived at the event about 20 minutes later, where I immediately started a pot of coffee on arrival.

The nights were cool, and days comfortable. Lots of non-stop action with jets constantly in the air. While it was a small event compared to many, the number of flights each day remained high. Something the spectators appeared to appreciate.

The Roadtrek is still delivering great service with only routine maintenance. Very cozy micro studio apartment on the road for events like these. But I was without propane due to a need to replace one of the LP hoses for a suspected leak. So I emptied the LP tank and shut off the propane. I used my trusty Honda EU2000i generator which ran no-stop for 4 days to run the refrigerator. I can’t say enough good things about the Honda EU series of generators. Never a hiccup, they just run, and run, and run, all while only sipping gas.

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While the L-39 didn’t fly, it didn’t sit idle. I performed some maintenance, updates, and spent time tracking a pneumatic leak on the retracts.

Unfortunately, the L-39 didn’t make it in the air due to a number of reasons. But RC pilots  are a close knit community of people that share the same passion, and I was offered the use of others airplanes so that I could still fly. It’s this kind of spirit that makes this a great hobby. I met new people, made new friends, still got in some stick time, and overall had a great time.

A few people from my local club came to check out the event on Saturday. My daughter also came to visit and Friday and Saturday, as did a close friend. I had to keep getting more and more guest passes that they were all kiddingly known as ‘Steves entourage’. Not a way to keep a low profile 🙂  It was beautiful weather for the event, and they got to see a number of jets flying all day long.

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Assembling an aircraft for flight. Generally the wings are removable to allow for transportation, and sometimes the stabilizers and rudders are also removable.

Evenings were spent similar to other events, around a campfire, talking airplanes, telling jokes, and making connections. The event ended with a Saturday night pot luck dinner, with about 25-30 people staying for the campfire.

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Mario spent some time around the campfire with us. I think he was brought by Larry Roper.
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Grants ‘hotel’ for the night. Other then the coyote story he has to tell, it was a pleasant night for tenting. Cool nights and gorgeous sunrises.

Winter is approaching, my flying season is nearing its end, and already I can’t stop thinking about next season. It’s going to be a long winter. Only a few more events this year and the season winds down. So I’ll just have to build a new airplane to keep me busy and involved int the hobby.

Here are some other images from the event;

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I believe this is a BVM Bandit, although not positive. It flew very well.
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This is Jeff Lynds gorgeous ‎CT-114 Tutor in the Canadian Snow Birds colors. It flew beautifully and very scale.
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The nose hatch opened to expose the various operating systems. Fill connectors for fuel, smoke, and air fill valves for the pneumatic gear and brakes, electronic connectors and switches for the turbine EDT, batteries, receivers, and data access.
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Glen fired up his turbine one night just to see the flames. You don’t see the flame during the day, but very obvious at night. Note the red hot color of the stainless steel nozzle.
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Airplanes are tucked away at night in a locked full scale hangar. Always nice to see all the RC airplanes in one place, as well as the full scale airplanes we share space with.
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I didn’t miss an opportunity to take a few interesting shots of my own airplane. I just love the lines on the L-39.
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Morning sunrise, coffee, then off to the hanger to retrieve the airplane.
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We were greeted with great sunrises and sunsets most days. Weather turned out great for the entire event.
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Aircraft lined up for a impromptu photo shoot arranged by the Darin. The L-39 is my favorite full scale airplane, so of course I took the photo from this end of the line 🙂
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Another awesome morning sunrise. This was the morning after the coyote incident 🙂
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Larry Roper giving a RC Turbine Jet 101 class to some of the spectators. This happens to be some of the ‘entourage’, a friend and pilot from my local club along with his family.
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Larry Roper from Boomerang Jets answering some questions for the spectators.
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Jeff Lynds spending time with some spectators and guests explaining the aircraft operations.
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Spectator viewing area. Most events have the spectator area well back from the flight light. Due to the layout of Plum Island airport, the spectator area is right on the flight line and just off the road. This gives the spectators a perfect view of the flight line and operations. basically the same view the pilots get from their own canopies and pit area.
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View of the flight line just in front of the spectator area.
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Mario must have had too much to drink, and spent the night by the fire. Although, he doesn’t look too hung over in this image taken first thing the next morning 🙂
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This is what I like about waking up at first light. This was taken from the chair in my pit area while having coffee and watching the sun rise. I could have slept in another hour, but I would have missed many scenes like this.

