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Winter Flying Tips & Tricks Page

Ski Selection

  Purchasing the correct skis is an important decision for getting the most fun out of winter flying.

 Answering  a few simple questions can make ski selection much easier, especially if your plane falls in the overlapping area between the large and standard ski weight recommendations, or if you think you might like to go outside the recommended ranges to enhance flight performances for your region's common snow conditions.

1.  What type of flying do you want to do? Do you fly aggressive aerobatics, or just like to relax and do some slow touch and go's.

2. What kind of snow conditions are most likely in your area? ...Cold and fluffy, or dense and wet? Sparse and grassy, or will you be standing atop 3 feet of ice on a frozen lake?

3. How much power and lift does your plane have? Do you have a big engine with large wing area and high lift, or do you have moderate power and a small wing area?
 
4. How much does you plane weigh?
 
5. How fast will your plane be traveling?
 
Carefully assess you answers from the above questions with these facts in mind:
 
  • Larger, heavier, and slower planes, taking off in deep wet snow will benefit from more floatation on the snow given by larger skis, and need more power to perform well in it, (remember water, weighs over 8 pounds per gallon and wet snow ,may collect on top of the skis during takeoff! At least until you can roll it over and dump it off.).
     
  • In Contrast, light planes on very cold, hard packed snow, need less power than they do in the summer to take off, since cold air generates more lift, more power from your engine, and friction is virtually eliminated. Therefore smaller skis are perfect for these conditions.
     
  • Also, remember that fast planes flying extreme maneuvers are more affected aerodynamically by larger skis than slow planes flying gentle maneuvers. So if performance in the air is preferred to performance in the snow, smaller skis would be the better choice.
     
  • Note: MMP acknowledges that water floats have been known to be used in the winter. While they certainly can be used on snow, you will inevitably pay the penalties of very poor aerodynamics, and weight gain, and suffer almost certain permanent damage to the floats from the ice. Ice is rock hard, and often sharp as glass, and temperatures make plastics and foam brittle.

Proper installation of the MMP Snow Skis is important for maximum performance:

 

1. MMP Snow Skis should always be installed parallel to the wing! Due to the leaf spring design, if they are installed with the tips nose high, it will cause the springs to influence the airframe into a nose-down condition on takeoff and landing. It will also cause unnecessary trim changes! They are self centering skis, NOT free floating bungee skis, and should NOT be installed nose high.
 Trike installed
2. The only exception is the nose gear ski on tricycle configurations. Due to the spring coil in most nose gears, the nose gears themselves, tend to flex rearward. When this happens the ski tends to rotate slightly nose down, reducing flotation. So a slight nose up installation of the nose ski ONLY, is desirable. When setting the nose gear skis up on the bench, prop up the front very slightly, with something like a pen or a piece of wood. It should not be tipped much, just a little bit nose high.
 Nose ski install
3. IMPORTANT! A tail ski is not recommended (or supplied) as it can easily grab snow and ice and tear the rudder off of the plane, and that is a bad thing. The tail wheel will provide ample steering, and the rear of the fuselage will provide the minimal flotation that is necessary on the snow.
 
4. CLEAN and DRY! Your axles NEED to be CLEAN and DRY when the skis are installed! The set screws are relying on a tight, slop-free, friction fit to hold the skis tightly on the axles. Oil reduces friction. 'Nuff said. Therefore, fuel and oil dripping, and soaking, on nose gear axle is something that can undermine the skis otherwise premium performance! Remove any wheel and axle lubricant before installing skis as well!
 
5. Make very certain that your AXLES ARE TIGHT!  Use of (5/32") axles with a large mounting stud, and nut, is highly recommended when using aluminum or fiberglass landing gear. If the ski holds tight, but the axle spins, you have undermined the design! Screws are NOT axles.  See photo below.

 Trainer in snow lr
6. The set screws are grade 8 hardware on the newer skis, and stainless steel on the older ones. Both of them will deform slightly to the contour of the axle when tightened onto the axles. This helps them to grip the axle, but deforms the tip of the set screws slightly as well. So do not back the screws all the way out after they have been installed on an axle, or you can damage the threads in the lock block. Don't over torque the set screws. However, MMP skis are designed with satisfaction as the primary design parameter, and things just happen sometimes. So if you do snap off a lock block screw, these skis have been designed with enough material so that the screw can be extracted, and if the threads are damaged in doing so, they will accommodate an oversized set screw. (They are designed to be repairable. MMP feels more things should be designed that way!)
 
