R/C Airplanes

All about R/C model airplanes

Straight And Level Flight From Your RC Airplane, Continued

In the last post, I had started talking about straight and level flight with your radio control model airplane.  The importance of straight and level flight and I was talking about how to achieve it.  That post was getting too lengthy, so I stopped short of finishing it and I am now revisiting the topic and will conclude that discussion.

I received a question from someone who asked how to tell when the model aircraft is level when testing the CG.   So, I thought it best to explain how you go about doing this.  First, you should find the location of the center of gravity specified by the manufacturer.  It is usually about 1/3 of the distance back from the wing’s  leading edge.  Not all models have the same point where the model balances.  It depends on whether the wing is straight or tapered and if the wing is perpendicular to the fuselage or swept back or forward.  At the beginners level, it is best to go by what the manufacturer tells you to use as the center of gravity.

When you know where the CG is located, have a friend help you ( one person on each side of the model) and place one finger on the under side of the wing tips and lift the airplane up and see how it balances.  The person that asked the question wants to know what do you look at on the plane to tell if it is balanced properly.  What I look for is whether the “line of thrust” of the model is level.  This is an invisible line that runs through the fuselage from the center of the propeller and is usually shown on the plans.  This a difficult thing to visualize and I strongly believe  it is one of the things that is best learned from an experienced instructor who can help you learn by doing.

Another part of the question was,  ”What is the line of reference when determining the angle of attack of the wing and the horizontal stabilizer?”  This is something that is taken care of in the design of the model by the manufacturer and probably best not changed by beginners.  If you need to adjust these angles, I recommend that you seek the help of an experienced modeler that has dealt with this issue as it can get pretty complicated and can drastically affect the performance of your model.   You will also need to use an incidence meter to make sure you are correctly adjusting the angle of attack..  The definition of angle of attack or incidence is the angle that the wing is positive or negitive to the line of  the air that is passing over the wing or horizontal stabilizer.  This line is also difficult to determine and is usually the same as the line of thrust.

The purpose of this post is to help you get familiar with getting your “trainer” RC model airplane set up for proper straight and level flight so that you will be able to easily control it and therefore learn how fly more quickly and to avoid accidents.  This post is not intended to be a technical approach to model airplane design.  My intent is to help someone that is new to the hobby get started in the right direction and it is always my recommendation that you locate a flying club and an experienced modeler to give you some hands on advice and assistance.

As I have stated before, a good place to start when looking for assistance is your local hobby shop and local flying clubs.  The AMA has a list of all sanctioned clubs including the contact person for each club so it can be a great help in finding someone locally to help you with all aspects of RC model airplane flying.  We all want to spend more time flying than repairing and rebuilding.

“Straight And Level Flight From Your RC Model Airplane”

What Do I Mean By Straight And Level?

    If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have seen the phrase “straight and level flight”.  So, I think we need to talk in some detail about this aspect of RC flying.  Straight and level flight is somewhat self-explanatory, but to understand what it is all about and how to go about achieving it you need to understand some of the terminology of the subject.

    You may not be familiar with the terms of pitch, roll, and yaw as it applies to RC airplanes.  Pitch refers to the nose up and down attitude of the RC model.  It is affected by the CG or center of gravity of the plane and by the up and down movement of the elevator control surfaces.  The Roll axis is around the center line of the fuselage.  The roll is affected  by the left and right “bank” of the airplane controlled by the movement of the ailerons. And the yaw is the nose left and nose right movement of the plane controlled by the action of the rudder control surface.  These are the actions of the RC airplane that determine the direction and the attitude of the model’s flight.

     Basically, if your RC plane is flying ‘hands off”, that is, with no control action being applied and it isn’t drifting to the left or right and it is not drifting up or down you are flying straight and level.   That sounds simple enough, but achieving straight and level flight begins with the design and building of the model.   Whether you are building a kit or assembling an ARF or RTF, you still have to be aware of what it takes to have a model that will fly straight and level when you are flying “hands-off”.

Why is it so important?

If your radio controlled model will fly straight and level, it will be much easier to control and your aerobatic maneuvers will be much smoother and more precise.  Also, flying and landing the RC plane will be easier and look better.  It makes flying a lot more fun if you don’t have to constantly make in-flight adjustments.  If a model is not properly balanced, that is, the center of gravity is too far forward or back, the airplane is impossible to fly and that may result in a serious crash.   Or, at least the radio controlled airplane that isn’t properly set up, will fly so badly that you may become discouraged and give up without learning how to fly.  A smooth flying, easy to handle model is a real pleasure to fly and that is especially important for beginners.

How is straight and level flight achieved?

