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Why has Model Life Expectancy changed ?

Old 05-22-2013, 03:23 PM
  #1  
solentlife
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Default Why has Model Life Expectancy changed ?

This applies to both electric and conventional powered models .....

Decades ago - we built our models or if pushed for time bought a ready made from hobby shop that some local guy knocked up for them ... (trainers were common for that) ... We fitted our Glow motor ... stuffed NiCd's, tank etc. in and flew. We banged and pranged them - BUT they seemed to take it and repairs usually looked good enough that you had to look close to see them ! Most of my models survived more than 10yrs of use .. in fact I know my 'Ex' still has a couple of my models at back of garage ... so that's over 30 yrs !! they also flew in much worse conditions than we do today !

Lets move on to today and modern Foam models .... literally before they even go out the house door they suffer !! maiden flight and nose bent, wing tip crook, - something happens. No matter how good we are - they NEVER look same again after that first outing !
Year down the road - IF lucky - the model is still flying and looking not too bad ... but certainly not as good as the old model looked at that age !

Can someone explain why ?

Nigel
(PS I've been in this game since 1970's ... before that C/L )

Last edited by solentlife; 05-22-2013 at 07:06 PM.
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Old 05-22-2013, 03:44 PM
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Rockin Robbins
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Well, it's not as if balsa has vanished. It's still around. It's just that the foam stuff came into and added to the market. People buy them. People seem to like them.

Markets don't act rationally. They act impulsively and without reason at times. For better or worse, the skill of building has been divorced from the skill of flying by the foamies. Lots of people buy the notion that they want to fly and aren't interested at all in building.

And to be fair, if you prang your foam plane you can buy a new fuselage, stabilizer, wing, whatever and it CAN look as good a year out as when you bought it. We've just gone from a repair mindset to a replace one, just like an Apple or Gateway laptop. No parts available and people just flock to them.
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:07 PM
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Because people want cheap instant gratification!

Cheap, Quick, Quality.....You only get to pick 2.

You pick Cheap and Quick, it won't be Quality. (store bought foamy)
You pick Quality and Cheap, it won't be quick. (build it yourself)
You pick Quick and Quality, it won't be cheap. (have someone build it for you)
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:26 PM
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Not all of us have the time, or patience to spend a hundred hours building a plane only to prove the existence of gravity.
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:28 PM
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newjak
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It is 2013! Get over it already. The mainstream way into the hobby now is with an ARF or RTF. They are the first thing you see when you walk into a hobby shop and they are featured online as well. Entering the hobby by building a stick kit doesn't make you a better pilot.

The Hypocrisy is quite funny when folks are posting messages from their wireless laptop computers or phones instead of sending a handwritten letters to their friends and waiting 2 weeks for a response.

Its 2013. Thats just the way it is.

BTW- My first planes was stick built. I've been in the hobby for about 25 years.
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:40 PM
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wattman
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Originally Posted by newjak View Post
It is 2013! Get over it already. The mainstream way into the hobby now is with an ARF or RTF. They are the first thing you see when you walk into a hobby shop and they are featured online as well. Entering the hobby by building a stick kit doesn't make you a better pilot.

The Hypocrisy is quite funny when folks are posting messages from their wireless laptop computers or phones instead of sending a handwritten letters to their friends and waiting 2 weeks for a response.

Its 2013. Thats just the way it is.

BTW- My first planes was stick built. I've been in the hobby for about 25 years.
Ditto / really , , and I am still all smiles after reading your post

And even today you can still purchase the plans and build with sticks of balsa and use slow drying glue , if you like .
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:46 PM
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Beemerider
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For me I don't know if I see any change. I tried to get into the hobby in the early 90's. But for me money was tight (still no big change) and I tried to go cheap and teach myself. Built a Kadet Sr, fitted an OS 46 and promptly destroyed the plane on it's 2nd flight. Looking back I probably could have repaired the plane but it was severe damage. I was too discouraged to continue and I had other more pressing issues. So I walked away from the hobby.

I don't know if conditions are really any different now, although you have far more experience than I will ever have. But time has a way of coloring our memories. I remember my Dad telling me.."when I was younger.....", now I tell my kids (who are adults) and my grandchildren....."when I was younger..."

The difference I see now is how much more affordable the hobby is compared to many years ago. Thanks mostly to China I guess. So very many planes and technologies to choose from. 20 yrs ago the radios started at $100 and a balsa kit like the Kadet was around $50 as I remember and then you still had to spend lots of time to build it. Add another $100 for a decent motor, $100+ for coverings, glue, hardware, heat gun, covering iron and the list goes on. Before long you had $400 invested and it's never left the ground. Add AMA membership, club dues and so on.

