The PHOENIX / Aerial Experimental Association was formed with a singular goal of restoring as many Vintage Old-Timer Stick and Tissue Model Airplanes to their former glory as plausibly possible and at the same time converting them from wind-up Rubber Powered to Electricity Powered A.K.A. Electric-Assist.
“In a nutshell, and simply put—our ‘LOFTY GOAL’
is simply to get Old Timers ALOFT”
The associates of the PHOENIX / AEA refer to this process as a “PHOENIX CONVERSION”. This not only refers to converting it to electric power but restoring them in the process. In other words it could be thought of as a Conversion/Restoration process, but we have shortened it simply to PHOENIX CONVERSION. Likewise a plane that has gone through a PHOENIX CONVERSION has earned the right to have the word PHOENIX added to its title. An example of which is what our associates proudly refer to as the “PHOENIX Altimeter-Hybrid”. In this case the Altimeter-Hybrid PHOENIX Conversion can be view on our sister website KCFreeFlight.org.
Many examples of the “Golden Era of Model Building” including the Wakefields and other airplane models of the era having been designed during the 30’s and 40’s, have unfortunately been stored away in basements and garages left to deteriorate. Many of these models were built in the ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s. In most cases these models we now call “Old timers” were built with loving and masterful craftsmanship by modelers of a former time and place. Many are exquisite. The aging effects and the passage of time usually has taken a toll on mostly the cosmetic aspects—like brittle and torn tissue, however most of the balsa structures for the most part are intact and have retained their strength. With a little TLC these birds can be brought back to their original glory—this time with the idea of incorporating Electric-Assist.
Although now these “PHOENIX models” as we like to refer to them are controlled by remote control transmitters, receivers, state of-the-art motors and electronics—they essentially retain their former free flight characteristics.
Model airplanes from this era also represent a slower gentler way of flight. On the same lines—the idea of a PHOENIX model is not necessarily based on speed but rather ENDURANCE. The emphasis now is to shoot for extremely long flight times.
Because of the accelerated advancement of battery technology, spurred on by the recent explosion of the number of drones world-wide, batteries have not only gotten lighter and safer, they now pack more energy per oz than ever before. The reduction of battery weights and other essential components of the electrical system (even in just the last 5 years)—coupled with systematic weight reduction measures taken targeting the air frame and flying surfaces without sacrificing structural strength—has resulted in a drastic reduction of the total weight of these planes. In some circumstances it comes down to considering shaving off fractions of grams that’s taken into account when making decisions. Every thing being equal a lighter plane will have greater endurance in regard to flight times.
When a successful PHOENIX Conversion has taken place on an Old Timer for instance, it is not uncommon to get flight times of over an hour. More importantly the plane will go where you want it to and land where you designate—not the other way around in someone else’s field miles away. This is becoming more and more of an issue as flying fields have gotten smaller. Not having to have chase bikes and not having to search for your plane is also incalculable. And lastly—one of their most important features is that they are QUIET, unlike their gas motor equivalents.
Similar to the way the ancient Greek Mythological Bird PHOENIX cyclically regenerates or is otherwise Born Again—in essence so do these model aircraft. And as the PHOENIX is associated with Fire and the Sun, the likewise comparison of the conversion to electric power A.K.A. Electric-Assist cannot be overstated.
Just as the PHOENIX is said to have risen from the ashes—these older Stick and Tissue model aircraft have
gone through a Rebirth of their own we call the PHOENIX CONVERSION. These Old Timers
now can be thought of as PHOENIX BIRDS in every sense of the word.