Flying, 2023 Feb 11

It was a rough day for flying for me – I crashed my plane, hard, and I *think* it’s through pilot error. This is how you learn sometimes, by making catastrophic mistakes; thankfully, nobody was injured although the plane needs repair.

Funny thing: I talked to an old friend, a pilot, and he said it was great to see me “excelling at RC.” My response was to laugh, and observe that I was learning, not excelling. Today was proof that I am, uh, seeing how much potential I still have to fulfill, because flying today was short and disastrous.

They say that a good flight is one where you can recover the plane; by that measure, well, good flight, I guess, but the plane’s back to not being airworthy. It will fly again, because thankfully the damage was fairly restricted, but I had a rough (and fairly dangerous) flight with a hard crash at the end.

So, the story: my goals for the day were pretty simple. I had reconfigured my radio and rebound to my plane, so I wanted to get back in the air and make sure that everything was working properly; my goals in flight were actually to fly simple patterns. I considered trying a loop, but I was going to get in the air first to see how things went.

My secondary goal was to get my oldest son to fly as well; he’d gone with me. If the plane managed to fly properly (see prior paragraph!) I figured I’d hand him and the radio off to one of the trainers, so they could get him up in the air and the plane back on the ground. (I figured I could land for myself, but the trainers would land for him.)

When we got to the field, the wind was a little high for my plane, but tolerable; I’ve flown in worse, I think, but if the wind had been any worse I think I’d have just not bothered. I set up pretty soon after I got there, and ran through a bench test to make sure the radio communication was working properly; all the control surfaces responded as I expected them to, the throttle cut was working, the flight modes seemed to be set correctly.

Everything passed the bench test. It was time to fly.

I set up to take off into the wind; I was actually rather happy about it, because I usually prefer to take off right-to-left (and land left-to-right), but the last few times I’ve flown I’ve purposefully reversed that, because I was getting too comfortable.

Taking off was… okay. The plane felt a little off, leaning a little to the left on takeoff, but once it got five feet off the ground, everything went sour.

It turned to the left, and I was trying to climb and compensate, getting it back to the right. Flying to the left on this particular takeoff meant I was flying off the field, and it kept turning, and started heading toward the other pilots on the bench, behind the flight line, which led to a number of warnings from them.

I was really struggling with control; my great fear was plowing into the other pilots. I managed to give it enough elevator to get it up over the flight shed, and it headed back to the actual flying field, but it was still stuck in that left turn, and I.. don’t know what happened for sure.

I think what happened is that I lost my reference for the alignment of the plane, and threw into the left bank even harder. There are alternative explanations, but without actual flight telemetry and records, I couldn’t tell you how valid they were. One way or the other, the result was the plane rolled over and hit the landing strip hard, upside down and nose first, and as the prop was still spinning – I was trying to get it up in the air so I could figure out some semblance of normal flight – the prop snapped off.

The nose broke, and the prop was snapped, and one of the wings got some road rash, but that was the extent of the damage; it’s not flyable, at present, until I replace the prop and fix the nose cone, but that’s the extent of the damage.

I took it back to the bench, and tried to check the controls; the radio was going crazy. None of the gimbals would respond, none of the switches would send the right signals to the plane; I had to reboot the radio twice to get it to do what was expected.

Thankfully, it did resume normal behavior, and bench testing the controls showed that everything was working properly subsequently; the plane wasn’t able to fly, but at least the mechanics seemed to be working.

I got a lot of good advice on how to fix the plane, which I’ll be applying soon, but I’m going to need to get a new propeller in before it’s able to get back in the air.

Honestly, I think I just wasn’t in the right mindset to fly. When it started going wrong, I freaked out and I don’t think I did anything to make it better, and probably made it worse. The radio inconsistencies might have shown up mid-flight, but honestly, I don’t think I had the presence of mind I needed to be flying today.

I did learn a lot, though: I thought I was prepared, and I did all the right steps, I just didn’t have my mind right, as the Marines say, and I failed to warn the field when I lost control of the plane. I also failed to kill the throttle when things started to go south; that would have been my only chance to rescue the flight but may have saved the prop and made the crash much more gentle, as well as being far safer for the other pilots.

It was a day to show me how much I still have to learn. A costly day, because I won’t be able to fly for at least a week (I need to get the new prop, as well as fix the nose of the plane), but.. at least I saw how far I have yet to go.

Flying, Jan 28, 2023

I made it back to the airfield today, expecting everything to go more normally – I’d flown with my new transmitter, managed to replace a servo that I’d stripped in my plane, so everything was where I expected it to be. There are still a few wrinkles to work out with the transmitter and the receiver, but I thought I had everything set up properly. I didn’t, but I have an idea what is wrong.

I made it back to the airfield today, expecting everything to go more normally – I’d flown with my new transmitter, managed to replace a servo that I’d stripped in my plane, so everything was where I expected it to be. There are still a few wrinkles to work out with the transmitter and the receiver, but I thought I had everything set up properly.

Spoiler alert: I don’t. It’s nothing major, though.

The flying went fine; I am trying to force myself to land right-to-left, and the wind was going the wrong way to make that really “the right thing to do,” so after trying two flights with the wind, I finally gave up and on my last flight I landed left-to-right.

I’m trying to land right-to-left mostly because I’m used to landing left-to-right, and I know the markers where I can see the plane’s on the right approach; I like being comfortable, of course, but I also want to be able to be flexible, so I am trying to force myself out of my comfort zone.

