Poised and waiting for the first flight!
Santa came two weeks early to Orkney – we are after all under the direct reindeer flight path from Iceland to Shetland to Edinburgh to Paris – so perhaps that was no surprise. A big box arrived from Inwoods and inside was an ARTF model. There could only be one name for this dame, as soon as I tore off the protective wrapping and feasted my eyes on the labels it just had to be – The Fallen Madonna with the two big Vroom–Vrooms. Those two big red spinners were real eye–catchers. But would the contents fulfil greater expectations? I think so! Like all smart dames she benefits from sensitive handling, she needs tender loving care, and her covering is not all that well applied and will strip off if she is provoked.
Surfing the web under Seagull Dual Ace produces numerous hits, and if you want to buy this kit, this is the place to start. There are five opinions expressed consistently on the web. First, this kit is quick and easy to build. Second, it looks a bit flimsy. Third, the C of G is completely wrong – it is tail-heavy. Fourth, she flies like a dream and will do almost anything you are capable of. Fifth, Why no retracts?
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No! It can’t be that good!! But yes, I think it is, and it costs under a hundred pounds! And the comments on the websites confirm my own views. You could crash a model one weekend, buy this plane on the way home from work on Monday and fly it the next weekend if you really want to. But before starting the build there are several things you need to consider.
First, rebuild the rear servo tray as far forward as possible, consider extending the pushrods. But remember you must leave room for the forward wing bolts and for your fingers to get in and tighten them (some people cut them short). This is a bit tricky, so you may settle for a position behind the wing tube. This will help to move the C of G forward quite a bit.
The tail feathers could be made a little more tidy but I’m happy with it as it is.
Second, do you want to see all those pushrods and control horns sticking out of the back of this model, or not? It makes it look a bit like a constipated porcupine, and I don’t like it much. There is plenty of room in, and easy access to the rear of the fuselage to make a much neater job with double elevator cranks and a rudder crank, and the pushrods rerouted inside the fuselage if you want to. But then, this isn’t a true scale model and the extra hassle may mean you don’t get out for another weekend. Your choice, but you must make this decision before you glue on the tail feathers. Since the cabin easily unbolts, all adjustments can be made at the servo end of the pushrods.
Do you want retracts? Why not? This may well be an experimental aircraft, your first twin, so why not go wild? OK, I can’t really advise, except to say that you will need to do a fair bit of extra balsa bashing, and this is not a very sturdy model to start with. But you do have a strong and long wing tube and a beech U/C bearer already in place, and there is room in the wing and the nose if you want to play, and that will keep you out of harm’s way for at least another weekend. Consider rotating the wheels forward in to the empty engine nacelles. And those nacelles and other bits are held on by dozens of ugly cheese–headed screws which you may want to change for something a little prettier.
You also need a matching pair of engines (electric might also be OK), and seven servos, one or two Y-leads depending on whether you plan to use channel 6 for aileron/flaperons, and two or four 200 or 400 extensions, depending on your set-up.
Let’s move forward – the instruction manual is reasonable in most places, the kit is well presented with all items protected and individually wrapped. The Hardware Packs contain almost 200 items including those 52 ugly screws, and the two gorgeous red spinners. It is labelled 34 and brings to mind 34 double-dee. Well done Madonna!
Most of the bits were used during the build, and served their purpose. One engine-mounting bolt stripped on first assembly, and the others will probably follow, as they aren’t engineering standard. Consider replacing them if you have suitable spares. The wheels are suitable for 10” props. Replace with bigger wheels if you plan to use bigger propellers.
The general internal installation area, plenty of room!
The nose wheel assembly is too big for the wheel and collets, but does fit the steerable assembly bolted on to the nose of the aircraft. Web comments note this as a weakness, and perhaps it has been beefed up a bit since those comments were posted. It is not dished to one side, and the wheel thus runs almost 2cm off-centre, which would have caused deviations from the straight and narrow and some worries on getting airborne. Smart Dames like this are very wayward and need a bit of restraint on occasions, but not perhaps the vice and hammer offered in a very loving and caring way to this item to get the centre of the wheel in line with the centre of the mount. I never found the aileron pushrods, but did find a couple of balsa ½” sq lengths not mentioned in the manual. Anyone out there want to swap?
