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INTERVIEW - NICO HOBBIES

InterviewParkJets

For those of you that have been on Parkjets for very long, you have probably seen some of the great designs from the designer of Nico Hobbies, Pat Gagnon. We thought we would continue our series of interviews by brining in Pat to answer a few questions about his business, his designs and over all his contribution to the RC community.  

First off, thanks for doing this interview with us Pat.  We added in some of your designs about a year ago and they are popular spots for many builders.  But before we get into any specific questions, why don't you tell us about yourself and about your business?

I dabbled in RC back in the 80's as a teenager, but back then it was a lot harder to get into it with the initial expense for a radio and flight gear, so I didn't stick with it for very long. But at Christmas 2005, I walked into a HobbyTown USA and purchased a Parkzone Firebird Commander II, and was reaquainted with the joys of RC again. And it's been a wild ride ever since!

We knew you had lots of experience but your story is not uncommon, people get into it, drop out for a while then return with renewed passion!  That's fantasitic. Many of your designs are featured on Parkjets and are popular downloads, why do you think your plans and kits are popular?

Pusher Jets have been a popular design style for many many years. Around 2004 or 2005, a gentleman by the name of Steve Shumate (many of his plans are featured here as well) started drawing up easy-to-build planes using flat foam and a geared GWS power system. Soon after that came the advent of brushless motors, lithium batteries and depron foam, and the Pusher Jet craze really took off! The Pusher Jet design style is perfect for those who want a jet model, but not the hassle of an EDF power system.

You mentioned some of the advances in technology, for example the move from brushed motors to brushless and the cascade of changes that followed are pretty amazing.  Have you found an ideal set up for your models? 

The main series of kits I have right now is the Profile Mini Series. These are small ~18" wingspan models that have an AUW of 6-7 ounces. The perfect setup for these planes is the AX-1806N 2500kv motor paired with a 10A ESC and a GWS 4530 prop, using a Hyperion G3 3S 850mAh 25C lipo. This system will provide about 11 ounces of thrust, and will provide unlimited vertical performance on most of my kits. Two other series of planes that will soon be offered are the Pocket Jet Series (reduced versions of Steve Shumate's full-bodied jets, produced under license) and the Simple Build Series. The Pocket Jets will also use the same power system as the Profile MIni planes. The Simple Build Series is larger profile planes that have a wingspan of ~28", just like a lot of other popular designs from folks like Tomas Hellberg and Nick Cara. These planes use a Suppo 2212-6 2200kv motor paired with a 30A ESC and an APC 6X4E prop, using a Hyperion G3 3S 1300mAh 25C lipo. This system will provide about 24 ounces of thrust, and will also give unlimited vertical performance as the Simple Builds will be 13-18 ounces AUW. 

Mini F-22

That's outstanding.  A simple set up that doesn't cost too much money.  For most of the builders out there, a very important thing to consider is the price of the equipment.  In fact, we kind of touched on the issue with our "Buy or Build" post a few months ago.  With all the changes in motors and the rising and falling prices, what are your thoughts regarding using a less expensive motor vs. a high quality motor that might cost twice as much?  Is it worth it for most RC pilots?

This has been an argument on the scale of electric vs gas that has gone on for quite some time. It all really depends on the motor manufacturer. So far I have only found two manufacturers of the 2212-6 motor (Suppo and Welgard), and only one company producing the AX-1806N motor, even though these motors are distributed by many dealers with their own brand name. I've had better luck with the Suppo brand than the Welgard, and nothing but good things to say about the AX-1806N. The problem with motor selection for these pusher jets is that there are not many choices because of the high kv rating required. Many guys also use heli motors in these applications. Personally, I see no reason why someone would need to purchase a Hacker or E-Flite brand motor just for better reliability, as I've had almost no issues with the cheaper brands.

We tend to agree, we have never had an issue with many of the cheaper motors. But your perspective on gas motors vs. electric is a great point.  At the beginning, electric was so expensive.  I can remember when batteries were $60 a piece. Now you can get them for $10.  And the same goes for motors and speed controllers.  Electric RC flight really is affordable. Let's shift gears a little bit, with all your different designs do you have a favorite? 

Yes, I do, and it's the Mini Profile F-22 Raptor. That is the most stable, but also most aerobatic plane that I sell. It is also my best selling plane to date. In fact, every time I attend a show where I have a booth set up, I build several RX-ready F-22s and sell out of them every time! A close second would be the Su-30MK Flanker-C as it is very similar in performance to the F-22.

One thing that makes your designs a little unique is the size.  Most of your designs are smaller, much easier to transport, especially for a quick run to the park.  What are the benefits and drawbacks of a smaller airframe?

Surprisingly, you can fit several of these smaller planes into your trunk or back seat. And since they are so small, you can fly them just about anywhere. I have an F-22 that has 168 LEDs on it, and I often walk out my front door and fly it around my neighborhhod at night. And as small and light as these are, you'd think they would not handle wind very well, but I have flown some of them in winds of 15mph steady, and gusts to 25mph without problem. In fact, I have more fun flying them when there is a bit of wind. The only drawback would be for the newer flyer, or some of our more aged pilots. These planes are quite zippy at full throttle and can literally turn on a dime. You have to be able to keep up with it if you want to fly fast. However, they all slow down real nice, and most of them high-alpha hover really well, especially with a breeze blowing. 

SR-71

I really like the idea of the LED's!  That really says a lot about your designs that you can squeeze in a flight right in your neighborhood.  One question we get all the time from folks is about glue and foams.  It seems like there are new adhesives and new foams out there all the time, do you have any recommendations for foam and glue for the builders out there? 