I also tried out the modes; I was going to try to stay mostly in “intermediate mode” at the very least (I did not, and there are a few reasons why) with a bit of dabbling in “expert mode.”

My first flight, I got in the air, flew a pattern a bit (to try to get my “air legs,” which I never quite got to this Saturday), set the radio for “expert mode,” and then tried a loop.

The plane stalled out at vertical, and that was that: no loop.

The way you do a loop is pretty simple: you give the plane full throttle to build up speed, then pull the rudder back hard. As the plane crests at the top of the loop (upside down), you back off the throttle so you’re not accelerating towards the ground, and when you’re near level again, you give it whatever throttle you need to resume flight.

My plane didn’t even make it to be upside down at all. There were two problems, both fairly minor but one easily corrected at the field: I was not using the wind.

Ordinarily you’d fly a loop into the wind, so the wind helps push your plane into the loop. I was not doing that; I was flying a loop with the wind behind me so it was actually pushing my plane out of the loop. Chalk this one up to “this was my first real attempt at a loop,” and I failed.

The other problem was that the “expert mode” I was in… isn’t expert mode. I don’t know what it is, but it’s still some sort of safe mode for the plane; if it gets too far into vertical or sideways, the flaps autocorrect and you can’t continue where you are. That’s what you want in the safer modes, but I was purposefully trying to get out of those modes. (I figured this out with some help from one of the other pilots at the field, by the way. In the featured image for this post, that’s the pilot who was helping me figure this stuff out; the picture is not mine, it’s Sam’s. Sam is one of the trainers at the field, and is the one who got me in the air for the first time a few months ago.)

I couldn’t roll the plane; I tried. I did manage to do two more loops Saturday, both with the plane wheezing at the top of the loop (I was using the wind, finally, to push the plane over the top).

My first loop, I was so surprised to get over the top that I forgot to roll off the throttle, but I managed to recover.

The mantra at the field is to try things “three mistakes high.” It’s good advice. If I’d not been following it, I’d probably still be digging bits of my plane out of the ground. Being that high allowed me time to analyze and remember and recover; the plane was fine, it got out of the loop “one mistake high” and flight resumed.

It was kinda funny, though, because as I was recovering from the loop’s mistake I could hear the other pilots’ warning “uh oh,” thinking they were about to see my second crash. But nope – I survived, and so did my plane!

Other pilots with the same plane checked out the loop – they managed fairly easily, so it’s definitely my configuration. (This is one of the best aspects of this club: hardly anyone there knows me well, but I had a lot of pilots willing to help and observe and – probably – laugh good-naturedly at my struggles. And yes, I was laughing with them.)

The throttle cut also played in. At one point in one flight, I engaged the throttle cut by accident – as in, I was flying and then I disarmed the throttle. As expected, the prop stopped spinning while the plane was in flight… but I couldn’t get it to reengage. I have a feeling this is a receiver thing, too, but I am not sure; I landed on a glide (a fairly bumpy landing, like all my landings were but one) and took back off without a problem, but it’s something to watch for; I hit the disarm while trying to set the flight modes. I may have to move the flight mode switch to something a little farther from the disarm switch.

All in all, it was a frustrating day of flying, because I didn’t fly well at all, but … you know, everything survived to fly again, I have an idea about how to solve the problem with the flight modes, and I did get some valuable practice in.

Flying Report: 2023/Jan/21

I made it to the RC airfield today, and man, the weather was absolutely perfect. I wish I could say the same about my flying. It was a day curtailed by hardware problems, but overall, it was a successful day.

I made it to the RC airfield today, and man, the weather was absolutely perfect. I wish I could say the same about my flying. It was a day curtailed by hardware problems, but overall, it was a successful day.

Here’s the thing: my goal for the day was really to flight test my radio settings: could I change flight modes? Did the throttle cut work properly and predictably? Bench tests – done at home with the prop taken off of the plane – suggested the answers were “yes,” but bench tests aren’t flight tests.

When we (my oldest son and I) got to the airfield, there were a lot of other pilots – that always makes for a great day, because we can rib each other, admire each others’ planes, learn from those more experienced than we are, and so forth and so on – it really is a community.

I took my plane up early, because my goal was to flight test the radio, and sure enough, it worked. The throttle engage switch was restrictive when I wanted it to be (and I’ll write up how it works to go along with a video that someone else made soon), and the mode switches worked; I would set the plane in “expert mode” and tilt it to the side, and set the switch for “safe mode” and the plane would level off as desired.

So now the plane was safe in terms of the throttle – I can leave the throttle disengaged until I’m actually ready to fly, and have confidence that it won’t accidentally reengage trivially – and it was safe in terms of flight mode, such that if I got myself in trouble in the air, I could engage “safe mode” and have the plane level itself off.

I decided I was going to try to land in “expert mode” because I’d never done it before. My approach to the landing strip was… weird, because I couldn’t get it to get low enough to the ground, so I decided I was going to make another pass over the landing strip, but apparently it descended just enough that my plane lost all lift and it went to ground almost immediately. I applied power to try to get it back in the air to make a “good landing” but failed, and thus:

My first real crash! It was free of damage; the cockpit hood of the plane came off, but that’s not a problem at all; it’s designed to be free, as that’s where you install the battery. There was no physical damage to the plane that I could see or detect.

I put the plane back in a harness, and noticed that the front wheel was angled to the right; I’d been struggling with taking off in a straight line, so I gently twisted the wheel to straighten it.

If any readers are flinching, thinking, “oh, no, um, did you really?” … that’s the right reaction.

