Fly By Wire Air is a one-stop shop for the aviation enthusiast. You will find aviation apparel, RC hobby planes, items for the historic aviation buff and even products and services for amateur pilots. We hope you will enjoy visiting our site. When you think of flying – Fly By Wire.

Monthly Archives: April 2013


A transportation system functions properly when it forms vital social and economic connections.  This is the case in rural America where distance and a scattered population make transport a dominant issue.  We will take a brief look at the contribution made by rural airports, as well as possible effects from the current federal budget impasse.



General aviation consists of all civilian air traffic that is not scheduled passenger airline service.  Eliminating air traffic controller services at smaller airports will greatly affect general aviation because pilots rely on air traffic controllers on approach and take off.  The majority of the 149 towers slated for closure under the current plan handle general aviation traffic.  Reduced services at smaller airports will have a serious economic affect on communities that rely on air transit for businesses and other purposes.  For example, aircraft operating from rural area airports are often used in such projects as power and pipeline inspections.  Firms exploring sites for wind energy projects use rural airports due to their proximity to the project sites.  News teams use public access rural airports because they can land without prior approval.  Rural airports are also vital as a quick transit source for emergency response teams in the event of fires, floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters.  General aviation will also be affected because pilot training requires a certain number of take offs and landings at towered airports.  If the proposed tower closings go into effect, approximately 24,000 aviation and related industry jobs could be lost.


The FAA, which is responsible for the safety and efficiency of civil aviation in the United States, has a $15 billion budget distributed among a range of activities.  It provides nearly a fourth of those funds as grants-in-aid to local airports.  This might be a place where the largest share of the cuts could be taken, but the sequestration law won’t allow it.  Nor will it allow a disproportionate slice to be taken at facilities and equipment, which accounts for twenty per cent of the agency’s budget.  The required 9 to 10 per cent cut in Federal Aviation Administration spending, about $1.35 billion, must be taken equally from all activities, including control tower operations.  The FAA also recently announced that it would end funding for more than three-fourths of contract towers at local airports around the country.  Contract towers are air traffic control towers operated by a private company, but funded by the FAA.  The program reaches all 50 states, includes 250 towers and has a long history as a safe, cost-effective alternative to FAA operated towers in low-service, rural areas.


A favorable resolution of the federal budget is imperative for the future of general aviation.  While the sequestration has made proportionate cuts among all federal agencies, not many of them contribute $1.3 trillion to our national GDP every year.










During a recent visit to a local hobby store, I got an education about an important but often ignored tool of rc modeling – antennas.  During the course of this blog, we will provide an overview of antennas and their applications for rc planes.

For all of the sophistication of antenna theory, the techniques for the successful operation of an rc model antenna are relatively simple.  To gain further insight, we must define an antenna and how it operates.  A transmitter antenna is a straight wire or telescoping pole device which converts an electric signal in the form of a radio frequency into an electromagnetic field.  For successful operation, the antenna must be connected to the transmitter device at one end with the other end connection free.  In the case of rc model planes, a receiver antenna is also necessary.  A receiver antenna is usually a straight wire, which converts the transmitter radio signal and its associated electromagnetic energy into an electrical signal, which controls the aircraft.  As with transmitter antennas, one end is connected to the aircraft, while the other is free from contact.  Frequencies denote the number of times an event occurs within a given time period.  Radio frequencies are stated in Megahertz, or cycles per second with one hertz expressed as one cycle per second.  A radio band is a spectrum or range of frequencies designated by the Federal Communications Commission for a particular purpose.  Most rc models operate in the 27MHz, 35MHz, 40MHz, 72MHz and 75MHz bands.  Electromagnetic fields can be explained in the form of static electricity creating energy.  However, the electrical charge traveling from the rc model transmitter contains more energy, traveling through space at the speed of light.  The magnetic and electric fields change as the transmitter antenna frequencies change.