The fin and stabiliser are a very tight fit in their slots and I was worried the wood might split. But you have to push them right home to mark their positions before removing the covering prior to gluing. Be careful, and consider removing part of the covering first to help them fit. Once marked up you can remove the rest of the covering and glue in place. Use a new blade for cutting the covering and you will find it easier to cut the covering and not the balsa. The Manual tells you to mark the centre line of the stabiliser with a pen prior to cutting off the covering. This can be seen from above through the fin slot and it helps to locate the stab in the midline while you mark the sides of the stab where the fuselage comes to. Press firmly with the biro for the centre line, and it will leave a fine indent in the balsa which will again guide you when you glue up. Before you do glue everything in place check carefully for true alignment. These slots leave no wiggle–room, and if incorrectly cut, you will need to make some adjustments of your own. The fin extension forward from the fin is attached according to the manual with cyano. I wasn’t sure that this would hold on plastic covering so stripped a thin strip off the fin and the fuselage and then used cyano – it worked.
Ailerons, elevators and rudder go on easily. They were held to their parent structures in the box with masking tape, which caused the covering to lift slightly when removed. Oh Dear! I did mention The Fallen Madonna might strip a bit! But I really hate these fibre hinges – ‘constructed of a special material’ so the manual tells us. It says ‘put them in and the cyano will wick through them in to the slots’. I have tried to glue this sort of hinge on other models, have got cyano dribbles everywhere and have sometimes had to cut them out and start again with new hinges. Try it if you want. I used medium cyano, wet both sides of the hinge and the slot in the wood, and pushed the hinge home and left it for a couple of hours to dry. Then the hinges fit neatly in to the other half in a similar manner, there is no instant grab, and a little bit of wiggle–time.
Aileron servos fit in to ready-made units on trays screwed on to the underside of the wings. The screws holding the trays are a tight fit. Trying to remove one of them resulted in a big CRASH as the entire mounting fell in to the wing. The other side was just as flimsy, and both were rescued with a squish of cyano. I hope the mounts hold during flying manoeuvres, or The Fallen Madonna’s knickers will really get in a twist! You will need servo extension leads for these servos, depending on your set-up.
The engine mounting boxes are all complete and just fit straight into their respective nacelles. Or they should do! Both were extremely tight, and went on a little walk to the garage where they were both relieved of a little lateral width till they were comfortable. They were given counselling and a talk on obesity management, as Madonna would expect. Beware! They are ‘handed’ and must fit left and right.
I can see no reason why you can’t fit your engines in to the boxes before you glue them in to the wing. It may be easier, and saves the wing from possible damage. You may need a servo extension lead for one of the throttle servos, possibly both. I have used a pair of Saito .56’s which came from Inwood Models last year. These went in upside down, and the throttle cable had to be rerouted to suit.
I’ve fitted two Saito .56 four-stroke motors.
Web surfers have said the fuel tanks aren’t big enough, one saying he repositioned the throttle servo to get more buzz from Madonna. If you are worried that Madonna might short-change you, you might try an orange SLEC square maxi tank. You will need to trim the internal ribs from the mounting box, and you may want to glue the tank in with evo-stik to retain some of the frame rigidity. It doesn’t sound a good idea – the supplied tanks were good enough for me, at about 270ml, and I found a novel way of attaching the clunk. Plastic pipes were supplied which require heat to set their bends to the optimum. I fixed a short length of fuel pipe and a clunk as a weight to the pipe needing bending but found my wife’s hair-stripper just wasn’t up to the mark, so again out to the garage, and a few seconds of 1600 watts of You Can Do It had the pipe drooping like a trusty old friend. Wonderful! Back in from outer Siberia, a hot toddy, and job done!
Make certain you get the pipes and fittings the correct way round in the tank. The tanks had a tendency to tilt up at the back in the boxes meaning fuel would drain away from the clunk and dead stick. I glued a piece of balsa over the tanks to keep them in place, and then secured that with a rubber band. Belt And Braces.
It is nice to get both engines running as closely in tune with each other as possible. I started by centring both servos at exactly half throttle on my Tx, and aligning the servo arm exactly parallel with the servo body, with the carb’ lever exactly mid-way in its travel and at right angles to the pushrod. This should give equal travel both ways for each engine. There appears to be no offset of either engine inwards or outwards. There is no mention of building in any side-thrust, but you are told to “adjust the engine is centred of the edges of the engine case”. So just do as you are told.
Neat and tidy, you can see I’ve opted for a fixed undercarriage layout.
