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Marin Aero Club

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Marin Aero Club


An Introductory Guideline to Building
and Flying Model Aeroplanes
George Benson
December 1996
San Francisco Bay Area
last updated: 2/25/09

Table of Contents
Recommended
Reading
Starting Out
Supply Sources
Materials &
Techniques
Tools

Propellers &
Bearings
Rubber &
Winding
Laminating
Wingtips & Fins
Scale Detailing
Plans and Kits

Light Weight is
Important!
Trimming
Flying Field
Etiquette
Additional
Resources
Redistribution &
Comments

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Introduction
The Marin Aero Club (M.A.C.) comprises a group of fliers who meet regularly to fly
model aeroplanes powered by rubber, electric or CO2. Indoor events are held
monthly year round, and also outdoors in the summer. The group is very informal
as we have no officers or dues and stress that it is more important to have a good
time rather than put up a good time. As the M.A.C. has been in existence since
about 1948 (in Marin County, just north of San Francisco) it has certainly met a
local need.
This is a guideline to those returning or beginning to build and fly balsa wood and
tissue covered model planes. It is not intended to be a comprehensive source of
instruction, but instead to familiarize one with some of the concepts of building and
flying these delightful models. It is also aimed at the M.A.C. situation with access to
a gymnasium and an outdoor field. Scale and non scale models are flown. Fuse
dethermalizers are not permitted due to fire hazards and noise.

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M.A.C. members welcome you and are very happy to assist you with guidance as
required. The current flying schedule, maps to the flying sites and the latest
information are all available at the Marin Aero Club blog.
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Recommended Reading
"Building and Flying Indoor Model Aeroplanes" by Ron Williams is an
excellent book and well worth reading. Dedicated to lightweight duration
models this book will teach you many lessons valuable to any type of models.
Long out of print, this wonderful volume is now available again. The 1984
second edition has been reprinted (ISBN 978-0-615-20203-7), and is
available from Aerocraft RC for $24.95 plus shipping and handling. More
information is available at this web site.
"Rubber Powered Model Aeroplanes" by Don Ross. About $15. A good
overall guide to building and flying a wide range of models. Don has also
published a followup volume, "Flying Models, Rubber, CO2, Electric & Micro
Radio Control" This is also highly recommended.
"Hey Kid Ya Wanna Build A Model Aeroplane?" by Bill Warner. A detailed
guide to building, trimming and flying two simple rubber powered models
available as kits. Two other books follow in the series and cover the Sky
Bunny and Flying Aces Moth. While now out of print, they are often seen in
local libraries.
"Indoor Scale Model Flying" by Fred Hall is a concise guide to many areas
of concern, i.e., model selection, construction, propellers, rubber choice and
trimming. About $8.
"Indoor Flying Models" by Lew Gitlow is a worthy substitute for the Williams
book above. Contact Indoor Model Supplies or Hannan's Runway
These, and other books available from Hannan's Runway, P.O. Box 210, Magalia,
CA 95954. Tel. No. (916)-873-6421. They also have a web site with secure online
ordering. Bill Hannan has authored a series of excellent books emphasizing
"Peanut" class 13" span scale models.
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Starting Out
We suggest starting with a very simple precut model such as the Sleek Streak
sheet balsa model available in hobby shops, toy stores and larger drug
stores. This provides a good way to learn the rudiments of trimming to control
turning and climbing and the effects of changes in rubber size. Surprising
performance can be had with these simple models.