I strictly use white depron. I have a friend here in Mesa (Jim Wagoner of JTechLaser) who laser cuts all of my kits. Depron has very tight thickness tolerances and is not "wavy" like some of the blue foams. And white is stiffer than black or gray depron. Depron can now be found at most hobby shops, or online at RCFoam.com. As for glue, there are 3 primary types I use: 5-minute epoxy, high temp hot glue, and Beacon 3-in-1 Advanced Craft Glue. Epoxy is used only for the wing CF spar. Hot glue is used for the motor mount, servos and control horns. Everything else is put together using the Beacon 3-in-1. The Beacon glue is a contact cement, and must be used strictly according to the directions as it does contain a small amount of acetone. But this actually helps the bonding process as when it cures, the acetone "melts" the foam slightly for a good strong bond. You can buy 3-in-1 at most craft stores like Michael's or Jo-Ann's. You can also get it, as well as a new foam glue from Beacon called "Foam Tac" at RCFoam.com.

These are great tips!  I do want to talk about Nico Hobbies as bit more.  What made you decide to go into the kit business?

Well, back in 2009 a friend of mine designed the Mini F-22, based on a reduced size of Tomas' popular plan. He built it using primarily 3mm depron, with a little 6mm for the fuse to provide a solid "spine" for the plane. Soon afterwards he started up Nico Hobbies (named after his son Nicholas) and opened the web store in April 2009. During the next 10 months I helped him by doing prototypes of new designs and promoting the business. In February 2010 his personal circumstances changed to where he could no longer run the store, and made me an offer to take over the business. So I purchased the rights from him and kept the business running, and added many more exciting planes to the lineup. Today Nico Hobbies has 9 kits available in the Profile Mini Series. I am in the final stages of developing the Pocket Jet Series of planes which will consist of an F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, T-38 Talon/F-5E Tiger II, and a Saab J39 Gripen. Also under development are several planes in the Simple Build Series, which will include the Concorde SST and the Su-47 Berkut that are already listed here, as well as an XB-70 Valkyrie and an Su-50 Pak Fa. And I have about a dozen other designs rattling around in my head that may make it onto the site eventually.

That's a great story.  Seems like you kind of fell right into it and here we are 3-4 years later and you are plugging away.  What have you learned, maybe a tip or insight for our readers, in running your business?

The main lesson I have learned is that you should always treat your customers right. So far I've only had a few complaints about defective merchandise, and I have always rectified the situation in a prompt manner. I have also learned that running a one-man business is not easy sometimes, especially when this is just a side business and not my main source of income. However, I love doing this, and enjoy meeting many of my customers at shows and sharing my love of pusher jets with the flying public in general.

You know, you bring up a great point.  I think this really parallels nicely with the satification of building an RC parkflyer from scratch.  You have kind of extended that feeling to your customers, seeing them be successful in building and flying.  That must be very rewarding!  What would you say to someone out there trying to get into a side business?  

My advice would be to find a niche and start there. There are so many online shops these days that all offer the same planes, so the market is already pretty much saturated there, but if you market to a specific group of flyers you can get into the business fairly easily. For example, I only sell electronics that match up with my kits. This means I only sell two types of motors, ESCs, servos and lipos and don't have to worry about carrying a large inventory of various parts.

Excellent advice.  Parkjets.com is pretty much on the same glide path.  We simply have focused on the parkjet style RC airplane and have tried to gather up designs from across the internet into one location.  And your point about carrying inventory is important.  I can imagine with all the price fluxuations in RC, its important to stay focused.  So after someone goes to your site, buys a kit and gets it in the mail, do you have any tips or number one piece of advice for folks? 

Read the directions! LOL! But seriously, I actually created a general Tips & Techniques thread on RCGroups that covers many of the tips I use when building. That thread is located HERE.

Oh come on, as builders many of us only pull out the instructions after we have screwed up!  Seriously, a no brainer but one that is over-looked by many builders.  One thing we sometimes battle in the vast world of the Internet is people taking the plans we have on Parkjets, and then people bundle them up and sell them online, like on E-Bay or even through various forums.  We know you have really been fighting some of this behavior lately.  It's really sad to think that there are a few people out there doing this...do you have anything you want to say about this problem?

This would not be such a problem if people would just simply ask permission. Half of my kits were actually originally designed by someone else. I simply asked their permission to do reduced size versions which I then drew based on the original plans. I puruse eBay often looking for those who are selling unauthorized copies of plans. The worst offender seems to be "luis6688". He was found to be selling many of the plans found here on Parkjets and on RCGroups, including my Concorde. He has since taken down all of those plans, but continues to sell others that he mined from the internet.

That is very frustrating.  At Parkjets we always ask permission and always comply if someone wants them down for various reasons.  Then someone comes along and tries to profit on the backs of others.  You know, I'll take the opportunity now to point people to our terms HERE and remind everyone that we encourage people to donate to the designer on each page too.  

Okay Pat, this has been way more than we expected.  One last question and I know that people will want to know is if you have anything on the drawing table right now that you can share? 

As I stated earlier, the Pocket Jet and Simple Build Series are in the final stages of design and testing now and should be available soon. Other planes that I have toyed with are an F4D Skyray and an F-100 Super Sabre. I'd really love to have a full line of all the Century Jets, but a prop-in-slot design on those is proving to be a little tricky. I require a little more thought on those designs.

Excellent.  Well, thanks again, a thousand times for taking such an extended time and answering my questions. Remember, you can pick up Pat's kits at Nico Hobbies and some of his designs are available right here on Parkjets to download for free.  So if you like smaller sized parkjets and want just a bit of help, go to Nico Hobbies and pick up a kit and power system.  

Thanks!