Frequently Asked Questions

This section revised on 5 November 2003.

  1. How did "The Spirit of Butts' Farm" get its name?
  2. What about the name TAM-5?
  3. When did TAM-5 make its historic flight?
  4. What is UTC?
  5. How far did TAM-5 fly?
  6. How long did the flight take?
  7. How much fuel did it carry?
  8. How much fuel was left when TAM-5 landed?
  9. What did TAM-5 carry across the ocean?
  10. How can I show my appreciation for the TAM project?
  11. Why try to fly across the Atlantic Ocean?
  12. Who is the leader of the project?
  13. Who else worked on the project?
  14. What is an FAI record?
  15. What are the FAI rules for an aeromodel?
  16. How big is the airplane?
  17. What does the airplane look like?
  18. What is the plane made of? 
  19. What powered the airplane?
  20. What was the fuel? 
  21. What electronics were on board? 
  22. Is the autopilot available for purchase?
  23. What was the source of the electrical energy for the electronics? 
  24. How was the airplane guided? 
  25. How did you know where the airplane was? 

1.  How did "The Spirit of Butts' Farm" get its name?

R. Beecher Butts, an extraordinary gentleman, owns a horse farm in Maryland, where many of the TAM test flights were made.  Mr. Butts, now over 90 years old, has owned a series of airplanes, and was still flying his ultralight as recently as 2002.

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2.  What about the name TAM-5?

The TAM series of airplanes has been evolving for several years.  A total of 28 airframes were built, numbered in sequence, #1, #2, etc.

When we began to make serious attempts to fly the Atlantic, the particular planes selected to fly were redesignated, beginning with TAM-1.  TAM-1, TAM-2, and TAM-3 were launched in August, 2002.

TAM-4, launched on August 8, 2003, was originally #24.

TAM-5, the fifth of the planes intended to fly to Ireland, was originally #25.

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3.  When was the historic flight of TAM-5?

TAM-5 was launched at Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Canada, on 9 August 2003 at 22:15:41 UTC.  It was landed at Mannin Beach, Ireland, on 11 August 2003 at 13:08:00 UTC.

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4.  What is UTC?

UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated.  This is the time at the zero longitude, and is a convenient way to avoid confusion among the time zones of the world.  For more information, click here.

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5.  How far did TAM-5 fly?

The great circle distance was 3030 kilometers or 1883 miles.

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6.  How long did the flight take?

The flight time was 38 hours, 52 minutes.

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7.  How much fuel did it carry?

The fuel aboard TAM-5 was about 47% of the total weight.  Details of the dry and wet weights and fuel consumption will be published at a later date.

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8.  How much fuel was left when TAM-5 landed?

Approximately 1.8 fluid ounces of fuel were drained from the tank at Mannin Beach.  If the fuel system had been able to use it all, this would have been enough for about 40 minutes of flight.

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9.  What did TAM carry across the ocean?

The airplane carried two documents, described below.

1)  The official document was composed of two sections: Pre-Launch Cerification and Certification of Landing.

The Pre-launch certification stated the launch would occur at Cape Spear, the aircraft's weight was less than 5 kg (eleven pounds) and stated 

"Intended Destination: Mannin Beach, County Galway, Ireland

 53 degrees, 26.434 minutes North, 10 degrees, 07.940 minutes West"

This section was signed by Les Hamilton (Contest Director) and Carl Layden (official observer)

The Certification of Landing had blank spaces for the Date and Time of Landing, the latitude and longitude, and the signatures of the Landing Pilot and Observers at Landing.

The Certification of Landing was completed and incorporated into the dossiers for the claimed records.

2)  The second document listed the names of individuals, r/c clubs, companies and organizations who participated in the project or made contributions to STAR  There are 187 names in all.

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10.  How can I help support the TAM  project?

(Revised Nov. 5, 2003)

We no longer encourage people to join STAR, the non-profit organization set up to fund the TAM project.  STAR's future is uncertain at this point, but applications for membership will be accepted from people who want to show their respect for the group who accomplished the most ambitious project in aeromodeling history.

To join the Society for Technical Aeromodel Research (STAR), send a check to John Patton, Treasurer, STAR, 2001 Norvale Road, Silver Spring, MD 20906.  A donation of $25 or more will ensure that you receive copies of all future newsletters.  (Be warned: STAR may publish only one more newsletter.  Now that TAM has been successful, STAR will probably be disbanded.)

All past donations to STAR were used exclusively for the TAM project to buy parts and materials, and to support travel to Newfoundland and Ireland.  Everyone involved in STAR and the TAM project is a volunteer.  No one received or will receive a salary or other compensation.  Team members (especially Maynard Hill) contributed thousands of dollars of their own money to make the expeditions in August, 2002, and August, 2003.

Donations received since the successful flight of TAM-5 are being used to reimburse team members for their out-of-pocket expenses.  The project is still slightly in the red as of November 5, 2003, and there will be additional expenses including at least one more issue of STAR News.

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11.  Why try to fly across the Atlantic Ocean?

It was an extremely difficult challenge.  We wanted to honor the historic courage and accomplishments of Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown who made the first manned airplane flight across the Atlantic when they flew from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Roundstone Bog, Ireland on June 14-15, 1919.

