EPP Revolution |
Back to Article Index
Flight Vol. 7 Issue 2
is no doubt aware of the sudden proliferation of (EPP (Expanded
Polypropolene) models on their local slopes. Some no doubt loathe
them but many more love them. For me the jury has been out for several
months and whilst I view them positively I recognise there are a
number of drawbacks i.e. they have led to some reckless flying which
has annoyed a number of people and they do little to enhance our
building skills. The good news however is that EPP models have drawn
large numbers of people into or back to the hobby and encouraged
many other flyers to have a go at slope soaring. I have always regarded
slope soaring as the fun side of the hobby, on a par with the control
line flying of my youth, where investment in time and money was
`justifiable` and a much more happy go lucky attitude prevailed.
This to some degree has been lost in the high performance, high
tech, high value machines a lot of modellers operate today. EPP
for me has recaptured this nostalgic view of model flying and judging
by the correspondence I get I am not alone in this view. For years
would be modellers have been looking for a low risk, low cost entry
into the hobby. EPP has met these requirements.
hobby/sport is suffering like so many similar pastimes where the
initial investment in time and money is fairly substantial and the
risk of failure relatively high. Add to this the pressures of modern
life and it is easier to find an `excuse` not to do it than to take
the plunge. Fortunately for us the desire does not go away as these
people (what an ugly phrase) continue to cherish the dream and to
buy the magazines. Along comes EPP and suddenly the dream becomes
realisable. The price of radio equipment is at an all time low,
(my first proportional set, a DIY kit, cost £107 whilst my take
home pay at the time was £96 per month), the skills required to
build the model are minimal and when you do make a mistake (notice
- not if !!) the results are not disastrous. Yes these models are
being used for combat flying, they do annoy some modellers and it
is a problem we must address but they have given the sport a real
shot in the arm in the form of new blood and the rekindling of enthusiasm
in established flyers. Our problem now is how do we nurture this
`new blood` and capitalise on the enthusiasm generated by EPP so
that in years to come we have a new pool of vibrant modellers to
take over from us that are growing long in the tooth. This can be
done a number of ways via publicity, competitions and achievement
editors are universal in their cry for new material i.e. new ideas,
new techniques and appraisals of current practises etc. I hear they
are not adverse to the odd bit of club gossip from time to time
either. From a slope soaring point of view there needs to be more
effort to encourage the lone operators (clubs and individuals) that
there is a benefit in belonging to a club or forming a collective.
For me there are three elements to the hobby, building, flying and
socialising. If one element i.e. the socialising is missing my modelling
pleasure is not complete. Most modellers are very reserved and tend
not to offer assistance for fear of fluffing it or making a fool
of themselves. Yes we all know of instances where assistance has
been given and the model wrecked, I have to admit I have done it
on more than one occasion much to my embarrassment. I felt terrible
but it is worth remembering that if, after carrying out all the
necessary pre-flight checks, the model still crashed then what chance
would the inexperienced modeller have stood.
I flew full size (I had a 1/2 share in a K6 for a number of years)
and was undergoing `ab initio` training, I was issued with a flight
check card, This contained a list of basic flying skills and after
each period of tuition the instructor would initial and grade the
skills covered, This acted as a record of progress both for the
student and the instructor. If we had a similar scheme operating
at club level for the various flying disciplines it would encourage
flyers to develop these skills if only to get them ticked off on
their card, No doubt schemes like this do exist but they are not
the norm and I have not encountered one in slope flying circles.
The word `publicise` immediately springs to mind, I keep threatening
to design a slope soaring `skills` checklist for my local club in
an effort to `widen` the flying envelope of the flying members but
as yet have not got around to doing it!! This would include such
things as trimming and determining the correct centre of gravity
position, basic manoeuvres like diving and turning as well as more
advanced aerobatics. I recently visited a `foreign` slope and met
a number of modellers, One was flying a Wingbat + and whilst it
was flying well and the flyer was more than happy with the model
it was not flying as well as mine. Naturally the owner asked me
why and after a minor C of G adjustment it did. Unfortunately his
pleasure was short lived as we had a mid-air a few minutes later.
