Poised and waiting for the first flight!
A link to Dual Ace Pt.1 is at the foot of this article – Ed.
The cockpit of the Seagull Dual Ace (Madonna with the big red spinners, as I call her) is quite big and airy, and seats two crew and six passengers. That is probably more than most Modellers have on their shelves, and is quite expensive to kit out. Realistic balsa models are time-consuming, so I cheated a bit, and made some paper dummies out of cornflakes packets, paper, and crayons, and glued them to the floor of the cockpit. In this way one can be as creative and international as one wants, the cockpit can be filled up in minutes, and everyone can be happy. Mind you, even so, you have to screen passengers with care as some very undesirable creatures might try to sneak on. I think I saw some green Aliens lurking in the Passenger lounge. They might cause trouble!
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The weather here in Orkney has been awful for the last few months. Certainly not good for flying, and how the local farmers and their livestock and crops survive I just don’t know. Neither, I suspect, do they. We had a fortnight away in February, for a family funeral, when the weather in Northumberland was just beautiful for flying (and I left my planes at home), but apart from that I remember only three days since I finished Madonna when I could have flown her.
The first day dawned bright and early, about the crack of Noon, with the sun crawling over the horizon at about 9-30. There were those little white marble jobbies falling out of the sky in a sort of horizontal manner and stripping the paint off the garage door like a Gatling gun. The squall of hailstones cleared, the sun came out, and Harvey the Baker turned up to fly Madonna so I could take photos. It was obvious he was uneasy. He wasn’t expecting a brand new low wing job. His fingers began to twitch, his eyes became a bit cloudy, and I think he was totting up how many loaves of bread it would cost him if he pranged this pretty woman. Maybe 300? Even 500 at cost price? Enough to seriously compromise the eating habits of Orkney. So we had a yarn for a few minutes, and he flew his electric Deltas for a while, and we went our separate ways.
The next day I tried Madonna on a taxi across the field. She was airborne very quickly on half throttle, tipped a wing, nosedived, and bent the nosewheel and put some mud in the port engine fins. Maybe she was still tail heavy? I put a bit more church roof with the battery in the nose cone and waited for another fine day. Next weekend was good. Dawn at 9-15, and six inches of snow on the runway! The next suitable day was some time in coming.
But I digress. Before you start a twin there are several BEWARES!! Two 40-56 engines have a LOT of power, more than the sum of their parts, and they pull a model forwards in an unexpected manner! Also, one of them may be behind you, close to your bum, and will bite if you let it. And it HURTS! So if you are right handed always start the port/left engine first. Make sure the plane is securely anchored to the floor or a bench. Remember where the fuel tank is on your model in relation to the carburettor. If it is below the carb you are OK, if you can get the engine to start. If it is above the carb it will drip fuel into the engine and flood it.
Put a starter on the spinner, and you might have to buy another crankshaft. It is so so easy to do. Having started two engines successfully there is an almost orgasmic excitement in revving them up and idling them down in unison, and listening to them throbbing in harmony. I find this really thrilling. But are they really in tune? Did you set the throttles right? Did you use two identical servos, or did you pick the oldest in the drawer because the throttles do least work? Have you got your Tacho out to check? I did all this and got a shock. Both engines were idling at 3000 rpm, and were also flat out at exactly 3000 rpm Duff Tacho? NO! In artificial light 50 cycles per second is 3000 rpm, so test your engines in daylight if you really want to find out if they run synchronously. Mine did, within 500 rpm through the rev range, sometimes with the port engine in front, sometimes the starboard engine. And the Workmate moved across the floor a bit and needed a heavy foot to steady it.
Finally a suitable day dawned. Good weather, a slight wind at ground level, seagulls floating gently overhead, no Rugby Internationals to distract me. Both engines growling in a purposeful manner, taxi to the end of the garden avoiding the septic tank outlets, and throttle is GO!
She lifted gracefully off the grass, cleared the willow shrubs at the bottom of the garden, and climbed easily on over the bog. Gentle turn to the left, and a circle. Straight in to the wind, and a little elevator trim. Fingers trembling on the sticks. Or do you spell it STYX? No! Don’t think these thoughts!
Round again, and she is flying beautifully. Everything I have read on websites is true! She does perform well, and this is SO exciting. Another circle, revs up, round, revs down a bit, bank left, and she is difficult to see against white clouds as she is largely a white plane. Suddenly she drops a wing. Too low to recover, and the bits are still cartwheeling over the field before I hear the crash drifting downwind towards me.
Yes, I think, Madonna spreads easily. I leave my transmitter by the bird table and trudge off to the field a couple of hundred metres away. My mind is a whirl of conflicting thoughts. Why should this happen to me? What exactly did I do wrong? Should I give up and emigrate? And why didn’t I bring a black bag with me? At least there are hardly any neighbours round here to laugh at me (but I bet those that saw would do so).
The starboard engine was safely buried six inches under a particularly fulsome cowpat left from last year before MacBurgers harvested their fritters. The wings had flapped some distance away. The fuselage was broken in three pieces, so this wasn’t a repair job even if I felt I wanted to. It was then that I saw the green Alien stuck in the cockpit fighting with the Castro lookalike and trying to crawl out. You know, it was not my fault after all. They must have tazered the Pilot!
The following week I had to travel to Sunderland. In a typical Les Dawson humoresque way, the Mother-in-law had died. After the funeral I called in on a chap I had corresponded with for a couple of years and we talked a lot about flying, and I got a few more of my ideas sorted out. I could only just resist buying a beautiful Magnum 160 Twin engine (maybe next time I visit) but he did have a pretty Harmony twin plane which is similar to the Seagull but very different colours top and bottom. So that went in the car, and will be fitted out very soon. As a plane it seems similar to the Seagull, seems as well made, probably spreads as well, and it has retracts already fitted, and costs £50 more.
My back garden flying site now awaits another twin!
On that subject, I now know how to fit retracts to a Seagull Dual Ace. There are ply reinforcements to each of the ribs inboard of the nacelles. The undercarriage supports are glued to them, and the wing tube runs through them. You can glue a block under the wing tube and fix the retracts to that and the u/c strut. You can lift the wheels inboard, or forward in to the wing if you use fairly small wheels but you may need to angle the retracts forward a bit if they only have 90* rotation.
I feel really upset about my beautiful Madonna. This was the last thing I wanted to happen, but it happens to us all. Except the pal who sold me the Harmony. He can’t remember when he last crashed a model, but he’s been flying at Competition level for a very long time (and I HATE him!!).
So, Will yer donate yer Liver, then? And do tell me how you get on with your own Seagulls. A pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls has returned this year to the garden and are probably nesting close by. And they fly really well, in any weather!
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