WRAM Show 2009 Report

The show floor just after the doors opened.

The 41st annual WRAM Show was held in White Plains, NY from February 20-22nd, 2009. This mid-winter event has historically been the largest indoor trade show on the East Coast.

This year WRAM was noticeably smaller than the 2008 show. A number of vendors did not return, perhaps due to the economy or the performance of the show last year. In particular, Great Planes/Hobbico and Hobby Lobby were conspicuously absent. QuiQue’s Aircraft Company, Hirobo, Eagle Tree Systems, and FMA Direct did not return either.

As a result, all the vendors and booths were consolidated on the main floor this year. That left the basement level open for a car track, and offroad rock climbing track, and the huge static display.

The rock crawling course.
The race track in the basement.
One of several tables in the static display.

There were a number of standouts among the scale models. There was an outrageous looking Crosby CR4 with impossibly small wings built by Keith Shaw. It weighed 7 pounds with a 48 inch wingspan and a length of 65 inches, and was powered by a geared Astroflight motor using eight A123 cells. Another beauty was a scale F7F Tigercat, with not only scale landing gear but a full working lights system. This twin used Axi outrunner motors.

The Crosby CR4.
An immaculate F7F Tigercat.

Next was an unusual subject, a Fieseler Storch by Sal Iasilli. The pilot figure was especially great on this 94" wingspan model.

The Fieseler Storch.
Fieseler Storch cockpit detail.

And then came the 1921 Postal Service Series Jalopaplane by Faye Stilley. This outstanding brass and copper colored finish is actually Monokote! There were no seam lines visible at all, even from six inches away. Hands down the sexiest plane at the show.

The Jalopaplane.
So pretty it deserves another shot.

Finally, there were two P-51 Mustangs from Matt Lupri. The darker finish Prudence model was a wood kit from Nick Ziroli plans, while the aluminum finish Miss Ethel was molded. Both are quarter scale and weigh close to 50 pounds. I have never seen detail like this in person before. The wheel wells weren’t just painted – they had fake hydraulic lines! The weathering job and cockpit details on these were simply fantastic. The Prudence model had droppable fuel tanks, scale retracts, flaps, and a motorized sliding canopy. Just amazing.

The Miss Ethel P-51.
The Prudence Mustang.
The Prudence cockpit.

A little after noon saw the beginning of the indoor flight demos. There is a small space with a 20 foot ceiling which is enough for micro helicopters and indoor foamies. We caught a great demo by Justin Chi, who repeatedly touched the head button of his Gaui 200 on the floor in an inverted hover. Did I mention Justin is only 6 1/2 years old?

Justin Chi flying demos.
Kyle Stacey during the noon demos.

Kyle Stacey also flew the Gaui 200 in a duet with another pilot whose name was not announced. They took turns performing stunts over each other’s helis, and then flying maneuvers together. At one point, both young pilots landed inverted on the ceiling together and held them there while they waved to the crowd. Great job guys.

Team Futaba and Team JR followed with 3D and precision indoor foamies, but we decided to move on and give other people a chance to see. This year there were no bleachers, so it was standing room only.

The VTOL standard RC Bug.

So what about the booths? Ron from Lightflite was back at the show with his range of RC Bugs. These indestructible EPP flying wings are still the most fun for the money I’ve had in this hobby, and I say that without any business relationship or compensation.

Ron had two one-of-a-kind prototypes at the show. The first was a standard size Bug that had been modified for VTOL. Many of us already launch our Bugs straight up by hand, but why not try it from the ground? Apparently the tricky part is landing vertically without tipping over. I just may have to try this.

Ron and the 36″ prototype RC Bug.

The other cool prototype was a 36 inch wingspan Bug, with a fully symmetrical airfoil in the center section. Flat wing foamies tend to either climb or descend, and are difficult to fly level especially at higher speeds. This experiment is designed to address that problem, and also adds side force generators to improve knife edge performance. I hope this larger airfoil RC Bug makes it into production, as it looks like a blast. The current motor is an E-flite 450.

I stopped by the Castle Creations booth and got to chat with Lee Estingoy, who wrote a great article on building an LED nightflyer. I also got to check out their upcoming line of brushless motors, as well as the new Phoenix Ice speed controllers. These ESCs feature switching BECs good for around four amps and can handle 6S LiPo input. They also feature integrated data logging, which I believe is a first.

