Treed Airplane Recovery, Pole Method

I was testing my new Fantastic Foam Flyer at Butcher Park, getting ready for the Foam Plate Rubber Powered Airplane Contest. I had put in a flight with 1,800 turns on the motor and that showed the requirement for a bit more right rudder and right thrust. Next flight I put 2,200 turns in the motor. It climbed steeply going straight out of the Park, gradually turned right, circled back into the park and ran along the tree line at the south edge of the lawn. I lost sight of it as it passed among the distant trees. I searched all over in the direction it was headed and did not find it. The previous flight had gone all the way across the Park and landed in the ivy across the street. I came back, walked the track and spotted it up in one of the trees.

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You can see the little white patch a bit below half way up on the right side of the first tree.

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This is what it looks like looking up from the base of the tree. It is caught in the Y of branches.

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Zooming in shows it is upside down with the fin, wingtips and propeller caught among the twigs.

Knowing which tree it stopped in, I was able to estimate from the video that it stopped about 45 seconds into the flight. It is in the tree to the left end of the tight group of 4 trees I am walking toward at about one minute in, around the picnic table. I backed  out onto the center of the field until my ball point pen at arms length fit between the ground at the base of the tree and the plane, then rotated the pen horizontally. It fit right between the two end trees. Paced off, 11 paces, the height is about 33 feet. I put all the equipment back in the car and got out my extensible 30′ pole. Found a little twig that was a snug fit in the ring at the end of the pole, to give me a horizontal finger with which to lift the plane. I was able to lift it, but that only resulted in it going nose down in between smaller branches, catching the prop. There were still turns on the motor, so the prop was jammed against something while the fin and tail were jammed against something else, locking it securely in place. It was freezing cold, frost on the ground, you can hear it crunching as I am walking. My hands were burning with cold until the fingers went completely numb. I figured, it is not going anywhere. So I went home to let my hands warm up. It was too windy for more flights.

I went back to try again with the pole. This time I tried something a little different.

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I brought a 4″ length of 1/8″ birch dowel, some 1/2″ strapping tape and small scissors.

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I placed the stick at a shallow angle to the end of the pole and taped it in place. First I wrapped tape through the narrower opening to keep it open, then wrapped tightly around the wider opening a couple times to hold it together. This forms a narrow X. The upper notch of the X can be used to lift light objects. The pole stays extended through friction, so it will not allow much of a pushing force. The lower notch of the X may be used for pulling.

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The pole reaches almost to the plane, at the very top of the picture. With me holding the end up about six feet, the tip reached just a few inches beyond the plane. After a little poking and prodding, the wing came loose and fluttered down out of sight.

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After a long search, I found it about 15′ up in the next door tree. I was worried because a work crew swept through picking up litter. I was afraid one of them would pick it up and trash it. There are also lots of dogs running around. Shaking the branch brought the wing to the ground.

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The wing came cleanly off the rib.

Meanwhile, the fuselage had disappeared. After walking all around near and far looking up, I found it, nose down, resting on the propeller. With considerable effort I was able to lift it and shake it loose. Down it came, nose first with the prop spinning.

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There were still turns left on the motor.

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Back in the shop I glued the wing back onto the hold down rib, but I canted it slightly to the right. That turns the under surface of the left tip a bit into the wind, countering the motor torque. I am confident this plane is capable of flights over a minute, maybe 2, in still air. As long as I can train it to stay on the field.