Ever seen a radio-controlled model aircraft do 300 mph? Visit Metropolis, Missouri, this fall.
- By Ed Regis
- Air & Space magazine, September 2004
(Page 3 of 6)
Early in the afternoon Mike Fuller is flying an Aermacchi MB339, a specialty sport model built by Jack Mathias. (It is not unusual for builders to have someone else do the flying.) Both live in Evansville, Indiana, and have driven here in a camper. With the airplane on final approach, Fuller senses that it’s handling a bit strangely and suddenly realizes he has forgotten to lower the flaps.
When he does, the airplane pitches down and before he knows it, makes what might politely be called abrupt contact with the runway. It bounces, which bends the nose gear (though Fuller does not realize this at the time), then slews into the grass but keeps streaking along. In order to finish with a proper approach and landing, Fuller firewalls the throttle for a go-around. The model shrieks back into the air but on the downwind leg it slows, staggers, and crashes in a bean field along the runway.
“I just lost airspeed,” Fuller tells Mathias later. “When I made that turn and started downwind, all of a sudden it slowed down and I said ‘We’re in trouble, we’re in trouble.’ I was just trying to coast it and get a rudder turn and get in, and it never picked up speed.” “But you don’t think the engine quit,” says Mathias.
“Yeah, I do,” says Fuller. “There’s no way that that engine shouldn’t have powered me out.”
“God, that was ugly!” Fuller adds. “What is your saying, Jack? ‘Run out of airspeed…’?”
“You run out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas, all at the same time. That’s what causes accidents.” Much laughter.
Later, Mathias sent the engine back to the manufacturer, SWB Turbines of Neenah, Wisconsin, where technicians found the combustion chamber clogged with grass clippings but otherwise undamaged.
Earlier that day, Dave “Stick” Valdez, who drove a van from his home in Orlando, Florida, was admiring his fiberglass BVM Maverick Pro as it performed a split-S, a maneuver he’d done at least a hundred times. Five other aircraft were aloft simultaneously, including a balsa model flown by Kevin McLeod, a Canadian from Burlington, Ontario. Both pilots had their eyes glued to their aircraft, Valdez watching his come straight down from the top of a loop, McLeod monitoring his as it turned from crosswind to upwind, when suddenly both saw that the two models had merged. Fragments fluttered into the nearby acreage, whereupon Jerry Caudle trundled off in his golf cart to pick up the pieces.