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Monday, October 1, 2012

Align TREX 550E 3GX–Flight Review

INTRO                                                                                      

Along with my Align TREX 500E review, currently in progress, I’m going to add a 550E for those on the fence between these two awesome machines.  Aside from significantly larger size, this helicopter differs from my 500 in that it is flybarless.

zoom

SPECS
-
Length: 1042mm
- Height: 356mm
- Main Blade Length: 520mm
- Main Rotor Diameter: 1188mm
- Tail Rotor Diameter: 254mm
- Weight (With Motor): 1800g
- Flying Weight: Approx. 2800g

FEATURES 
- Align 600MX 1220kV motor
-  RCE-BL70G Brushless ESC
- Three Align DS610 digital servo's, one DS620 digital servo
- 520mm carbon fiber rotor blades
- 90mm 3K tail blades
- Align 3GX flybarless system

REQUIRES
- 7 Channel Radio
- 6S 5000 mAh LiPo

PAID
- $800

UPGRADES
- None Required



ON THE GROUND                                                                     

The 550 is a pretty big boy and it looks great…  

family photo front

TREX 550E, TREX 500E, Blade 400, Blade SR, Blade CX3, Blade 130 X, Blade mCP X, Blade mSR, Blade mCX

Component quality is industrial grade from nose to tail.  

The 550 is only sold as a kit, so barring someone else doing the build for you, there is no such thing as an ARF or RTF version.  Some might be put off by that, you are, my advice to you is not to get into serious RC helicopters.  The reason is simple: one way or another, you are going to do some damage to the machine, so you will need to understand it, in and out, to maintain and repair it.  Repairs take more time  than assembly, because you usually have to disassemble first.

Perhaps Ironically, the closer you buy to RTF, the more likely the helicopter is to crash for reasons beyond your control (mechanical or electronic failure) because the amount of time required to put a quality machine together is cost prohibitive, unless you do it yourself.

Like many, I started out with an RTF Blade 400—back when they made those—I never crashed it, it crashed itself.  The RTF Blade’s plasticy parts, from nose to tail did not last long enough to really learn how to fly.  My advice to those breaking into larger helis is to skip ARF/RTFs entirely.  The quality is not sufficient to get you from A to B, so in the long run, and even the short run, you’ll spend much more time keeping the heli maintained and airborne, not less.

Amazingly, Align twists the above discussion into good news.  The TREX series of larger heli’s are surprisingly easy to build.  The parts are counts is reasonably low and and assembly methods are simple.  The 550 is a simpler, more elegant design even that a pretty small copter like a Blade SR.  You can build a this kit in a day, start to finish.   If the 550 is your first big heli, it could take some just to understand the basic concepts of a torque tube, etc, but learning time is time you’ll spend regardless of helicopter choice.

RFsim

Align’s TREX 500 model for Real Flight

Speaking of learning, Align makes a superb TREX 500 sim model for Real Flight sold in Expansion Pack 3. The model is a little less stable than a real 500, let alone the 550, but it has a very realistic feel.  If you slow time down to about 70% to increase apparent stability, it can form the basis a of great training program for a 550.

The basic 550 construction method is a thick carbon fiber frame sandwiching a few basic components, with plenty of room to route leads and cables.  The servos are huge (metal gear digitals ) and come straight from Align, as does the matched 600 motor and ESC if you buy the complete kit.  The torque tube is easier to build than a belt driven tail, and eliminates any tension calibration guess work, not to mention that it flies so much better.

swashMy 500 review tests an “old fashioned” TREX with a flybar.  This 550 is flybarless.  Both fly beautifully. I actually slightly prefer the flybar’ed 500 for a little better inflight feel (I only do light 3D, due to lack of skill so I can’t comment on hard 3D feel).  Torque is slightly more evident when maneuvering with a flybar than without, but it is so fundamental to heli flying that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Where a flybarless design really shines is in ease of assembly and repair.   Make sure all three servos control arms are level, the swashplate is level (unlike the photo, which shows the blades stowed), and connect two perfectly equal length control rods from the swashplate to create a level head, and the helicopter will be very close to mechanically set up right from the first hover.  Easy peasy.

As the heli gets bigger, receivers seem to get smaller. I installed a Hitec Optima 9 to enable built-in voltage telemetry, give plenty of control, and immunize the high amp heli against receiver brownouts. 

Those installing Spektrum receivers should use at least two BECs, or a Castle Pro BEC with dual outputs, to prevent the strong servo power from putting the receiver to sleep and destroying the helicopter.  20 Amps of 6V receiver supply is a good target to keep voltage reasonable under load.  But there is no amount of amperage that can prevent voltage droop (infinite current required), so adding a dedicated, redundant servo/receiver battery will help minimize brownout-induced catastrophic crashes. 
 
frontquarter

Applying some brightly colored, self-adhering monokote to the landing gear and tail section improves inflight visibility and helps with orientation.


The 550 commonly flies with 520mm blades but I prefer 550mm blades for a more “600-like” feel.  Motor power with the larger blades is not a problem since the 550 uses the 600’s power system from motor to the ESC to the 600’s head.  In fact, there isn’t much that matters about the 550 that isn’t a 600, except the blade length, overall size and weight, making the 550E an incredible performer.
 
The maiden flight went well, I tried to keep it simple:


IN THE AIR                                                                               

BLUF
GENERAL CONTROL
BALANCE & AEROBATICS

POWER SYSTEM
ADVANCED HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS
IN-FLIGHT ISSUES
APPROACH & LANDING
OVERALL

GRADES                                                                                  

Appearance: +
 .

Aerodynamics: + 
 .

Power System: +
.

Build Quality/Durability: +
.

Value:  +
.

Overall Grade: +
.

Z8RC Manufacturer Rankings

RCrankings

Individual model recommendations are based on an overall grade of B- or higher.  This overall tabulation revealed that covers the 67th percentile and higher, of the top-to-bottom grading scale.   Roughly the top 2/3rds of the RC universe was good enough to receive the Z8RC stamp of approval.

Congratulations to the corresponding top 2/3rds of manufacturers who’ve received a Z8RC Recommended overall rating, as measured by their objective review performance.  Those manufacturers with fewer reviewed models are less statistically significant.

Z8RC is proud to be one of the only sources of objective RC ratings in the world today.  Most if not all RC review sites, RC magazines, RC groups and RC forums, take sponsorship money and a host of other forms of legal consideration from the same manufacturers they pretend to review.  IOWs, their model “reviews” are nothing but veiled, paid advertisements. 

If you see paid advertisements displayed on an RC website that contains a supposed product review, that is not a review at all, it is a bought-and-paid-for sales pitch. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blade 130X Flight Review

blade-130-x-bnfUpdate 9/24/2012:  I decided to adjust the AS3X gains since my 130 seems slightly over-gained, with routine minor tail oscillations and an occasionally several spasm coming out of a flip.  I followed Horizon’s printed guidance and reduced the rudder gain by one click... 

The 130 was immediately un-flyable.  It goes completely out of control on spool-up, well before getting airborne.  Attempting to reverse the change or return to defaults does nothing.

I’m hoping it was a coincidental failure of the D-shape spindle interface on the tail gears, but who knows?  At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an unfixable quantum entanglement with the helicopter’s evil twin in a parallel Universe.

For now, bird dead.  Again.



Update 9/23/2012:  Z8RC B130 vibration fixes posted. 
See:

http://z8rc.blogspot.com/2012/09/blade-130-x-100-vibration-fix.html


Update 9/20/2012:  All set to go with the new titanium tail pitch slider from MicroHeli.  Run-up… massive vibration:  tail shaft bearing gone bad; also may have widened the seating hole in the toy-cheap plastic tail casing, no doubt from being shaken to death. 

Sweet Jeezus, make it stop.


Update 9/17/2012:  In a mostly inexplicable bout of self destructive behavior, I finished a main blade grip replacement after a brownout dropped the 130 X onto pavement, like a dead duck.  

But alas, after fixing it, it lost the bind and wouldn’t rebind.