I am not sure if The Fallen Madonna wore corsets or body armour, but if she did I bet they weren’t attached with screws as ugly as those supplied for the engine nacelles. Here the manual is distinctly unhelpful. It does NOT mention that they are handed top and bottom. The wing is symmetrical so they fit either way up, and fit fairly well. But if you want to make a nice job of the nacelles you will need a lot of care to get both of them sitting comfortably together. There is NO information as to what wood if any is in the wing where you might want to drill holes. All it says is ‘Don’t drill right through the wing’ which is a lot of encouragement!
For starters I drilled holes near the back and through the leading edge of the upper nacelle (the one with the barely visible offset), then positioned it on the wing and stuck pins in till I thought it looked ok. This was the easy one as my engines were upside down and the cut–out was in the lower nacelle. You are told to position the nacelle ‘so the crankshaft is in nearly the middle of the nacelle opening’ whatever that means.
Engine and silencer cut–outs are difficult to do well, and holes for tuning and priming give me a headache, and I am sure you find the same problem. Ask an experienced modeller at your club for some expert tips. It will make both of you feel better.
There are people who say you should fit twins in a Vee formation so the rotational forces cancel each other out. This will be relevant in bigger piston engines where the revs are balanced exactly, but I don’t know whether it is important in this sort of model. Ask a greybeard at a club meet and you will provoke a lot of discussion—unless it is his round! The inter-island passenger planes on Orkney have twin flat-6 Lycoming 9-litre engines and the Pilots match the revs exactly or the din in the cockpit gets unreasonable. Me, I’d be happy if I could just take off.
Talking of cockpits, the nice bit at the front with the windscreen just fell off when I picked it up, and appeared to be a separate item. But no mention of fitting it in the manual. Perhaps this was another attempt at glue saving, so I used some more medium cyano and held it together with my thumbs—for a very long time as I stuck to it rather permanently.
The main landing gear was easy. The nose wheel was a pig, as noted above. The wheel wouldn’t fit and the flat for the steering arm was in the wrong position and the manual advised fitting at right angles to the body of the plane giving only a few degrees of steering. Another visit to outer Siberia changed all that.
At this point you can check the C of G. I had set my servos in the tray provided as I thought my engines would bring the balance forward. I had then trimmed the pushrods to fit, so rejigging was not a welcome idea. Despite two Saito .56s set as far forward as I could get them yet still within the nacelles, the balance point was way back. At the recommended 90 mm it balanced with a Mole Grip fastened to the nose wheel, which tends to compromise aerodynamics. At 100 mm it required two 12 mm spanners. So I used a stainless steel wall tie gathering dust in the garage and bolted it behind the nosewheel attachment, then mounted the battery 70 mm forward of the nosewheel. I then needed another extension lead to connect the battery to the switch. Inwoods Models were doing well out of The Fallen Madonna. Remember this when you site your battery and switch. The wing chord at the root is 375 mm, and 1/3 of this is 125 mm. I am not sure whether twins alter the C of G. My books don’t mention twins with C of G. But they do say “Does it fly right?” Wait till the next instalment.
With the nose gear fitted the nose cowl can be attached. Four hardwood blocks are glued to the nose bulkhead, and holes drilled through the cowl and in to the blocks. Then the manual states “Correct the cow at right position”. Aah, Fallen Madonna really isn’t that much of a cow. It isn’t easy to get the screw holes in the cowl to line up with the blocks on the bulkhead, so persevere. The big ugly screws will cover up a multitude of sins. Careful measurement will be a blessing here.
Not many folks can say they fly from an extended back garden!
The Big Day Approaches…..
And that is just about it. Final tweaking, setting of throws, rates, exponentials, flaperons, firing up the vroom-vrooms and gentle tweaking, and we await a better day.
One big problem. I am a solo flyer. There is no Club. I can’t fly this and take photos at the same time. I will have to ask Harvey the Baker if he will spare time from his ovens to fly The Fallen Madonna while I take photos. That will require some serious organisation and may put the Island’s bread supply in jeopardy, and since like many other Scots he flies Mode 1 and I fly Mode 2, there may yet be tears.
And will she turn out to be as flimsy as they said? I hope not, and I hope The Fallen Madonna doesn’t spread as easily on arrival as some of my other models. Well, I think we all know where to find black bags.
Martin will report back just as soon as the Dual Ace has flown. Look out for part.2 soonish…..(Ed)
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