I built two foam Squirrels (6-7 gm, 12″ wingspan) and took them over to the park for quick test flights and videos.
It had been windy in the morning, but seemed to let up after lunch. It was just a temporary lull. I got some good flights and videos.
The wind picked up and I considered it was too much for safe flying, but I had the motor all wound up, had made several flights and I was on the upwind edge of the field. So I let it go, one last flight. Up, up it went, circling left. Then it got headed downwind and decided to demonstrate the nonexistence of a downwind turn. It headed straight across the field for the top of the tallest tree. Did the downwind turn right into the inside branches and the wind pushed it hard in.
This is the Charley Brown Effect. An airplane circles until it is as high as it needs to be to spot the tallest tree within reach, then heads straight for it, hooking in between branches to get in as deeply as possible. This was first observed with kites, but all of us are familiar with the effect on model airplanes.
I couldn’t reach it with the 31′ Jackite pole. I taped on an 8′ bamboo extension, and was able to hit the branch and plane, but it was too light and whippy to do any good. The plane was caught between the fingers of the tree. I put a handball into a baggie and tied twine around the bag. I laid out sufficient twine on the ground to go over the tree and down the other side. I tried throwing the ball over the branch. Couldn’t get anywhere close. I tried swinging the ball around at the end of the line and got some good throws that way, much higher than necessary, but most went into the next tree over. The ball must be let down and untied to get the string out of the tree without risking a broken branch.
Then I understood that it is not enough merely to be able to throw it higher than the branch. It is necessary to get it through an irregular 18″ hole between branches, inside the tree, about 42 feet up. While pulling the line down out of the tree, I noticed how the wind was billowing it out. That gave me the idea to combine the string and pole. I tied the end of the line to the tip of the bamboo pole. I poked the pole up through the branches and maneuvered it around until the string went downwind of the plane. Pulling the string and the pole hooked and dislodged the plane, but broke off the right half of the tailplane. The loose half fluttered out of the tree and I chased it across the street. It gained altitude a couple times, climbed over the street tree and finally went down behind the house across the street. The airplane had fallen down and the motor had gotten caught on a lower branch. More maneuvering knocked the wing off and down it came, again fluttering down across the street, against the curb where I was able to catch it. The fuselage assembly landed on the lawn right under the tree. The plane is repairable and will fly again. With a better motor, it definitely will require a much larger field.
I also learned that masking tape will not hold a bamboo pole in place when you try to pull a string. Next time I will bring strapping tape. Also you should not try to push anything with a telescoping pole. The top will come down and knock the bottom cap out.