The real right reaction is a little more detailed: “Oh, no. Did you really? That’s gonna strip the servo!”

Spoiler alert: that’s exactly what happened.

I asked one of the trainer pilots (Dr. Joey, who has helped teach me how to fly too) to help get my oldest son to fly a plane, just for the new experience. We went through the radio settings and basic safety, and we finally connected the battery on the plane, and… the plane was making a lot of noise. It’s a noisy plane in safe mode anyway, so I thought nothing of it, until we were testing the rudder in the pre-flight tests.

It wouldn’t move.

In my plane, the rudder is connected to the same servo as the front wheel. When I adjusted my front wheel, I blew out the servo, so my plane had no rudder.

It’s probably flyable in that condition, if the pilot’s experienced enough, but for a maiden flight – or even a new pilot like me – it’s grounded. We tried to find a compatible servo at the field, but my plane’s servo is apparently fairly weird – a Spektrum A390 – and we were unsuccessful at finding a compatible replacement.

I found some online, and ordered them – they’re only $12-14 or so – but until they get here and I replace that servo, my AeroScout is grounded.

With that said, though: remember how I said that my goal was to flight test the radio, first and foremost? Despite the hardware problems with the plane, I did take it up and flight test the radio settings, and they worked like a charm. I may not have flown a lot today, and I might not have flown well even by my own low standards, but the radio test worked, and my plane was flight worthy even after my rough landing.

Successful day. I enjoyed it, and I’ll love it when I can get back into the air once the replacement parts come in.

EdgeTX and Safe Mode with the AeroScout

I think I’ve configured the flight modes for my AeroScout with the RadioMaster TX16S, running EdgeTX as the OS. I have not yet tested this at the field, but bench tests indicate success so far. I’m recording it here mostly so people can either validate it or, you know, use the information themselves.

I bound switch SE to channel 6, and left everything at defaults after that. With this receiver, that proves to set the modes properly in bench tests.

I think I’ve configured the flight modes for my AeroScout with the RadioMaster TX16S, running EdgeTX as the OS. I have not yet tested this at the field, but bench tests indicate success so far. I’m recording it here mostly so people can either validate it or, you know, use the information themselves.

I’m connecting the RadioMaster to a Spektrum AR631 receiver, which came with my ready-to-fly AeroScout. Other receivers may be configured slightly differently, but I imagine the process mostly involves figuring out the right channel for the information.

The Flight Modes

As I’ve written elsewhere, there are three “flight modes” available on the Spektrum receivers: safe mode, intermediate mode, and expert mode.

Safe mode keeps the plane level as much as it can, and dampens the control responses pretty severely. It means the plane is “generally safe” and protected from inexperienced pilots like, well, yours truly. You can still crash the plane, but it’s unlikely that you’ll do a 90′ nosedive into the dirt; the controls simply don’t allow you to fly straight down.

Intermediate mode is a lot like safe mode, but the dampening of the control surfaces is turned down. You have more control than in “safe mode” but the plane will generally keep itself upright with regard to the ground.

Expert mode – what I’ve said my dad would call “flying the plane” – has no dampening. This is where you can do full acrobatics, if you know how to do them (I do not), and where you have full control. This is flying for real, and you can definitely aim the plane straight into the ground.

Ordinarily, on the Spektrum transmitters, there’s a three-way switch by which you can control what flight mode the plane is in at any given time; I started off in safe mode, and eventually switched over to taking off in safe mode and then switching to intermediate mode for flying, and back to safe mode for landing. When I was using the DSX starter radio that came with the plane, I had started challenging myself to flying only intermediate mode (“or better,” is what I told myself, but honestly: intermediate mode only, as I’m not quite good enough to trust myself in expert mode yet.)

The Configuration

I went to the EdgeTX “mix page” on the model, and added a new control; I bound it to switch SE, a three-way switch above the throttle control (and in front of the two-way switch which I set up as a throttle cut).

I bound it to channel 6; fully forward (away from me) it’s set to send -100% (all down), in the middle position it’s off (0%), and in the back position (closest to me) it’s set to 100% (all up). With this receiver, that proves to set the modes properly in bench tests.

I know this is underwhelming, but it’s information I couldn’t trivially find; I found the information, but not bundled in a “just do this” fashion.

Good luck out there!

EdgeTX, Second Day of Flying

I flew with my new RadioMaster TX16S transmitter yesterday; it was a good day of flying, filled with some important discoveries (that I fixed!), and I can say that the transmitter is good to go, although I’ve not finished the configuration to my satisfaction yet.

I went back out to the airfield Sunday with the new transmitter. I’m still burning it in, learning the ins and outs of the controller, and this time a few of the more experienced pilots were there.

They ribbed me pretty severely (and with tongues firmly planted in cheeks) over my purchase of the RadioMaster instead of the club-standard Spektrum transmitters, which was fine: I can give as good as I get, and laugh just as hard. It’s a good club, and even though I was using a foreign transmitter, one of the pilots went out to help me figure out what was going on with my plane and its wonky flight paths.

I am still unhappy with the throttle cut. The switch for the throttle cut to be armed is “down” – the default position for the switches on start up, so that means the throttle is enabled by default. I can pull the switch up and disable throttle properly – the throttle cut works – but I still need to invert that at some point.

I got the plane up in the air, and the other pilot took over the radio to work on the trims (the way the plane is set to fly level in the air). He laughed and said that my controls were reversed – and was I going to be able to land the plane?

