Monthly Archives: July 2009

George Clark of British Columbia, Canada builds solid Squirrel

Solid Construction

George sent these pictures of a Squirrel constructed from sheet balsa today. Here are the details:

“I decided to try an all-balsa Squirrel. I used light, competition balsa for the plane. Wingspan is 20 in. Weight of the plane, excluding prop assembly is a mere 8.2 grams. The tail and fuse weigh 3.4 grams and the wing weighs 4.8 grams. With prop and 2 strands of 1/8 in. rubber, total weight is slightly under 12 grams, giving a very low wing loading of .2 grams/sq. inch. The plane flies reasonably well with the 6 in. plastic prop and plastic prop assembly, however the prop turns very quickly and thus runs out fairly rapidly. I have a 7 in. balsa prop(pictured) with greater width and pitch that should work better. The balsa prop actually weighs about the same as the plastic prop.

Solid Squirrel.

As you can see by the photos, I’ve reversed the tail assembly. I kept the wing adjustable, but flat(no incidence). I added several degrees of positive incidence to the stabilizer instead, which seems to work fine. If you look closely at the leading and trailing edge of the wing, you can see that I added two pieces of 1/32 in. square balsa strips longitudinally as turbulators.

If this plane flies well, I will shrink the design by approximately 50% for indoor flying. For now, I am using twist ties to secure the wing to the fuse.”

De-Thermal (DT)

Here’s a Squirrel after returning from a flight. The de-thermal system has caused the elastic to get tangled in the propeller. It is by design that the elastic comes of the rear hanger. Not by design that it gets tangled in the prop. No big deal. I bet that if it encountered a bad thermal, the tangling would stall the propeller causing further drag and increasing the chance that the airplane drops out of the thermal.

An interesting discussion on the phrase “Toy Airplane”

Is this a toy plane?

I posted this into the FreeFlightML in yahoo groups. The page that I linked to had the title: “Toy plane at Brewers Park“. I find this is an interesting issue since the use of jargon often forms a barrier to new entries into a group.

I was hanging out in the park with some kids this morning.

We got a few good flights.

I got a couple of responses objecting to the use of the word “toy”:

I know the Squirrel is a very simple model, but even so, I don’t think
it deserves to be called a “Toy plane”.

I think we should do everything we can to avoid perpetuating the
perception that we are grown men playing with toy airplanes, we are
grown (mostly) men and women playing with _model_ airplanes!


I replied:

Hi Manuel,

Thanks for the comment. I see where you’re coming from.

But here’s the scoop. By putting “Toy Plane” between H1 HTML tags, it makes the page rank for “Toy Plane” in google.

So people who aren’t familiar with model airplanes may discover the Web site and discover my entry level plane. (Which actually performs very well to boot).

I’m more about bringing new people to the hobby. All us existing guys already know all about the right vocabulary. But we need to widen the circle.

Food for thought….


Manuel answered:

Darcy, do you mean that “toy airplane” increases the page rank of your
site? I’m not sure what you mean by “it makes the page rank for “Toy
Plane” in google”.

As for Toy vs Model (sounds like a video game), I was referring to the
concept that calling model airplanes “toy” airplanes gives the
impression that what we do is mostly a kids activity and as such is not
seen as a serious, socially redeeming activity for non-children.

I think this is because most societies consider toys something children
use for entertainment, not something adults would have any serious
interest in. Hot Wheel fanboys are “die cast car collectors”, people
who ride around on ATVs are “off-road motorists”, and people who chase
little white balls around manicured lawns while whacking at them with
sticks are “golfers”. To the uninitiated, collector, motorist, and
golder sounds more serious and seems more worthy of General Public (GP)
support/understanding than “person who plays with toy airplanes”.

The implication is that if we don’t want the GP to see what we do as
trivial, thereby diminishing the chance of getting public support for
our needs (flying sites, putting up with the occasional crash) we should
do what we can to avoid having the GP see our models as toys but
instead, have them seen as something all ages can partake in and having
a social benefit worthy of supporting.

I think parents and educators see activities labeled as play – swing
sets, toy soldiers, and video games – as something temporary that
children will eventually grow out of. If they instead see their kids
interested in gymnastics, robotics, and computers, parents are more
likely to support their kids ongoing interest in these activities as
they may transform into real careers.

BTW, Google finds 1,030,000 hits for “model airplane” but only 79,700
for “toy airplane”. This seems to imply that there are more people
aware of model airplanes vs toy airplanes.

One other thing, there are such things as “toy airplanes” and they have
very little to do with flying model airplanes. I’m referring to toys
originally made for children to play with such as these:

What’s interesting is that these items also have their non-children
aficionados as a lot of these items are considered collectible. They
occupy their own little corner of the universe and I suspect there are
toy airplane people who might object to a Simple Rubber Powered Model
(SRPM is a term Ron Williams used in his seminal book on indoor models)
being referred to as a “toy airplane”.

I’m all for getting more people interested in what we do and I guess if
you really press the point, I don’t care what our hobby is called if it
gets more people interested, creates the opportunity for people to learn
about this stuff, and betters our opportunity to practice our craft.

I also believe that perception is reality to many people and so I am all
for trying to avoid mis-perceptions about what we do because a bad
perception can do a lot of damage to causes like ours.


I answer:

No, I said that it will rank for Toy Plane. Content in H1 tags is considered by google to be more relevant to the page.

So if you put “Toy Plane” in there, then google may bring the page forward for a search for those terms.

Further, if another page links to said page, and it uses the term “Toy Plane” in the anchor text, then the site’s ranking for “Toy Plane” will increase. There are a lot of other factors which I wont go into. (That’s what I do for a living by the way, it’s called SEO [search engine optimization]).

As I said, I’m in agreement with your statement that they’re not the same as other toys. For instance I find that people call a motorcycle a toy. But that’s a different sense of the word toy.

But in the case of model airplanes, the people that are outside of the hobby do not know the vocabulary that we LIKE.

Some people call them “rubber band planes” or “elastic band planes”. Those are the people that we need to reach. If they’re searching the internet and we leave them behind, then they’ll never discover what we do.

So if we just use the same vocabulary all the time, we don’t invite new people, we just stay as a clique. That’s a bit of an issue with this hobby. Cliques decay by the way. After some big bang formation, they decay over time.

For instance in my current city, I went to visit the gym where the indoor free flight crowd hangs out. I had not been there in a few years. I was happy to see that the group still meets there but I was astonished by what I saw.

The group has died off. There were no newcomers to carry on the free-flight and rubber-power hobby. There were newcomers and they were flying “toy planes”. They were flying those <$30 wallmart/dollar store RC and other prefabricated things.

The club did not attract new members to it self because it was a type of clique. People from other interests found the venue and got in on that but the original club as suffered from severe attrition. The clique aspects were more from the social network theory stand point.

If we use narrow vocabulary we are creating a new barrier to the discovery and the entry into the hobby. (Entry through google that is).

And then a little later I added:

Another way of looking at it is more from the social network theory standpoint.

Jargon is a feature of some cliques. It’s another barrier to entry (newcommers).

So a more open group will permit the vocabulary of their audience when addressing their audience vs. their own internal vocabulary.

Also consider that we don’t own model airplanes. Others will have all sorts of opinions on what their uses, purposes and social status are.

Some see it as a an educational activity, some a pass time, others a passion.