Castle Creations upcoming brushless motors.
Castle Creations Phoenix Ice ESCs.

At the Hitec booth I saw a prototype of the upcoming Aurora 9 transmitter. This 2.4 GHz radio uses the more robust frequency hopping system, but is only compatible with Hitec receivers. These will be labeled Optima and come in 6, 7, and 9 channel models at first. The Aurora 9 is a modular system and a 72 MHz unit is planned.

The Hitec Aurora 9 2.4 GHz radio.
The back of the Aurora 9.
The Hitec 2.4 GHz receiver lineup.

Perhaps the Aurora’s most unique feature is a backlit touch screen. All the menus and programming are accessed this way, and it makes you wonder why no one else (except the $ 2300 Futaba 14MZ) has done it yet. I thought the ergonomics were very good with rubber grips on the back, although it’s a shame the 2.4 GHz module has an external wire to the antenna.

Sharing a booth with Hitec was Multiplex, who had a number of planes on display, but unfortunately did not have the one model I really wanted to see: the new fixed pitch EPP Funcopter. I was told the first and only prototype in the U.S. had arrived the day before the show, and they weren’t ready to display it. I was promised that it would make an appearance at the Weak Signals Toledo Show in April though.

I was happy to see AirfoilZ at the show, as I’ve been itching to try one of their planes. Jim Vigani, the designer, told me they were moving more towards the full fuselage models recently. Along those lines, he was showing the Yak 54, the Extra 260, and the new Edge 540. All three are around 40 inch wingspan and 24 ounces AUW, and share the unique plywood structure and Depron skin design. They are the most rigid foam planes I’ve seen to date. I caved in and picked up a Yak, to use with the newly-liberated electronics from my Reactor.

The AirfoilZ Edge 540.
The AirfoilZ Yak and Extra.

A vendor I hadn’t seen before was Easy Tiger Models, who were showing a beautiful foam SR-71 Blackbird. This receiver-ready model included the dual EDF power system, all electronics, and even retracts for $ 289. The molded panel lines and scale details were great, and only minor assembly is required. You can watch a video of the Blackbird taking off from grass on YouTube. Easy Tiger had a number of other attractive jets as well, including a 48" wingspan F-22 powered by a 70 mm EDF engine.

A foam SR-71 Blackbird from Easy Tiger Models.
The Easy Tiger Models booth.

There were a bunch of cool odds and ends too. Thunder Tiger was showing a RTF submarine called the Neptune SB-1. Desert Aircraft was showing off their monstrous, four cylinder DA200 gasoline engine due in April. Finally, Polk’s Hobby showed off a prototype of their 2.4 GHz transmitter, based on the Tracker design, along with an eight channel receiver.

The Thunder Tiger Neptune SB-1 submarine.
The Desert Aircraft booth.
The Desert Aircraft DA200.
The Polk’s Hobbies Tracker 2.4 GHz radio.
An electric JR Vibe heli.
The Blade mCX under black lights.

WRAM also offers a series of lectures in the second floor conference rooms. This year I attended a great presentation by Tom Hunt, the organizer of the NEAT Fair and someone who knows more about electric power than almost anyone. The talk was on how to choose a propeller for electric flight. Tom’s deep knowledge and high energy presentation made it quite worthwhile. He was also kind enough to post slides from this talk and from previous years on the SEFLI club’s website.

Unfortunately this was the only talk I could attend. Dean Pappas, a Model Aviation columnist, gave a presentation on the history of spread spectrum which I would have liked to see. If anyone has video or slides from this talk, please let me know.

Lastly, there was the annual swap meet in one of the side rooms. It ranged from cars to planes and from junk to scale.

One view of the swap meet.
Swap meet continued.
Swap meet triplane for sale.

The 2009 WRAM Show was not as impressive as in the past, but there was a lot more to do than shopping the booths on the main level. I enjoyed it as a day trip and plan to return – hopefully some vendors will return for 2010. One key to getting the most out of the show is planning your time. In particular, the seminars are worth while and the demo flights are fun to watch. I think I’ll schedule around them next year.

Looks like a turbo prop fuselage.
Beautiful seaplane.
Nice weathering on this Corsair.
Dan Landis’s giant scale Yak 54.
It’s not just an air show.
Scale kits on the show floor.

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