 

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It’s all happening!

“It’s all happening!”, a line used several times in the movie Almost Famous. And it appears to fit here as well.

The series of events over the last month has been interesting. How the whole trip came about to see the eclipse, the sale of the Decathlon to a buyer that had been following it for a couple years in the forums and blogs, and now the boomerang effect the Airworld L-39 is having. It really seems like a good game of Tetris. Everything working together and fitting perfectly, completing a plan the player was unaware of. Yet, it comes together and all fits.

Short story, I had a L-39 RC turbine jet years ago and sold it when my interest in RC faded. A move I always regretted. I wish I had put it in mothballs and stored it until my interest returned, which I knew would. I tend to cycle through three main hobbies, and have done so nearly all my life.

With plans on selling our house and moving in the spring, I needed to consolidate the fleet of airplanes I’ve collected. The goal was to sell 4 or 5 reducing the number to the few I fly regularly, and add one other special project. Thus reducing the amount of space and storage required for my hobby. Those would also fund the acquisition of the new replacement. Preferably a warbird, which opens up more events I could attend during the season. It should be something I would fly often, turning those hangar queens into more flight time rather than storage time.

While looking around on the forum classified ads, the same size and model L-39 Albatros I previously owned came on the horizon for sale. It was also in military paint scheme classifying it as a warbird. It was cheaper than the one I sold years back, another plus. If the airplane was in good shape and reliable, I knew this deal would happen one way or another. It was just meant to be.

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Pictures of the L-39 sent to me from the seller, one of a few dozen more.

My fleet of airplanes would be smaller, leaner, and only those that I fly on a regular basis. It would clean out the workshop and ceiling space in the garage, allow most to fit in my trailer, leave me with extra cash in my pocket, and make our spring home move much easier.  A win all the way around.

This was fate, and hard to pass up.

A byproduct of this is another series of trips right after I return from Nova Scotia on a 2 week vacation with my wife. It’s becoming silly the number of times I’ve traversed the east coast this season. And more to come. And a trip to the northern most point of Nova Scotia, I would have spent nearly has much time at home as I would on the road this season. Almost similar to to last year.

More on the L-39, but first some posts on the Nova Scotia trip!

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 4

Return Trip, Warbirds over Westover.

The return trip started off normally, then took a turn for the worse. On the trip down to South Carolina, I noticed a noise from the Roadtrek that I attributed to something in the suspension, frame, or front end.  I stopped at a mechanic in Pennsylvania, but everything looked safe and secure, so I continued on to Triple Tree. During that leg of the trip, it eventually stopped altogether.

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WWI and WWII both represented in this image

Shortly after leaving Triple Tree on the return trip however, the noise returned. As the miles ticked on, it got worse, went away, and then returned. I couldn’t correlate it to anything specific, such as suspension sway, bumps, steering position, and it was not reproducible. It would just come and go as it seemed fit.

Feeling uneasy again, I decided to cut this leg short and stop at a local campground while I sort this out. I was in the Natural Bridge area in VA, strangely enough, the same exact area I stopped early in May (Joe Nall) when drenched in a torrential rain storm and had to pull over. Jinxed? 10 hrs to Westport will be a long drive the next day.

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A small sampling of the aircraft at the event. This was the left half of the runway, and the right side was nearly a duplicate.

My decision was to stay for the night, then in the morning do another inspection under the chassis and see if I can’t find something. If nothing was found, and the noise persisted as I departed, I’d seek out a mechanic and motel room, and not leave until it was resolved.

The morning inspection, an hour of poking and prodding, I found nothing. I departed and listened. Quiet as a mouse. I kept driving willing to invoke plan B if it returned. I was not going to spend 9 hours driving with the anxiety that the font end is about to fall off. But it was silent all morning, and all afternoon.

Then around 8pm, about 45 minutes from Westport, after all the mechanics have closed up shop and went home, it was dark and I was in the middle of nowhere, it resurfaced. Argh! Occasional thumps, but building. I decided to continue on to Wesport unless it got really bad. Luckily it didn’t and I made it safe and sound around 9pm.

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Evening around the campfire is always a great time after a day of flying

I arrived late and tired, I usually plan for no more than 6 hours driving in a day. This was nearly 10 hours including a stop of two to check the van. It was a very peaceful night, windows open, nice breeze, night lows in the mid 50’s. Perfect sleeping weather.