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Next in complexity is a stick model with a built up balsa stick and tissue
covered wing and tail. This substantially increases flying time over the
preceding sheet models. Many designs are available. The Peck R.O.G. (Rise
Off Ground) is covered in Bill Warner's first book and is available as a kit from
Peck. A similar model is the Jetco ROG. Click for online plans.
The next step up is to build a model with a built up fuselage instead of a
"stick" fuselage. We cannot emphasize too strongly that it is too early to build
a scale model as these are trickier to build, harder to fly, more vulnerable to
damage and could be very discouraging, whereas we can (almost !!!)
guarantee success if your first built up fuselage model is a "Pussy Cat".
Although only 12" wing span, if built lightly it can fly for over a minute in the
gymnasium and can fly "Out Of Sight" outdoors.
After the Pussy Cat is satisfactorily built and flown, we advise building a
Bostonian class model. This is a 16" span model in a wide range of designs
(ask for plans) resembling full size planes but with proportions better suited to
easy trimming and stable flying.
Selection of your first scale model design is very important to avoid
discouragement as many full size planes make very poor flying scale models.
As a general guide, select a high wing monoplane with a long nose (for better
balance) and a minimum of struts and complex landing gear. Planes such as
the Nesmith Cougar, Lacey, Fike or early Cessnas can be built from plans or
kits.
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Supply Sources
Many local hobby shops carry a range of supplies suitable for our needs, including
many items from the Peck catalog listed below.
Peck Polymers, P.O. Box 710399, Santee, CA 92072-0399 (619) 448-1818.
Catalog for $4 lists kits, plans, balsa, tissue, props, wheels, wire, bearings
and more. Quite possibly the best individual supplier for our needs.
www.peck-polymers.com
Easy Built Models makes a wide range of older design, mostly scale planes.
Kits are inexpensive, light weight, not particularly great scale, but many fly
well. Laser cut Peanuts Piper Cub and Stinson Reliant fly well and easy to
build.
Indoor Model Supply. I.M.S. is now a stable mate of Peck Polymers. All the
old goodies can be had at www.peck-polymers.com
Micro-X, P.O. Box 1063, Lorain, OH 44055. (216) 282-8354.
Aerodyne and Old Time Model Supply, 1924 East Edinger, Santa Ana, CA
92705.

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These three suppliers all carry selections of indoor materials and some specialized
outdoor supplies, as well as plans and kits. It is well worth sending a SASE and a
dollar or two for their catalogs.
Micro Mark, 800-225-1066. A good source of modeling tools. Knives, blades
small drills, burrs, clamps, Dremel, etc.
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Materials and Techniques


Balsa Wood: Long the traditional material for building models, balsawood is
a huge topic that can only be touched upon here. Take a moment to look at
the rack of balsa while first browsing your local hobbyshop. Selecting wood
can be a real science, but for now, notice that some sheets of wood seem
much lighter in color, and weight, than others. Hold a few sheets of 1/32" or
1/16" up to a light, and notice the different grain and color banding that can
occur. All of these variations help indicate weight and strength. They will
become more meaningful as you build models. Balsa can vary in weight from
under 4 lbs. per cu. ft. to over 20 lbs., a variation of 5:1. Obviously if weight is
important, and it is, care must be made to choose wood that is strong enough
for the job, but not too heavy. If you want, buy a couple of sheets of 1/32",
1/16" and 1/8" balsa. Try to choose ones that are in between the extremes of
weight available. It isn't critical for now, but a little care will help.
Glues: An often debated subject. For gluing balsa some use balsa cement,
others use white P.V.A. glue and some use CyA. (Krazy Glue, Hot Stuff, Zap,
etc). The CyA is potentially dangerous as it instantly sticks fingers together
and is hazardous around the eyes. NOT recommended for juniors or the
clumsy! However, if CyA is used, the odorless is preferable as, although more
expensive, it does not irritate the nose and also is compatible with blue foam,
discussed later.
Glues should be applied sparingly. Use only enough so the joint is as strong
as the wood. Additional glue only adds extra weight. One method is to take a
piece of modeling clay about half a golf ball in size and flatten it with a
depression in the center. Place a disc of waxed paper on the clay and press it
down. Pour a little glue on the wax paper and apply the glue to the balsa with
a toothpick or a piece of thin Teflon tubing available from hobby stores.
Glue sticks, e.g., Ross Purple Stick, UHU Glue Stick, Kidstick, can be used to
adhere paper letters or numbers to tissue. The peelable, non-permanent glue
stick is used where separation is later required such as applying a printed
pattern for wing ribs or formers to balsa sheet as a template. After cutting out
the rib, the paper can easily be removed. Brands available include Avery
Removable Glue Stic, Dennison Tack a Note, Post-It Restickable Glue Stick.
Tissue can be attached to the balsa structure by applying a clear liquid glue
gel with a small brush to the balsa. Apply the tissue and smooth down with a
finger. If necessary, thin in the bottle with rubbing alcohol or water. Brands

