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Wednesday, 14 July 2010 04:06

The Trojan Tree

After nearly flying the wings off of the Hobby Zone Super Cub I began to desire an airplane that would provide more of a challenge. The Super Cub was a great plane but after 70 flights I needed something with ailerons. I scoured the forums, spent countless hours researching and trying to decide what a good 2nd plane would be. Many people suggested that I cut my own ailerons into the Super Cub or buy another high-wing airplane with ailerons already installed. I felt that my thumbs were quick enough and conditioned enough for something that was a little faster than a high wing aircraft; in the end I chose the Parkzone T-28 Trojan.

I was giddy when I went to the store to order the T-28 and my lovely assistant was a little surprised that I was already buying another plane after having just bought my first one only a month earlier. Unbeknownst to her, this was only the beginning of the airplane fever. The Trojan arrived in a week and I hurried home from the store to crack open the box. The plane looked beautiful and arrived in perfect condition. I took my time putting everything together which was not too difficult considering it came as an almost-ready-to-fly. I called up Shaky Thumbs and let him know that on the coming weekend I would be maidening a new plane.

The weekend arrived and the sun spread its warmth throughout the city landscape giving me the perfect weather for flying. Shaky and I agreed to meet at the usual flying spot and he informed me that another mutual friend and his wife were going to be attending the ‘show’. Great…an audience.

Arriving at the high school I was saddened to see that there was a game in progress that had the field crawling with players, kids, coaches and parents. Since this was a maiden voyage I decided flying near or around such activity would be a bad idea. Heading to another school a few miles away only produced the same results, kids and people everywhere. Unphased, I drove to a secluded field that I had never flown at and was delighted to see that it was vacant. The field looked very large but a tad narrow. The left side of the field was lined with huge trees and an apartment complex, the right side of the field was lined with even taller trees among houses, the back of the field bordered a school and the front side lay along a freeway. Not really the best place to fly, let alone maiden a RC airplane, but I was excited and determined to fly the Trojan.

The peanut gallery sat down against the school with their lunches and drinks in anticipation of the show. I was nervous and felt that my knees might give out before I even got the plane in the air and thought about calling it off, but Shaky Thumbs was insistent that I fly the plane. The weather was beautiful but I wasn’t so sure about the flying location. After 2,000 preflight checks I decided it was ‘now or never’ and slowly turned up the throttle till the mighty Trojan popped up off the pavement.

The plane easily took to the air and I continually told everyone that I wasn’t going to do anything crazy or tricky on the first flight except get the feel of the plane. After 30 seconds of flying, the blood returned to my knees and I quickly felt one with the Trojan. About one minute into the flight (and for the first time with an airplane) I was testing out the rolling ability, loops and inverted flight.  One of the voices from the peanut gallery spoke up, “I thought you said you weren’t going to do anything fancy?!”

“Yeah well I figured I could live a little and see what the plane could do!”

I flew up, down and way too close to the towering trees and school building. Of course at the time I thought I was in complete control and only now with 100’s of flights under my belt I realize how risky I was.

The first flight went off without a hitch. I just about lost it behind the school building but was able to turn the Trojan around before crashing into anything solid. The T-28 felt like a hot rod compared to the Super Cub I had been flying around for a month. I couldn’t believe how quickly the plane ate up all the airspace. On the first landing the plane seemed to float and float forever until finally touching down to the soft grass. I was totally elated and couldn’t wait to put a fresh battery in, but my companions were a little sad they didn’t get to see any destruction.

The second flight was very similar to the first flight but with more loops, rolls and inverted flying. I was feeling more and more confident with the airplane as the minutes on the battery timer ticked down to zero. When it was time to land I turned the plane in front of me and tried to land the shorter distance between the edges of the field.

That was my first mistake.

Since the Trojan was still very new to me I wasn’t anticipating the speed and floatiness of the plane. I tried to bring the plane down to the ground, but it kept floating like the previous landing. The only problem this time was the chain link fence and towering trees on the edge of the field were fast approaching and I was running out of room. My eyes saw the situation and my brain quickly tried to come up with a solution. The Trojan was about 8 feet off the ground and en route to smash into the chain link fence. Knowing what I know now this would have been acceptable and I should have shut the motor down and bonked the fence. Unfortunately my brain had other ideas.

In a flash of sheer panic I blasted the throttle all the way forward and pulled the elevator stick all the way back. The little Trojan revved loudly and climbed angrily towards the sky just as I commanded it. The belly of the plane brushed along the branches of the 150 foot tall tree that stood on the edge of the field while the hungry tree reached out greedily to try and grasp the desperate Trojan that flew past. The peanut gallery behind me let out a loud gasp and an “OOOOOOOHHHHHH!!!!” as I tried to maneuver the plane from the edges of the tree. Just when I thought that the “little Trojan that couldn’t” was going to clear the edges of the tree, the motor ran out of vertical climb and in a blink of horror a big branch of the tree reached out and snatched my plane.

There she sat, 30 feet in the air, stuck like a fly in a pot of honey.

I turned back to the crowd and shook my head. “Well I guess you guys got the show you were looking for eh?”

I set down my transmitter, scratched my head and tried to assess the situation. I figured the best plan would be to go back in time and not fly the plane into the tree, but since I was fresh out of time machines, I needed to think of something else. We tried throwing heavy objects at the Trojan but no one present was Randy Johnson or some other freakish baseball star, so we were unsuccessful. Plus I didn’t love the idea of throwing things at the plane that could potentially damage it. I wanted the plane down from the tree, but not in 20 pieces. Things were looking mighty grim when Shaky Thumbs piped up and said “If only we had a long stick or something to poke it”. It was a good idea but I couldn’t find any 30-ft sticks (aka trees) lying around that were long enough to poke my plane free. Depressed, I began packing up my things, thinking I would go home without my plane.

And then the most amazing thing happened.

Shaky Thumbs spotted an extremely long pipe laying alongside the fence in the neighbor’s yard. The pipe was longer than any normal pipe and miraculously was disconnected from any other important pipes like water, gas and sewer. It was about 2 – 3” in diameter and although we couldn’t get a feel for how long it was, we thought that maybe we could poke a plane with it. We knocked on the homeowner’s door to see if we could borrow the pipe, but there was no answer. With ninja like skills we quickly and quietly grabbed the old, dirty pipe and brought it over to the tree. It took three grown men to hoist the pipe vertical and once it was scraping the sky, it took two of us to hold it steady and another to ‘steer’ it.

With the precision of a brain surgeon using a chainsaw, we were able to get the pipe under the branch the Trojan rested on. Poking at the plane like one pokes at a hairy mole we started to release the grasp of the branch around the tree. It took much effort and the tree was defiant but us men of innovation were successful! In a sudden ‘woosh’ the plane fell to the ground without sustaining any damage and we all rejoiced (while still carefully holding the 30 foot pole).

We quickly brought the pole down, placed it back in the neighbor’s yard (he didn’t even miss it!) and made our way back to the car. The T-28 Trojan continued to fly for 100’s of flights without ever being captured by another tree.

It was an eventful day with many lessons learned, the most important two being “Don’t fly in too small of space” and “If you choose to ignore Rule #1, bring a 30 foot pole and two friends”.

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