I'm retired now, not a lot of money for hobbies but enough to fly rc considering the current cost of the hobby. And now I've got the time to fix what I break!
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:47 PM
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Stevephoon
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The other missing factor is reducing the weight of the planes. For electric planes everyone has been reducing weight partly by reducing the strength of the airframe. Lighter weight leads to reduced need for more capable and expensive components >>> less overall cost.

Now the planes have gotten cheap enough that most figure then as disposable. If you get a year with a plane, it's considered enough.

Durability has been lost because of cost and weight.

That's what I see....

Steve
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:00 PM
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solentlife
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Originally Posted by newjak View Post
It is 2013! Get over it already. The mainstream way into the hobby now is with an ARF or RTF. They are the first thing you see when you walk into a hobby shop and they are featured online as well. Entering the hobby by building a stick kit doesn't make you a better pilot.

The Hypocrisy is quite funny when folks are posting messages from their wireless laptop computers or phones instead of sending a handwritten letters to their friends and waiting 2 weeks for a response.

Its 2013. Thats just the way it is.

BTW- My first planes was stick built. I've been in the hobby for about 25 years.
Sorry but I hope you mean that more kindly than it comes across ....

I am fully aware that it is 2013 ... I am also fully aware of what is in shops / online etc. etc.

If my post is read properly - it is a question about life expectancy of a model - not traditional build vs todays RTF.

I buy both foam and balsa ... I scratchbuild and fly RTF / ARF ... for me I love flying whatever it is ... so lets put that to bed now.

Back to my original point ... I think that previously when we built the model we might have had more connection with it ? More reluctance to let go and junk it. It may have also meant more care in repair ? Todays foamies appear easy to repair, but often repairs fudged with hot glue etc. lead to battle scars that are obvious and often out of line form.

Todays foam models due to moulding can have more scale detail and lines ... but they are lighter and more subject to wind / weather than heavier older models. The range of models available over counter / click to buy is huge now ... mainly due to foam and composite construction allowing many previously difficult subjects to be made.

Check out threads by me ... on here, RCGroups etc. - repairs, scratchbuilds, modifications, foamies, balsa, depron etc. So I thionk I might be posting from a reasonable background .....

Nigel
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:06 PM
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newjak
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Originally Posted by solentlife View Post
Sorry but I hope you mean that more kindly than it comes across ....

I am fully aware that it is 2013 ... I am also fully aware of what is in shops / online etc. etc.

If my post is read properly - it is a question about life expectancy of a model - not traditional build vs todays RTF.

I buy both foam and balsa ... I scratchbuild and fly RTF / ARF ... for me I love flying whatever it is ... so lets put that to bed now.

Back to my original point ... I think that previously when we built the model we might have had more connection with it ? More reluctance to let go and junk it. It may have also meant more care in repair ? Todays foamies appear easy to repair, but often repairs fudged with hot glue etc. lead to battle scars that are obvious and often out of line form.

Todays foam models due to moulding can have more scale detail and lines ... but they are lighter and more subject to wind / weather than heavier older models. The range of models available over counter / click to buy is huge now ... mainly due to foam and composite construction allowing many previously difficult subjects to be made.

Check out threads by me ... on here, RCGroups etc. - repairs, scratchbuilds, modifications, foamies, balsa, depron etc. So I thionk I might be posting from a reasonable background .....

Nigel
Yeah, I did come off a little harsh. Didn't mean it that way.
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:07 PM
  #11  
fhhuber
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Its all about enjoying the hobby.

If you like building... build. There are still kits or plans sets and plenty of materials available.

If all you want to fly is the EPO foam warbirds that are becoming common, then that is fine.

If all you want to fly is a flat foamie 3D model that is fine too.

There is no right or wrong type of model. Some like to build and fly. Some like to build and watch others fly and some just want to fly.
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:18 PM
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Rockin Robbins
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I agree Nigel, this isn't an old fogey vs young cool guy thing. Yes, I believe that there is a deeper personal connection with a plane you have built than for a Champ you bought complete for a hundred dollars.

We get posts all the time from people who are "bored with the Champ." But it was unheard of for anybody to be bored with the plane they learned on when we built planes. Ten years later the plane might not be flown every session, but it was lovingly maintained and flown regularly because we loved to fly and had a deep personal relationship with the plane that taught us.

We also tend to exaggerate, like toddyrotten's "a hundred hours building a plane" and tend to portray building as an activity related to cleaning out an outhouse.

