Zip55 Maiden LaunchThis story starts in Oct 2010 when I saw a build thread on RC Groups for a new model called a Zip55 from Zaerotech in Hawaii. After a few weeks of reading & lusting and a few emails to Kevin about shipping costs I had one on the way. This model appealed for a number of reasons. I was already on the lookout for a higher performance slope soarer now that I’m getting more confident with the Alula and Duck. I love the idea of a model that packs up small and I also love to build from a kit or from scratch. On top of this, the Zip55 has some extraordinary design features including a removable, foldable V-Tail with automatic control surface connections and a magnetic wing retention system. Last of all the Zip55 is a wingeron which means the entire wing rotates about the main spar to provide roll control instead of using ailerons. This video is worth watching to see all the nifty features.

We visited Albany recently to go to a mates wedding. I couldn’t resist packing the models and all my slopers got some good airtime. Kristy was really good, not only did she put up with my incessant quest for an into-wind slope, she performed camera duty and drew some serious blood from those lovely legs while retrieving the Alula from the scrub. Yes she volunteered for that but I guess my answer should have been “No honey that’s OK” instead of “Thanks honey, I’ll just launch the Duck now since the wind is good”. That all happened on the first outing when we flew at the blowholes.

On the second outing an Easterly of approx 10kts was blowing so the Salmon Holes seemed to be the best spot. What ensued can best be described as a ‘slopegasm’. The lift was like nothing I’ve flown in before. I did dumb thumb the Duck into the bushes twice (yes I did my own retrievals) but it was such a hoot screaming around the curve of the slope, scraping the bushes and trying to get close for the camera. I haven’t really had the Duck grooving like this before, usually I’m working hard to stay up because conditions are light and I’m just desperate for a flight.

Then came the climax that still has a silly grin plastered all over my face. I assembled the Zip55, Kristy took what I was sure would be its final photos and I plucked up the courage to launch all my hard work off the edge. I had already clocked up 1 hour with the Zip55 at Mullaloo on her maiden flight but that didn’t ease the nerves. I needn’t have worried because she behaved impeccably from the moment she left my hand. I thought the Duck was good in the conditions but the Zip55 was amazing. It’s very clean aerodynamically and those thin high aspect ratio wings really get moving compared with a lump of flying foam. It seems to pull through tight turns really hard without showing signs of stalling and the energy retention is incredible. I had heaps of fun flying half pipes – doing passes along the slope as fast as I could before pulling vertical into a stall turn, diving back down and doing it all again. Possibly the most exciting part was the landing though. Top landing didn’t seem like an option so I got Kristy to guide me down the steps to the beach below while I flew high and stayed out of trouble. The next challenge was to bleed off enough energy to get it low and slow over the beach. Of course the only way to do that is fly far enough out over the ocean where there’s no slope lift….. The video below tells the story.

[nggallery id=26]