Dave and I have been flying so many weird little super-light hand-launch planes -- combat wings and IFOs and skunk planes and 3D planes and such -- that the basics of taxiing and landing are something we haven't really had the chance to practice in many years. Especially since we almost always fly off a grass field.
But I've been restless for something that flies like a normal aerobatic plane. It's big and heavy (well, compared to our usual sub 5-ounce planes) which means it can fly stably even in wind; but that also means that if you mess up on landing, which I do with regularity, it breaks, sometimes badly.
Well, now there's a way to practice flying heavy planes without the heavy. E-flite has a line of "UMX" planes, which stands for "ultra micro". Flying weight ranges between 3.5-4.5 oz. Used to be that a plane that size was indoor only; even the slightest breath of wind would make them uncontrollable. But with the magic of gyros and electronic stabilization circuits (E-flite calls it "AS3X"), the reviews all said that the UMX planes fly like much bigger planes and can handle at least some wind.
We started with the Timber. 4.3 oz flying weight, 28" wingspan, big balloon tires, four channel, ready to fly out of the box. It has plenty of power so you can take off from a baseball infield. It's not super aerobatic, but it's a nice stable flyer that's great for practicing touch-and-goes. It might even work as a first trainer; since it's so light, it doesn't end up being as fragile as it first appears. We've had a few light crashes on grass and so far it's needed fewer repairs than our big planes that we supposedly know how to fly already.
After a few weeks of landing practice with the Timber, we graduated to the lighter UMX Waco biplane. It's a little more aerobatic, and it needs more speed to land, which is good practice for me because I tend to want to throttle down and glide in, which isn't going to work with the bigger aerobats. I love that the "pilot" has a little trailing scarf -- nice touch.
We did have to make one change to the Waco: the wheel skirts don't work well on dirt, so for flying off baseball diamonds, we had to loosen them up so rocks didn't keep getting jammed in between the wheel and the skirt.
But the real goal was the Pitts. Last Christmas, despite our no-gift policy, Dave surprised me with a Pitts biplane, knowing I've always been a big Pitts fan. He knew it would be a while before I was ready to fly it: but that's where the UMX Pitts S1S comes in. Like its larger cousins, it's precise, highly aerobatic, and has fairly high wing loading so it needs to fly fairly fast. That means it's a bit harder to fly, but it also makes it less sensitive to wind. I'm still learning it, but I love its precise rolls, its snaps and spins. And it's definitely getting me used to landing fast.
Like the Waco, it came with wheel skirts that were a complete no-go on even a well maintained baseball diamond; it nosed over before it could even begin a takeoff roll. We removed the skirts and substituted slightly bigger wheels. Dave says it looks like a cartoon Pitts now, but it takes off, lands, and flies great.
There are lots of other UMX planes; I've also picked up a couple of
the gliders, which are great fun in their own right, but they deserve
their own page.