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The future of our hobby....

Turbojoe

Well-known member
#1
So what really is the future of our hobby? The FAA is doing their absolute best to ground just about everything R/C. b.A.R.f.'s and foamies own the online sales market. Balsa building while staunchly supported by some diehards is fast being overcome by the foam/b.A.R.F. brigade.

Because of all the millennial a$$ hats and trolls after 17+ years I finally closed my RC Groups account. I've been trying and failing to get even a lukewarm response to balsa building on WattFlyer.com. The only place so far that has even a bit of balsa in their blood is here on what is mostly considered a foam based website. Sheesh, I'm starting to feel like I'm in one of those movies where I'm the last man on Earth.........I hope I'm not alone......

Joe
 

FDS

Well-known member
#2
I think what puts people off Balsa is the time it takes to make things and the tendency for the plane to be completely destroyed if crashed. Foamboard allows much faster build and repair, at least it does if you are unskilled like me.
I built and flew a few balsa kits with elastic band power over the years, the zen of building them was fine when I had time but flying them was stressful after all the work. I might build something bigger in balsa one day.
I found here that kits were also very expensive, some didn’t come with everything you would need, it was confusing to try to buy them.
You also need space to lay out balsa kits to build them, sometimes for a fair period of time, which is a problem for many people whose living space is limited.
I am sorry you found negativity elsewhere, generally people here are very helpful and supportive of all types of building and flying.
If I was looking for a first balsa kit that was close to Flite Test speedbuild prices and was a rugged design that would be a reasonable intermediate flyer what would you recommend?
 

Willy Nillies

Well-known member
#3
Joe,

We assure you, you are not alone. Since we started selling kits in July of 2019.... we have shipped well over 1,000 kits to mainly the USA, but to 5 other countries also! Balsa building is not dead. Yet.

One of the hardest parts is balsa supply. Most balsa is going to build wind turbine blades and our hobby gets odds and ends.

Sincerely,
Doug and Becky
WillyNillies.com
 

jsknockoff

Active member
Mentor
#4
Funny you bring this up because I’ve been trying to put together a good thought on this recently. I’ve been building and flying airplanes for 30 years. Almost all of the flying I’ve done has been balsa stuff of various sizes and skill levels. Here recently I feel like you really have to dig to find nice stuff to build. And if that’s not enough, the new rules coming from the FAA seem like the wet blanket to snuff things out for good. I don’t know all the nitty gritty details but nasty one for me is the 400ft ceiling. My main passion in RC is building old school floater type gliders. Heck, a 2 meter glider with an .049 is going to exceed that on climb out most days. Guess catching thermals is out. It’s pretty hard to handle and honestly has started to kill my interest in spending any more money on the hobby. I’ll limit my ranting to this for the time being.
 

Ketchup

4s mini mustang
#5
I really hope that the FAA doesn’t screw up the hobby... If they don’t though, I will be improving my foam building skills even more, and once they and my piloting skills are good enough, I want to try balsa. I have heard that balsa flies better, and I would like to test that.
 

evranch

Well-known member
#6
Interesting, I didn't realize balsa was a significant component of wind turbine blades. I guess something has to act as the formers under the fiberglass.

Balsa is lighter for sure, but I haven't built a balsa plane since I was young. They are just so much more fragile and as where I live I have turbulent winds and no smooth runway... I need a plane that can handle being plowed into the ground by a big gust on final approach. Hand launched and belly landed foamboard builds have definitely filled that need for me.

I do like the balsa build process, it's like building a tiny ultralight. However it does take much more time, space and effort to do the ribs and covering than folding over a foamboard and gluing it down. @Willie Nillies your kits are very affordable and with all the laser cut pieces fitting right together, I might consider building one just to display in the house.

Otherwise I think modern materials have pushed out balsa in other ways - DLGs used to be balsa, but now carbon fiber is lighter, stronger, more durable... 3D printed spars and ribs serve the same purpose but are easier to fabricate... and John and FT's new "Master Series" foam building method emulates the formers and skin method while using cheap, readily available foamboard.