Amazingly, and completely by accident I assure you, I figured out the unpublished (probably because it is unknown to Horizon) answer to my 130’s no-bind defect: move the rudder side to side during binding, full right then full left, repeat until bound.  Will this work with all the 130’s out there that won’t bind to DX6i-X’s?  I only wish flaky DSM-X was so predictable.

Happy to have the heli finally flyable again, I ran it up for takeoff.  The ultra-flimsy plastic tail slider’s bottom alignment pin snapped due to the AS3X tail shaking resonance on run-up that Horizon has officially stated is “normal.” 

I’m seriously wondering if this basket case is so criminally cheap that it is un-flyable for more than a few lucky sorties, period.  The product is a disgraceful mess in stock form.  But… since I have $400+ in it now, I’m going to throw more good money after bad and order some third party fixes from MicroHeli in an attempt to remedy Horizon Hobby’s bumbling design incompetence. 

I’m also going to add a small BEC to try to fix the regular brownout and loss of control issues.  Maybe it’ll help, or if not, hopefully my experience can be used to save others’ time, frustration and money.

I will post an update when complete.  For now, the 130X is grounded for so many hazardous manufacturer design defects that it is an absolutely unsafe product as shipped, even if it could fly, which it cannot. 

On a sad but related note, a Spektrum radio brownout terminated control of a 50-size (600) helicopter causing it to severely maul a young girl in Tampa. I predicted that would happen sooner or later.  Disturbing, disgusting, shameful, criminal…

girlmauledgirlmauled2

Horizon Hobby did not comment on the mishap, but their receiver instruction manuals acknowledge that their brownout design defect is now the leading cause of RC crashes: “Inadequate power systems that are unable to provide the necessary minimum voltage to the receiver during flight have become the number one cause of in-flight failures.”

And why should Horizon comment, when they’ve already stated this:

“HORIZON SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR SPECIAL, INDIRECT OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, LOSS OF PROFITS OR PRODUCTION OR COMMERCIAL LOSS IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH THE PRODUCT, WHETHER SUCH CLAIM IS BASED IN CONTRACT, WARRANTY, NEGLIGENCE, OR STRICT LIABILITY.”

Horizon knowingly, deliberately, and legally pins the tail of their design incompetence right on you, their customer.  Unfortunately for Horizon Hobby the disfigured girl was not their customer so she could not have read the statement, so it has no effect on their liability for the event.



Update 9/17/2012:  Ok, I tried to bend over backwards for this thing, but it was not to be.  Downgrading to F
overall for one major hassle after another.  This thing is a seagull, you have to throw rocks at it to make it want to fly.  After a variety of mechanical failures and recurring brownouts in the air continuously beating up weak construction, now it unbinds every few sorties and each time it’s harder to rebind.  Flashing bind light as we speak.  Complete POS from a quality perspective.  AVOID.


Update 9/15/2012: Today the 130’s motor started cutting out for a few seconds at a time, sporadically, in flight.  It usually happens after high power has been applied for a while.  Most likely the integral ESC is too small and is overheating UMX Gee Bee style.  A major design flaw.

I will keep an eye on it and downgrade the 130 further if required.


Update 9/13/2012:  The main shaft’s tail drive stripped today from a slight graze on a bedsheet.  Gear shavings everywhere.  There is no reason in the world a $300+ heli should be so poorly built.  Lowering overall grade from C+ to generous C-.

Original review follows:


Intro:                                                                                   

My last observation on the Blade 130 was that the newest Blade incorporates one of the best Z8RC mods--the mCP X boom truss.  Finally the mCP X’s wobble woes were put to bed when Z8RC dicovered the micro heli’s crazy vibration problems were caused by boom-resonance artifacts amplified in an AS3X feedback loop.  lade never wrote to thank me; not even a Christmas card.  Talk about ungrateful.  …but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

Time to fly the indirectly Z8RC moded Blade 130:

quarterview

SPECS:
- Approximate Flight Time: 4 minutes
- Battery: 7.4V 300mAh 2S 35C Li-Po (included)
- Completion Level: Bind-N-Fly
- Experience Level: Advanced
- Flying Weight: 3.77 oz (107 g)
- Height: 4.80 in (122mm)
- Length: 12.0 in (305mm)
- Main Rotor Blade Length: 135mm
- Main Rotor Diameter: 12.8 in (325mm)

PRICE:
- $280 with one proprietary battery
- $17 for second battery (required due to proprietary connector)
- Aluminum Tail Slider: $20 (required)
- Metal tail gear drive: $15 (required)
= $332 with required upgrades, see below

On the Ground:                                                                         

With the 130X, Blade has wisely incorporated number of user-developed solutions in addition to my off-center, node-dampening boom truss.  They shipped the heli with user invented rubber grommets on the swash ball connections, plus added a user base driven brushless ESC and motor. 

I think it is a good thing that Blade is watching the community solve problems one by one, then incorporating these better designs into future offerings.  What better product evolution model could they ask for than allowing people who actually know what they are doing, doing their design work for them?  It’s less comforting that they seem fine with routinely releasing mostly untested products.

Blade did attempt to make minor improvements to the platform.   The landing gear is stronger, and there is now a torque rod running through that much stronger Z8RC tail design, instead of including their habitually flawed electric motor tail drive.

Unfortunately, there are several well known deficiencies that Blade ignored or were incapable of tackling in their 130X release:

The 130’s servos are larger, more powerful versions of the same flawed design, and as such are still exposed-gear linear design Rube Goldberg specials prone to quickly acquiring the jitters as dirt coats the exposed contact strips and interferes with the critically delicate pickup wipers.  The external gears on these lousy servos remain cheap nylon, giving them a very short half life even under the best conditions.  Shockingly, the copter’s main gear is still pressed on using a friction mounting sleeve, allowing the classic Blade problem of a “shifty shaft” causing main blade pitch control to go stupid.

tail body servos

New problems were introduced, as well.  The LHS rep suggested buying a metal $15 tail gear drive sold by Blade themselves, as the weak plastic gears strip instantly as a result of even the most minor tail strike or the first time inadvertently plopping the heli down in grass.  Huh?  Blade knows the helicopter is defective and decided to charge their customers to fix it?!  See update, above.

The plastic tail slide is also universally hailed as a “must replace” part with a $20 Micro Heli CNC equivalent as it quickly binds slight causing 130X yaw control to be over the place.

I upgraded nothing for this flight review, frankly wondering if the heli would hold up for a while, or quickly fail. 

The first failure was less spectacular and caught me off guard: simple failure to bind.  Of course I googled it and found a parade of people with the same problem.  After around the 50th attempt of trying everything, from taking the Tx into another room to sprinkling the antenna with Montreal Steak Seasoning (for the sake of clarity to the similarly frustrated: that was a joke) I either got unbelievably lucky or figured it out.  The key may have been to input throttle subtrim of –100, input a throttle down-travel adjustment of 125%, and then trim all the way down.  I tired each downward adjustment individually, and even in double-combinations, with no success.  Only the triple solution worked.  I couldn’t risk unbinding the heli to see if the triple-down solution was the ticket or if it just happened to work after a gazillion bind attempts.    Frustrating, to say the least.

Add to the frustration that the triple-down-trim piece of the puzzle was quite a trick, since my DX6i’s trim button is broken like all DX6i and DX7 and DX7S trim buttons are broken or very soon will be.  Luckily, I had an airplane memory stored with full down throttle trim, so I switched to that as a basis for the 130X and added the other two down adjustments in a last act of exasperation before re-boxing the POS. 

With the Sun now long gone due to the 130’s QA and design shenanigans, I hovered the heli inside to at least get a taste of the thing before the next morning. 

Wow, now I know why Blade adopted the Z8RC boom truss.  Basic vibration and resonance is terrible.  In fact, it is so bad around 35% throttle, that the steel rudder pushrod blurs into a frantic sine wave that becomes so big it clacks the tail boom!  The tail’s thin plastic vertical fin resonates so badly it flexes wildly to become literally an inch wide.  