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include UHU, liquid Glue Pen, Roll'n Glue, O'Glue, Dab'n Glue. Do not
confuse with solid glue sticks.
Tissue: Use only Japanese tissue and not domestic tissue. Japanese tissue
is stronger, lighter and colors do not run when wet. Trim tissue after covering
with a new sharp double edged razor blade, cut in half. Careful disection of a
disposable razor can also yeild a suitable blade, but please be careful!
Doping is rarely used for our small models as it adds unnecessary weight,
can add to the warping problem and we don't usually need the water
resistance it provides. Tissue can be lightly shrunk with a thin mist of rubbing
alcohol, applied with a spray atomizer. Many light weight models are best
covered with tissue which is preshrunk.
To preshrink tissue, a partial sheet of tissue is taped with masking tape
around the perimeter, to a picture frame or over a hole cut in a corrugated
cardboard box.
A better frame is made from a piece of Masonite. With a saber saw, cut a hole
in the center about 1" smaller in length and width than half a tissue sheet.
(Hole is about 17" x 11"). Place the Masonite smooth side up with the loose
center in place on a flat surface, rest the tissue on top and tape down the
tissue around the outside. Lift up the Masonite, (leaving the loose center
behind) support at one or both ends, mist with rubbing alcohol and let dry.
Repeat several times. The Masonite loose center piece supports the tissue
and minimizes wrinkles while taping down.
When tissuing the model, apply in small pieces, and run the tissue grain
direction in the long dimension of wings, fuselage, stabilizer. Japanese tissue
tears more readily in the grain direction so it is easy to establish grain
direction.
Music Wire: For our purposes, a selection of music wire from .031" down to
.015" or even .010" is required. .031" or .025" is used for propeller shafts with
.025" to .015" for landing gear. Each increase in wire size doubles the wire
weight, so be sure you need the larger size as you build.
Aluminum Tubing: Tubing is available in 12" lengths. Use 1/16" O.D. for rear
motor pegs on Peanuts and Bostonians and 3/32" or 1/8" for larger models.
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Tools
Cutting: For cutting, use single edge razor blades and/or an Exacto knife with
No. 11 blades. Keep sharp and replace blades regularly. A plastic cutting pad
is a very useful luxury (about $15 when on sale at Micro Mark) minimizing dull
blades.
Building Board: A piece of Cellotex or similar wood fiber ceiling material