Well, of course – I’d flown it a few times already and had no idea the controls were reversed, so it was just a matter of bringing the plane down as I already had. This apparently impressed them, but it’s an experience as an accident; I was just using the controls and adjusting to what the plane was doing! It certainly wasn’t any skill on my part, but we got the plane down and set about configuring the transmitter.

That’s where my use of EdgeTX works against me. With the Spektrum being more or less the club standard, everyone would have known exactly how to invert the controls, had they needed to do that; instead, I got to hunt in the model configuration until I got to the servo configuration, and adjusted the “differentials” to -100% (meaning, “send the opposite of what the physical inputs say.”)

With that, the plane didn’t act any differently, but at least I was controlling it properly, the way everyone else uses their controllers! I’m pretty sure there’s actually an easier way to invert the controls, but I didn’t see it at the field.

The plane is still in “safe” mode, where it’ll try to level itself off. I have a plan for configuring this, but I still haven’t applied it or tested it yet.

Flying was okay. I had a few relatively bumpy landings and one really smooth one; the wind was pretty steady so my flying was a little curtailed, especially with the safe mode; I couldn’t tell where I was controlling the plane or the receiver was controlling it.

I find I don’t like flying safe mode much. I am glad it’s there, because it prevents me from actively destroying my one plane, but I also think it’s a safety net that prevents me from really growing as I’d like to as a pilot. I still want to configure the controller where I can turn it on and off at will, because I’d like my kids to be able to learn on the transmitter as I am doing, but that means being able to turn it off, too.

It was a productive day, and the best part about it is that I can now say with some moderate confidence that my RadioMaster transmitter is “good to fly,” even though I still need to configure it better than I have.

Avatar 2: A Review

I have now seen Avatar 2: The Way of Water. It was a movie. It was a sequel to Avatar, the James Cameron motion picture and not the M. Night Shyamalan one, and it should be noted that Avatar is one of my favorite movies of all time.

I’m glad I saw it. I was unable to see it before now thanks to illness, but we finally got over everything and caught the movie in the theater.

Like I said, it was a movie. I am glad I saw it. I hope the next one is better. Maybe the next one will even be good.

I have now seen Avatar 2: The Way of Water. It was a movie. It was a sequel to Avatar, the James Cameron motion picture and not the M. Night Shyamalan one, and it should be noted that Avatar is one of my favorite movies of all time.

I’m glad I saw it. I was unable to see it before now thanks to illness, but we finally got over everything and caught the movie in the theater.

Like I said, it was a movie. I am glad I saw it. I hope the next one is better. Maybe the next one will even be good.

Does that sound like I thought it was a bad movie? I guess it does, and I suppose in a few ways I did think it was not a great movie.

Visually, it was stunning, even in 2D. I wanted to see it in 3D, but 3D gives a lot of my family headaches, and I wasn’t going to put them through that. But even in 2D, like I say, it was visually amazing, as long as the humans weren’t in the scene framed with the Na’vi – when they were, the proportions all felt… wrong, and inconsistent, compared to Avatar.

Actually, that’s the main thing about this movie: if Avatar 2 wasn’t a sequel, it’d have been okay. As it was, though, they recycled so many beats from the first movie that it felt like I was watching a retread and not a sequel.

“Make sure they say ‘outstanding!’ like they did in the first movie!” (Even if it was a different character who said it, it was used in the same manner.)

“Make sure the closing scene had the dramatic pupil pop from Sully!”

“Let’s make the humans’ goals as simple and stupid and short-sighted as possible!”

I did appreciate a few things: I liked the expanded character universe, I was glad that James Cameron allowed someone relatively important to die (even if it wasn’t one of the main characters we were supposed to care about), and the whaling references really landed for me, even if they were rushed and hurriedly done…

… and of course Cameron missed the chance to make Moby Dick in SPAAAAACE, just like Avatar was Pocahontas in SPAAAAACE.

I missed the first few moments of the movie, because the concessions stand took forever, and people had appropriated our (perfectly placed!) seats in the theater, but honestly… if the movie had lived up to most of its potential, I’d go back and watch it in 3D in the theater, because like I said, Avatar is one of my favorite movies.

But this one… I’m glad I saw it, and I’m glad seeing it is in the past. Cameron spent all of his mojo on the special effects, and they paid off in a big way, but left the budget for the script out, and the movie suffers for it.

Out of ten stars, with ten stars being “OMG THIS IS AS GOOD AS AVATAR”: five stars.

The Maiden Flight with EdgeTX

Today, after a series of fits and starts, I finally got my little AeroScout into the air with the new RadioMaster TX16 transmitter. It was not a long session, for a few reasons, but it was productive.

What I really wanted to do was make sure the radio and the plane were aligned properly: did the radio transmitter even work properly? Did I need to reverse any of the controls? Did the throttle cut work? Was I able to control the plane in the air without having the flight modes set for beginners? Could I even control the plane well, without having flown in a month or so?

Short version: rough day for flying, but successful, and I know some things I need to do now.

Today, after a series of fits and starts, I finally got my little AeroScout into the air with the new RadioMaster TX16 transmitter. It was not a long session, for a few reasons, but it was productive.

What I really wanted to do was make sure the radio and the plane were aligned properly: did the radio transmitter even work properly? Did I need to reverse any of the controls? Did the throttle cut work? Was I able to control the plane in the air without having the flight modes set for beginners? Could I even control the plane well, without having flown in a month or so?

Did the transmitter work?