I was reluctant to spin the head speed any faster, as the heli seemed to by ripping itself apart straight out of the box, but I pushed it harder with a twisted cringe, instinctivel squinting to protect my eyes if the pieces started to fly.  At about 45% the heli smoothed out to reasonable, though hardly Align-smooth.  Sheeze, that is some massive vibration for a supposedly “flight tested” out of the box sample.  It’s hard to imagine 130’s shakes being much worse without acute damage, more insidious long term damage is a given.  Above 50%, hovers were well controlled once I toned down Blades recommended low-rate travel to 55% instead of the manual’s too twitchy 85% recommendation. 

After just a few minutes of basic control, I found the 130X both a delight and a huge disappointment.  Allow me to explain. 

The platform is clearly stable, surprisingly so, but only when the ball is balanced right on top of the seal’s nose.   Excellent!  Unfortunately, Blade’s ultra cheap analog linear servos utterly let the helicopter down.  It doesn’t matter if the 130 is perfectly trimmed or not, any significant stick movement ruins any semblance of servo centering and the copter drifts with pace, from a little to a lot, in a never ending random walk.   Uhg.

There is no way to achieve solid hovering behavior without manually inputting constant, high frequency tedious corrections.  Once you finally coax the servos to center, the heli seizes a moment of greatness and you can feel the 130X’s terrifically stability.  Move a stick positively, and its gone.  The micro copter is back to acting like a pig on iceskates.    What a shame, great digital micro servos cost a couple of bucks, retail.  Why would Blade deliberately skimp on basic flight control to save a few pennies?  Crazy.

In the Air:                                                                         

The maiden flight of the 130X went as expected.  The mini 130 flies much closer to a real helicopter than the underpowered and boggy 1-cell mCP X. 

The second flight ended in a pre-mature auto-rotation after less than a minute (that went fairly well too) after a brand new E-Flight 300 mAh 2S battery died straight out of the bag.  Unfortunately, this is predictable E-Flight LiPo performance - abysmal batteries that are wildly overpriced, usually defective, and often dangerous - every one of my LiPo fires have been E-Flite batteries.

Back to the initial flight –

After spending a little time in the hover with decent control, I pointed the small heli toward the big world.  The 130’s lack of servo centering precision is less of a problem on the move.  In fact, the helicopter is very cooperative in forward flight and doesn’t display any tendency to run ahead in either turn direction.  Instead, the little Blade stays nicely controlled and is easy to bend around Figure-8s in reasonably symmetrical fashion and under solid control.  If anything, the heli tends to lean back on its haunches and slow a bit without a positive command seeking forward airspeed.  This kind of stability is sure to be welcomed by CP beginners.

It was easy to transition to Idle-Up to fly and flip the 130, but the increased head speed seemed to take the battery from solid to shaky, pretty quickly.  Aileron rolls, loops, and flips all remained predictable within a cloud of quantum uncertainty defined by imprecise servo control. 

The completion of each inverted maneuver resulted in the unwanted loss of a 5 feet or so of altitude (which is around 20% when flying with good visual distance for the tini copter) and about the same amount of random drift.  There is noticeable motor bog, but the 130 is a lot better than the 1-cell mCP X’s boggy brushless.  Also unlike the mCP X, the 130’s torque-driven tail holds.

The helicopter does have an issue with the tail control (the plastic slider) hanging-up unpredictably during positive rudder movement, but it is not overbearing (yet).  Imagine an invisible finger tapping the tail every 5 seconds or so.  Not too bad.  Certainly not great.

Overall, the 130 is a great training platform for the big helicopter world.  It is not without vice.  It is not satisfyingly precise, but beginners could easily blame themselves and not notice for a while.  It shines as a forward flight trainer.  It is an adequately powerful negative pitch trainer with a firm tail gyro spoiled by a cheap plastic twitchy tail pitch slider.

Time for grades:

GRADES                                                                           

Appearance: A 
Great looking helicopter.  Not the coolest but far from the ugliest.

Aerodynamics/Handling:  B+ 
Exceptional inherent stability goes largely unrealized due to disappointing lack of servo centering precision.  Intermediate-friendly general handling.  Tail twang from unruly tail slider can make flips unpredictable.  AS3X resonance wobble.

Power System: B
Good power for mild 3D but with noticeable motor bog at steep blade pitches.  Nasty vibration and resonance.  Weak unreliable proprietary batteries.

Build Quality/Durability: F
Solid airframe. Feeble tail gear set. Weak tail boom.  Screw heads are way too soft (and the included screw driver is too big to fit!).  Thin tail rotor shaft.  Lousy exposed-gear servos with jittery dirt prone wipers. Alarming AS3X resonance issues. Flimsy canopy held together with sloppy Scotch tape.  Recurring bind problems.

Value:  D-
Eye-popping $332 price tag.  Imprecise, delicate servos.   Manufacturer refuses to fix known defects.  Package finds the sweet spot for a front lawn 3D trainer.  Flies bigger than other micros.

Overall Grade: F
Even with imprecision and inexcusable quality fumbles, I want to recommend the 130X but the ludicrous price tag makes that impossible.  I could recommend the 130 X at an MSRP of $99.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

ST Model DG-1000 EPO Brushless Glider RxR 79"–Build & Flight Review


Update 9/23/2012:  The sailplane is ironed out and a wonderful, relaxing glider.  It has become one of my favorite planes. 

It is a much more efficient glider than my balsa and fiberglass E-Flight Ascent; the DG-1000 has a fantastic glide ratio.  The EPO foam has proven to be extremely strong (not that I’ve ever tested it, with a nice smooth finish.

I cut a 0.5” x 12” thin aluminum landing skid and attached it using double sided indoor/outdoor mounting tape to the underside of the fuselage.  The plane will actually do touch and goes off pavement, as well as takeoff from a standing start.

Average flight time from a 1300 mAh 3S is 25-30 minutes without thermals to ride.  The DG-1000 easily climbs above 1000+ AGL in just a few minutes of motor run time, confirmed with an altimeter, so be sure to use a great full range Rx. 

Landings are best accomplished from about a .25 mile flat final.  Deploy some spoilerons to lose altitude, but not airspeed.  When a few inches above pavement (or grass), slowly retract spoilerons and carefully begin to extend flaperons to hold a few inches of altitude while slowing slow the DG to a lightly skimming straight skid to a stop in about 10 feet.  The wing tips stay level, and the plane usually stops on pavement with both tips still in the air.

My view is that this plane is well worth the hassle of adding metal gear servos, a workable ESC and a dedicated BEC.


Update 9/9/2012:  Once fitted with all new electronics (only the stock motor remains) and set-up with some trial and error, the DG-1000 is a fantastic sailplane. 

It’s a tough call to buy it for the airframe since the electronics change-out is not easy, especially the aileron servos which need to be soldered onto the existing leads.  For those who don’t mind the challenge, the retracted motor design makes for exceptionally clean soaring.

Circling with some Buzzards (motor retracted) - thermals took the sail plane up to visual limits, along with the birds.  Flight time was 55 minutes on a 1300 mAh 3S.

The following setup seems to be ideal:

- CG (motor in) on rearmost wing screws
- Switch X (on): 
     - Motor Extended (out)
     - Elevator Mix 15% Up (flat offset curve)
- Switch X (off):
     -
Motor Retracted (in) with 4 second servo travel slow down
     - Throttle Hold at 0%
     - Elevator Mix Normal
- ESC Brake – Off

INTRO                                                                                       

As Z8RC regulars know, I tend to like and thus review aviation classics.  I strayed a little from that philosophy my review of the Hobby King Deamon based on the potential of the airframe to produce an screamin’ 100mph+ sailplane.  Come to think of it, my E-Flight Ascent review wasn’t exactly a scale classic, either.

This review gets me back on the classic airplane track!

overview

I apologize in advance to those who’ve asked for a Parkzone Radian review.  I thought about it.  In the end, the ST Model(s?) sailplane offered a sport scale classic in a more interesting 6 channel package, with a retractable motor and dual ailerons allowing spoilerons.  The Radian seems less interesting with only 3 channels and a non-scale airframe, both of which are hard to swallow given my 3 ch non-scale Ascent. 