With this problem looming in the back of my mine, I focused on the event. It was well attended by pilots from Canada, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New York, and growing each year. Beautiful field, unlimited overfly area, great view of the Adirondacks as the flying backdrop. I love flying at this site. I try to never miss an event held here.

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And lets not forget the master fire making skills of Kenny

I’ll attempt the trip home, all back roads, low speeds, and see what develops. Then its off to the mechanic and won’t be picked up until the problem is resolved.

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 2

Solar Eclipse Fly-in, 1 day till Eclipse

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3D Flight area gazebo empty and quiet prior to the non-stop arrivals to start shortly

I arrived early morning two days before the event. It was weird being at the Joe Nall airshow site while completely empty. I’m used to seeing it full with an overload of activity and airplane noise non-stop. And I do mean non-stop. Leave your camper at 3am, and you’ll find plenty of people around to talk with.

When planning the trip, I knew it was going to be hot and muggy and I would want to run my air conditioner. So I called early and managed to snag a premium camping spot. They are considered ‘premium’ only because they have water and electric, where the rest of the facility is dry camping only. Triple Tree has 38 premium sites, but can accommodate nearly a thousand campers and motorhomes. In that respect, premium seems to fit, as they are few and valued.

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Camping area is mostly dry camping, but a few premium water and electric sites are available.

Aside from the electric and water, the premium sites are also in a very nice setting. Small walking bridges, streams and small ponds, lots of shade trees, and easy access to the the flight line. Every bit as nice as some resort campgrounds. No pool, recreation building, morning buffet breakfast, or playground, just a very nice setting in very cool airport.

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The camping area empty. You would never see this a few days before Joe Nall starts.

Even before getting settled in, the buyer for the Decathlon showed up and we spent an hour or so doing the exchange. We exchanged the transmitter program between radios, checked that all functions and switches worked as programmed, and test started the engine. I went over the controls and setup for the new buyer, and they were on their way. Being a day early for the event and with the facility being empty, I spent a lazy day alternating between flying and working.

The next morning, you could tell the day was near as the air traffic picked up considerably. Aircraft are now arriving every few minutes. The ramp and camping area are filling up. Chatter about tomorrow is everywhere. I listened to the controllers on the tower and ground frequencies, and they were pretty busy. A nice done job getting everyone in and out during the event.

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One of my favorite airplanes. Aero Commander 500B twin. This couple was from Pureto Rico on a month long flying trip in their Aero Commander.

Some very cool aircraft have shown up, as well as some of my favorites. Aero Commander, Swift, Cheeta, Maule, V-tail Bonanza, DC-3, and many more. Lots to look at and admire, talk with the owners, and immerse myself in aviation. It was an interesting mix of motorhomes, trailers, aircraft, and tents. It looks like a cross between a campground and an airport. Hmmm. With a 7000’ runway, hangars, hundreds of campsites. I guess technically it is.

But the event we are all here for is the eclipse. In the mean time, here are some very nice airplanes from the fly in. I was told by Tom Hartness that about 600 aircraft flew in for the event. I would have guessed more.

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Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Designed and built in the early 1930’s as a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive.
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Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Designed and built in the early 1930’s as a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive.
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Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Designed and built in the early 1930’s as a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive.

 

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de Havilland DHC-1 Super Chipmunk is a tandem, two-seat, single-engine trainer aircraft from the post World War II era. Often used for sport and basic aerobatic training present day.
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de Havilland DHC-1 Super Chipmunk
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Globe Swift, a two-seat sport airplane from the post-World War II Period. Designed and introduced in 1942, over 1,500 were built before production ceased in 1951.
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Globe Swift cockpit
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Globe Swift wing detail
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Aircraft parked along the 3D pond
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Camping, airplane style.
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Even the ‘Grateful Dead’ flew in for the event. And sporting safety solar eclipse viewing shades! 🙂
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I believe this is an RV4, as is the one on the left.

 

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A gear malfunctioned on this twin while they were moving it. The wing was lifted by a group of people and the gear extended. It couldn’t be flown out until inspected and repaired by a certified mechanic. Not a good day for the pilot.
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The ‘parking lot’ for non-campers at 1/4 full. It was full by 11am on eclipse day.
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Camping area nearly full. Planes still arriving.
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For those that made it this far on this post, and little aviation humor! Posted in the mens room by the urinal.

