Chip "Ice" Grueter - Jet Age Test PilotPosted on 12/5/2009 4:10:34 PMAuthor: Alex_J
While Jets and Rockets have been around in full scale for many decades now, in the RC park flyer realm, it's still the dawn of the jet and rocket age. We're still feeling the excitement of jet and rocket propulsion that the world felt decades ago. Hence there is a mystique surrounding the aircraft and those pioneering RC aviators who dare to sit at the helm. Within AeroJunkies, Sebastien, Chip, Steve and Dog have taken this next "small step for man" and others can't help but be in awe of watching their jets streak across the skies.
Chip's latest jet, a Predator UCAV, has drawn much anticipation and fanfare due to its unsual V-tail configuration and its relative size and weight. Preliminary testing commenced last weekend with engine run up tests and investigation of ground handling characteristics. First flight tests were postponed until the nose heavy condition was rectified. Flight testing was scheduled for today after Chiip moved around the battery pack and added weight to the tail to bring the aircraft into static balance.
After my morning tennis match, I rushed to the location of test flight test facility, "Mitre Field" hoping to witness a flight. Already present were Rafe, Don, Amanda and the man of the hour himself, "Ice" Grueter. Maverick had apparently been at the site earlier in the day, manning the video camera for the first test flight of the Predator. While Maverick is renowned as a gifted stick and rudder pilot, a videographer he is not. He won't be winning any Oscars for his full length feature of "How The Grass Grows at Mitre". He'd apparently gotten the "record" and "pause" functions backwards and completely missed capturing the maiden flight of the Predator, instead capturing random high resolution shots of daisies and other trivial subjects. This miscue might have contributed to his quick exit from Mitre to save himself further embarassment.
Don was just completing a solo landing of his Wing Tiger as I arrived. The airplane was unscathed other than a landing gear that had come loose. He seems to be progressing well. Amanda put in an uneventful flight with her Typhoon II. She was feeling out its flight characteristics after putting it through reconstructive surgery. Her airplane had suffered a crash due to control surface flutter the previous weekend. Don's airplane had also gone under the knife after augering into the ground last weekend while on landing approach.
Rafe flew his Formosa without incident. He displayed his craftsmanship skills by having reconstructed the right landing gear mount, using some custom cut plywood to increase the surface area of the bond between the plywood mount and the foam for added strength. The left gear will eventually undergo the same procedure when it fails, giving the landing gear a matched look. The landing gear has been a weak spot in the otherwise great design of the Formosa. Chip's Ultra Stick 25e was on floats, ready for the Spy Pond trip. I flew my Mini Ultra Stick with bigger wheels and a new prop. I had swapped out the stock 10x7 prop for a 11x5.5, hoping for slower horizontal speed and better vertical performance. While I got the slower speed I was seeking, the vertical performance was no better, if not worse, than before. I'm hoping to solicit Rafe's help in determining the best prop for my airplane/motor/power combination.
With the Predator's battery recharged, Chip readied the airplane for another flight. He used the adjacent field due to the availibility of a longer runway and approach path into the North Easterly wind which was blowing approximately 6 Knots. Amanda was entrusted with the video camera to capture footage of the flight. With the airplane lined up on the runway, Chip smoothly advanced the throttle and the airplane began its relatively long takeoff run into the wind. During the takeoff roll, it hit an undulation in the runway and became airborne prematurely before reaching V2 (Takeoff safety speed) and was on the verge of a stall. In true test pilot form, Chip arrested the climb and levelled the airplane about a foot off the ground, accelerating it in ground effect before commencing a climb out. An inexperienced pilot would have tried to "horse" it off when it first became airborne, resulting in certain disaster.
Chip put the aircraft through a very scale like flight. The sound of the ducted fan was striking, a turbine like "howl". I thought it sound more like a real turbine than any other ducted fan that I've heard. Not very long into the flight, Chip announced his landing sequence. This plane flies a very wide pattern and chews up a lot of airspace for maneuvering. The final approach necessitates a long, obstacle free approach path. Chip flew the requisite stabilized approach all the way to touchdown. This is not an aircraft that one can simply chop the throttle on and let it drop in. A successful landing has to start with a well planned approach. I would also think that the airplane is not as responsive to power application and control input as compared to a smaller prop driven airplane. This aircraft has greater inertia and there is no prop wash over the control surfaces. Much like a real jet, one has to think ahead.
The coveted "Jolly Good Show Old Chap" award for the day goes to Chip "Ice" Grueter. Looking forward to more flights of the Predator.
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