With a little bit more tweaking, Pickerel has turned into a real winner.
It’s a Process
Designing a great new original model airplane is a very time consuming process. That is why there are so many half-baked designs released. It takes a lot of extra work to turn a model that flies well into a model that flies great. Experience helps, but there is no substitute for just plain trying things out.
From the time I made the first test flight of the final prototype, the tweaks might seem to have been truly trivial. But boy, did they make a difference in its flying and handling!
First, the elevon tips needed to be upturned by 3/4 inches. The rest of the airplane is entirely flat, so all of the pitch stability comes from them. They are not large, either, so just mounting them at neutral and then using up trim did not work.
Second, I switched to mounting the battery at the nose. The CG now is about 1/2 inch ahead of the slot cut into the foam. Wow! I won’t say that it now flies as if it were on rails, but it sure is close. Very stable and very controllable.
I still do not recommend Pickerel for a beginner pilot. The design is very clean aerodynamically and gains speed quickly if you let the nose point down. You have to fly the airplane through turns, giving it up elevator as necessary.
At the same time, it looks great in the air. When I was out at the field shooting this video, I had at least half a dozen pilots walk up to me to ask about the airplane. They loved the simplicity of the design and the great handling in the air. It looks like a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk and has no vertical surfaces.
I do have one small recommended change to the construction process. When I built my prototypes, I would cut the foam and glue on the leading edge dowels first, then cut a slot for the square transverse (horizontal) support hardwood rods. It would probably be easier to make a single cut in the foam, push the pieces of foam apart, glue on the square rods, and then add the leading edge dowels. This way it is simpler and is easier to get right, too.
If you are planning on building a Pickerel, be sure and tell us about it in the forums!