Simple answer: yes, yes it did. I had bound the transmitter to the receiver in a bench test at home, with the prop off of the engine, but I hadn’t actually been able to test whether the controls worked properly for flight.

I knew they moved the control surfaces I expected to move, but not how much or how well, or how responsive the plane would be in the air.

It’s safe to say that everything worked, but “properly” is still a bit of a reach. More on this later.

Did the throttle cut work?

Yes. I still want to invert it – the “down” position is “armed,” and as this is the default position for the switch, I really want the “up” position to be “armed” instead. This is a programming thing, and I’ll get to it. For now, there is a throttle cut, and it works as it should, which is the most important aspect of this.

Did I need to alter the controls?

Not the controls, no. The default settings worked: rudder, ailerons, flaps, throttle all were aligned properly and as I expected. Everything was set to default, and worked properly.

Could I control the plane in the air?

Well, here’s where things get a little weird.

The short answer is “yes.” I wanted to be able to take off, and land, and circle: nothing spectacular, but this is more or less the absolute minimum set of things you’d need to be able to do to say that you’re flying properly over the field.

I can say that I took off, and landed, and even circled successfully (i.e., take off, make a circle, land) multiple times, with no mishaps. I upended the plane gently on landing once, but that was because I steered the plane incorrectly after landing, and the plane wasn’t even scuffed as a result. (This was also my first “crash,” and as far as such things go, it was quite mild. The plane didn’t even get dirty!)

However, I was able to capture some important information, stuff I need to know about and correct.

First, I need to figure out how to set the flight modes, for real, and soon. The plane was in some weird mode where I needed rudder control (and thankfully, had it), but I still had some dampening on the flaps and ailerons; it was a weird flight mode.

Ordinarily, you have three flight modes with the Spektrum receivers:

Mode 1 is “basic mode,” where you control the ailerons and flaps, but not the rudder, and the plane only allows a 30′ range of travel, so all of your turns and elevations are fairly gentle. The plane will try to keep itself level for you. This is a “beginner mode.”

Mode 2 is “intermediate mode,” where you get control of the rudder, but you probably won’t need it. The range of control is greater – either 60′ or 45′, I’m not sure which offhand – so you’re definitely flying “for real,” but you’re still protected from the excesses of the transmitter. This was my preferred mode with my starter transmitter, and when I fly on intermediate, my plane looks like a drunken moth in the air.

Mode 3 is “expert mode,” or what my dad would have called “actually flying the plane.” There are no dampenings, and the plane won’t level itself off for you as you fly.

With the RadioMaster, I had control of the rudder, and the plane was trying to level itself off, but generally failing. It was sort of a cross between modes 1 and 2, because the dampening was pretty severe, but .. again, I had control of the rudder, and needed it to fight the wind and align the plane for landing.

I’m going to have to work out what’s going on there. This was the first time I’ve ever used the rudder, too, so it was an experience, even if it didn’t last very long.


So what did I think? Was I happy with the RadioMaster? Was I satisfied with the flight?

The answers to both of those questions are “yes.” I didn’t fly long – maybe a total of three minutes in the air – but I was really trying to see where I was with the RadioMaster and what I needed to do to bring it up to a performance level I was happy and comfortable with.

I was able to take off and land without messing up the plane – always a nice benefit – but the real takeaway is that I need to figure out the flight mode, and probably re-trim the plane.

And there’s no doubt that the new radio feels nicer than the starter radio I had; it’ll take some getting used to, in terms of how I hold it and what I am doing with it, but that comes with experience.

First Encounter With EdgeTX

This is a writeup of my first few days with a new RC transmitter, the RadioMaster TX16S. It’s not fully set up for my plane, although it’s set up enough to use now.

I finally got a new radio for my RC planes, the RadioMaster TX16S, which is a 16-channel 4-in-1 with a touch screen. The channel count means that it has lots of ways to communicate to the planes (i.e., I can theoretically control many servos/actuators if the plane has a receiver that supports such controls) and the “4-in-1” means that it has support for multiple protocols – and can communicate with a lot of planes “out of the box.”

I have not flown anything with the TX16S yet. I’m still in the unboxing/setup process, and I still have things to do before I’m comfortable taking it out for real.

EdgeTX is a version of a radio-focused operating system called OpenTX. EdgeTX is updated in a lot of ways, primarily for touch screens, and theoretically has a number of UI updates as well (I have not used OpenTX, so I don’t have any prior experience to compare EdgeTX with.) The TX16S came with EdgeTX 2.7.1; the current version of EdgeTX is 2.8.0.

If that sounds a lot like Linux, particularly with bare-bones Linuxes like Debian or Slack and their user-focused counterparts like Ubuntu, well… it probably should, because that’s the way that it feels. OpenTX is “the real OS” and EdgeTX is the version for people who want to fly (as long as their radios support the requirements).

With the new radio, there are a lot of little things to do. If you’re an experienced flier, a lot of this will be “well, duh” material, and some of it will probably sound wrong and/or basic and/or horribly new. That’s okay with me; a lot of it probably is wrong and/or basic and/or horribly new. I’m writing this as a record, after all, and I’m learning as I go.

Getting Started

The first thing I wanted to do was validate that it could connect to my plane, a Horizon Hobby AeroScout 2.1 RTF. This is a beginner plane (which fits, as I am a beginner!), and comes with a Spektrum transmitter (the DSX, which is definitely an inexpensive starter radio) and receiver. Spektrum uses a specific protocol (called “DSM”) and support for this protocol is part of why I chose the 4-in-1 version of the TX16S transmitter; most of the planes I am likely to fly will probably have Spektrum receivers.