Balsa as a material may be fading away but I think the methods and techniques will live on, just with different materials. This is pretty much a balsa plane except for using actual balsa wood - if it wasn't covered in transparent film, you wouldn't know from the outside:
 

Turbojoe

Well-known member
#7
Sorry guys, it's probably just the cynical, angry old fart in me creeping out yet again but I so fondly remember the glory days of being able to jump in the car, drive 5-10 minutes to a USEFUL hobby shop and be able to buy everything I needed to complete a project. Spend an immensely pleasurable hour or three bench flying with an awesomely great group of like minded guys and probably buy yet another balsa airplane kit while I'm there and not spend an entire paycheck doing so. Now I don't even bother going to the local cookie cutter "hobby shops" anymore as they only carry what Horizon Hobby tells them to carry and virtually nothing that I need unless I fly a Horizon Hobby bARF. Now if I want something related to actually building a plane I'm forced to go online and pay $1.99 for that item PLUS their minimum $9.99 shipping charge!!

The hobby just seems to have lost all of the "romance" of the days of yore. In the last 20+ years I've amassed well in excess of $20K + in R/C planes, helicopters, kits, radios, motors, parts, supplies, equipment, tools etc. Thankfully we now have Willy Nillies with the smaller FAA compliant kits but how long before they're also outlawed by the FAA for some B.S. reason?

I've only flown two of the FAA LEGAL Willy Nillies birds in the last year or so and I just couldn't be happier with them. Now what the hell do I do with the 50+ other planes and helicopters that I have and are now technically FAA illegal unless I register and give yet another government agency my personal info that I refuse to give up? While I'd love to be able to fly all of my bigger planes the FAA will just shoot me in the head repeatedly if I do because I flatly refuse to register with them! (I still fly the bigger birds on very rare occasions at an undisclosed local site) EFF the FAA!! (n)(n)(n)

Joe
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#8
I’ve wanted to build balsa, but I want to start with a kit - and I am having a heck of a time trying to find a beginner’s build kit that isn’t a trainer (and that I can make electric - gas is being frowned upon at my field more and more due to noise).

I figured balsa was just my next progression from the ease and simplicity of foam. Sure, it might be more fragile, but doesn’t that just b mean you need more skill to fly it? 😁
 

Turbojoe

Well-known member
#9
I’ve wanted to build balsa, but I want to start with a kit - and I am having a heck of a time trying to find a beginner’s build kit that isn’t a trainer (and that I can make electric - gas is being frowned upon at my field more and more due to noise).

I figured balsa was just my next progression from the ease and simplicity of foam. Sure, it might be more fragile, but doesn’t that just b mean you need more skill to fly it? 😁
You're in luck. The Willy Nillies kits should be just what you need. LINK Not all of the kits are trainers and he's working on even more kits. You should be able to buy everything you need minus the Rx and TX for well under $100.00! Easy builds and very robust design for their small size.

Joe
 

BATTLEAXE

Well-known member
#10
You're in luck. The Willy Nillies kits should be just what you need. LINK Not all of the kits are trainers and he's working on even more kits. You should be able to buy everything you need minus the Rx and TX for well under $100.00! Easy builds and very robust design for their small size.

Joe
Thanks for the link. I think for my first ground up balsa build it will be a Willy's. Now that I have most of my beginner bugs worked out of the thumbs and I am able to get a plane from launch to landing without to much damage this will be a good first step. I am thankful for the FT beginner dynamic and I won't completely leave the simplicity or cost effective models behind. But I do have the itch to get into nitro and balsa so there will be a transition into it this year. The craftsmanship of balsa isn't lost on this guy, and I feel it will be so much more rewarding to fly something you really put blood sweat and beers into. As far as the nitro goes I would like to buy a few used motors I can rebuild, mostly to learn the engines, then use them on the balsa planes to really step up my experience in the hobby.

As far as the FAA reg's that are being introduced, I live in Canada way out in the boonies, so i am not worried about being bird dogged by a bored old bat who hates her own life enough to ruin my fun. Even though the enforcement won't be present, i wont registering or using remote ID. I will stay under the 400ft ceiling for safety reasons but i will not comply with the B.S. bleeding heart rules just cuz someone thinks my planes or drones are spying on them or carrying explosives like a terrorist. I almost invite the day a fine officer comes out to take me away for flying a harmless toy that has a centuries long history of never hurting anyone. It might add to the adrenaline rush I get flying by now having to out run the cops like a rum runner during prohibition :ROFLMAO:
 

TooJung2Die

Well-known member
#11
I figured balsa was just my next progression from the ease and simplicity of foam. Sure, it might be more fragile, but doesn’t that just b mean you need more skill to fly it? 😁
I built and flew nothing but FT style foam board airplanes for a couple of years. Inexpensive disposable airplanes got me back into the hobby and kept me interested. When most of my airplanes came home still flyable I built my first balsa kit in over 40 years. Now every other airplane I build is balsa; and it does fly better. I still love foam board and finishing an airplane in a few evenings. Balsa builds take me weeks or months but I love the process and the slower pace.