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about 12" x 24" from building suppliers makes a good board for construction.
Hold Down Pins: T pins are available from hobby stores and Peck for
building purposes. These are used to position balsa prior to gluing. Do not
push pins through the wood. Pin clamps are plastic "discs" which slide tightly
on to T pins to hold down wood to the building board. Pin clamps are
available from Jerry Nelson of Nelson Hobby Products. Scraps of balsa can
also be used.
Craft stores sell long T pins (2" compared to the standard 1" T pin) which are
useful to position fuselage sides on to the building board when joining
together. A couple of metal blocks about 2"x2"x3" can be used to hold and
square up body sides in conjunction with long T pins.
Tweezers & Pliers: Tweezers are used often for positioning bits of wood
while building. Try finding a pair of "stamp" tweezers with a broad flat blade.
This will help prevent crushing the soft wood.
A small selection of pliers for wire bending is necessary. Needle nose are
very useful, as are a good pair of roundnosed pliers. These are most useful
for prop hooks, and can be tough to find. A good pair of diagonal cutters will
be appreciated as music wire can be very hard. Cheap cutters will soon
develop notches in the blades.
Sandpaper: This should be the most used tool, perhaps after a sharp cutting
blade. Make sure to get a good selection from 100-320 grits. It lasts a long
time on balsa wood, and will really make a difference in the quality of your
work. Empty oval glue bottles are handy to wrap sandpaper around for
shaping concave edges, e.g., wing tips.
Clamps: Miniature toy clothes pins about 1" long are handy to clamp wood
when gluing. Also scraps of balsa can be used with a pin to hold down pieces.
A selection blocks is also handy for positioning pieces as the models become
more 3 dimensional. I often use small transparent plastic boxes filled with
pennies.
Dremel tools are a luxury but good for wheel and spinner sanding. They are
also used for cutting heavier music wire. A good selection of bits will be
appreciated if you make this investment.
Drill Bit Sets: Sizes from No. 61 (.039") to No. 80 (.0135") are useful, and
become necessary for drilling aluminum prop bearings on stick models and
Nocals. About $15 on sale from Micro Mark. A small pin vise or Dremel is
needed to use with these drill bits.
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Propellers & Bearings


Plastic props are very efficient and available in a wide range of sizes from 4" to 9"

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or more. For Peanuts, Bostonians and Dime Scale (16" span) 5" or 6" are
customary.
Plastic nose bearings which fit into a 1/8" or 1/4" hole in the nose block are
available and small glass beads about 1/16" diameter are used between the prop
and nose bearing. For Nocal and stick models, make a bearing from .030" - .035"
aluminum, about 1/8" wide.
Indoor Lightweight Props
For lightweight stick models, Nocals, Seattle 6, etc. a lightweight prop can be built
as follows:
Hubs: Usually made of hard1/8" or 3/32" square balsa, to which blades are
glued. A clean ball point pen reservoir can also be used. Insert dowels,
bamboo, & toothpick for a snug fit. Blades are glued to dowel. This provides
pitch & adjustment.
Blades: Using a thin foam disposable cup (not the 3/32" to 1/8" thick
expanded bead type), lay your blade template on the cup as shown, cut out
and glue (odorless C.A., or white glue) to hubs.
Alternatively, 1/32" or 1/20" balsa can be soaked in water, then positioned
onto a can or bottle about 3" diameter at 15 degrees off the vertical axis.
Wrap with porous cloth (bandage?) to allow moisture to evaporate, and when
dry (overnight), remove and glue to hub.
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Rubber and Winding