The ST DG-1000 RxR/PnP goes for around $120 street, the similarly sized 3 channel PZ Radian PnP is price-fixed by Horizon Hobby at $160 street.  The generally less well received 5 channel Radian Pro PnP sells for $185 street. 

The DG-1000 is more feature packed.  For one thing, you get a gorgeous scale body.  Another is ST Model’s retractable motor system (called RMS in most ads, but is called RPS on the box top), although it clearly impacts WCL (6.3) and it looks a little Rube Goldberg-ish from a reliability point of view. 

Then again, folding props are notorious finicky to set up, ESC-brakes vary in capability and consume power, they are hard to balance and often don’t fold cleanly.  Even when they are at the top of their game, folding props aren’t as streamlined and get beat up in landings.   Another plus for the RMS is that a windmill can be inserted into the airstream (ESC brake – off) to work as an effective speed brake.

I have no idea how the ST DG-1000 is going to work out, if not so great, maybe the Radian will get a chance to play after all. 

SPECS
-
Wingspan
: 79.1" (2010mm)
- Length: 38.2" (970mm)
- Flying Weight: 36.5oz (750g)
- Wing Area: 348.7 sq in (22.5 sq dm)
- Wing Loading: 10.9 oz/sq ft (33.3 g/sq dm)
- Wing Cube Loading: 9.6

  Gliders - 1 to 5
  Trainers - 5 to 8
  Aerobatic - 8 to 11 
<--ST Models DG-1000 = 9.6
  Scale - 11 to 15
  Racers - 15 and over

Fortunately, the manufacturer can’t do basic math.  Here are the true, measured numbers including the following upgrades:  25A ESC, Castle 10A BEC, 4 x Metal Gear servos, removal 1.3 oz of nose ballast…

- Wing Area: 434 square inches
- Flying Weight:  33.1 oz (including a 4.0 oz 1250 mAh 3S LiPo)
- Wing Loading: 10.9 oz/sq ft (the blind squirrel found a nut!)
- Wing Cube Loading: 6.3

  Gliders - 1 to 5
  Trainers - 5 to 8 <--ST Models DG-1000 = 6.3
  Aerobatic - 8 to 11
  Scale - 11 to 15
  Racers - 15 and over

FEATURES 
- RMS (Retractable Motor System)
- EPO foam construction

REQUIRES
- Receiver
- 1300 mAh 3S LiPo

PAID
- $120 (with Towerhobbies’ standard coupon)

UPGRADES
- NA

ON THE GROUND                                                                   

UNBOXING

boxinsideboxallrightspec
APPEARANCE / FIT N FINISH
 
 

The first thing I noticed about the appearance of the sail is the foam coloration.  There is no paint, just raw EPO.  The foam is white enough, but there were dirty marks in a lot of places, indicating the working environment in ST’s sweat shop probably doesn’t meet OSHA minimums, and giving the glider a 10% used look, right out of the box.  Paint is always an option, but it adds significant weight.

ST’s EPO foam is the traditional, incredibly strong type, not like Horizon’s soft and spongy, relatively weak “Z Foam.”  The surface finish is pretty hard and very smooth.  If painted, it would be hard to tell if the glider was foam or fiberglass from 5 feet away.

batterybaytail
The major pieces fit together beautifully.  The only trick is to make sure the ESC wires don’t get pinched between wing halves as you push the wings in, or they won’t quite squeeze all the way together.  The wings get a screw in the bottom which clamps the main carbon fiber spar, so there is no danger of the wings sliding out in flight.

The glider is a true RxR, all the servos are installed, as are all the pushrods and clevises.  The only link that has to be made is to thread the elevator’s control horn on the pushrod’s z-bend as you secure it with a single screw.  Assembling the big chunks is a breeze.  Total time to flight ready, minus receiver set-up, is about 10 minutes.  Fantastic.

BUILD QUALITY/SETUP

Receiver and battery installation, is where the fun stopped.

The receiver install was straight forward, including the automated retractable motor system.  The retractable pylon is operated by a full size servo, and is implemented just like a landing gear servo and is appropriately labeled “Channel 5.”

There is a custom sequencer board that intercepts the ESC and motor pylon servo, with an input and output for each, including tiny pots for making end point adjustments (EPA).  It worked, though I have no idea what’s going on inside the mind of the custom board.  I prefer less magic.  What if the custom board goes “Poof!”   Then what?

I plugged in the battery, and… no motor arming, but the flight control servos worked.  Unplugged and jiggled stuff, plugged back in, and, nothing.  The heavy accent Chinese instructions were no help. 

On a whim, I input put full down trim into the throttle.  “Dooo dweeet,” the motor armed after about 5 clicks of throttle-down trim.  The magic board’s EPA pot calibration is probably to blame. 

Once armed, the motor worked well and was tremendously strong near full throttle—which I decided to forgo until airborne, since the pylon looked a little stressed under all the static thrust.

After tucking the motor in, something smelled funny.  You know, that servo or ESC is burning smell.  I popped off the nicely executed, chunky, positive snapping battery hatch to see what was going on while I pulled the battery.  Battery out, more smoke.  Uh oh.  

Fortunately, the fire turned out to be the ESC that burned to a charcoal crisp (fortunate because I keep a stock of ESCs on hand).  But yikes.   That’s Made in China for you.

I have a rule here on Z8RC:  If a plane burns during a review, it get’s an F overall.  So that makes the overall grade easy.

What wasn’t so easy was replacing the ESC, since it was installed before the fuselage halves were factory glued together.  After snipping all the wires to it, the crispy critter finally ripped out, still smoking.

New ESC installed; on came the battery.  Nothing.  The green LED on the magic board was no longer lit.  Bypassing the custom board worked 100%.  I guess when the ESC went “Poof!” so did the custom mixing board.  Now what?

Disgusted, I walked away and did what I do best, thought for a while. 

A solution hit me: make the switch to retract the motor a throttle cut-off switch and put a servo speed delay in the retraction to allow the motor to spin down, catch the physical prop brake, and stow cleanly.

Ta da!  Works better than the original set up.   After some experimentation, a 4 second retraction and instant extension seemed to work best.

That’s when I noticed the rudder servo quit. The rudder and elevator servos were also installed before the plane halves were glued.  Rather than tear the plywood mounting bracket out of the plane to access the servo screws (both fuse servos are mounted to the plywood from the bottom, and sit nearly flush against the keel), I decided to take a different route.  I cut a servo access hatch in the bottom of the fuselage.  Both servos replaced with metal gear digitals after about 15 minutes.

Done.

That’s when the spring on the motor hatch door went “poing” and literally vanished from planet Earth.  Rubber bands installed, again, better overall function than the original config.

Finally, the glider was RTF.  It looks awesome.  The instructions were right about one thing: “if you take your time, you will wind up with a well built model.”

Crispy

Uhg. 

GROUND ISSUES
- ESC caught fire with the throttle in idle
- Dead RMS sequencer board (probably killed by the ESC short)
- Dead rudder servo (probably killed by the ESC short)
- Motor hatch doors are finicky; one of the springs flew off into a Wormhole.  It emerged in a Quasar some 12 billion light years away.  Unusable.

IN THE AIR                                                                              

BLUF

An excellent slope soaring airframe packaged with the worst electronics seen to date. 

Grass
GENERAL CONTROL

Once all of the servos were replaced with metal gears, the DG-1000 is a joy to fly.

The sailplane is designed for high efficiency wings-level flight, and consequently does not roll well.  Mixing 50% pro-rudder with aileron is very helpful for effective general control.

The various configurations of the sailplane take some getting used to, but are entirely predictable.  Generalizing on each basic config:

  • Motor retracted – great slope soaring character; light nose.  Excellent wind penetration.
  • Motor extended, low power – quiet, level+ flight; barely sips the battery.
  • Motor extended, high power – strong climbs or reasonably fast passes (the manual claims 60 mph+; looks about right)
  • Motor retracted, spoilers up – slightly nose high, high drag descents; easy landings
  • Motor extended, spoilers up – high alpha slow flight possible.

