By Dave Lilley Email: Dave
Browse Articles by Dave Lilley: Articles
* Base: 12"w X 12 1/8"d X 11 1/2"h (with wheels: 15 1/2"w x 13 1/4"h)
* Top: 12"w X 12 1/8"d X 16"h (the drawer knobs add about 1/2" to the depth)
* Handle: 1 3/8" X 11 1/4" X 30"
* Overall outside dimensions: 15 1/2"w X 14 1/2"d X 38"h
* Battery compartment: 11.25"w X 7"d x 10.5"h
* Manufacturer: Proakt Products
Since I joined this hobby, I have been carrying my field gear around in a small fishing tackle box, a cheap plastic storage container, a camera case, and some small cardboard boxes for miscellaneous parts that would not fit in anything else. I also bought a small foam plane cradle, but since I already had hands full with my planes and gear, the cradle and some of the boxes were invariably left behind in my van or at home. After a while, I started leaving more and more items at home, and eventually took only a few things that I could carry in one box. This made trips to the field and back easier, but all too often I left behind items that I needed later in the day. Since only a handful of flyers at any given time were flying at my field, most of whom were not electric flyers anyway, any "emergency" items that I might borrow were not on hand. I had either to make another round trip home and back, or just stop for the day.
Even when I took what I considered a minimal amount of gear, I still had a problem with the tackle box that I used as a flight box. It just wasn't made for arranging and storing electric flight gear. Despite my efforts to keep it organized, my improvised flight boxes frequently looked like a packrat's nest filled with airplane parts. Overall, it was just plain unsuitable for the storing my electric flight gear at my house and for ferrying my gear to the field. At home, I needed something that would store all my gear so that it wouldn't be all over my garage, and at the field, I need something that would carry all my gear in one nice organized box, so that it would be available when I needed it.
I had seen glow flyers with their specially designed field boxes, but the glow boxes I saw did not have the right combinations of compartments that I was looking for. I had also seen some larger tackle boxes, but again, tackle boxes were designed around storing fishing gear, not electric flight gear.
Even if I had found a suitable glow or tackle box, there was a limitation with both types of boxes. I have back problems and have already had one surgery, and may have to undergo another. A large tackle box might store all my gear, but it would be too big and bulky for me to carry across the flight field. I needed something less bulky, and preferable something with wheels. I had thought about using a luggage carrier, but most had wheels that were unsuitable for field conditions. Those that were suitable for the field cost more than the boxes that I wanted to buy.
I had pretty much given up on finding just the perfect box when Pat Smith, an E-Zoner who lives across town, sent me an email. Pat said that he had a new flight box, and he wanted my opinion on it. He gave me some details, and it sounded interesting, but when I saw it, I couldn't believe my eyes. Pat had included every detail that I was looking for and more. He offered to let me try it out, and of course, I jumped on that offer. It's good to be the editor. (...inside joke for Mel Brooks' fans.)
My first impression was that this box was almost too pretty to use. The quality of the finish was like a piece of nice furniture. The parts were constructed of European birch (aircraft) plywood, and they were all sanded to a smooth finish. Even the edges of the boxes, such as the carrying handles routed out of both boxes, were smooth and very well finished. Pat told me that after the wood parts were sanded, they were given a coat of sanding sealer and then covered two coats of polyurethane. The next thing that I noticed was the quality and fit of the drawers. The drawers were perfectly fitted to the box. They didn't bind when pushing them in or pulling them out, and they didn't slide out at the least little tip of the box. The knobs used on the drawers were already installed, and they felt very solid. Just as the knobs were already installed, so was just about everything else in the "kit". I use the term kit loosely, because the box is practically RTR. (Ready to roll)
Pro 150 Components
There are eighteen wood components, one axle, two wheels, and a small bag of parts used to assemble the box. Of the wood components, there are four shelf dividers, a divider for the battery box, a "foot" for the bottom of the field box, six brackets that make up the cradle, two cubes that compose the two major parts of the flight box, a strong wood handle, and four drawers. All of these parts come preassembled, and all that is left is to do is to put them together with the included hardware.
Starting with the bottom outside part of the field box, the first thing that you notice is the cooling fan screen, battery-cooling chamber, charger leads, and cooling chamber switch. Inside the box, there are pre-wired battery leads, and the space for a source battery for field charging, or alternatively a large storage area. The only requirement to finish off the inside of the box is to slide in the battery divider. The box is large enough to hold anything from a small 12v gel-cell battery, to most small and medium "deep-cycle" lead acid batteries. Since I personally cannot carry the larger batteries, I keep a couple gel-cell batteries on hand for field charging.
