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How to read an RC Airplane Review - Jef Raskin
Redbull air ace
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On a recent ATTF podcast one of the chaps mentioned this article... I found an old link which no longer worked. A little help from the Waybackmachine and there it was.

Before you can understand how to read and interpret a model plane review, you must understand the relationship between the magazines and the companies that make the products they write about. First of all, the magazines are completely independent entities, not owned or run by the model companies. This gives them the freedom to act completely in the interest of self-preservation.

There are different kinds of companies whose products the magazines write about. First there are the ones that are really tiny or which are teetering on the edge of financial ruin (or, usually, both). For these firms, a bad review would sink the company completely. Then the magazine would never get any advertising revenue from them ever again, and the magazine would lose money. So, out of pure compassion and altruism, the magazines don't write bad reviews of products from small or "financially challenged" companies.

Then there are the corporations that are industry powerhouses, actually making scads of money, and which sometimes take out ads under three or four different names. These are expensive, full-page, color ads. They are very nice ads. They are the ads that bring in a lot of money to the magazines every month like clockwork. A bad review might make them stop advertising, and the magazine would lose a lot of money and couldn't provide its readers with the unbiased information they deserve. So, out of respect and to maintain the credibility of the industry as a whole, the magazines don't write bad reviews of products from large or successful companies. Besides, the executive editors of the magazines and the presidents of the big companies are old drinking buddies, and there is nothing more important in this world than maintaining personal relationships.

With those two minor exceptions, the magazines always run reviews that tell it like it is. Meanwhile, the magazines have developed a code that lets the readers know what is really going on. Let me show you how to read the code.

What the article really means is in brackets [like this]. REVIEW OF THE ZITZ SCALE MODEL OF THE 1935 P2-R KIBBLEFRITZ The prototype Kibblefritz was designed in 1935 by Olsen and Funston in Cleveland. It made history on its first flight by crashing into... [I'll leave out this historical section. The author is putting off getting around to the model, and it was just copied out of a book].

Zitz has done it again with this kit! [The last one didn't fly either]. I couldn't wait until I opened the box, the box-art looked so enticing that some of us actually drooled over it. [that's my five-month old daughter who drools over everything]. The manufacturer carefully lists the needed accessories right on the box [In Latin so you might not notice that they add up to five times the price of the kit itself and that some haven't been available since 1953]. All the pieces were expertly packed [less than 50% were broken-not bad, in baseball it would be a .500 batting average] in carefully numbered plastic bags. [The bags were all number 15.]. I took out the neatly rolled plans [the folds were hidden inside] and decided how to attack the model [a hatchet would do nicely].

I like to start off with the wings because they are the part that flies the plane [you have to say "I like to start off with the..." and give a silly reason or they won't run the article]. These are built flat on the board [the instructions forgot to tell you to put in some dihedral]. All the parts fit perfectly [into the jigsaw puzzle my wife was doing]. Most of the balsa was well-chosen [the three ribs that weren't of wood so hard that it broke knife blades were usable] but I like to kit-bash [when forced to] so I cut a few new ribs, using the provided ribs as a pattern [it was slightly better than guessing]. The die-cutting was good [I could see the faint impressions left by the die if I held the sheets up to the light at an angle] and the parts nearly fell right out [after an hour's work with the scroll saw.] I was puzzled that some of the ribs were of different lengths, since this is a constant-chord wing. I called the manufacturer, who said that this was a problem only with the first few kits [the first run of 1,750] and will be corrected on the ones being made from now on [they don't plan to make any more.]

The instructions are conveniently placed right on the plans [on the back where you can't read them while the parts are pinned down on the front] and are well written [they read like they were written at the bottom of a well]. The only glue I used was my favorite Klingztite VSB [they sent me a free bottle on condition that I mention it favorably by name. I mean, if I had money would I be writing these dumb model plane reviews? Besides, who am I to look a gift-horse in the mouth? By the way, did you know that "VSB" stands for Very Small Bottle?]. The fuselage is cavernous and there is lots of room for standard size servos, batteries and receiver [but no way to get to them after they're installed]. Once the plane was framed-up [this whole thing is a frame-up] I measured the completed components for scale accuracy. Every part proved just the right size [so long as I used just the right ruler.] The parts fit perfectly [with the help of a hammer], so it was time for covering.