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12.  Who is the leader of this project?

Maynard Hill is an American, born in Pennsylvania in 1926.  He has been an avid modeler all his life.  He has contributed technical advances through his 23 world records (plus two pending!).  He has contributed as President of the AMA and delegate to international model airplane meetings.  Maynard designed and contructed  all the models for this project in spite of the fact that he is legally blind and nearly deaf.  Apart from the goal of setting a new record for straight line distance, one of Maynard’s objectives is to demonstrate that people with handicaps can still set goals and achieve them.

Maynard relied on many other people to do the jobs he couldn't and he is grateful for their help.

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13.  Who else worked on the project?

Many people gave freely of their time and talent to assist with this challenging project.  They didn't punch a time clock, and there is no way to properly value their contributions.

TAM Team Newfoundland (2003):  Maynard Hill, Joe Foster, Les Hamilton, Cyrus Abdollahi, Carl Layden, Nelson Sherren, Gay Hill, Loretta Foster 

TAM Team Ireland (2003):  Dave Brown, Joe Dible, John Molloy, Ronan Coyne, Noel Barrett, Sally Brown, Tom Frawley, Aengus Cullinan, Tom Glynn, Richard Glynn, Mrs. Barrett

For more information on acknowledgements, see Maynard Hill's article on the AMA website.

This was an all-volunteer effort, with friends of Maynard, and strangers, assisting in many ways.

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14.  What is an FAI record?

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale is the international organization that issues aeronautical records of all types, including for aeromodels.  Radio-controlled model aircraft are in class F3A.

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15.  What are the FAI rules for an aeromodel?

To qualify as an aeromodel under the rules for F3A, the plane must not exceed 5 kg (11 pounds), including fuel.  The engine displacement may not exceed 10 cubic centimeters (0.61 cubic inches).  There are also limits on the wing area and wing loading.

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16.  How big is the airplane?

TAM models all weigh less than 5 kg (11 lbs), including fuel, to meet FAI requirements for an aeromodel.  

The wingspan is 1.83 meters (72 inches).  The fuselage is 1.8 meters (71 inches) long.

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17.  What does the airplane look like?

Photo of TAM-26 taken July 8, 2003.  This particular model crashed during a test flight on July 11 and was replaced by another model given the designation TAM-26.  After the successful flight of TAM-5 (originally TAM-25), the replacement TAM-26 was donated to an aviation museum in Gander, Newfoundland.  The model pictured above was finally found, badly damaged, on October 23, 2003, in a dense thicket near the test flying site.

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18.  What is the plane made of?

Balsa wood and mylar film (Monokote©) are the principal materials, with cyanoacrylate glue used to harden and connect much of the structure.  Maynard dyes the cyanoacrylate glue red to compensate for his vision impairment.

Carbon fiber, fiberglass, and epoxy are used in areas requiring extra strength.  Careful attention to design allows the components to be very light with adequate strength.

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19.  What powers the airplane?

The airplanes are powered by vintage O.S. 61 four-stroke engines.  The engines have been modified and are equipped with electronic ignition and a spark plug to enable them to run on gasoline.

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20.  What is the fuel?                                    

The fuel is Coleman stove/lantern fuel, with a special additive for lubrication.  This fuel has a high energy content, is very reliable, and burns clean.

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21.  What electronics are on board?

A Futaba receiver, three Futaba servos, and a piezoelectric rate gyro are combined with a Motorola  Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.  The autopilot is a custom design by Joe Foster who wrote all the software.   A pressure sensor provides altitude information.  This altitude system is calibrated periodically by data from the GPS.   There are two miniature telemetry transmitters.

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22.  Is this autopilot available for purchase?

No.  The software codes and design are applicable only to the TAM model and the trans-Atlantic flight and it is not possible to offer it for other purposes at the present time.

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23.  What is the source of the electrical energy for the electronics?

Most of the electrical energy for long duration flights is produced by a three-phase alternator driven by the engine.  A small battery supplies energy for the descent and landing after the engine is stopped.

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24.  How is the airplane guided?

The autopilot uses a microcomputer to process data from the GPS, receiver, pressure sensor and gyro to adjust the signals to three control servos.  Steering, altitude hold, and engine speed are separate servo loops.  Prior to launch, a memory chip is programmed with waypoints for steering.  The chip also is programmed with desired altitude and engine RPM between waypoints.  The complete algorithms are proprietary.

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25.  How did you know where the airplane was?

There were two telemetry transmitters on board.  One provided short-range data to receivers at the launch and landing points to assess performance and to assist in the landing.  The other transmitted to artificial satellites which relayed the data to ground stations.  It was then passed along via the internet to the team.

GPS data (time, latitude, longitude, speed, heading, altitude, number of satellites) and some engineering data (waypoint number, voltages, temperature) were transmitted.

ADDED 10 July 2003:

We are adding a "plane finder" to the tools which the Irish hams supporting the landing can use.  Click here for details.

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Copyright © 2003 Society for Technical Aeromodel Research. All rights reserved.
Revised: November 05, 2003 .