Flying RC planes has become popular in recent years. More people are turning this into a hobby, either for sheer fun or learning more about flying using remote controllers. Adding to that, newer, affordable, and easy-to-work-with models are also showing up on the market each day. Thus, it attracts more individuals to rush and spend dollars buying their first unit. The catch is that they often go out unprepared, only bringing their new plane into oblivion in a matter of seconds.
Luckily, flying RC planes is not as daunting as many beginners think. No mishap would happen if you first educate yourself before taking your RC plane in flight. To help out, below are the basics you need to know about flying RC planes, so you can make it a successful and exciting hobby.
RC planes or radio-controlled aircraft share one fundamental principle. These are units you can operate and fly through the use of a hand-held transmitter or controller. From there stem many different models, varying from the difficulty of assembly, controls, and the skill level required to fly it. There are simple planes intended for beginners, while more complex ones are available for experienced hobbyists.
If you’re beginning with the hobby, it is highly suggested that you stick with trainer planes. Trainers, as their name suggests, are for those who are still new to the hobby. These units are specifically designed with higher durability and greater stability in flight. While in the process of learning, the plane can be damaged, so it is a must that you get to purchase a model that can withstand rough situations and whose parts are easily repairable. Typical trainers also boast sufficient stability, which means they can operate hands-off longer, giving you ample time to learn how to control the plane.
RC planes also vary in terms of assembly, the ready-to-fly, almost ready-to-fly planes, and complete kits. The ready-to-fly (RTF) needs less effort to build and will only require you to fix small parts. Meanwhile, the almost ready-to-fly planes (ARF) will still have much of their parts completed, and assembly would only typically include joining wings, setting up the radio system, and mounting the gears.
On the other hand, the complete kits come unassembled, which means you need to build the RC plane from scratch. More skills are involved in the assembly models and often take hundreds to thousands of hours to finish, depending on the model’s complexity and size. Kits often entice more experienced hobbyists, finding the challenge engaging. Seeing a plane you assemble on your own, and watching it successfully fly is genuinely rewarding. Moreover, building complete kits also provide familiarity with all the RC planes’ parts and their construction, making it easier to do needed repairs should the need arise.
RC plane models differ in control set-ups, too. You need to decide how many channels or control functions you wish to use on your plane. Trainer planes usually have three primary controls, the Throttle (for the speed of the engine), Rudder (for the “Yaw,” or left and right turns), and Elevator (for pitch, or the up and down movement).
Advanced trainers are available in four-channel configurations, adding Ailerons, which control the “roll,” or the movement along the longitudinal axis of the plane.
If you’re learning on your own, the three-channel model is your best bet as it flies slowly and easier to navigate. You can shift to four-channel models as you know more about flying or if you have an instructor, or colleague, serving as your guide.
The radio is essential to fly the aircraft. It ranges from 2-channel sets to multi-channel sets. Most shops will be able to provide you with a complete package, which includes the receiver, transmitters, appropriate servos, batteries, and charger. If your budget allows, it is advisable to purchase multi-channel sets, which also allow the addition of extra facilities. Chances are you get to learn quickly, and need to upgrade your radio equipment soon. Thus, it is best to have them ready anytime.
Some radios offer “buddy box” capabilities, allowing the linkage of two radio transmitters on a cable. This feature is handy if you are still new to flying. You can have control over the RC plane, but a switch is available on the transmitter, which shifts the control to your experienced colleague or instructor should any trouble happen. That way, the likelihood of accidents occurring is significantly reduced.
Lastly, the engine is required to power your RC planes. Various engine types are available depending on the source, ranging from glow engines to gas engines to electric-powered ones. The latter is commonly used for trainer planes, whose cleanliness and quietness also attract many hobbyists. You also need to decide whether to get a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke engine. 2-stroke engines are less complex, cheaper, need fewer upkeeps, and have increased power output. Meanwhile, 4-stroke engines are quieter but are more mechanically-complicated. Thus, come at heftier prices.
Flying the RC Plane
Now that you have the basics, it’s now time to fly the RC plane, but how much room you actually need? Well, it varies, depending on the size of your aircraft. The bigger it is, the more space you’ll need. Of course, ensure that there are no obstacles or people around, and usually, a soccer or baseball field will provide you with that. Aim for less hard surfaces like grass that can provide some cushion. Concrete surfaces on parking lots can wreak havoc on your plane should you crash it.
Be also mindful of other individuals who might be using the same frequency as it can affect your controls. Try also to evaluate wind strength and directions. Early morning or evening is the advisable time to fly when the wind is relatively calmer. Of course, be composed yourself as it is easier to learn and think properly when you are relaxed.
Of course, expect that the RC plane will fly away from you. You can add GPS trackers, which can help locate your plane, should you lose control and it goes missing. Get it, restart the process, and continue learning until you master the art of flying RC planes. Once you do, go for more serious models and have more fun in the sky!