B17 Flying Fortress – James O‟Brien, SRFC 1,2,3 yes 4 engines! This was all very intimidating, so I put it away. Way away. Why The B17? With final construction of a round, B17 like fuselage, and a 103-inch one-piece wing. Years went by and it kept staring at me! Way back during training, before my P47, F15 and Gee Bee With the aid of knowledge and experience I decided to have R1 Racer, I flew an immortal Flair Piper Cub. At the time a big another go. aircraft was 100 inches. Even as I saw my Cub test flown I knew, I After going to many model air shows in Germany with Fred wanted something,…something BIG! Harno (www.avfvideo.com) I had the observations to have another I flicked through a few model Magazines and the go. conclusion was that Aerotech International was the biggest for the best price. (That I could afford!). Now I realise that they were Construction Begins. Again! pretty expensive. I am afraid that at 18 years of age the choice was that of the biggest plane they had, The B17 Flying Fortress. December 2002, yes, yes, it was a long time! Now 23 years Little did I know, this was not going to be like building a old, I Knew I was ready for this Beast. After watching Discovery Flair Cub! Channel‟s „A Plane Is Born‟ I knew I had to concentrate on only the small job directly in front of me (It was actually a huge job, But It Arrives (5 Years Ago)! I didn‟t want to tell myself that!). I started with cutting the flaps, then the ailerons, flap boxes, I arrived back from school to be told by the good parents, aileron boxes, engine nacelles, hinging, wiring, engine mounts, “there is a box in there for you”. The box was bigger than me, and retracts, fuelling, sanding, gluing it all up, sanding, covering, the room it was in was to be christened my building room. This spraying. BOOM. was going to take some time! Four and a half months, it was finished. Along the way I On opening the box, the kit was obeche veneer foam tail, noticed what was wrong with the kit. fin and wings. Box construction for the Fuselage, around which fit The kit plans stated 13-15lbs, so I bought oleo legs rated to Pre-Cut obeche foam exterior pieces. I thought, “Cool”, however, 18lbs. The plans didn‟t show any radio installation, which was not with age brings wisdom, and soon I realised I didn‟t have a clue the issue really, but hugely, the plans showed a fuel tank, and a how to build it. The attached instructions were dreadful, devoid of retracted wheel in each inboard nacelle! everything, and things just got worse! I spent many weeks pondering and testing different solutions to, what I believe, was a blatant mistake by Aerotech. Construction Begins Finally found a slim Flair tank, thanks to Willie Owens! Next hurdle was the lack of confidence I now had with After many weeks of dry fitting pieces I began. The only Aerotech. I began to question their design. So. I threw away the part I could put together without additional knowledge was the instructions now that I had something that looked like a plane. The fuselage box, and even this task I screwed up. This defeat passed, only last thing staring at me was the C of G. Could it be wrong? as I moved to the wing, No aileron marks, no flaps, no cuts for OH YEAH, it was! Three and a half inches to far forward (During this phase of “Go for it will ya!”, “I have to refuel”, I replied nervously. “Then the Project however, a small point to note, the plane weighed come-on!” he replied. 29lbs, with fuel. 18lb oleo legs were not going to do it! No one who has looked at the aircraft can explain why it is this weight, and The Flight I did not feed it in the years it was lying around!). Gordon Whitehead should be acknowledged as a God to Tanks fuelled, engines running at about 75% power as my model pilots. To those who don‟t know who he is, then my advice co-pilot John Shortt holds/walks the B17 out to the runway is, Find Out! Before I had flown this beast he had saved my new threshold. Engine power was kept high to balance the heat and plane. And Like Jesus Christ Being the Son of God, Bevan Moore airflow for cooling. is his namesake for introducing me to Mr.Whitehead. Ran up to MAX power and took the longest, deepest breath Paint still damp, shining tires, engines fresh out of the box, of my life! Dave Nolan, camera in hand to catch what followed. I appeared at SRFC. I opted to run the engines in while installed in Questions? “will she fly”?, “is the C of G correct?”, “Do I have the aircraft. The reasoning was to vibration test the airframe. enough power?”. Next I hear “Takeoff”, I had announced it, now it Thanks must be passed to Bevan Moore, John Shortt, and Liam was official! Butler for aiding me with engine issues. Patience was previously not my virtue, who would guess I would have learnt it with this Takeoff Aircraft. Running in finally complete, and C of G confirmation from Power to MAX, full up elevator to hold the tail down. The John McFarland, another gentleman for aiding me, I was as ready roll has commenced. Huge unexpected acceleration. Slowly letting as ever. I was afraid I would use all 90 metres of the long SRFC go the elevator. Left rudder to counter a bit of yaw. The tail is up. runway, during which Chairman Tony Green re-assured me “it‟ll Back gently on the elevator and off the ground. Half the runway fly”. Little did I know how right he was to be, but all I could think still to use and she is airborne. From the flight line I hear Bevan was, “they said that