It is a fact that crashing a plane we have put our soul into is more daunting than crashing a plane that is just cookie cutter replaceable. The foamie takes the pressure off. But it remains replaceable after we will no longer crash it. So we get "bored" of them quickly, lusting for another toss-away plane. So foam is good and bad.

But the important thing is that it didn't replace building. It added to it, widening our possibilities. I am convinced that we have many in our hobby that would not be if they had to build the plane they learned on. I think we have even more who didn't get discouraged when they crashed their learner plane, but just went out to buy another disposable plane.

I wonder how many who do not build or buy balsa planes will continue in the hobby for five years. There's no reward like seeing a plane you built from a pile of sticks take to the air.
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:27 PM
  #13  
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I remember building a Joe Bridie Trainer in the late 70's. Spent an entire winter. Was kind of like therapy. Enjoyed the putzing, following the plans, figuring things out. 100% meticulous. But life seemed simpler then. Now, we live in the "I want it now" digital age. The kids that get into the hobby see it as a live 3D video game. Carburetor? Are you kidding me?

Fast forward to the electric foam world where one can get a near scale looking replica of their favorite airplane for cheap. An edf for $70.00 Get it in the air within a few hours and then move on to the next one. And like Nigel, I fly on the cheap. Probably spend 10 hours of build, fix and repair time for every one hour of flight time.

The good thing about the cheap electric foam world is that for not too much money, one can have a lot of diversity in the hangar. I now have pattern, 3D, EDF, Warbirds, Pusher props, low wing/high wing trainers , twins, scratch built foamies, etc. A real hodge podge.

In the balsa/gas world, crash repairs are generally a major deal. Even if you're a good builder/ putzer, there's still a lot of time involved. I see more of these in the bin than foamies. And that can get expensive. Look how glue has advanced over the years. The key word is 'time." Between work, family obligations, bad weather, text messages, etc. I'm at a point where I'll devote the time to build a kit or an arf with the idea that it should not take me longer than a week to complete, with pauses along the way. I try to recycle parts and reuse them where possible. I'll choose a kit or an arf solely on the basis of what I have available to put into it. EG Motors, servos, escs, rods, hardware etc.

I do spend the time to keep the squadron on Defcon 2 status so I can break away to the field at a moment's notice.


It's such a fast paced world out there compared to how it once was. I look forward to the day I can slow down and smell the roses again.

Headed out to the field today !

-Hawk
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:32 PM
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solentlife
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Originally Posted by fhhuber View Post
Its all about enjoying the hobby.

If you like building... build. There are still kits or plans sets and plenty of materials available.

If all you want to fly is the EPO foam warbirds that are becoming common, then that is fine.

If all you want to fly is a flat foamie 3D model that is fine too.

There is no right or wrong type of model. Some like to build and fly. Some like to build and watch others fly and some just want to fly.
True ... but I think you missed my point ... My point is about Life Expectancy of model.......

Nigel
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:42 PM
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solentlife
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In the balsa/gas world, crash repairs are generally a major deal. Even if you're a good builder/ putzer, there's still a lot of time involved. I see more of these in the bin than foamies.
That's strange as I find it easier to repair a balsa job than a foam - I mean to a presentable standard.

But I agree that there comes a point where the damage to a 'balsa' based model can outweigh the effort to rebuild. A foam model has to be crushed by a bulldozer before that point comes.

I can say though that I know of and see more scrapped foamies than balsa's ... and many of those scrapped are way too early !! Witness my salvage line on F16 - now flies superb !, Twister - mmmm well never was that good a model anyway !, big Cessna ... but she's GRP and wood job ... and of course my multi-rebuilds of the T45 and various of own stock !!

Nigel
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Old 05-22-2013, 06:02 PM
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I think it's a trade-off. A foamie will show the bumps and scrapes more, but can take more and keep on flying. A balsa/fiberglass won't show those bumps and scuffs as much, but when it reaches it's limit... SNAP! Then there's repairing to be done. Just different properties of different materials. They each have their breaking points.
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Old 05-22-2013, 06:22 PM
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fhhuber
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Life expectancy of the model is based on how you care for it... and your flying skill.
Or on how much it sits as a hanger queen.

The modern EPO foamies can sit as a hanger queen for years with no issues. Even the older styro models could survive for many years.

Maybe you meant the issue of if the owners bother to deal with making cosmetic repairs.
Some work hard to keep their models looking good. Some don't... Some don't have to.
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Old 05-22-2013, 06:29 PM
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I think the nice thing about foam planes is that they allow people to enter the hobby that otherwise couldn't afford a balsa equivalent. Me personally, I've been building static models since I was a kid, so I'm no stranger to building a model, I like the convenience of a foam RTF, and even then they need to be tweaked SOMEWHERE. No aircraft is ever truly "Ready To Fly", whether the box says so or not, they all need adjustments, etc., I enjoy working on them, even if I DO wreck them, Hell, that's half the FUN for me!
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:33 PM
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My newest plane was a '90s Flightstar 40 until I got my 12 year old Fokker D-VII.