Balsa building while staunchly supported by some diehards is fast being overcome by the foam/b.A.R.F. brigade.
I joined an RC club last year. To my dismay I found the vast majority of members are "retail flyers". In a club that has about two hundred members there are only a couple that build airplanes. Maybe that's good in some ways. If the only way to enjoy this hobby was to build your own aircraft the hobby might have died a natural death long ago. Most people don't have the skill or patience to build anything.
 
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BATTLEAXE

Well-known member
#12
Most people don't have the skill or patience to build anything.
That's a sign of the times and the availability of convenience. Back before the ARF's and PNP planes the number of people in the hobby was a lot smaller. I know I stayed away from it because of the time invested, cost, and then the risk of a crash demolishing the plane after less then 30 seconds was a deterrent. The main reason you see the amount of people in it is because of FT and retail planes. We are an instant gratification society now, patience is a thing of the past
 

evranch

Well-known member
#13
I agree, we can't discount the ARF flyers, because for those that rely on clubs and hobby fields they are the ones keeping those clubs alive. The same applies to prebuilt multirotors, they have become a photography/video tool and many people want to use the tool rather than build it. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to build - I've been looking at Tiny Whoops and really, who builds a Tiny Whoop. The parts are worth as much as the quad.

What I don't like is how a lot of hobby shops push people to buy ARFs rather than build their own planes. It's obvious though that there is a lot more profit in selling $300+ planes than in selling $50 worth of balsa and covering film or $5 worth of foamboard.

The loss of interest in building things in general has resulted in a major city having only one, maybe two hobby shops that have to cover all of the bases - aviation, trucks, trains, rockets etc. while competing with cheaper online merchants that stock everything. I can understand how it's hard for them to stay in business. I like the idea that FT has pushed lately of making hobby shops into a "maker space" where you can build planes with friends, use the 3d printer etc. However, retail space is expensive and that build area might be more profitably spent on a display cabinet for model trains.

It's easy when part of the "maker" community to look at your Youtube feed and think everyone loves to build planes, quads, racecars and their own lathe tooling. However the unfortunate fact is that almost everyone is a consumer these days and we are a tiny niche.
 

BATTLEAXE

Well-known member
#14
I agree, we can't discount the ARF flyers, because for those that rely on clubs and hobby fields they are the ones keeping those clubs alive. The same applies to prebuilt multirotors, they have become a photography/video tool and many people want to use the tool rather than build it. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to build - I've been looking at Tiny Whoops and really, who builds a Tiny Whoop. The parts are worth as much as the quad.

What I don't like is how a lot of hobby shops push people to buy ARFs rather than build their own planes. It's obvious though that there is a lot more profit in selling $300+ planes than in selling $50 worth of balsa and covering film or $5 worth of foamboard.

The loss of interest in building things in general has resulted in a major city having only one, maybe two hobby shops that have to cover all of the bases - aviation, trucks, trains, rockets etc. while competing with cheaper online merchants that stock everything. I can understand how it's hard for them to stay in business. I like the idea that FT has pushed lately of making hobby shops into a "maker space" where you can build planes with friends, use the 3d printer etc. However, retail space is expensive and that build area might be more profitably spent on a display cabinet for model trains.

It's easy when part of the "maker" community to look at your Youtube feed and think everyone loves to build planes, quads, racecars and their own lathe tooling. However the unfortunate fact is that almost everyone is a consumer these days and we are a tiny niche.
There are two maybe three hobby shops in Edmonton that carry anything geared towards the RC hobby. The rest are plastic model cars, figurines, trading cards or comic books. The big reason i use the hobby shop is for the instant pick up of supplies and the face to face advice you get from the staff. Sometimes there are good deals as well, like if I stop in there i will pick up a handful of $2 props. I have noticed though that their biggest business is the trucks, then the planes. Their train section gets next to no traffic whatsoever. Its good to have a train section there for the ones that need it but it does take up at least 15% of the floor space and could give up 35-40% of that to a workshop area. I think that alone would get more foot traffic in the door then having all that space dedicated to just trains.
 