I always use Koverkote since it adheres to wood so well and goes around compound curves easily [If you believe this, I've got a bridge you might want to buy] because of its new high-stretch formula Z-24 [Betcha the KoverKote company won't sue me for stealing this line directly from their ads. Besides, they sent me a free roll]. It always gives a professional finish [any finish I get is professional since I get paid for doing these reviews]. When I was done, all my flying buddies [the three who don't read my reviews and still trust me] ooohed and aaahed over the model [that's my niece Ann, who does shampoo ads]. The provided decals look just right [the few that stayed on weren't so bad]. For better scale appearance I added wing struts [this also kept the wing from breaking under its own weight] and did some cockpit detailing [the one thing I'm good at] using the 1/7 scale instruments from I. M. Dresstup and Co. [The editor says that if I mention them they'll run an ad next to this article].

I am always nervous about flying a new model [especially one from Zitz] and waited for a perfect day [one where there would be no witnesses] before attempting a first flight with the help of my buddy Igor, seven times world champion pilot [anybody less skilled hasn't a ghost of a chance at flying this thing]. To make sure my favorite TNT 1.20 engine [look for the big ad opposite this review] got adequate cooling for the first test flight [to keep the pot-metal piston from melting] and to make engine adjustments easier [boy, does this engine need adjustments], we left off the cowling [it didn't fit, anyway]. After range checking the radio and running the engine from idle to full a few times while the nose was held aloft [my nose, I'm allergic to model plane fuel], I set the plane at the edge of the runway and moved back to the pit area [ran like hell, actually]. Igor taxied the model to the end of the runway and turned it into the wind [he'd rather have turned it into a good airplane]. He advanced the throttle and...

I have to interrupt this article to let you know that due to short deadlines, the flying portion of a review is sometimes wholly made up or based on one flight with a sagging, not-quite-broken-in engine. Who has time to build and seriously test fly a model plane in two weeks? Besides, flying qualities are subjective so who am I to say how it flies? To get photos, we used to just suspend models from trees with nearly invisible fishing line so that they looked like they were flying but now with computer retouching we don't need to bother. We just scan a picture of a lovely flying field (the one that was bulldozed last week for a new K-Mart) and take a picture of the plane (or scan in the box art) and put them together electronically. This technology really helps when you want to show a low knife-edge pass that the plane (or your thumb) is incapable of flying. After all, if National Geographic can move a pyramid to make a photo more dramatic, why can't we move a model? In order to help protect our industry, and now that you know how to read a review, we hope you will use these techniques in describing model kits to your friends. As an example you could be proud to emulate, here's how Igor-a real pro-described the test flight, "The Zitz Kibblefritz flew in a scale-like fashion, and performed beyond all our expectations." By putting it this way, Igor is telling us in magazine code that (i) just like the prototype it crashed on its first flight and (ii) it crashed so hard that its parts were scattered over the entire 10-acre flying site and the adjoining county park, the motor was buried so deep it was never found again, seismometers in Sri Lanka recorded the impact, and the goat we used to keep our field mowed left for good.

Posted on: 2010/9/2 12:20

Edited by SargeNZ on 2010/9/2 12:23:32
Edited by SargeNZ on 2010/9/2 12:24:34
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Re: How to read an RC Airplane Review - Jef Raskin
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ROFLCOPTER - haha, thatwas a very funny read.

Posted on: 2010/9/2 12:30
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Re: How to read an RC Airplane Review - Jef Raskin
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Dang, I've got this review business all wrong!

Posted on: 2010/9/2 13:24
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Re: How to read an RC Airplane Review - Jef Raskin
Starting to do aerobatics
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From Hamilton
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Where can I get one of these kits?!

Posted on: 2010/9/3 6:56
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