That calls into question why I bothered with the TX16S at all, actually: if most of the planes I’m likely to fly are Spektrum, why not get a Spektrum transmitter like the NX8, NX10, or whatever?

The reasons come down to cost and interest. Spektrum is good – excellent, probably – but it’s very expensive for what it is. The expense is not especially relevant, in that they’re designed to purpose (i.e., if you want to fly a plane with a Spektrum receiver, you … can use a Spektrum transmitter with little problem), but if you want to control anything else… well… they’re designed for specific receivers, as I understand.

The interest is the real thing, though. Spektrum is, as I said, designed to purpose: flying things that have Spektrum receivers. They do that well. But they’re not programmable; you get the transmitter, you use it as designed, end of story.

I’m an old-ish school Linux guy: not first generation, but relatively close to the second-wave, when Linux went from “hey, you can run this operating system and some programs actually run on it, too!” to “yeah, there’s probably a way to port it to Linux, if it hasn’t been done already” (and before the “wait, the source code has support for other UNIXes too?” period, when Linux basically took over the UNIX world.)

So OpenTX and EdgeTX, being programmable (and open source), have a lot of appeal for me on an intellectual level; one of the other pilots at the field was advocating for the NX8 very appropriately, saying “the purpose is to fly, not program,” and he wasn’t wrong at all… but my purpose is not just to fly, so the TX16S held a lot of appeal as a full-featured, programmable radio… as long as it could connect to my plane.

What I Need To Do

So: back to my list of things to do. The first was “connect to my plane, right?”

My list:

  1. Connect to the AeroScout to validate the TX16S -> Spektrum receiver connection
  2. Set up a throttle cut (to allow me to carry the AeroScout safely while powered up; a throttle cut prevents the prop from being activated)
  3. Set up flight modes for the Spektrum
  4. Set up panic mode for the Spektrum

Connect to the AeroScout/Spektrum

This is the first thing I did after unboxing the TX16S, and it went flawlessly, for the most part, except I didn’t have the throttle cut set up; without that, I’m not comfortable using the radio with the plane. So after “binding” my radio to the plane – a basic requirement, because it means I can communicate with the plane – I needed to set up at least one safety feature before I could take the controller and plane to the airfield.

Throttle Cut

The throttle cut was (and is) really important; it’s the first lesson of safety with RC planes. You don’t power up the plane without having your radio on, and you don’t engage the prop until you’re ready to actually fly. The RC engines (and their props) are fast and sharp; you don’t want to injure yourself by accidentally applying the throttle while you’re carrying the plane to the airstrip.

Flight Modes

The flight modes are a little more interesting. One of the really attractive features of the Spektrum receivers is that they support flight modes like “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “expert”.

In “basic” mode, the plane keeps itself relatively level, and the flight controls are limited; you can fly, but your controls are dampened, which prevents you from doing crazy (wrong) things, and also keeps the plane from generally going out of control. It’ll stay relatively level and turn relatively gently. You’re telling the plane what you want to do, and it more or less does it.

In “intermediate” mode, well, you’re still dampened, but not as much; you are flying more than you are with basic mode, and can lose control more easily, but it’s still dampened somewhat.

In “expert” mode, there are no dampeners, there are no controls, there’s nothing keeping you “relatively level,” and you’re literally controlling everything the plane does. You’re not “protected” from your inexperience in the slightest; this is the acrobatic, real flying mode, and is what the old-timers like my father would have thought was actually flying RC; they didn’t have those newfangled protection modes!

The AeroScout is very literally my first plane (and only plane, so far). I have maybe ten or twelve flights with it; I am still at “rank beginner” in skill, although I’m proud to say that I try to fly “intermediate only” when I’m using the Spektrum controller, to improve my skills.

With the TX16S, though, one of my goals is to figure out how to get it to support those Spektrum modes, not because I want to target them, but because I’m not good enough not to target them yet! One of the nicest things about the modes is, after all, to fly intermediate and get yourself in a pickle, and switch the mode to “safe” mode and have the plane level itself out for you – it rescues you, and that rescues the plane, and protects your investment in it.

Panic Mode

The “panic” mode is similar; I’d like to be able to flip a switch and have the plane stay in the same “flight mode” (assuming I can get that set up) but still level itself off and normalize position; imagine I get my plane in a spin, I want to be able to hit a button and have it level itself off (rescuing me from the spin) and then resume flying.

Actually Setting It Up

Unboxing went pretty well. I ordered a battery with the radio; slotting it was pretty clear enough, although the manual that came with the radio was very limited on information. The radio has two USB-C ports (why?!) and hides a micro-SD card under the bottom rubber bumper. It’s built pretty solidly, though, albeit out of plastic.

The bottom USB-C port is for charging; the top one is for communication, so if you’re connecting the radio to a computer as a USB device, you use the top port, and if you’re charging the battery, you use the bottom USB-C port. This is a design decision that is unclear to me; I’m pretty sure it’s related to design choices for the radio and how it’s put together in two panels, but ideally you’d have one slot and use it for everything the radio needs to communicate.

The SD card slot is workable, but it’s not mounted perfectly; it’s painfully easy to put an SD card in place and miss the slot, which means you’d have to open the radio to get the card back out. In general, if you’re working on the SD card (which is how you’d update the radio or work with the radio data directly) you’re probably better off mounting the radio as a USB storage device (the top USB-C slot) and working with the filesystem that way.