Turbojoe

Well-known member
#15
Sorry for the lunatic rant last night guys. I probably should have taken several deep breaths before posting. (My signature should be a clue regarding my sanity. LOL)

What started off as an attempt to finish up one of my larger builds turned into total frustration trying to get a really insignificant item that I have but just can't find. Then I started thinking why am I even finishing a plane with a 48" wingspan and will weigh much more than FAA allows. THEN to top it off I find out the area that I used to sneak in flights with bigger birds is no more. It's now a housing area. I considered just taking everything out back and making a bonfire. What am I supposed to do with all these planes now? The only option is to fly them and become a criminal. The whole mess just frustrates me to no end.

Joe
 

BATTLEAXE

Well-known member
#16
Sorry for the lunatic rant last night guys. I probably should have taken several deep breaths before posting. (My signature should be a clue regarding my sanity. LOL)

What started off as an attempt to finish up one of my larger builds turned into total frustration trying to get a really insignificant item that I have but just can't find. Then I started thinking why am I even finishing a plane with a 48" wingspan and will weigh much more than FAA allows. THEN to top it off I find out the area that I used to sneak in flights with bigger birds is no more. It's now a housing area. I considered just taking everything out back and making a bonfire. What am I supposed to do with all these planes now? The only option is to fly them and become a criminal. The whole mess just frustrates me to no end.

Joe
That's just it, if you think you are criminal for flying planes over 250g's, then they have won already. I wouldn't worry about what you do in the hobby, flying RC is not a crime. And if it is then i am a criminal as well. Look at FT, they are still releasing and flying bigger planes all the time. They are rules made up by people who have zero clue as to how the hobby has impacted so many people. Welcome to the outlaw club
 

evranch

Well-known member
#18
if you think you are criminal for flying planes over 250g's, then they have won already.
Preach it. Here in Canada we are already supposed to have licenses and limits to what we can fly. There was a big fuss last year about it at the hobby shops and among pilots. It was going to end the hobby. The regulation date came and went and we're still flying what we want. Forget 250g, I'm out here flying planes that weigh over 5000g. Tail numbers? Pffft.

Down there in the USA it's still illegal to smoke cannabis on the federal level (i.e. these FAA regulations). That didn't stop so many states from legalizing and decriminalizing it. And it didn't stop people from smoking it, or featuring it in movies and music. If there is no enforcement, there is no law.

I used to be in to ham/CB radio, how many unlicensed hams and illegally boosted CBs were out there? It's very easy to track down an illegal transmitter, yet enforcement was pretty close to zero.

I'm not saying in any way not to fight the regulations as strongly as you can, but I would keep up hope that if they do make the rules they were planning to, there are unlikely to be the resources to enforce them except in exceptional cases.
 

evranch

Well-known member
#19
their biggest business is the trucks
Same in Saskatchewan. People spend a ton of money on their little trucks. I think the trucks appeal to people because you do get to build them more than an ARF, swap motors and suspension components etc. but in a mechanic sort of way rather than a scratchbuild way. Also, they are much less intimidating to learn to drive when they are safely on the ground!

I get enough of trucks in real life personally.

I think trains may be bigger than planes here, the guys who like trains LOVE trains. There is a big model train show in both Saskatoon and Regina every year, and you can't say that for planes or even trucks.
 

Ryan O.

Well-known member
#20
So what really is the future of our hobby? The FAA is doing their absolute best to ground just about everything R/C. b.A.R.f.'s and foamies own the online sales market. Balsa building while staunchly supported by some diehards is fast being overcome by the foam/b.A.R.F. brigade.

Because of all the millennial a$$ hats and trolls after 17+ years I finally closed my RC Groups account. I've been trying and failing to get even a lukewarm response to balsa building on WattFlyer.com. The only place so far that has even a bit of balsa in their blood is here on what is mostly considered a foam based website. Sheesh, I'm starting to feel like I'm in one of those movies where I'm the last man on Earth.........I hope I'm not alone......

Joe
Balsa and Glow shall never die! (from a young person)