 

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 1

The old saying “When the stars and planets align…” seems to have real meaning on this trip. They did just that to enable this trip, both figuratively and literally. The three M’s (Mercury, Mars, Moon) and the Sun in close proximity, and then topped off with a total eclipse.

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It all started with a decision to sell one of my airplanes, and ended with several giant scale fly in events and a total solar eclipse.

The short story. The buyer was in Florida, and I was in Boston. We needed to get the airplane to him. Meeting half way seemed like the best answer. We chose a location and date. I saw the dates aligned with a full scale fly in for the total eclipse in South Carolina, just 6 hours further down the road. So the decision was made to meet the buyer at Triple Tree Aerodrome where I would attend the fly in and enjoy the total eclipse.

Looking at my calendar of possible events, the trip could also link together a few other RC fly ins before and after, creating a string of events spanning from MA to NY, NC, SC, back to NY, then home. Nearly three weeks in total, and over 2,000 miles. Sounds like a great trip.

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One of my favorite airplanes to see at the Chenango Bridge event. Pilots own design, meticulously built, and a great flying airplane.

A 5 hour drive to Chenango Bridge NY launched the trip with a 4 day giant scale RC event, which allowed me to catch up with friends from the NY area I haven’t seen since last year. I would see many of them again at the Warbirds over Wesport event on my return two weeks later. Both really enjoyable events. At the conclusion of the event, I was off to North Carolina.

After the 8 hour 500 mile drive, I did a quick overnight at a truck stop in Roanoke Virginia. Pulled in late and left at first light. Very peaceful night. The roar of trucks firing up in the morning made a great alarm clock. Refreshed, I headed back out on the blacktop for the next 300 mile leg into the land of pigs, peaches, and fireworks. At least that is what the billboards I see so frequently in that area imply. Oh, and moonshine. Not blasted on the billboards, but the presence isn’t hard to find.

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Just escaping a pretty nasty storm leaving North Carolina and entering South Carolina.

As I neared the South Carolina border, a nasty thunder storm chased me out of North Carolina. I could see it in front of me and off to the left, and we seemed to be on a converging path based on the weather radar. The NOAA weather station warned of heavy lightning and thunder with winds to 40mph, and advised people to remain indoors. I stepped up my speed to 70-75mph trying to out run it. Luckily, only the beginning of it caught me. But I could see the black skies and very frequent flashes of lightning in my rear view mirror chasing me.

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The storms 15mph northerly track and my 70-75mph southeast allowed me to just skirt the edge of the storms 40mphs winds and heavy rain and lightning
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Entering the Carolinas, these warnings became very common.

I was early for my meeting with the buyer, and the Solar Eclipse Fly In, so I reserved a campground for a few days. Pine Ridge Campground, about 25 minutes from Triple Tree Aerodrome. It was a great way to catch up on work, relax, and unwind for a few days. It was a great little campground, clean, friendly hosts, and updated. The bathrooms for example, were anything but what you would expect in most campgrounds. All tile, modern, very clean, halogen lighting, granite counters.

Normally I’d boondock somewhere and explore the area during the day. But it was hot and muggy mid-August, and I wanted the ability to run the air conditioning at night if need be. I could run it off the built in generator during the day, but I don’t run it while I sleep for safety reasons. So I elected to get a campsite with electric.

I spent the days doing errands, laundry, projects for work, and some general rest and relaxation. It was a quiet campground, day or night. I really enjoyed my stay, and would return.

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Not your typical campground bathrooms
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Modern, updated, great showers and water pressure

 

She’s Gone :(

Sellers remorse. Big Time. I loved that airplane, and will miss it.

But the reasons that I decided to sell it still stands, so I know its the best option for me. Its too big for my current trailer, and I don’t want to invest in another trailer and have to build it out. Too time consuming, and one of the reasons I went with the size trailer I have is because it would fit inside the garage for the winter months. So the plane goes, no matter how much want to keep it.