Rubber: F.A.I. Tan 2 is the most popular rubber, and available in widths of
1/16", 3/32", 1/8" and 1/4". Peanuts and Bostonians use widths of around
3/32" or 1/8". Determination of the "best" rubber size is an acquired skill but
more experienced modelers or the books listed earlier will help.
Rubber strippers are available ($100+) to strip 1/4" rubber into any width.
These are certainly a "luxury" tool which can well wait until the modeling bug
really bites. Many experienced modelers have them and can be quite
generous with ther use at a flying session.
Rubber lubrication is important. Use Armor All, Son-of-a-Gun vinyl restorer or
Sil-Glyde silicone grease from auto parts stores. Tie the rubber knot before
lubricating.
A small rubber or plastic sleeve which fits over the rubber, behind the prop
hook helps reduce motor bunching and climbing. Heat shrink tubing can be
used.
Winding Stooge: When winding, it is customary to use a holder or "stooge"
to hold the fuselage securely by sliding a thin wire through the rear motor peg
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tubing. This allows stretch winding without assistance, and will increase flight
times dramatically. For design ideas, see these in use at a flying meet. A
simple drawing for one is also available.
Winders: To wind the rubber, mechanical winders with ratios of 5 to 1, 10 to
1, or 15 to 1 are readily available. Prices go up from about $10 with expensive
ones incorporating a torque meter to provide an indication of the "power" of
the rubber when winding. Counters are frequently incorporated into a winder.
A hand drill can be used to make a winder though the ratio is rather low for
small rubber. If you decide to go this route, securely fit a hook by removing
the chuck and drilling through the side of the shaft. A wire hook can be fixed
in this hole and will not pull free while winding.
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Laminating Wingtips and Fins: Curved outlines such as rudders can be
formed by laminating two or three thin balsa or basswood strips about 1/32" x
1/20" around a template cut from a foam plastic plate or foam take out
container. Presoaking the wood in water helps with tight curves. Basswood or
bamboo about 1/20" square can be used without laminating by soaking and
bending around the hot shaft (not the tip) of an electric soldering iron. To
laminate two or three strips, apply glue sparingly with a toothpick. R.C. 56
glue is suitable for this as it retains flexibility when dry. Peck catalog lists
Basswood in several sizes.
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Scale Detailing
Many scale details, e.g., exhausts, wheels, can be made from blue
house insulation foam. This is about 3/4" thick and easily cut and
sanded, so keep a lookout around construction sites.
Sharpened brass tubing or sharpened sections from an old telescoping
auto antennae are used to cut out small discs from foam or balsa for
scale cylinders, wheel centers, etc. Dummy air cooled cylinders for
scale engines can also be made by screwing soft balsa into a threaded
nut so as to simulate cooling fins.
Use lightweight materials such as foam or light balsa wheels instead of
heavy plastic ones frequently supplied with kits. Blue foam wheels can
be cut and sanded to a very scale-like appearance. Use water based
acrylic paints or marking pens. Lightweight hub reinforcements can be
punched out with paper hole punches from 1/64" or 1/32" ply, and glued
to the wheel center. (If CyA glue is used, only use odorless which is
foam compatible). Ply discs are lighter than aluminum tubing. Punches
in 1/8", 3/16" and 1/4" diameter are available.
Marking pens are handy for small areas of tissue coloring and do not
add weight. Rub on letters are available from art supply stores and are
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applied to tissue before the tissue is applied to the model.


Landing gear should be formed from bent music wire then balsa is glued
on to provide scale appearance. The wire must be allowed to "flex" on
impact. Usually the wire is run from one wheel up to the fuselage, then
glued and braced with balsa gussets to the fuselage lower longerons
and cross pieces before forming the opposite side. Customary wire size
ranges from .031" for heavier planes of around 24" span down to .015"
for light Peanut models.
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Plans and Kits
When you visit your local hobby shop, you might find many kits for scale
models. Generally these are not recommended when starting model flying.
We suggest more simple models for getting your start, including designs like
the Jetco ROG, and Dick Baxter's Pussycat and his low wing Akro. all three of
these are available as free online plans.
Preserve your plan and do not cut it up when building. Many of us run a
photocopy prior to building to preserve the original plan. Photocopiers can be
used to scale a plan up or down. Rib and former profiles can be photocopied,
glued to balsa with peelable glue stick. Cut out the wood part, and easily peel
off the paper template.
Low Wingers
As low wing designs tend to be less stable, you might want to build one or two
high wing models first. Dick Baxter's Akro might be the best low wing design
when starting if you can't wait.
We suggest the wing is built in one piece and fit into a cut out in the body.
This is a strong method and avoids the problem of trying to align each wing
half correctly.
It is wise to add more dihedral than on a high winger. One rule of thumb is for
the wing tips to be at at least the same height as the thrust line.
Stabilizers
Some older plans show the stabilizer being built in two halves. Where
possible, revise the design to build as one piece.
Stabilizer adjustment can be provided by incorporating a tapered slot in the
fuselage using balsa shims for adjustment.
Scale models (especially older plans) frequently benefit from a 10% - 15%
increase in stabilizer and fin area. Use an enlarging photocopier.
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Light Weight is Important!