Another modeller was having difficulty rolling - 10 minutes tuition
cured this. Please do not interpret this the wrong way, I am just
trying to illustrate that with a little help from each other we
can all improve our flying.
pylon racing started out as an attempt to redress the balance between
the high performance / high cost multi-task machines and the sports
models that were being flown in slope comps at that time. Unfortunately
this low cost / low tech approach did not last long as a competitive
60in pylon racer now costs around £250 to £300 to put in the air
and followers of this discipline are beginning to count the costs
of flying these machines. In fact my latest 60in EPP pylon racer
the Enigma was designed in response to requests from
the 60in pylon racing fraternity for a more durable low cost 60in
racer (incidentally they make excellent aerobatic sports models).
Please do not get me wrong, in no way am I not knocking these machines
or the people that fly them. Both make a considerable contribution
to the sport and help to keep it alive by exploring/demanding new
materials and equipment plus developing the necessary skills and
techniques needed to get the best out of the models. We sports flyers
have benefited greatly over the years from this development process.
Two examples are engine performance (power output has doubled in
the last 15 years) and `computer` radios. I personally am a fan
of computer radios, with all the mixing facilities and the exponential
control. They allow me to fine tune a model`s handling characteristics
to my personal taste. Years ago when rates were first introduced
I considered them dangerous as they reduced overall control authority
and consequently never used them. I found in certain situations
this could be hazardous. Now with exponential control movement you
can `soften control response around the neutral without compromising
overall control authority.
improve competency, as does performing aerobatics. Competitions
are viewed by a lot of flyers as high risk pastimes and consequently
are given a wide berth. Not anymore with EPP which is a good reason
why we need to embrace EPP as soon as possible and design a number
of EPP specific competitions. The rules must be constructed in such
a way as to discourage the hi tech development of these models as
this invariably will kill any popular appeal that it can generate.
The rules must also insist that EPP models only fly against other
EPP models otherwise no one will fly EPP in competitions because
wood and foam veneer models are inherently more competitive. This
would of course kill any embryonic EPP comps before they had a chance
to mature. My suggestion is that the fuselage and wing must be primarily
made of EPP and for safety reasons a maximum weight is placed on
the model. This weight would of course evolve in the light of experience
but for 60in pylon racing an initial max weight of 3lb or 1500 grams
would be a good starting point.
aerobatic competitions have had little support in recent years and
I can understand why, they can be a high risk, particularly if the
lift is poor and judging them is a bit of a chore. Problem one disappears
with the use of EPP and problem two can be overcome if the schedule
is against the clock with only a cursory regard to quality. I can
hear aerobatic purist tut tutting but please remember the best pilots
will still win without the disadvantage of discouraging the also
rans who one day could go on to win honours themselves. Incidentally
I regard aerobatics as an insurance policy for when things go wrong
as they sharpen up your reactions and judgement. I used to use them
to 'waken' me up after a long flight when I was flying full size,
I like to be 'awake' when I am coming into land, it is when things
are most likely to go wrong!
rules for discussion
only general rule I envisage at this point in time is that the wings
and fuselage must be primarily made of EPP. However hardwood wing
spars and internal ply doublers would be allowed to give structural
rigidity and strength.
Maximum weight of model 3lb or 1500 grams.
Course length is 80 metre to place more emphasis an pilot skill
and make an allowance for the models flying slower.
Heats are run in slots with 4 to 6 models as per F3B to determine
the flyers in a three heat fly-off.
A set schedule to be performed in set order.
The time would start from time of launch with a mandatory 30 second
count to gain height before starting the schedule and ending with
a low flypast in front of the timekeeper.
Manoeuvre must be recognisable by majority vote to count.
Time penalty for non completion of a manoeuvre. This would be based
on the estimated average time to perform the manoeuvre plus a 50%
penalty. This would encourage the inexperienced to have a go knowing
that failing to perform a manoeuvre would not result in a no score.
schedule could be made up of 10 manoeuvres that are performable
in the prevailing conditions i.e. in light lift conditions height
burning manoeuvres such as a three turn spin could be replaced by
3 off 360 degree turns etc.
above is only a suggestion to start the ball rolling. As with all
things it will no doubt be modified in the light of experience.
hope you have found this article interesting and it has given you
some food for thought and encouragement to widen your flying horizons.
EPP is here to stay, it is doing a great job, the models are getting
better, so lets use it to our maximum advantage to further the aims
of our hobby/sport.
Back to top