about the Gee Bee”! Moore, “Fantastic!” Climbing, Climbing too much! too slow!, pitch forward is required. In a millisecond it hits me. “Have I Test Flight screwed up the C of G? is this the beginning of the end?” Pitch forward, she settles down to a nice climb, still Early Afternoon in May 2003, lightly overcast; I began the accelerating, slight left wing drop. I Activated my pre-set dual rates pre-flight, and then fuelled the tanks. I could nearly hear the for the ailerons. I knew from the elevator response that I would not Aircraft grade Robart Aluminium oleos buckling under the stress need MAX aileron movement to turn this beauty. Level the wings, of 40 oz of fuel! This plane was heavy. I Started with high-speed my co-pilot John Shortt, “Left turn, don‟t fly too far away”. “Roger taxi-takeoff runs. 20% power, then 40% power, each time the tail that John!” did want to come up, but I held it firmly down. The test runs ate up Using rudder, the first turn commenced. Before finishing the whole runway each time. At this point I realised that she would the first circuit, on base leg, something flew off the 17. I quickly not leave the ground prematurely like some models. Next like a realised it was a fuel tank cover. Bevan Moore sacrificed his starting pistol I heard a shout from the flight line. Mr John Shortt, viewing of the test flight to try and find the camouflaged cover. Only Bevan could find it, and he did, thanks Bev! was the last thing on my checklist? Oh yeah, Breathe Out! (Flight The Flight time 9 minutes). The B17 flies well, she is fast, and yet graceful. The Drone Today of the four engines is awe-inspiring. After the First flight I knew I would build another Multiengine aircraft. She is very stable; just The Aircraft has had about 20 flights. The oleos are rated to don‟t attempt to turn it without using the rudder. She will go out of 18lbs. These require replacement as my landings require practice, balance with the marginal differences in engine thrust from each and with no margins for error on landing I get only about 2 flights wing. before requiring repair to the gear. She flies incredibly slowly for 4 X .40 Super Custom The C of G turned out perfect. The engines are not OS, they Engines, and 29lbs all up weight. are Super Custom, and are holding out well. The Landing Specification I had thoughts of Landing without flaps but once airborne I Scale 1:12 knew that was not possible. Wingspan 103 inches It takes a long time for the momentum of 29lbs to bleed off. Weight 29 lbs Approach called, gear down, “Landing!” My legs, like those on the Engines (4) Super Custom .40 aircraft, began to buckle! Half flap on base leg, turn to final, full Fuel 5% nitro, castor, and methanol. flaps down now, as she comes closer to the ground she is very Props Graupner, 10 X 7 stable. Slowly leaning on the elevator to ring her out, 10ft, 5ft, 2ft, Incidence 0 degrees wing and tail hold her there, still leaning on the elevator, half the runway has Thrust Lines Straight all engines, 2 degrees down all already passed beneath me, throttle to idle, still no settling of the engines. aircraft, she is still flying! GO AROUND! I jammed the throttles open. Huge pitch up with the full Additionally, Eurotract Retracts, Dual Battery Backup, Whip flaps extended. The go around completed successfully, I knew she Aerial, Multiplex Servos, Multiplex Receiver, Robart Wheels, would fly all the way down, so I would have to plant the wheels on Robart Oleos. the deck. Over the fence, (Gear down, full flaps, stable), she slips to What Have I learned? the right, a little out of wind. Left rudder was no good (low power, tail fin out of the prop wash). I let her slip, as she was soon to Double check things like the C of G, wing area, wing touch down. Still quite fast as she reaches the threshold. Throttle loading etc. They are all simple calculations that can help. Don‟t set to idle and I flew the B17 to Main Wheel Touch down. The trust the manufacturer, he already has your money! grass slowed her enough for the tail to drop. The braking force of Also, there are a lot of modellers out there, speaking badly the grass causing her to tip forward. Engines cut, flaps up, what of weight in an aircraft. There is nothing wrong with a heavy aircraft, once you can sufficiently deal with the weight, e.g. thrust and lift countering the weight. There is nothing worse than the sight of an over LIGHT aircraft being blown around the sky, with little or no penetration. Conclusion The B17 Flying Fortress is a pussycat. Obviously if you go to far, it will bite you, but she goes where you tell her, a joy to fly. If anyone reading this is thinking about building a B17, then all I can say is build it. However, as you build smaller you will find a higher wing loading and different flight characteristics. If I build another, it can only get better bigger! None of this would happen without the aid of others. First, John Shortt, for flying so many multiengine aircraft. Bevan Moore, for all his help. Tony Greene, for convincing me she would fly. John McFarland for the masses of scale paperwork. Willie Owens for helping to get the necessary ASAP as usual! Dave Nolan, for taking time from „the long breakfast‟ to video the test flight, and Fred Harno for continued documentary evidence. Finally thanks to all who turned up on the very successful scale association fly-in at SRFC, and to those who applauded my terrible landing! Captain James O'Brien, SRFC.