The importance of building light cannot be overstated. This is the key to
improved flight times as a 10% weight reduction results in a 15%
improvement in flight times. Additionally, because the plane flies slower, it will
be damaged less on impacts.
Factors which influence weight include:
Balsa selection: Balsa can vary in weight from 4 lbs. per cu. ft. to as
high as 22 lbs., a variation of 5:1, so seek out lightweight sheets using a
pocket postal scale to compare sheet weights.
Structure: Minimize weight wherever possible by simplifying the wood
structure, perhaps deleting some wood or substituting smaller sizes.
Reducing the weight of the tail section is important as most scale planes
are tail heavy and the "leverage" effect of the tail and fuselage rear
behind the Center of Gravity means that an extra gram at the rear
requires about 3 more grams on the nose to counterbalance.
Plastic Propellers: As your models get lighter, you will find that these
propellers can be quite heavy. A single edged razor blade can be used
to scrape the blades to reduce weight significantly. Often times the
blades become nearly transparent in the search of "lightness".
Scales are very useful to aid in lightweight construction. See examples
of an easy to build spring scale and other types in common use.
The Micro-Air wooden beam balance scale kit is inexpensive.
Micro Air, P.O. Box 1129, Richland, WA 99352.
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Trimming
Experienced help will save a lot of frustration. A comprehensive 10 step flying and
trimming guide is also available. Study it!! However, in summary:
Warps have a varying influence on flight characteristics, depending on flight
speed, e.g., initial climb under power, or cruise, so check very carefully and
remove them by steaming or mist lightly with rubbing alcohol. They can
appear, especially if high temperatures, as in a car, cause tissue to shrink.
Glide the model without the propeller and make appropriate adjustments or
add weight. We are looking for a gentle glide without climbing or diving. A
slight turn is desirable to prevent long chases. Try a tacky "clay" for weighting
such as "Tak-a-Note" or "Uhu Holdit" which are sold in stationery
departments.
Powered flight should only be attempted when satisfied with the glide.
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Launch under low power. If indoors, position yourself to minimize impact with
walls. Watch the flight pattern carefully and make trimming corrections using
shims between the noseblock and the fuselage. Remember, the model should
already be flying well without power.
Gradually increase power and make delicate adjustments until that magic
moment occurs and your plane circles, climbs and cruises just below the
rafters and glides down to a perfect landing.
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Flying Field Etiquette


Do not talk to a flier who is winding a motor!!! To see a motor blow as a
result of losing count is not a pretty sight.
After launching indoors, immediately step off the floor so as not to impede
planes or fliers waiting to launch.
If in doubt, or seeking guidance on building or flying, please ask for advice.
We enjoy our hobby and are eager to help, so don't be shy. Remember, there
are no stupid questions, only stupid answers!!
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Additional Resources
There are many resources of online info for Free Flight modelers. We recommend
joining the Free Flight Mailing List. It is an active online community of Free Flighters
from around the world, and a great source of all types of info. Also, surf some of the
sites of the Free Flight web ring. Many of them contain Event and Contest info.
Locally, check in at the neighborhood hobby shop, and ask for Free Flight contacts.
As Free Flight modeling doesn't have the economic visibility or momentum of radio
control, they might not be able to help, but don't be discouraged. There are likely
modelers in your area that can help. If not, fall back on internet resources for help.
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Distribution:
Fliers, feel free to link to, or print & circulate this document, but please do not claim
credit for its creation. It was a lot of work, and a labor of love to help promote the art
of model aviation.
George Benson
December 1996

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If you have found this document helpful, or have suggestions to


improve it, please email me at thayer@gryffinaero.com. I will pass
all thanks or contributions along to George.
Thayer
Return to
Marin Aero Club | Home Page
Copyright 1996-2009. All rights reserved

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