Those of you who have come to expect our blog reports to be a little different only do so because .... well, because you have been paying attention!
Once again I am going to stray from our format (what format?) a bit, and open on a personal note, but this time it was a bit out of my hands. I had intended to fly the Edge Of darkness the day after I published the report, and then add on the video as soon as I got home.
That was the plan, anyway.
Instead, I ended up in the hospital for a bit of emergency surgery. It's almost a week later and things are much better now, though I have to admit for a few days I felt like I had been run over by a truck.
No Night Flying In Pinellas County
One problem I face with night flying is that all the clubs in Pinellas County are on county park property. County law says all parks close at dark, so night flying at one of the clubs would actually be illegal! Unfortunately, outside of the clubs, there is no suitable open land where you could fly at night, and that's why we night fly at Sarasota.
This is why any test of a new night plane is done at sunset, because that's the closest I can get to night conditions without breaking the rules/laws. I suppose I could have waited until I actually go to Sarasota Thursday night, but that's a long way to go and then find out the plane isn't right.
I also like sunset test sessions because you can still see the plane, and if the light system isn't adequate you can bail out while there is still ambient light. The very first time I went night flying I had no idea what to expect, and a sunset flight gave me enough confidence to go ahead and do a full night flight.
Before today I had flown the plane once without the lights, and it was perfect. I just wanted to retrim it and check the CG with the lights installed, and make sure they stay lit when they are under flight load and vibration. I'm probably just being too thorough and deliberate, but I want to have the lights right on it before I take it out into a black sky.
I got two flights on the Edge this evening. The first flight was in broad daylight to reset the trim and make sure the CG is right and that went well. My second flight was right at sunset and everything worked well. It was not dark enough for the lights to really light the plane, but it was too dark to fly without them, so it was probably the worst lighting conditions I could have flown under. I should have gone earlier or later, but in the end this will be good because I know the plane is lit up enough even for bad conditions.
The plane may not appear to be lit up very well, but cell phone cameras tend to get a little weird in poor lighting. Cameras like the sky to be one consistent level of light, and swinging back and forth in contrasting lighting confuses the camera. It was actually darker than the video shows, and the plane was better lit up. The lighting conditions were very poor for both the camera and myself. The sky was sure pretty, but I could not have picked a more visually challenging time to fly.......... too light for the plane's lights to be effective, and too dark to fly without lights. I still didn't have any trouble seeing the plane, so I suspect Thursday's pitch black night flying will go really well
The sunset was absolutely beautiful. Looks like we are set for Thursday Night,
Aurora Genesis__Initial Evaluation
So far, I am really pleased with this light system. Here I'de like to point out how poor the lighting was when we shot that video, and I could see the plane much, much better than you can see it in the video. I'm sure when we get some decent conditions the lights will be more than effective enough. We've seen videos of this system before, and that was impressive enough to convince me to try it. I'm not the least bit worried.
I do plan to do a few things differently when I get some time, though. I'm going to have some new SFGs made up with a notch cut in them so I can mount the light bars inside the SFGs right where the wires go into the wing. This way, no wires will show, which will look a lot better. Also, the SFGs do block a little bit of light, so getting them inside the SFGs will light the plane up better.
The lights are currently way behind the CG, so mounting them further forward will also shift the CG a little. This was becoming a minor concern since I have my battery pretty far forward. Also, next time I will mount the the unit's driver system on the rear of the battery tray instead of behind the CG.
These are all minor little things that were my own fault for planning badly, though I was careful not to do anything that I couldn't undo, like drill holes in the wrong place. In all, though, this was a first effort with something completely new to me and I had to figure it all out for myself.
Sarasota Silent Fliers
While the club field is about an hour's drive from my door, I always love to go fly with my friends at Sarasota Silent Fliers. Every Thursday afternoon and evening we have sport flying, full contact combat with foam delta wings, cook out and pitch black night flying. It is always a very festive, family kind of event with many guys bringing their wives and even a few kids. Then again, it's not even really an event. It's just a good bunch of guys who have mastered the art of having fun. I just love flying with those guys.
This was where I first got to see RC night flying and fell in love with it right away. I built up some night planes, joined the club and have been a member since. Sadly I had not gotten down there this past year, simply because I felt so badly all the time, but post-surgery it is definitely time to get down there and visit my old friends. I'm planning to fly every Thursday until they shut it down when daylight savings time goes away.
Edit: Friday, August 23rd, 2013: I took the Edge down to Sarasota yesterday and it rained the entire time I was there. I don't mind a little rain, but this was crazy, so sadly, we never got to fly the plane. We'll shoot for new Thursday., Sorry for the delay, but at least this time it's not because I'm in the hospital.