    BALANCE & AEROBATICS

    Loops can be large with impressive speed in the dives.  Barrel rolls are a little strained.  Axial aileron rolls are not in the model’s portfolio. 

    Balance is more interesting than normal, since the retractable pylon shifts motor weight substantially. 

    It makes sense to balance the plane for best glide performance with the motor retracted.  With the motor collapsed, the nose feels light and airy with the rearmost CG possible. 

    When the motor pops up, the CG becomes slightly nose heavy.  Applying a lot of power drives the nose down somewhat, given the high mount of the thrust line.  The sailplane has a strong tendency to climb as airspeed builds, so the motor-up/power-up flight character generally holds level as power is applied.  If you gun the throttle in the bottom half of the airspeed envelope, the motor will actually drive the DG-1000 downhill until enough speed accumulates and the bird transitions into an arcing, strong climb.

    Video shows a 1300 mAH 3S:



    cockpit
    POWER SYSTEM

    The retractable motor system was a pleasant surprise.  After some setup time to compensate for the dead, magic sequencing board, the RMS worked very well in the air. 

    That said, I initially experienced two glitches; both were easily and fully solved.

  • The motor occasional failed to pop up, caused by a tight fit between the motor housing and the walls of the engine bay.   Changing my Castle BEC voltage to 5.9V from the 4.8V default fixed the problem completely.  I strongly recommend a BEC given this power-hungry servo and the large control surfaces.**
  • The prop would occasionally stop sideways, causing the pylon to stop short of full retraction as a horizontal prop caught on the motor bay doors.  Removing the ESC brake allowed the prop to windmill until it caught the rubber brake, every time.

    ** Because the full sized pylon extension servo needs 6V to pop up reliably under load, causing a power high drain on the servo bus along with a motor spool up load and potentially large control surface loads on the servos, this DG-1000 should not be used in stock form with Spectrum/JR radio systems.  It will brownout the Rx and drop the link. 

    ADVANCED HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS

    NA

    APPROACH & LANDING

    Easy landings are aided by a nice decent rate with spoilerons extended. 

    Motor-up and wind milling is another high drag landing option,even with spoilerons up.  This landing config has the added benefit of easy go arounds or energy adjustments.  Still, I prefer spoilers up and motor closed, because it is easy to mildly cartwheel big gliders as they eventually lower a wingtip into the grass or pavement; having the motor up would seem to increase the likelihood of damage from side loads.


    IN-FLIGHT ISSUES

    1. Servos glitched without a dedicated 6V BEC

    2. Tail plane was cockeyed due to warped vertical stabilizer, possibly due to heat during shipping.  A carbon fiber poker, coated with gorilla glue, jammed up the DG’s tail inside the foam straightened it out.  That’ll teach it.

    3. One cheap aileron servo died on the first flight from gear slippage.  Replacing the aileron servos required snipping the servo leads and splicing-on a servo plug, since the existing plug is permanently embedded inside the wing.  Change all 4 servos to metal gear before flying.

    4. Motor pylon resonance was present at high throttle settings at low or no airspeed.  Reinforcement with  acarbon fiber truss solved the problem.  Additionally, the nose-down moment of the extended motor is best combated with low power settings at low speeds, including during hand launching (40-50% throttle works well; see video).

    OVERALL

    Once ironed-out, the DG-1000 is a blast to fly and sure to become one of my favorites, especially in high wind.  The RMS is a unique feature that adds a lot of utility and another level of required mastery, as the CG shifts and the high thrust line demands elevator anticipation and finesse.  

    The question is: how much ironing-out is required? 

    Answer: a lot!  All of the electronics have to be replaced before flying and a 6V capable BEC must be added.  Replacing the aileron servos is not plug and play since they have to be spliced-in. 

    The sailplane had no trouble handling todays 20 Gust 40 mph winds.  Nothing else I own could’ve flown today, with the exception of the HK Deamon but it is less stable.  Really quite amazing.

    GRADES                                                                           

    Appearance: A+
    Classic DG-1000 lines and proportions.  Well done. 

    Aerodynamics: A
    Quick.  Excellent slope soaring and wind penetration.  Best flown wings-level; poor roll agility.  WCL is a little on the high side.

    Power System: A
    Surprisingly strong motor.  RMS works very well but requires 6V servo bus voltage.  25 min flight times on a 1000 mAh 3S. 

    Build Quality/Durability: F
    Worst electronic component quality seen to date.  Super strong EPO airframe is almost worth the hassle.

    Value:  D
    Consider the low price an airframe kit (not a PNP) with a motor included.  The high level of completion goes unrealized.

    Overall Grade:  F
    Super-fun sailplane, when a servo isn’t slipping or the ESC on fire.

  • Fixing the Blade 130 X (100% Vibration Fix)

    Anyone who’s flown the Blade 103 X will tell you, the tail was botched badly. 

    The vibration problem:

    Horizon Hobby wanted to use a Z8RC mCP X boom truss to limit 130 X vibrations, but bad implementation decisions drove them down a wrong path to disaster.  In order to attach the truss to the boom, HH used a square cross section Carbon Fiber tail boom.  The square x-section was a rookie mistake, as most people know CF isn’t that great in torsion rigidity in the first place; go to a square x-section and you’ve built a real twisting fool.

    This means that any rotor imbalance (in blade lift or blade mass) will be magnified through the end of the twisty tail, and certain frequencies will resonate.   HH made the rookie design error of attaching the truss mid-way down the boom, encouraging one octave higher harmonic resonance.

    Before starting any fix, do a blade balance and see if the problem is reduced or eliminated.  I was able to reduce, but not eliminate the vibration with balance.  The rest went away with the fix below. 

    Balance both the tail blades and the main blades.  There are two methods to balance heli blades.  One is to start adding small pieces of tape to one side and do the “better or worse?” test.  Repeat until it is as good as it gets. 

    The other is to remove the blades and use a single screw to attach both blades together through their mounting holes, fairly tightly.  Do this with blades like they are on the helicopter, extending in opposite directions.  Now you have a seesaw that can be balanced pretty easily, using tape, by setting the shaft of the screw on two raised blocks or drinking glasses, etc.

    To fix the boom design, first, I added longer CF rods, CA’d into ball links to fashion larger trusses, then I inserted a small section of CF tube in the middle as a tensioner and a 3-point stiffener.  The tail control rod needed to be bent a touch straighter, easy enough.

    photo

    An invisible fix, in the photo above, was to stuff an aluminum tail axle spacer tube (from a 130 X tail gear kit) into the boom itself, to eliminate resonance inside torque tube. It is a perfect fit.  Slide it almost, but not quite half way down inside the square carbon fiber tail boom.  It will get stuck in there, from the natural squeeze of the boom.   The torque rod passes through it perfectly.

    The Blade 130 is a much more rigid flier with this Z8RC 100% vibration fix.  Handling, tracking, and hovering are much improved!  Flips are a lot more predictable.  Now if I could fit up some digital servos, this little copter would really rock and roll.

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Precision Aerobatics Addiction X–Build and Flight Review

    INTRO                                                                                       

    Prescision Aerobatics original 39” span/485 sq inch Addiction quickly gained a reputation as an outstanding 3D aerobat and trainer.   PA’s Addiction X is a 50” span/744 sq inch second iteration.   It doesn’t come cheap at $253 for the bare ARF airframe, or about $400 RTF.

    Is the Addiction X worth the $400 price tag?

    harrier

    “The ground is the limit!”