My other planes I recently bought (late last year) are from the '70s.

What is this 'new' you guys talk about?
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Old 05-22-2013, 08:42 PM
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Life expectancy has changed because building techniques have changed along with the change in materials. Instead of blocks of balsa we now use light ply, balsa strips and carbon. Look at the relatively delicate build of a 3D gas plane compared to the build of a glow model a few years ago. It wasn't unusual to have a 7-8 lb .60 sized plane. With modern building techniques and materials the same plane is in the 5 lb range. With the decreased weight (structure) came better flight characteristics but they're also more difficult to repair. Not impossible, but with the relatively cheap price and lack of building experience of a lot of pilots it's easier to just buy another.

I've been in the hobby for 50 years, always hated building but had little choice if I wanted to fly. Now my "building" consists of assembling ARFs and cutting foam. What a great time to be involved in the hobby.

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Old 05-22-2013, 09:10 PM
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Making a guess here but it seems we have less "perceived" time on our hands today vs 20+ yrs ago. At least in my world I remember my Dad working roughly 40 or so hours a week when I was growing up. Mom stayed at home with us kids, and only long after did she ever go to work. I remember Dad had most every evening with us growing up. I know every family was different but I think that was more the norm than not. When I got married in 1974 things were starting to change (or looking back it seemed that way). I worked two jobs most of my life and only went to one job in 1976 and then it averaged 60 hours a week. I didn't have time to build airplanes. The 60 hour thing didn't change till 3 years ago when I nearly died in an illness which forced my retirement. If that had not happened I probably still wouldn't be flying.

It seems to be a faster paced world and that in itself gives us less time for recreation. And because of newer building techniques and mass production (and China) we now have less expensive models and more of them. As I see it we all benefit. Granted a lot of building (and repairing) skills are somewhat lost but that can be acquired (and re-acquired) in my case.

Last edited by Beemerider; 05-22-2013 at 09:29 PM.
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:22 PM
  #22  
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We also tend to exaggerate, like toddyrotten's "a hundred hours building a plane" and tend to portray building as an activity related to cleaning out an outhouse.
So how many hours does it take? If I had the time to build, I would. As it is, I have a Tiger Moth 400 that I haven't finished because I don't have the time. Usually, when I have time to build, I'd rather fly. I'm sure when I'm retired, I'll have plenty of time to build some sweet planes.
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by toddyrotten View Post
So how many hours does it take? If I had the time to build, I would. As it is, I have a Tiger Moth 400 that I haven't finished because I don't have the time. Usually, when I have time to build, I'd rather fly. I'm sure when I'm retired, I'll have plenty of time to build some sweet planes.
I easily had that in my first plane 20+ yrs ago. A SIG Kadet Sr. I was inexperienced and made many mistakes. As slow as I am now it would probably still take that much time. Not all of us are "whizbangs" at building.
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:11 PM
  #24  
fhhuber
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Building time varies significantly from person to person.
And which kit matters too...

I have been known to visit a hobby shop at about 5:00 pm, buy a Four-Star-40 kit (not ARF) and all needed supplies (that weren't already at my house) take the new kit home and fly it the next day.... using yellow carpenter's glue for most of the construction.

I have a friend that can spend 4 days just figuring out where to drill the holes to mount his motor.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:10 PM
  #25  
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"You pick Quality and Cheap, it won't be quick. (build it yourself)"
Cheap?Checked the price of balsa lately?Hence i now use foam as well in a "traditional"build.Foam ribs,bulkheads etc. can be just as durable as balsa,and as a bonus,lighter.
I have a 2-year old axn clouds fly,and it still looks pretty much the same as when i bought it.But really,i regard it as disposable.
As for looks,IMO sport planes have only one purpose,to provide maximum enjoyment for minimum outlay.I feel a plane with a few battle scars is preferable to a hangar queen.
Scale aircraft are often given a distressed look as part of their make up.Take a look at a wwII aircraft in service photo,and more often than not,they will have repair patches,dings etc.
If you take the time and trouble to build an "as new" civilian aircraft,If you don't have the skills to fly it,you can ask an experienced pilot to do so.
As for time,life tends to get in the way.I have a semi-scale project on the bench,which i started over a year ago.
Mind you,i also tend to get side tracked by "quicky" projects.
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