Next, the axle and wheels had to be installed. This simply required me to slide the axle through the axle holes in the bottom of the box. Next, the washers, wheels, another set of washers, and then the axle caps were installed. When installing the axle caps, make sure to place the box on its side. The axle end should be on concrete or similarly hard surface so that it won't move when you tap on the axle caps. I recommend putting down a towel or old blanket to lay the box on, as it would be ashamed to mar the finished before you get to show off your box at the field. After the wheels have been installed, next comes the "foot" underneath the box, which allows the box remains level with the wheels on.
Moving to the top half of the field box, you see the top tray, the drawers at the front, and at the back, there is the fold down tray. The top tray is perfect to hold the items you will need first at the field, and to hold a charger and batteries when charging at the field. The tray on the back of the unit has an estimated three-pound capacity, and I found that it is well suited for holding my radio and manuals while at the field.
To finish off the upper part of the box, all that is required it to glue in the tray dividers. I test fitted all my gear in the box, and found the perfect depth for each divider before I glued them in place with thin CA.
The final assembly is very simple. The drawer box fits on the base box, and then the handle is slid down a slot that is in the back of both boxes. The handle is locked to the bottom half of the field box with a pair of large plastic finger bolts, which connects to a blind nut in the handle. The handle for the field box is also very strong, and even with a full load, it handled the weight well and has never flexed.
The main arm of the cradle is then attached to the handle with two plastic finger bolts, which allow the two arms of the cradle to be adjusted so that the cradle sits higher or lower. The arms of the cradle are then attached with wing nuts, and they too can be adjusted to fit a wide range of planes. The cradle is capable of holding an eight-pound plane. My heaviest plane weighs just over five pounds, and I have no doubts that the cradle is able to hold an eight-pound plane, as the cradle and field box in general are very sturdy!
The cradle arms are wide and distribute the weight of the plane well. I didn't notice any marring of the plane's structure, but just to be safe, I bought some pipe insulation and put it over the arms.
It looks nice, but how well does it work in the field and at home? At home, as I mentioned, I had gear scattered around the garage and in many little boxes. Now, all of my gear is stored safely in the Pro 150 field box, and I can easily access it when working on a plane, which often happen on the cradle, versus at the kitchen table or my stuffy and un-air-conditioned garage.
At the field, the box has been a tremendous success. Since I have everything I need in one place, field repairs and setting up planes at the field is much easier now. Additionally, now that I don't have to reorganize my gear based on the plane or planes I'm taking to the field, I can get out the door much faster on flying days.
Speaking of fast, the box breaks down into three parts, the base box, the drawer box, and the handle in about a minute. When disassembled into its three major parts, I can even fit the box into my little convertible. Just as it breaks down fast, the box takes about a minute seconds to assemble at the field. When you are burning daylight and flying time, you don't need to be fiddling with boxes!
After the box is assembled at the field, it is very easy to roll around. The wheels used on the field box are large and strong, and they don't get hung up on rocks or grass. The parking for my field isn't right next to the runway. I have to walk across a gravel covered road and then a small rough grassy area. The box and its wheels handled this terrain easily. I don't believe that a luggage carrier, one early option I considered, could have handled this terrain as well.
Once I have staked out my spot at the field, the base of the box is easily wide enough to keep the box securely upright, which is nice when a sport plane is sitting up on the cradle. The cradle is the cherry on top for me. Since there are no chairs, benches, or tables at my field, I prefer to stand to work on my plane, rather than sit stooped over on the ground.
In the picture on the left, you can see my first "field test" with the Pro 150. The gentleman on the right is local a glow and electric hobbyist. Next to him are his planes and glow field boxes, and the glow box and RV-4 of another local glow flyer. On the left is a local electric flyer, known in the E-Zone discussion forums as "Cruzomatic". Adrian's planes and boxes are on the left hand-side of the picture. Since this was my first time at the field with the new box, old habits were hard to break. In front of Adrian is my old radio case and the foam cradle; however, since that day they have stayed home. To the right of Adrian you can see the field box standing like a monolith in the field. On top is my Crazy 8, which had its maiden flight earlier that day.
The Proakt Products Pro 150 is a very nice field box, and well worth every penny. If you take into account the price of a field luggage carrier capable of traversing a rough grass field, a large tackle box, a battery cooling tube, a cradle, a radio box, and a battery case, they would easily cost the same or much more. Another factor that isn't as easy to measure, but just as important, is usability value. Even if you had all of these other items, they would not work as well as the Pro 150 field box, since all of its functions were designed and integrated to work as one unit. To top it all off, the Pro 150 is a solid and nice looking unit, and you can just see and feel the quality of the craftsmanship. If you are even thinking about getting a new field box, I highly recommend that you consider the Pro 150.
This article reprinted courtesy of the Ezone.