flyin' king

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Is This What They Mean by "Super-Size Me"?

by Bruce Tharpe

It all started with a call from a Canadian customer who seemed to like the looks of my Flyin' King, but really wanted something bigger. He ended his call by saying, in effect, "I'd like a Flyin' King, and super-size me".

The result was the Super Flyin' King, a 60% enlargement of the highly-successful and popular BTE Flyin' King. The 60% figure was a relatively arbitrary round number to get the design into the wingspan range he had in mind. He wanted me to cut the parts for him and we agreed on a price for his one-of-a-kind-kit. But as you probably know, it's nearly as easy to cut two kits as it is to cut one, and I soon convinced myself that I needed one of these things for myself. I also did a bit of feeling around to see if there were any other builders interested in a Super Flyin' King. With a few orders from some very loyal and patient customers, and the SFK prototype starting to take shape, it became clear that it would indeed become BTE's next kit.

It was also fairly obvious that this kit would take a different approach compared to the existing BTE kits. I knew that 1) it wouldn't sell in nearly the quantities of the other kits, and 2) the modelers who tackle it would be experienced builders - probably even more experienced than me. How did this affect the kit? In the end, not much. You still get a well-engineered design that's attractive (well, it grows on you) and flies great. You still get top-quality wood that's carefully inspected and sorted. You still get thoughtful packaging. And you still get those beautifully machine-cut parts that BTE kits are famous for.

At first I thought a few skimpy instructions would be adequate, but once I started writing, it turned into about thirty pages with color photos! Even with all that guidance, there are plenty of things that are left up to the builder's preferences. For example, the kit includes a plywood firewall, but the builder is left to decide whether he wants an upright or inverted engine, cowl or no cowl, fuel tank placement, and that sort of thing.

At first, this kit was supplied with CAD-drawn wing plans, but the fuselage plans were just enlargements of the regular Flyin' King. That was okay for most builders, but I finally bit the bullet in 2007 and drew the fuselage plans in CAD. Now the fuselage plans are not only more simple and less confusing, they are far more accurate.

The wing is designed to come apart in three pieces. The center panel is 57" long and contains the flaps. The two outer wing panels with the ailerons are 38" long. The wings are joined using Sig aluminum wing joiners on the front and rear spars. The wingtips provided in the kit are cut from sheet balsa, but the big STOL wingtips used on the prototype are available as an option. I had to have them on my prototype because that's the way I always envisioned the airplane way back before the small Flyin' King was designed.

It's funny how your perspective changes when you work on a giant model like this. At first, everything seems so big and overwhelming. When you first roll out the plans, it kind of takes your breath away! But after a month or two of working on the model, it all starts to seem very normal. I actually got used to handling the big parts and massive assemblies. Before long, all my other models suddenly seemed kind of dinky. Weird.

Speaking of big parts, wait until you see the main landing gear. In the past, I'll admit to perhaps erring on the light side. With the SFK, I may have gone overboard in the other direction. Who knows, you may want to carry a load and need the extra beef. The SFK is strictly a taildragger; it is not offered with a nosewheel.

There's nothing tricky about flying the SFK. If this is your first big bird, you'll be amazed at the smoothness and realistic manner that an aircraft of this size commands. I suppose you could compare it to a J-3 Cub, but the SFK is much more comfortable with aerobatics, probably because of its semi-symmetrical airfoil and lower aspect ratio. Rolls are amazingly axial, loops are a piece of cake, and inverted flight is no problem at all. It's even been known to do a fairly decent tailslide.

You won't need a super-sized field to fly the SFK. With a 3W-75i engine in the nose, the prototype uses about fifty feet of runway to get airborn. With the flaps half down, it's more like twenty feet! Landing approaches are solid and precise. With a 10-knot headwind, you may wind up with no rollout at all.

And when you do set it down that first time, that's when the feeling will hit you. Sure, it was a big project, a lot of gluing, sanding, covering, and detailing. But the incredible sense of satisfaction makes every hour worth it. It's a feeling you won't get with an ARF or a simple .40-size kit. I wish every modeler could experience this feeling of accomplishment. It's super.

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