Binding to the AeroScout was, as I’ve said, really pretty easy; in EdgeTX 2.7.1 (the version that came with the radio, remember?) you’d go to models, create new, and the main thing to do was select the communication protocol (DSM) and hit the “bind” button. Once you’ve done that, you’d power up the AeroScout and tell the receiver (an AR631 in my case) to bind; it has a convenient physical button on the receiver for that purpose. Once the bind process is done, you can actually control the plane with the radio. As I’ve said, though, there’re no safety features at this point.

I tried a few different ways to set up the throttle cut. Most of the available tutorials and documentation focuses on OpenTX and not EdgeTX; they are different! The features are generally compatible, but the locations of things and how you’d set them are not the same.

One thing I did while trying to work out the throttle cut: update EdgeTX to 2.8.0, as the reference materials keep using the “current version.” This was relatively easy – put the updated binary on the radio, tell the radio to prepare to flash the new firmware, then boot the radio while holding the trim switches “in” – and the new EdgeTX had some features that it rather wanted, like support for a period (“.”) in the on-screen keyboard. I found a video for this online; it was not part of the supplied documentation. The video had information that I had not seen elsewhere, an issue that EdgeTX (and the radios) suffer routinely.

I got the throttle cut worked out with Open TX Ultimate Arm Switch; I want to change one thing about this, because the switch that it uses starts in the “down” position and the disarm switch ends up being the “up” position (i.e., I want to invert the disarm as given by the tutorial). But it works, so now I’m able to at least take the radio to the airfield without worrying about a very very very basic safety rule.

The “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “expert” flight modes – and the panic button – I still haven’t figured out.

The biggest problem EdgeTX has – and OpenTX shares it – is a lack of documentation. It’s moving relatively quickly, and there’s not a cure for that (nor is it really a problem) but the community is still a little on the early Linux “do it yourself” curve; Spektrum receivers, for example, are (from what I’ve seen) really popular, and I’d think that “here’s how to set up your Spektrum to match features with the Spektrum transmitters” would be a huge lever for EdgeTX… and it’s just not there.

Binding to Spektrum is, but as long as you can support the DSM protocol, that part’s pretty easy. It’s the other features that should be normalized; there could be (and should be) a reference somewhere that says “oh, you just got your [radio here] and it’s running EdgeTX? Here’s how to connect to [popular receiver] and configure the radio to use [reason the receiver is popular].”

The receivers are fairly generalized; some have special features (like many of the Spektrum receivers!) and the radios are generally the same as well (which is why EdgeTX can run on so many of them); the specialization for the radio and receiver combinations would be pretty light, pretty much a matrix of “if your radio can support DSM, you can connect to Spektrum like so and configure these features by following this howto…”

… and if I learn the radio well enough to do that for the RadioMaster TX16S and the Spektrum receivers, that’s what I’m going to do.

Journalists and Twitter

Someone on Mastodon had a link to an article, “Journalists (And Others) Should Leave Twitter. Here’s How They Can Get Started,” with an interesting (and valid) pull quote:

“This should have been a pivotal moment in media history — an inflection point when journalists realized how dangerous it is to put their fates in the hands of people who claim to revere free speech but use their power to control it…thanks to a combination of journalistic cowardice, inertia and calculation, business as usual prevailed.”

The article keeps its hands wrung over journalists – of all principled people – obeying the rules about what is acceptable on Twitter now:

Beyond that, thanks to a combination of journalistic cowardice, inertia and calculation, business as usual prevailed. Today, some journalists remain banned, or restricted. The journalists whose accounts were fully restored are back to tweeting, though some remain banned and/or restricted. Their organizations never stopped using the platform even when their employees were being restricted.

My thought is: why not? Why would these fine upstanding people care now? The only thing that’s changed is the nameplate of their corporate master: it went from a proxy for the FBI to Elon Musk, and honestly, the slop they feed upon should be tasting about the same as it did.

What’s new here, after all? If they posted something against the acceptable narrative two years ago, they’d have been muted and banned, if not cancelled. They knew it. So they stuck to what the egregore told them to say, in the way they were supposed to say it (“add a little individuality, please, so the rest of the egregore thinks you’re a rebel, thank you – now get a tattoo so you’ll be unique just like everyone else!”).

Now there’s a new lord and master; maybe it’s a little less of an egregore than it was (one thing I have to give credit to Musk for is not being as susceptible to groupthink as so many seem to want to be.) But it’s just a different master, with slightly different rules, and apparently less locked-down than what the old masters preferred; Musk actually allows people I don’t like to say things I don’t like! How dare he!

And this is supposed to be more restrictive? Because now the things you can and cannot say are different? Journalists should have howled when their narratives were being tuned for them, no matter whether their careers benefitted or not. The tuning is the problem, not who did it or what the tuning’s results were.

Journalists who were fine with the FBI dictating their content but not Musk… I get it, I empathize, but let’s be real here: those aren’t journalists any more. They’re shills. They’re paid spokesmen, soulless and vain, at this point, no matter what they tell themselves, no matter how much gravitas they can muster as they issue their sales pitches for The Party.

It doesn’t matter what side they’re on. They should be celebrating the cacophany. Sure, they might not like the restrictions, but … so what? The restrictions aren’t new. They’re just different. They’re protesting the changing of their muzzle, when what they should have been doing was protesting the existence of a muzzle at all.

And most of them chose to strap their yokes on, willingly.

Geddy Lee’s Approach to Bass

Geddy Lee’s bass playing was always fantastic, but the main changes in how he wrote bass lines centers around melodic and rhythmic repetition, and I think this can be seen in four phases through Rush’ careeer.

