Midland Club Comes Together Through Building

I mentioned in our Top Hits & Misses for 2016 that the Midland R/C aircraft club's first attempt to do a club build-off was a fun and engaging way to get the club to come together. Since then, the club members celebrated the completion of the build by having a fun fly to commemorate the build and maiden-flight their new airplanes. Let Jerry Hahnfeld, one of the members that spearheaded the project tell you about it in his own words:

While the summers in mid-Michigan are glorious, the flying season for the Midland R/C Modelers is painfully short and winter seems to last forever. An annual snow fly and monthly indoor flying ease some of the frustration, but we still look for ways to keep members engaged and interested. It isn’t that many years ago that winter meant building season (as reflected in the name of our club) but we now have many members who have only flown ARFs, RTFs, or even Bind-n-Flys. After huddling with our local hobby shop (Roger’s Hobby Center in Saginaw) and talking to a downstate club that has sponsored group builds, our club decided to try a winter build project for the first time. After lots of research and analysis, the club decided to try Sig’s Four Star 20, a 48” wingspan low wing sport plane perfectly suited to electric power.  We pitched it to the club, and Roger’s sweetened the deal with a quantity discount. We were pleasantly surprised when twenty members, about 1/3 of our membership, committed to buying a kit and participating. Our only requirement was that everyone start from the same kit. We scheduled biweekly build sessions that were very useful for first-time builders as well as provided a great forum for the exchange of ideas and building tips. Each builder was free to build their personal plane as mild or wild as their imagination would take them.

Building progressed nicely throughout the winter months. Only a couple of our members built the plane in seclusion. Some were regular participants in the biweekly build sessions, and almost all of them freely exchanged ideas and tips.  Of course, there were a few who never managed to get the kit out of the box. These folks all thought they had a valid excuse, but some of us are skeptical. In the end, about half of the planes were built essentially stock.  Popular modifications included hatch locations and motor mounts. Electric motors reflected the choices that are available to modelers today. In fact, there was no motor that powered more than two of the finished planes. One die-hard traditionalist even built the plane with .25 glow power. Prop sizes were also all over the map, from the recommended 9x6 to 11x7.  The modelers who decided to bash their kit showed an incredible range of design and innovation.  For instance, wings ranged from a 44” clipped wing to a plane with removable wing tip extenders spanning 65”. Wing tips, tail surfaces and control surfaces were widely modified, and dihedral was also varied. The cockpits ranged from stock to open cockpit, and cockpit location was varied both forward and back. The most radical bash was a double fuselage model built from two kits that also can be configured to use only one fuselage and a standard wing.

To top off the build, the club decided to have a Maiden Flight Day on April 29. Pilots were asked to hold off on their maiden flight until we could all celebrate together. Although the day was typical for Michigan in April with temps in the 50s, lots of clouds and a steady breeze, we had a great turnout. The owners of Roger’s Hobby Center were on hand to award prizes in multiple categories ranging from “most radical bash” to “farthest from complete.” Each winner received a gift certificate to Roger’s. Then an amazing thing happened. All of the planes not only made it into the air successfully but also flew well. This is a testament to the solid design of the Four Star and indicates that this airframe can tolerate significant modification. The build was a great success, generating a lot of buzz in our club and providing a lot of interaction among members. In addition, we have members who learned how to build (and repair) a quality model. This build was our first but is unlikely to be the last. Kudos also to Roger’s for their encouragement and support throughout the build. ~ Jerry

I can honestly say I was blown away by the models on display. I wasn't expecting that judging them would be so hard, but everyone did a really great job on their airplanes. I hope to see the club do this again, because going out and being around everyone and watching the airplanes take off for the first time was a blast.

I also hope that other local clubs see how successful the MIdland Club build was, and try it themselves. Aside from learning great building techniques, building together proved to further bond the club together, and that is the best part of the all.