7. If your plane falls in a weight range where you prefer using 1/4 inch axles, the MMP skis are designed to accommodate being carefully oversized to match the 1/4 inch axles. BE CAREFUL, and make as close of a tolerance fit as possible. Sloppy over-sizing of the axle holes is a perfect way to reduce the tight friction fit required to hold the skis tightly on the axles!
 

How Cold Is It outside today?

Why Does It Matter?

Engine performance, flight performance, and personal performance are all affected drastically by the outside air temperature!

 

Engine Starting. Getting an alcohol engine started in temperatures below freezing can be the biggest challenge of winter flying, but there are some good tricks:
 
1.  First, use a higher nitro-methane percentage in your fuel.
 
2. Second, use propane to get the engine started. To do this you can carry a small propane torch, or propane soldering iron with you. Simply open your carburetor and turn your propeller while letting the propane fumes enter the engine, thus, priming the engine with propane and with fuel too. Then, start the engine as you normally would. Often it will run for a while and quit.
 
3. Repeat the process. This can take 3-5 cycles to generate enough heat inside the engine before it will run solely on the alcohol fuel. Older cans of WD-40 used Propane as the propellant and therefore can be sprayed into the carburetor to prime the engine as well. The benefit of this method, is that it lubricates, and loosens any sticky oil inside the engine as it primes, making it easier for the starter to turn the engine. Ether, or other starting fluids should be avoided as they dry the internal engine parts.  Ether and starting fluids do not react with a platinum glow plug very well either.
 
For whatever unscientific reason, 24 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the dividing point between "Stubborn", and VERY Stubborn starting engines.
 
4. Your engine will need to be Tuned Richer. Cold air is more dense and requires more fuel. Opening your needles slightly  before you even try step one is a good idea. It will need to be tuned richer anyways, so go ahead and open the needle 1/4 or 1/2 a turn before you even try and start it (at least the first time you go out), and don't forget to richen the idle mixture too!
 
5. Your engine WILL make more power than usual, however will usually produce less RPM due to the dense air loading the propeller. This defies you senses, but if you listen to the propeller barking in the cold air, you will realize you are making some serous power!
 
6. Restrain your plane. Pound a screwdriver into the ice and tie your plane down! Skis are slippery! ...'nuff said!

Equipment and Airframe Performance.

This is some very good, and very important information here!

 

1. Cold destroys battery duration. Cold Ni-cad batteries don't last as long. Period. Check your battery voltage before each flight!
 
2. Most coverings get brittle in the cold. Ice chunks can do damage, inspect your covering frequently. Snow skis can shoot ice chunks, just like car tires can shoot rocks. (Remember tidily winks?)
 
3. Nylon wing bolts become fragile in the cold. Keep them in your PANTS pocket (it is warm in there), (note, NOT your jacket pocket, it is cold in there), until you are ready to install them. Carry spares. They usually break off at the head,  during installation if they are frozen, because the holes in your wing are never drilled exactly square to the head. They will not flex if they are frozen! However, once they are in place, they seem to take a set, and are fine for use. Don't twist them to check them later, they do break on removal as well sometimes.
 
4. 10% less control throw in cold dense air is recommended. Cold air is dense, you will have LOTS of power, lots of lift, and LOTS of control authority. Adjust to taste.
 
5. Nylon or plastic control rods and clevises;...NEGATIVE. Replace all of them with metal ones! (see " Nylon Wing Bolts" above.)

6. Waxing your skis: NO! This is NOT necessary. Ever!

Always allow aluminum skis to reach the outside air temperature before placing them in the snow. MMP snow skis will NEVER ice up so long as you allow them to cool down before placing them in the snow. Aluminum conducts heat very fast, that is why you can grab tin foil out of the oven or off a hot grill almost immediately .

Placing a plane with warm MMP aluminum snow skis directly into cold snow will cause the snow to melt. Then, when the skis cool off to outside air temperature, it will cause the melted snow (now water) to refreeze and cause icing on the bottom  of the skis.

This ski was taken from a warm house and placed directly into soft fluffy snow, with an outside air temperature of 7 degrees F. When the ski reached the freezing temperature of the outside climate, this nasty crust formed and undermined it's nearly frictionless surface, and subsequently rendered it almost useless
           
Wrong!

Ski placed in snow while warm   

This ski (below) was allowed to cool for about 2 minutes, after taking the plane from a warm house, before setting it into the same exact snow, and on the same day, as the ski in the photo above. It also spent more time in the snow than the one above did.


Once the skis reach the temperature of the snow, they will never melt it, and thus no snow will ever stick to it.