    SPECS
    - Wingspan: 50”
    - Length: 52”
    - Flying Weight 43 oz
    - Wing Area: 744 sq in
    - Wing Loading: 8.2 oz/sqft
    - Wing Cube Loading: 3.7

      Gliders - 1 to 5    <—Addiction X = 3.7
      Trainers - 5 to 8  
      Aerobatic - 8 to 11
      Scale - 11 to 15
      Racers - 15 and over

    FEATURES 
    - Fiberglass and carbon cowling
    - Balsa, ply, carbon fiber construction
    - Carbon fiber landing gear
    - Fiberglass and plywood wheel pants
    - Slow Speed vortex  Kit

    REQUIRES
    - Motor
    - 50A ESC
    - Servos
    - Receiver
    - 2200 mAh 3S LiPo

    PAID
    - $235 Addiction X Airframe Only
    - $18   Addiction X Vortex Generators
    = $253

    UPGRADES
    - Addiction X Vortex Generator Kit

    ON THE GROUND                                                                      

    IN THE AIR                                                                                

    GRADES                                                                                    

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Stock Market Crash

    Update 9/14/2012:  In the update below, I noted that the 12,200 trigger was breached, but this is the problem with using absolute thresholds with any of nature’s processes.  For example, not all Pine trees look exactly the same, yet all are obviously pine trees.  The same is true about stock market fractal growth and the rules-driven psychological patterns that govern them – a slight breach of an identified threshold obviously isn’t enough to declare something a done deal.   A Pine tree can look slightly different (but not a lot different) and its still a Pine tree. 
     
    The same is true of the stock market.  Price patterns are a manifestation of hard-programmed human psychology, nothing is random, movement is virtually 100% predictable at the right scale.  Example: I know with near 100% certainty a Pine tree will grow to be triangular in shape.  If I try to predict exactly where a branch will sprout, I can get it right most of the time, but not 100% of the time.  If I try to predict the day a Pine Cone will appear, that is harder still.  But nevertheless, knowing you are dealing with a natural growth pattern that must behave according to laws and rules (Pine Tree DNA or in the case of the stock market, human DNA) gives one an enormous advantage in predicting future development over someone who thinks group human behavior is random.  It’s not.  Far from it.
     
    The long sideways correction pointed out before it happened in my updates below appear to have ended, and right on the original timeline.  That means the market is ready to spike hard and irrationally.  The larger behavioral pattern dictates roughly 15,300 as the peak of such a zoom.  But this is short term, so that is somewhat up for grabs. 
     
    What is not in doubt, and has never been in doubt, is the massive meander-down that follows.  That takes us to 1960’s price levels (Dow 1,500 or lower) with virtually 100% certainty, within a decade or two.  The same 90% stock decline happened to kick off our previous 25 year long Great Depression.   A 90% stock market crash has already completed in Japan, current day.
     
    In the short term, a spike to 15,000+ seems likely given the recent exit from the months long, sideways move. 
     
    There is a reason for the spike.  It isn’t random.  Spikes like these, at all fractals and scales of public price behavior, are sell points.  When the more powerful realize they have accumulated a bad hand relative to the less powerful, they pool their power to create a spike to exit: a sell point.  In this case, that spike is so big it requires artificial help from some of the world’s largest institutions.
     
    It’s sad that Ben Bernanke, the public’s spokesman for the privately owned, 100% for-profit Federal Reserve Bank, has announced that the “independent from America” (=internationally owned) Federal Reserve, now feels they have Americans in a place where they cannot prevent them from printing unlimited electronic and paper dollars for their personal and exclusive profit. 
     
    It’s ironic that Bernanke see his role as a conduit from the Fed, to the People.  In fact, his role was formed to be a check on the Fed’s private ownership, from the people, exactly the opposite of what he is doing.  Talk about a clueless dude, he doesn’t even understand the historical conditions that created his job in 1913 (by voice vote of 5 congressman during the Christmas recess).  But his ego obviously doesn’t allow his role as the voice of the people to stand up against the international central planners to manifest, so he becomes part of the problem instead of part of the solution (which is to abolish the private Fed’s monopoly to control American currency, and thus Americans).
     
    Where does the privately owned Fed’s new money come from?  Nowhere, it is printed.  The Fed has no public money.
     
    Where does it go?  They are buying $40B of distressed American mortgages per month, and pocketing them as pure (printed) private profit.  It’s svelte as counterfeit money laundering gets.
     
    What is the result?  Normally, Americans would pay to hand over their property to the international Fed in the form of an inflation tax (which is historical, by far, the largest tax levied on Americans).   Most American’s don’t realize that the inflation tax is levied by decree of the international shareholders of the Federal Reserve Bank from afar.  The Fed simply prints as much as they want and buy US Treasuries with the new counterfeit money.   Americans then cough up the interest.  But it the current case, the economy has been so impaired by the dupes in charge, that the rules dictate massive deflation will be the result.  We’ll simply wind up property-less as a nation when the crash finally levels, decades from now.
     
    The U.S. government loves the international hate crime against America, because #1 Congress is a collection of the dimmest people on Earth (as is the Executive and Judiciary).  But more to the point, #2 the government gets to spend the infusion of internationally counterfeited cash to buy votes (i.e. government spending).  We call it “deficit spending” but all that really means is the U.S. government is duped into borrowing printed cash from the internationally owned Fed, while promising our real money to pay them back with interest. 
     
    We currently pay the private international shareholders of the “independent” Federal Reserve about $400B a year in interest plus forfeit the securities they dupe us into “purchasing.”  Of course, printing money to buy something is called “purchasing” when you are international horse thieves like the Fed’s unnamed private shareholders, but others call it stealing.
     
    There is no end in sight for the insatiable appetite for crime of the current, previous, and future administrations and congresses.
     

     
    Update  6/23/2012:  Since my trigger level of 12,200 was breached, and then a sharp upward retracement occurred (but might not be quiiiite complete), an acute down-leg in the immediate future (weeks) is likely.

    Not much time left to run away.

    The Economic Depression is rapidly developing and from this point forward, any reprieve from massive stock market losses should be considered the occasional upward motion of a bouncing ball careening down a steep and treacherous staircase.   Kiss the stock market B-bye.

    Minus occasional blips and bounces, all asset classes (paper stocks and funds, metals, commodities, real estate) will deflate (= shrinking prices) as our Depression accelerates thru 2018 or so, then stabilizes in the gutter for decades.



    Update 12, 5/25/12:  For those withdrawing cash, I recommend withdrawing no more frequently than every other day and in amounts no more than $2,499.99.  A $2,500 cash withdraw forces the bank to put you on the government-maintained Patriot Act Watch List for future fleecing and flags you for IRS audit under the IRS's latest heuristic analytics  which maintain a catalog of every taxpayer's private behavior.

    The Bank Secrecy Act limit of $10,000 has been secretly lowered by the Federal Reserve to $2,500 under the auspices of the Patriot Act to track as many US citizens who possess cash as possible.

    Do not rule out a modern analog of the FDR Gold Confiscation Act of 1933 if you are flagged as a citizen who stockpiles cash. 



    Update 11, 5/24/12:  Gold and Silver have finished their correction and are gearing up for a strong push higher.  It will most likely be a bumpy start since liquidity is sure to be scarce in the coming months, causing severe downside pressure on all things paper.  Yes, gold and silver have become largely paper assets because their burgeoning ETFs are unbacked by physical metal--contrary to the intentionally muddled insinuations, but never legal declarations, of their shady administrators.

    Once I see the upside move I can assign metal price targets and timing.  My expectation is for these paper metals to fully participate in the impending market crash, but with delayed timing of the price peak followed by a similar long term deflationary collapse.  

    In general, the traditional financial picture is disintegrating faster than anticipated.  When the Dow breaks below 12,200 (we've come awfully close several times) then the relentless stock market crash has begun and should complete in approx 2018.  Until then, our current sideways correction technically remains in place and we could see one more significant push higher.

    The impending crash mechanics are that of deflation, which means given our bank-run government, dramatically lower levels of lending leading to fewer dollars in circulation to compete for goods.  Cash starvation ultimately re-prices all things with dollar bills that have fewer zeros on them.  Except, of course, heavily zeroed dollar bills themselves.  Therefore, the way to beat deflation is to hold a cash position as prices collapse. Hold minimum assets priced in dollars, and avoid debt at all costs since you have to repay using more valuable dollars..

    It's the opposite of inflation where you want to short cash (borrow it to buy assets), and where banks go absolutely nuts speculating with their customers' deposits using maximum leverage, and as they usually do in the end, lose it all.   That's why we have the FDIC to eliminate their risk and corresponding massive losses.

