The View Up Here

Random scribblings about kites, photography, machining, and anything else

Lost in Shipping (Bummers!)

Posted by Tom Benedict on 21/05/2013

A couple of months back I ordered three gliders, two of which I’ve built and now flown. (Yes, the Raptor 2000 Advance has now flown! More on that later.) The third never got here.

I like to tell stories about excellent customer service, because all too often we only see stories about poor service. So here’s a shout-out to the folks at Leading Edge Gliders for providing what I consider excellent customer service: I emailed them this morning to ask if my Le Fish had made it into the mail. They replied, saying it had, and that they were boxing up another one to ship to me while they figured out what happened to the first one. All I can say is WOW! They didn’t even ask what happened. They just took care of it. Leading Edge Gliders rocks! (I am seriously looking forward to building this ship now!)

Another order that went missing in the last few months was one from Pololu Robotics. About the same time I placed the orders for the gliders, I placed an order for a new video downlink monitor for my KAP rig. The monitor came in safe and sound, and after I tested it to make sure all my hardware was happy, I opened it up to see what my options were for re-cabling it. As it turns out the cables are connectorized internally using JST XH connectors: a pair for power, and a trio for video/audio/ground. I ordered the three-conductor connectors off of Ebay, and picked up ten sets of power connectors from Pololu. The Ebay connectors came in a couple of weeks after ordering, but the ones from Pololu never made it. I’ve ordered from Pololu for years without incident, and they’ve consistently provided excellent customer service. I figure my number just came up on an un-tracked shipment. I ordered another ten power connector pigtails for $6.80, and called it good.

I placed one last order today. This one’s a bit of a story…

Years ago I picked up a set of plans for an RC land yacht from Performace RC Landsailers. The information on the web site is incredibly comprehensive, and a real resource for anyone wanting to design and build these things. The plans are well worth the price (about $20 US when I got them… not sure what they are now). They’re very complete, and explain the hows and whys of the design and construction of each assembly. I got the plans. But I never built the land sailer.

About a month ago I was poking around in my contacts’ photos on Flickr, and I ran across a set of land yacht photos by Andrew Newton. These are all home-built, and are nothing short of beautiful. That rekindled my interest in building one of these things. After going through all of Andrew’s photos, I pulled up a CAD window and started drawing.

The design from Performance RC Landsailers is tuned for performance. It’s got the weight and strength exactly where it needs it, and not where it doesn’t. This is great, but it makes the design a little daunting for a first time builder. One of the things I liked about Andrew’s designs was how utilitarian and functional they are. We have a saying at work: “Git r’ done!” Andrew’s designs do just that. And that’s what I wanted: a design that would git ‘r done. Everything was designed around what I have on hand: a sheet of 1/4″ Baltic birch plywood; green ripstop nylon from making my rokkaku; 6mm carbon fiber replacement spars for my Bixler’s wing; scrapbox aluminum and Delrin, spare servos, and spare RC radios.

The only thing I didn’t have was the wheels. Both Performance RC Landsailers and Andrew Newton use scooter wheels for their land yacht wheels. What could be simpler? I figured a trip to the local skate shop would set me up.

Nope. “Try one of the big stores in Kona.”

So I tried KMart. Nope. Target. Nope. Walmart. Nope! Sport’s Authority? NOPE! ANYONE?!   NOOOO!

Then I tried Ebay. Yesssss!

I have no idea why it’s so hard to find scooter and skate wheels on this island, but it is. In the end I picked up two white 68mm wheels for nose wheels and four green 100mm wheels for the rear axles. (Yes, I’m building two of these.) I have two yards of green Icarex kite cloth for sails, a whole stack of 6mm spars, and enough Delrin to make a slew of mast steps and goosenecks. With the wheels on order, I’m finally good to go. Like the Le Fish, I’m looking forward to building these things.

– Tom

P.S. The maiden flight of the Raptor! I forgot!

It was… not what I expected. Though in hindsight I should’ve. I only did power-off tests to make sure I had the CG right (I did) and that my control throws weren’t unrealistic (they weren’t). The tests consisted of throwing it from head height, and gliding it in to a soft landing. With 6′ of altitude, it consistently glided over 100′. This thing loves to soar!

What it doesn’t love to do is land. So until I can find a field big enough to learn on, it’s grounded. I think there are some open pastures on Mana Road that might fit the bill, but I need to check them out first. I can’t see flying this thing in town, though.

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