So, by simply allowing the skis to cool off before placing them into the snow, makes the difference between an ice free, frictionless ski, and a mess of ice and snow frozen to the bottoms. They cool off VERY quickly. It only takes a minute or two to cool them off, and they will be good to go the whole day long.


Correct!
No snow sticking, no ice. A very slippery snow ski all day long!

Cold ski


People Performance!

Hear me now, or hear me later!

 

1. Check the wind, and temperature. Cold, dense air generates more lift. More importantly, the cold wind has a greater effect on your plane in the winter. If your skills, or airplane, are limited to 20 MPH winds in the summer, then your threshold should be reduced to about 16-17 MPH when it is below freezing!
 
2. The best tip for gloves! 2 pairs of gloves! The first pair should be a medium weight Thinsulate cloth, or woven, gloves with rubber "grippy dots" or "grippy stripes" to grip the transmitter, with holes or slits cut in the thumbs, which allow you to feel the transmitter sticks directly, and still allow you to feel the rest of your fingers. The kind with the fold back finger tip covers tend to get caught in propellers. A second pair of warmer "standing around" mittens are nice to have with you as well.

Thinsulate lined. Hole sliced in the thumb. Not sexy. Seen better days, but still effective!

 glove

3. While necessary to wear, REMEMBER THIS! Bulky jackets, and gloves, both like to catch in spinning propellers.
Be careful and aware. When the engine starts, it starts drawing air through the propeller, and it will try and suck your jacket in with it. We didn't call old fashioned external carburetors on vintage snowmobiles, "Scarf Suckers" for no reason! Same goes here, but propellers are far more dangerous!
 
4. Boots and snow pants, or bibs, may not look as casual, but standing in prop-wash, and standing on, and kneeling down on frozen water, is COLD. Wear them both, even if it seems toasty outside while loading your plane up. That will soon change when you get out on the snow and in the open wind! Landing a plane while shivering and doing a happy feet penguin dance is LESS than optimum.
 
5. Glasses, vision and fogging! The Sun is low in the sky, and the sky is grey, and contrast is very low. Consider applying a temporary yellow, or orange stripe at locations of needed visibility such as the leading edge of the wing. Wearing quality UV rated-Polarized sunglasses is a must. However, fogged glasses are NO GOOD! If the wind is blowing in your face, when looking up as your airplane leaves the surly bonds of earth, the steam from your breath will produce instant fogging of your glasses! As an avid snowmobiler, I can say that aside from triple pane prescription goggles, or heated lenses, nothing is a cure-all for fog. However, a coating of good quality car wax on both sides of your eye-glasses is the best resistance I have found to fogging lenses. They will still fog a bit, but they will clear quickly when they are waxed, if you turn your head slightly to the wind. If you forget to polish your eye glasses with wax BEFORE you go flying, the ensuing fog will remind you! Then you will hand your transmitter to your buddy who does not have fogged glasses, and when he looks up, his will then fog too! (Are you with me here!?)
 
6. Rubber-neckers! A few small, orange, "Sports Cones" from Toys R' Us, or Target, or wherever,  placed to mark off a landing zone on a frozen lake is a VERY WISE idea. Every single rubber-necking snowmobiler, X-country skier, dogsledder, ice fisher, 4-wheeler, and hiker WILL come to watch. They will ALWAYS stop in the middle of your landing zone to watch. They simply don't get it. Usually, when you ask them to move, they will ask you why, or they will even say no, for no apparent reason. Trust me on this one! (Snowmobilers like to race planes for some reason too, they always lose to a YS 1.40, but they never stop trying, and without cones they will not stop going back and forth, and will be right where you want to land when you run low on fuel.) Give ignorant people some form of a clue where to stay away from! I have seen it all on the frozen lakes.


DO NOT!!!!

Repeat

DO NOT!!!!

 

  • DO NOT ...Pour fuel on your engine and light it on fire to warm the engine to make starting easier!

(Don't laugh, this really happens!!!)(OK laugh, but DON'T do it!) Unless you want to roast marshmallows over your burning airplane!


 

  • DO NOT ...Stand on the bare Ice! Any "Body English" You use during flying can translate quickly into the dreaded "Penguin Flop".
Happy Feet
Instead, seek a spot with some form of traction to stand on, AND STAY THERE until the plane lands!
 
 
Don't forget to have a blast! Creativity Counts!
Yes, we know, ...burning donuts on the bare ice is fun too!
Sincerely, MAIDEN Model Products.

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