    It is important to understand that the FDIC is currently on the verge of bankruptcy with more than 7 trillion in crumbling deposits backed by less than $50 billion in assets.  It is not too early to phase out of all bank deposits, bank administered money markets, bank backed CDs and hold a simple 100% cash position avoiding any instrument linked to a bank.  Government insured bank deposits and other instruments are at the highest risk of failure since bank administrators are free to take virtually unlimited risk and often apply speculative leverage more than 40:1.  Store your cash in a safe at home, or any mattress will do.

    I recommend withdrawing cash every other day in amounts lower than $2,500.  A $2,500 cash withraw forces the bank to put you on the government-maintained Patriot Act target list for future fleecing and flags you for IRS audit under the IRS's latest heuristic analytics to analyze your behavior.  The Bank Secrecy Act cash limit of $10,000 has been secretly lowered by the Feds to $2,500 under the auspices of the Patriot Act to track as many US citizens who have money as possible.



    Update 10, 3/23/12:  Silver and gold have been very profitable to the downside from their Update 6 peaks, but the way this fall has developed presents signals that they may not reach my original downside targets of 24/1400 before resuming a climb.  While there is likely some downside left, I am phasing out of my metals position with a great profit until I see a more unfair opportunity to trade.  

    The Dow is doing a similar thing but not to the same extent. The sideways correction is in progress, but as it is developing the lowest point in the fall might not quite reach my 12750 target.  There is room left to fall so the trade stays in place. 

    -----

    Update 9:  The Dow has achieved a short term interim target of 13,250 and is due for a several week long 500+ hundred point loss as the first leg of a mostly sideways, months long fluctuation before continuing a march to new highs in late '12 early or '13.

    Long traders may want to side step the beefy first leg of this correction, then step back in around 12,700.  Using minimum leverage will be an advantage as the Dow tries to shake off overly aggressive long an short positions with harrowing twists and turns before rewarding patience this summer.  "Sell in May" might look smart initially, but "Walk Away" at your peril as the next upward leg takes shape probably in early summer. 

    Silver and gold zig zag lower from the highs I called in Update 6.

    Oil contiues it's march from $106 today to $122 in a few months.  Oil's rise will be blamed in the mass media for the Dow's coming correction, no doubt.  The stories are already being written.  So predictable.

    The truth is completely different: all markets are simply topping at slightly different times.  In the big picture of the overall inflationary Moon shot of all markets since the 1932 low, whether commodities top in early 2012 and stocks top in late 2012 will be virtually indistinguishable to future scholars looking back to the setup which led to our near total economic collapse.

    -----

    Update 8: The Dow climbs a little higher into a long sideways trading range, ultimately popping higher still before relentless declines begin around year end, tumbling into a protracted Bear market until a 2018ish bottom.

    Oil resumes a steady march to $122 then halves within 6 months.

    Gold and Silver stage a brief rally on their way to much lower prices.

    -----

    Update 7:  Look for a continued paper asset rise to a mid-Spring targets of:  S&P 1450,  Dow 13500, NASDAQ 3100.

    -----

    Update 6: Silver to top shortly at 37.51, then decline below $25/oz in the coming months.  Gold to 1400.

    -----

    Update 5:  Just a word on oil.  High priced oil is always paraded as a sign the economic world is swirling down the toilet.  This is perpetrated by a commercially-driven mass media, specifically to steal your money.

    Here is what high oil prices actually mean:

    Gasoline and other petroleum-based energy is probably the most transparent and immediate economic indicator, because of the intense trading volume (the number of daily purchases/sales) and the long supply chain which forces continuous liquidation at every point of sale (reason: resupply is always on the way).  That means that every dealer is forced to yield to market value, there is no holding out for a better price--people will either divert to one of their 50 different options, or the dealer will have no room for continuously arriving resupply.

    Therefore gasoline prices, in particular, always reflect current market value.  Higher prices mean demand is high and dealers can charge more.  The instant demand falls, so do prices, as dealers must sell-out. 

    So high oil prices mean one simple thing - people have both the need and the ability to pay = the economy is heating up.  Just the opposite of news media disinformation.

    Look for oil to top in the $120/br price range towards late summer as the bubble inflates. 

    Expect the old "hurricane story" to replay ad infinitum.  Unfortunately another well documented phenomenon is that market cycles follow the Sun's well understood temperature cycles.  Probably because people get out and spend more in warmer weather.  As an interesting result, market peaks are accompanied by the Sun's temperature peaks, and vice versa.  There are more hurricanes during warmer Sun cycles, so expect this year to bring some.

    There is nothing new under the Sun cycles.

    -----

    Update 4: As the stock market embarks on a saw-toothed dash to new highs in late 2012, quickly followed by unmitigated economic meltdown, it actually saddens me to make money as I watch.   Not because I'm against making money, to the contrary I think people who take the time to master the unbreakable equations that govern and precisely quantify collective human behavior should be rewarded--there are many who've done so--Barron's recently tipped their cards that they have reached the same, inevitable (and correct but rounded-off) answer...

    ...no, I'm saddened because sometimes Natural Selection is a cruel bitch.  But this is the process God has chosen, who am I to fight the mathematics of our collective programming?  In the long run, the forest is better off for the fire.  Still, as but a squirrel on a branch cursed with self-awareness, it is hard to watch.

    When you discover that major market outcomes are well known before they occur, and trust me all successful pro traders and all large trading houses do or they wouldn't be where they are today, it's captivating to observe the string of human behaviors that are, quite simply, caused by their result.

    Will it be a large capital gains tax increase that forces a waterfall of paper asset liquidation before Dec 31 ends a frantic race to the bottom?  Or will it be a realization that Euro-driven loss of sovereignty is the opening act of WWIII?   Will our depression hold a repeat of the Jacksononian abolition of our private central bank, after a furious populace awakens to trillions paid in interest on loans consisting of $20-some trillion in worthless printed paper devoid of real assets?  Or, will our implosion replay the 1929-1932 free market 90% nose-dive that successfully anticipated 25 years of economic carnage and world ruin from total war, stocks hitting rock-bottom the day FDR set foot in the White House?

    Whatever the cause, the results are known.  The time has come to brace for severe turbulence, likely starting in very late-2012/early-13, with a crash landing around 2018.

    Ride, but do not be fooled by the irrational market Moon Shot in the making.  RC fliers know better than most what follows a 6S scorching of a 3S motor. 

    -----

    Update 3:  It looks like the previous 12,876 DJIA interim high will be taken out within 3 days or so, inevitably leading to the "pop" scenario.  This will lead to an a new DJIA all time high, probably in late 2012 or early 2013, but this is utterly catastrophic news for the total collapse quickly on it's heals.  Looks for unbridled carnage, bottoming in approximately 2018.  America's very future in doubt.

    This is what happens when you let commercial banks run the country with absolute political power: dollar inflation from rampant unchecked currency printing, short term market pop, massive new long term debt,  total market collapse = slavery of the indebted left now with no assets to pay.  That's (always) their plan, and unfortunately it is becoming apparent that they've succeeded in ruining America once again.  Mega Depression coming within a few years to a community near you.

    Strategy to beat it:  Wait for Dow 12,877+ confirmation.  Phase in slowly (look for a solid pull back below that new interim high) to ride the irrational wave way, way up 1928-29-style.  Target hold time frame = 10 months to 1 year.  Phase out slowly in new-high territory to set a 100% cash (or part short) position as the economy collapses around you.  Aside from upside gains, 100% cash in the mattress will grow in buying power as deflation drains everyone else's buying power.  You are now rich.

    Be careful of banks holding your cash stash on the downside, as many will not survive their wild speculations during the flash boom.   The FDIC is not to be trusted during this downturn, they currently hold about $40B in financial reserves to cover $6 to $7 trillion in bank deposits.  After a home safe (AKA mattress), US Treasuries or a Treasury Dept C of I account is the best cash storage.