I believe that Geddy Lee changed his approach to songwriting and playing bass over his career, in four phases, going back and forth between the traditional role for bass as a foundational aspect of a song to a melodic role.

When Rush started out, it was as a straightforward rock and roll band, built from aspirations to be like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cream, and Blue Cheer. The inspirations weren’t limited to these bands, but these are bands whose elements can easily be seen in early Rush.

The main thing Rush lacked on their first album was a drummer who could match those bands; John Rutsey was competent as a bricklayer drummer (he could hold a beat, and played competently, but you wouldn’t note the drums except to say that they were there.)

As a result, early Rush focused very heavily on guitar; it was a vehicle for Alex Lifeson to play solos, and the songs were… all right. There were certainly good songs on the first album, including songs good enough to be played live through Rush’s entire career, but they were still vehicles for Lifeson.

Geddy Lee’s role on bass for the first album was really to provide the basis for the rhythm section to underpin the guitar; the drums were okay, but not good enough to stand up to the guitar, so that fell on Lee to not be overshadowed. I think it’s fair to say he succeeded well enough, but you could mostly hear that the bass was played well, but was not astoundingly composed.

When Rush added Neil Peart, though, all that changed; now the drummer was no longer the limiting factor of the rhythm section and we could see Rush change from a guitarist and his backing band to an actual team of musicians. Not only did Lifeson no longer have to carry the band, but all three members could stretch however they wanted, musically speaking, and their fellow musicians could meet them at the peak of their abilities.

On Fly By Night, Lee could show us a little more of what he could do, and started transitioning away from a traditional bass player’s role – where he held down the root notes and played the occasional flourish – into a more legato, melodic role. It wasn’t a “lead bass” the way you might find The Who’s John Entwhistle playing, but it was a much more harmonically active approach than you found on the first album; Fly By Night is where you start to get a sense that Geddy Lee might be a monster on bass.

One simple way to imagine the shift is to think of how one composes, or learns, bass lines. Imagine a song is written with relatively simple chords: Am, C, D, and Em, for example. If that’s the progression of the chords, one chord per measure, one can imagine a competent (albeit boring) bass line built around the roots of those chords. In measure one, you’d hold down an A note; measure two, the C; measure three, the D, measure four, the E.

That’s very simple, but it’s also something you’d find in probably a thousand rock songs: the bass is a foundational instrument, not a melodic instrument, and plays the song over playing any frills. Bass players might address uniqueness through rhythm, but not really note choice, in this basic scenario.

There are, of course, other choices. Another option is to play melodic ruffles through those measures; instead of just holding down an A, play a climbing melodic run to match the tone of possible lyrics, for example, or emphasize the rhythmic content or match a ruffle by the drummer. In other words, the bass player could play something approximating a melody (or the melody itself, if you can imagine that!) or amplify the rhythm through note choice.

To play the former, one simply has to know the chords of the song; to play the latter approach, one has to know the song, and replicating such lines means actually knowing the entire song as it was played, including the flourishes.

This is the bridge that Lee found himself on, on Fly By Night, where songs like By-Tor and the Snow Dog had far more complex bass lines and rhythmic structures. It’s not that he abandoned the traditional role of bass, it’s that he played bass far more actively, melodically speaking, and his repetitions were more rare; to play Rush basslines from this period one has to pay attention to what specific note choices were made for each part of the song, although there still was a lot of repetition.

Lee added melodic content more and more for each album during this period, culminating with 1978’s Hemispheres album, which was a tour de force on bass, and while the song construction simplified after that album through the influence of New Wave and other musical styles, Lee’s approach on bass was still marvelously rich, from a melodic perspective.

The song that projected something different for me was “Vital Signs,” from Moving Pictures. This song is incredibly active on bass, but it’s not particularly melodically very rich; there’s an outro bass solo, but it has the sensation of releasing all of the tension from having built up the expectation of melodic richness from the rest of the song. (I believe there’s intent here, given the subject of the song.)

On Signals, the next album, Lee avoided the “high repetition” bass approach of Vital Signs; the approach didn’t really show up again until their next album, Grace Under Pressure, but there it showed up and nearly dominated the album, for bass, and the approach remained largely intact for the next five albums.

The approach is typified by high repetition, not simple playing; in many ways, the bass playing from Grace Under Pressure through Test for Echo is harder than the earlier, more melodically active bass lines were. They were very harmonically rich, and typically very active; the “repetition” is not an indicator that the bass playing was more lazy or easier. It was just more consistent from a song composition standpoint.

If you were able to play the bass from a given section of a given song, you could play that section multiple times during the song, and the song would be played “correctly.” There were still individual flourishes from time to time, but such moments stand out.

When Rush got back together as a working band for Vapor Trails, Lee returned to some of the more melodically rich form he’d had in their “second phase” career; he “grew up,” in that he was still using the higher repetitions from the post-Grace album period, but he was playing very aggressively, so there was a lot more of the harmonic and melodic richness you’d have found in the “golden era” from Fly By Night through Signals, particularly because Lee multitracked bass lines so much for Vapor Trails.

For Snakes and Arrows, he multitracked less, but the richness remained, to the point that playing Snakes and Arrows on bass is similar in basic approach to those earlier albums, where you learn melodic lines for each part of each song.

This post isn’t really revelatory, in that I don’t think it really says anything new; it’s just a recorded observation of how Lee approaches repetitiveness on bass for Rush’ song construction.