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Time to look to the future for it’s replacement. A 40% Edge, MXS, or Slick 580 would be a great replacement project. While its still a 40% airplane like the Decathlon, they are actually smaller. The Decathlon sat tall and had a 150″ wing span. The 40% Edge sits lower, and is nearly 2 feet shorter in wing span. The horizontal stabilizers are easily removed allowing two 40% aerobatic airplanes to fit side by side. This makes a big difference in the trailer.  No longer would I need to decide between the Decathlon and nothing else, or everything else and no Decathlon.

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I’ll spend the 1,000 mile trip back home from South Carolina contemplating on a replacement for the Decathlon. I’ll probably be dong a lot of reminiscing as well.

Interesting How Things Come Together Sometimes

When things are meant to be, they happen. Accident? Coincidence? Fate? I don’t know, I just accept it.

The total eclipse is a once in a lifetime event for me, as I am not willing to travel around the world to chase it. Unfortunately, the eclipse across the USA is quite a bit south of where I am. About 1,000 miles south. I contemplated driving down just for the eclipse, but 4 days of travel for a 2 minute and 40 second event seems excessive, even for me. I decided a partial eclipse in New England would have to suffice and crossed it off my calendar.

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This is the airplane I was delivering. A 40% Decathlon with a twin cylinder 150cc two stroke gas motor, and nearly 13′ wingspan. It was just too large for my trailer and every day flying.

Then by accident, coincidence, or fate, things started to come together.

I advertised one of my larger RC aircraft for sale and received a number of inquiries. One inquiry happened to be located in Florida. As it turned out, the pilot had been following this aircraft from the build to flight reports over the last two years. He was planning on calling me for information as he was going to build one himself, and wanted to duplicate the modifications and setup matching mine. They he saw it posted for sale and contacted me that day.

The larger aircraft are expensive and costly to ship, requiring custom crates to be built, and removing all items that had gasoline through them. So it’s customary in the RC community for buyer and seller to find a place halfway to meet and make the exchange. Just over half way between Florida and Boston sits Triple Tree Aerodrome, home of the world renowned Joe Nall RC airshow each May. I was just there for the event, and its my favorite place in the USA to fly. Florida to New England would be a stretch for most, but not for a motivated buyer and a seller looking for an excuse to head south.

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A restored WWII control tower moved and erected on the Triple Tree site.

Triple Tree Aerodrome also happens to be in the path of the total eclipse. Isn’t that convenient. I checked their website for any RC events that might be going on. If I’m there for the eclipse, why not piggyback it to one of the RC events. Unfortunately, nothing RC related.

Wait! On their full scale event list is a 3 day Solar Eclipse Fly In!

While RC flying is not allowed during the event due to the flow of full scale aircraft that will be arriving and departing, night flying RC aircraft will be as the runway is closed after sunset for full scale aircraft. I would no longer be traveling 2,000 miles round trip to exchange an aircraft and a 2:40 total eclipse. I could stay for the full scale eclipse fly in. Beautiful! Coincidence? Fate?

Being the personality type that prefers to arrive early and wait to ensure I am on time, I was planning on arriving a day or two early for the exchange. This buffer would allow me to recover from a mechanical breakdown on the road should that happen.

I decided to look around for a local club hosting an event around the days of my arrival. One where I could fly for a day or two and allows on-site camping. That would be ideal, but no such luck.

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My normal RC trip configuration. The white whale and trailer ready to go.

RC pilots are a friendly bunch, and I ended up in a text exchange with one of other interested buyers after informing him the Decathlon was sold. We did the usual, talked airplanes and flying. During that exchange he suggested that if I was ever in the area, to let him know and I could come fly with them. I asked him where he was located, and the response was North Carolina. He was directly on my path to or from Triple Tree Aerodrome! This is no longer a coincidence!

Talking further, he mentioned that he and some club members will be camping out at the field the same weekend I was in the area, and I could camp there for a few days and fly. Between Triple Tree and the North Carolina club, I now had paces to stay and fly for nearly a week. Rather than a quick cannonball run to South Carolina and back for a 1/2 hour airplane exchange and 2:40 eclipse, it has grown into a trip worthy of the drive.

A little more investigation showed that if I planned a slightly longer trip, I could add two New York events to the mix. One on the way south, and one on the return trip North. Both events I usually attend when time permits. I rearranged work as best I could to accommodate, and will also work while on the road. Problem solved, plans made, time to prepare for the trip.

I’ll post more on the trip in later posts. Look for “The Stars and Planets Aligned” since thats exactly what seems to have happened here.