    Look for Gold and Silver to rise during the coming mega bubble, but as usual, not as much as pure paper during a boom.  They too will collapse upon a deflation realization too, as they are also assets priced in dollars.

    Alternate scenario:  12876 holds, markets go sharply lower for a few months, then become much more erratic and hard to play as they work higher, again to some irrational--but probably not as high--bank sell point, target TBD.

    FYIs:
    • Objective monetary analysis shows that deflation has already taken root and will dominate in force for about two decades.  
    • The expected market pop will therefore be counter-fundamental = a bubble.  Again, 1929-style, but more appropriately akin to the 1830s through Andrew Jackson's "army of one" destruction of central banking in the Untied States which directly led to a brief, deep depression.  More importantly, Jackson's strong-minded path to competitive sound money sparked the Industrial Revolution.  
    • Our Depression will likely last longer, but so will the new Age of growth to follow after the Federal Reserve Corporation is abolished in kind by our modern day Andrew Jackson, probably yet to be fingered.
    • There is nothing new under the Sun.
    -----

    Update 2:  One of the interesting things about stock trading for a living is identifying the twists and turns in the road to stay alive and prosper.  One must follow the path nature dictates.

    Good news and bad news.

    Bad news: The path remains Depression following 80 years of uninterrupted Boom.  Good news (sort of): Those who've carved out a position of market influence have taken apparent action to avoid said fall.  Bad news: Nature's cycles are inevitable and cannot be avoided. Good news: This presents an even greater money making opportunity for those with good vision.

    Today, our privately held Central Bank tipped its hand.  The Federal Reserve could not cut interest rates further as they are pinned at 0%, so they got creative.  They took an action that is so unique, so unprecedented, that in a way it was almost intelligent.  Out of ammunition and ideas, they did the only thing they could do, they "promised not to raise rates for at least 3 years."

    I contend there has never been a more damning forward assessment of a long term financial picture in all of US history (the vast majority of which is of course, Federal Reserve-less). One possible exception was President Andrew Jackson's open pledge to kill the (first) central bank before they killed the economy.  He did. That was 1836.  It is hard to believe that a late 17th century extinct species like a King's central bank has has crept back onto the modern scene, a left-over from when "divine" royalty ripped off the people by divine right.   But as a relatively small fish, a target in the food chain, all large predator moves must be respected.

    It is not that the Fed's actions will stave off economic collapse, to the contrary, it will worsen it.  But what it shows is a rock solid commitment to create a bubble.  The fact that it is an election year probably only encourages bubble blowing bedfellows.

    A "bubble" is any counter-fundamental, and thus irrational, rise in prices.  All bubbles pop, causing a whiplash reaction far worse than if the bubble had never been blown.  And so our fate has been sealed, here comes the mother of all bubbles.

    What does this mean?  A few things.  The economy is worse than the Federal Reserve Corporation is overtly acknowledging.  It means they are willing to act irrationally to "save it' (more on that in a moment), and it means that ultimate downside targets must be revised lower, not higher.

    Here is what is about to happen - hear me now and believe me later.  The overall economic picture has been worsened by these acts, not improved.  But...... as a stock trader one must live in the world of price action, not in the world of self righteousness--at least not immediately.

    Bottom line:  Today the short term technical pricing picture has shifted higher.  The long term picture has shifted lower. Get ready for the financial roller coaster of a lifetime, maybe two.

    Expect a temporary bubble in 2012 driving prices higher than the most recent 12,800 market high, possibly setting a new all time high in what will be an obviously unhealthy, somewhat uneasy irrational 1929-like blowoff, followed by an equally unnatural 2013+ relentless collapse to at or about Dow 1,500 (probably a 5 year+ outlook).

    I said 1,500.  No typo.  80% declines are so commonplace in the stock market they are best described as inevitable.  Just ask Japan:  The Nikkei has dropped from 40,000 to 8,000 and is careening lower.   From 1929-32, the Dow dropped 90%.  In fact, GE, the only surviving Dow component, was selling around $400 in 1929; today it fluctuates below $20.  If the Dow 30 were a fixed lineup of companies instead of rotating in new ones at will, the 1929 Dow 30 would be down 90+% between then and now.

    So yes, large falls are possible.

    As if that picture isn't dire enough, one has to acknowledge one more thing to really see the picture for what it is worth, then I'll get off my soapbox and back to some really cool RC innovations I have lined up.

    (More follows, now...) These large commercial banking interests, like the Federal Reserve Corp and 5 or so other trillion dollar-class banks, are not trying to "save the market."  They have no fiduciary duty to save another person or any person, the bubble they have pulled out the kitchen sink to blow is not to save you, or me, it is to save themselves.  In other words, they intend to create their own sell point.   This is an exit strategy.  And they are large enough to do it.  Again, this is the same Play that occurred in 1929.

    There is nothing new under the Sun.

    And so is the law of the jungle.  The predators have been granted, whatever the reason, an unalterable right to eat the innocent producers.  The purpose is likely a form of natural selection for the sufficiently financially nimble.  My advise is to be one of those.

    Some will see this as gloom and doom.  Far from it.  The stock market is not the world, it is a relatively small collection of companies whose once private owners wanted to sell off to the public.  So the world isn't ending.  What this is, is a chance to make a large amount of money in a reasonably short amount of time.
    -----

    Update 1:  We've drifted under miniscule trading volume since I first posted this [slightly off topic blog entry], but IBM's big revenue decrease and Google's massive earnings miss likely mark the beginning of a months-long mega-leg lower.

    Signs show the economy is entering Depression status with the latest quarterly gasoline demand at 1999 levels (and with 310M people vs 280M) and mortgage rates plunging to attract business (= low housing demand).

    Additionally, massive Euro problems (future break-up unavoidable) make the dollar's 3 year long bull market even stronger, and dollars price stocks directly so that actually matters more than anything else.  That is why most stocks move in the same direction most of the time--currency value fluctuation.
     
    IBM is very important because the Dow Jones Industrial Average is a sales gimmick intended to rip you off, it is jury-rigged to always go up even when stocks are going down, it is not a stock index.  
     
    In case you don't know, here is the way one of the greatest scams on Earth works to rip you off:   The DJIA treats the movement of all 30 stock components as equal in point value, not in percentage.  That means the more expensive stocks matter much more than the cheaper stock components, because an X% move creates a much bigger point move.  As companies succeed they count more and more every day, the losers quickly become irrelevant in their ability to influence the Dow's movement.  That means that if half the components move higher and half move lower, by the exact same percentage, the DJIA will go up. 
     
    IBM, being the most expensive stock in the DJIA, counts as much as the bottom 9 of 30 Dow components. 
     
    IBM will likely pop higher on its revenue miss, initially, because whenever the Dow is ready to move sharply lower, your government (confirmed by Alan Greenspan in retirement) buys index futures in the low volume after and pre-markets to stabilize and pump the stock market as much as possible, thus improving their own political lives.  Since they understand how the DJIA is calculated, they try to influence the expensive stocks the most when there is a breakdown.

    This is all wasted, of course, because the taxpayer money they use to create the pop is simply captured by the professional traders in the Wall Street firms they use to place the trades who take their own position next to the government position, then jump out of it after the pop. 
     
    Perhaps the more obvious DJIA scam is the rotating door, failing components are simply kicked out and replaced by the best company they can find.  In fact, since the original Dow 30 was formed, every single DJIA company has failed and been kicked out of the "index" except GE. That isn't because capitalism is failing, it is simply because all stocks that "go public" are usually sold by their owners to the masses for good reason.
     
    Those are just a few of many reasons why no one should place money in the stock market without actively participating in the scam itself, the game is rigged against you--as most people are about to be reminded.

    I try to keep my blog on topic, but as a stock trader by nature I thought I would put out a warning for those interested.  Look for stocks to begin to fall sharply in the coming months.  I believe the next few years will be brutal, and the next decade will bring the most prolonged and relentless market crumble in US history.  This crash is actually so big it started in late  2007.  The bounce is wrapping up and down goes the roller-coaster again.

    Lower high to lower low.

    Just sayin...
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