by Stephen Madjanovich
When I first started in electrics, I had a flight box similar to the one I had when I started in glow. It consisted of a cardboard box with a charger, my battery packs and too few and usually the wrong tools. I then changed to what I had progressed to in my glow days; a full field box (in this case in a Home Depot aluminum box) with enough tools, parts and adhesives to rebuild any wreck to fully original status. After hauling this box around for a few years I decided upon a flight box which weighed less than my deep cycle battery but provided better utility than my cardboard wonder.
The first thing any flight box MUST have is safety glasses. I don't care how careful you are, you will be flying with others. And for the majority of us that also means sharing the field and flight line with glow, gas or winch motors. I use a dark tinted style of glass which has side shields. They aren't safety glasses unless they have side shields. This gives me the same effect as sun glasses. Remember to get ones which have UV protection. I also highly recommend a first aid kit either in your car or flight box. Most clubs I have been a member at have had a first aid kit in the club house. If yours doesn't, why not? Last of the safety gear is sun block and a wide rimmed hat. Get sun block with a high SPF rating, at least 30 and reapply every half hour. I found a neat item. It is a card which displays how much sun you have been exposed to. It is to be covered in the same sun block as you use and is a gauge to indicate when to reapply sun block and when to call it a day. I think I got it at a drug store so maybe look there.
The next items are the obvious; charger(s) and battery pack(s). As a rule I have three flight packs per plane. This allows me to have one in the plane, one cooling after a flight and a third on the charge. This gives me the freedom to fly all I can in a day. If your charger doesn't use the same connectors as your packs an adapter is necessary. I use Astro chargers which come with their connectors but use Sermos' on my packs. I can't bear to cut off the Astros so I use an adapter.
Next are the tools required to assemble and disassemble the plane at the field. Also at least a full set of the fasteners which the plane uses. Again just the fasteners for flight line assembly. When I build a plane I try to keep the types of fasteners to a minimum. Most planes of a given size will use the same fasteners. For Allen keys I prefer the ones which are similar to screw drivers. The ball end is useful but won't hold a part on the end while you install it. To overcome this I slip a length of fuel tubing over the end of the wrench. The fastener can be held in the tubing while it is being installed. Flat bladed screw drivers will slip and damage the surface next to the fastener. I have a pair of small plastic screw drivers which cover the entire end of the fasteners. I believe they are from Carl Goldberg. They come in sizes for 1/4" and #10 screws. A pair of needle nose pliers are useful to fish things out of fuselages. Just BE CAREFUL around battery packs.
Some planes use metal or wood pins to join the wing panels together. Spares of these are added. Many use tape to hold the wings together. Don't forget the tape and maybe a spare roll if nearing the end.
Planes which use rubber bands for wing retention, battery pack retention, keeping the antenna taut or on the landing gear need spares. Carry lots of these. I buy these in bulk from office supply stores. We have pets and buy fish food in bulk. The food comes in hard plastic jars which when empty and cleaned hold lots of rubber bands. The small bands which I use on the antennae are carried in old film canisters.
Spare props, prop nuts, adapters, washers, and spinner fasteners are also required. Don't forget whatever tool(s) you use to attach and remove them and their spinners. Before adding props to your flight box make sure the center holes are the correct size. Try installing them on the bench before going to the field so no nasty surprises. For folding props a couple of spare screws and nuts are not a bad idea. I have found the four way wrenches made by a number of manufacturers very useful. I don't carry spare middle yokes, same reason as below.
If you use multiple packs and cool your packs after a flight then you have to add a cooling tube. For those of you unfamiliar with them they a made from a length of plastic water tube epoxied to a computer cooling fan. Fans can be obtained from most surplus stores, electronic supply houses, and Radio Shack. Be sure to get one which runs on 12V DC. Also you have to match the size of the plastic tube and the fan. The tube size must be large enough to hold your largest flight pack. Length between 6" and 12". Don't forget spare fuses. You do use fuses on your sport models don't you?
Lastly I have the useful but not necessarily flight oriented items. A note book and pens or pencils allow you to make notes at the field. Notes on your plane's set up, repairs, additional items for your flight box, details of other people's planes, web site addresses, things to buy, and most important a list of items that should be in your flight box are things I have recorded. A small ruler to check your planes or to note interesting details of others. A six inch rule placed beside a plane you photograph gives an instant scale for future reference. A small OLFA knife comes in handy, as does a magnet on a stick to retrieve screws lost in the fuselage. I also add a permanent ink marker.
I have a separate radio box and in addition to the radio I keep the following. I use a wide neck strap. I bought mine at a camera store. It has a rubberized area where it rests on my neck in use. I also keep a couple of frequency pins. Mine have no frequency marked on them as I have 6 radios and each is on its own frequency. They do have my name, and MAAC number. Spare battery packs, DSC cord, transmitter stand, frequency modules, program cards, and a wall charger will be added when I go away for the weekend. I try not to carry more than one frequency when flying at my local field just as a safety issue.
I actually have two flight boxes. One is for my 14 cell and up planes and the other covers smaller planes. This is only because I have three or more packs of each cell count and I have two chargers. Also the tools are very different for each group of planes.
For those of you still with me you may have noticed that I have avoided adding items to the flight box which would allow rebuilding anything greater than a simple prang. I have not included adhesives or major spares. That is because in my opinion if your plane has been subject to medium or major damage then it is best taken back to your workshop and a thorough inspection made of it. There is too great a chance that unseen damage has occurred which could endanger yourself or others. Unless I am at a major meet such as KRC I don't bring these with me. I can bring the plane back to the Hotel room and go over it there.
The following tools are part of my comprehensive flight box which I will take to meets and do repairs or maintenance in the evening. Full set of small screwdrivers, flats, Phillips, and hex (available at Radio Shack). Deep Cycle charger, gear puller, Soldering iron, holder, solder, sponge and heat resistant plate. Wire strippers, wire cutters, assorted pliers. Digital Multi Meter, Whatt meter, tachometer. Epoxy, surface to mix on (paper pad or a small piece of Teflon sheet) and nails for stirrers. Heavy knife, tape measure, small weights. Spares such as middle part yokes, yoke adapters, spinners. Heat shrink tubing and heat gun, covering iron Servo arms, screws, control horns, clevises, retainers, antennae clips.
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