Directing the antenna for the best performance is another issue.  When the hobbyist points the antenna in either a forward or direct vertical position, the antenna is often pointed at the model.  If the model flies straight, there is usually no problem, but if the aircraft is performing a manuever it could result in a pause, from a temporary loss of signal.  Some hobbyists even point their antennas toward the ground.  By doing so, they lose the strongest part of the signal and limit the distance from which they are able to control the plane.  An advantage of pointing the antenna to the side other than constant signal strength is pointing the antenna toward the plane results in more stress on the antenna from being continually flexed, which causes both more breakage and repair bills.  There are also several troubleshooting procedures to make sure your rc plane is responding properly.  The first and perhaps most obvious is to check the on and off switches, not just to make sure they are on or off, but to determine if they are in working order.  Next, be sure the transmitter is set to the right frequency for the plane.  Often this can be corrected by merely changing the crystals in the transmitter.  Be sure both your transmitter and receiver batteries are at a full charge before flying.  Ideally, they both should have an equal charge.  Next, inspect the receiver antenna for proper installation with the transmitter antenna fully extended.  Based upon prevailing rc radio frequencies, a transmitter antenna length of 28″ and a receiver antenna of about 40″ provide optimal performance for most rc models.  Switching rc model and transmitter combinations is another way to isolate problems.  These are but a few procedures to make sure the rc pilot has a trouble free flight.


The use of seaplanes dates back to 1910, when French aviation pioneer Henri Fabre performed the first successful launch of a seaplane from water.  Fabre’s plane, Le Canard or Duck, was powered by a 50 hp. engine and flew a course of about 1,650 ft.  The following year, Glenn Curtiss, the renowned American aviator and racing enthusiast modified a biplane with attached floats and successfully took off and landed from water.  During World War I seaplanes played a limited but important role in protecting convoys from prowling German U boats.  However, it was not until after the war when a Curtiss NC-4 became the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic from New York to Lisbon that their potential was recognized by both the civil and military aviation communities.

In order to gain a better understanding of seaplanes, we must first define them by their subcategories – amphibians, float planes and flying boats.  An amphibian is an aircraft which can take off from both land and water, having both floats and /or a boat shaped fuselage with retractable wheels.  Float planes are essentially land based aircraft with flotation pontoons attached underneath the plane corresponding with the landing gear position, as these are often interchangable with landing wheels.  Floatplanes either have a large central float located underneath the fuselage with additional floats near the wingtips for lateral stability or a catamaran arrangement placing two equal sized floats below the inner wing to provide buoyancy.  Flying boats are seaplanes which have a boatlike shape to their fuselage and usually land in water, although the employment of beaching gear, a temporary dolly on wheels, may be used to move the plane from water to land.

During the 1920s a number of float planes competed in the international racing circuit.  By the 1930s seaplanes were being developed for use as commercial airliners.  The advantages were twofold:  early aircraft engines were still relatively unreliable, so a plane which could land on the sea offered a measure of protection in the event of engine failure, while the capability to land on water made such aircraft accessible to remote areas of the globe.  By the mid 1930s seaplanes such as the Sikorsky S-42 and the Martin M-130 were flying transoceanic routes on a regular basis, connecting North America with both Europe and Asia.  Flying boats, amphibians and float planes were used extensively during World War II for reconnaisance, transport and bombardment missions, the Consolidated PBY Catalina a prime example.

However, after the war interest in amphibian aircraft began to wane for several reasons.  By the late 1940s enough commercial airliners with intercontinental range became available to cover the routes flown by the seaplanes, while newer land based aircraft offered more passenger capacity, speed and range than flying boats.  Military use of seaplanes declined as well, as a result of their being superceded by more efficient land based patrol and transport aircraft and the more cost effective helicopters in the air-sea rescue role.

Despite their decline in commercial and military use, amphibians are extremely well suited for operations in remote areas of the globe, providing vital links to the outside world.  The current trend toward light sport aircraft has renewed interest in them, with a number of high tech designs such as the Privateer, Donier S-Ray and Petrel.  The common thread among these aircraft are lightweight composite materials, fuel efficient engines, as well as the latest electronics.  These planes are both versatile and fun to fly.  Instead of fishing on one lake with a boat, why not fish from several with an amphibian?