It has to start with the building or assembling stage.  Actually, it really starts with the initial design. The best advice I have to offer is to be sure to closely follow the manufacturers instructions.   Several things in the construction of a radio controlled model airplane can adversely affect the quality of flight.  The completed model aircraft must be balanced as specified by the manufacturer.

    Of most importance is the front to rear balance or the CG.  The CG or center of gravity of the model will be specified in the assembly instructions.  Sometimes it is possible to correct the CG by moving the radio equipment forward or to the rear to help achieve the correct balance.  Other times it may be necessary to add some weight to either the nose or tail.  Either way, you need to get the RC model plane to balance where the manufacturer says it needs to balance.   Adjustments to the side to side balance can be made by adding weight to the wingtips where it is needed.

Also, in the building of a kit, it is important to avoid misalignment of the various parts and sub-assemblies.  Where the vertical stabilizer meets the horizontal stabilizer, use a small machinist’s square or the 90 degree corner of a drafting triangle to ensure the two surfaces are perpendicular to each other.  You need to give special attention to the alignment of the ailerons, rudder, and the elevator to the top and bottom surfaces of their non-movable counterparts.  I know that there is trim adjustment  within the radio system, but the closer you can get to perfect with the mechanical adjustments, the easier it will be to trim the plane in flight and the better it will perform.

In some models, it is necessary to add some right thrust to the engine.  Here again, follow the instructions and you will be okay.  The few degrees of right thrust is to compensate for the counter torque of the engine.  This helps to maintain the correct yaw of the model.  Some model and engine combinations require some down thrust as well as right thrust.  This helps with the pitch of the RC model airplane.

Total ready-to-fly weight will also have an effect on the flight characteristics.  Once again, I emphasize the importance of strictly following the included instructions.

This post is starting to get too long and involved, so I will stop here and continue with straight and level flight of the RC model airplane in the next post.  Until then read this material completely and see if you can come up with some questions on what we have been discussing so far.   Remember, you may submit your questions to me by email to   admin@talkingrchobbies.com .

    This is the OldManFlier and I will see you next time.

“Radio Control Airplane Safety”

Have Fun, But Stay Safe Doing It

We all enjoy a day of nice weather and good flying and we share in the most exiting and fun hobby there is. Sharing in a common interest and having a good time with friends will create lasting pleasant memories and topics for discussion for a long time to come. However, an accident, fire, or careless flying or ground handling of remote control planes can ruin the day or even worse.

First of all, if you are flying at a sanctioned AMA flying field, be aware that safety rules are in place for the good of everyone on the site. They pertain to spectators as well as fliers. For instance there are certain designated areas that fliers are allowed access to and seperate areas where spectators need to stay. We need to learn what the safety rules are for the flying field and we must stay in compliance with them. This may sound a little harsh, but improper use and handling of rc model airplanes can cause serious injury. All we have to do is to use common sense and follow the rules. Everyone must stay in their designated areas and be especially careful that children are kept from wandering into the pit area or onto the runway.

Tips For Safe Flying And Handling Of RC Model Planes

When preparing your model for flight, try to limit the number of people that are in the immediate proximity of your plane. You shouldn’t have more than two people involved in starting and tuning the engine. The prop on an engine that is running at full throttle can be very dangerous. You can use some kind of anchoring device to hold the plane in place while it is being started and tuned or have a reliable person holding it until you are ready for takeoff. Be sure to use a “chicken stick” or an electric starter in order to avoid injury.

The area directly in line with the lengthwise direction of the prop should be cleared of any bystanders. Also, it is a good idea to dip the tips of the prop intp some white or yellow paint to help make the spinning prop more visible. Black propellers are almost impossible to see when the engine is running.

Don’t forget to do the radio function test before flying. Anything can happen when a pilot loses the ability to control the airplane. Having a crash is bad enough but if someone gets hurt it is much more serious.

Flying RC Planes Is A Safe Hobby

I don’t want to frighten anyone away from rc flying, but we all need to be careful. It is a safe sport but accidents can happen. If everyone does their part to help keep it safe, we all can have fun flying and still be able to return for another day of remote control airplane fun.

Tail Feathers Trivia Section

The “tail feathers trivia” section is where you will find the administrator-approved stories, questions, and photo and video links that you as readers can send to me at admin@talkingrchobbies.com. That’s right I am interested in what you have to say to me and the other readers of this blog about remote control airplanes. If you have photos or videos or stories of interesting or humorous remote control airplane events please feel free to submit them to OldManFlier and if approved, they will be presented in this blog for all to enjoy. Thanks in advance.

My 7-day eCourse is a series of daily emails that explain the seven basic steps in detail about how you can get started in the radio control airplane hobby. It will present everything one step each day so that you can have time to read, digest, and start working on what you need to have and what you need to know to successfully get started flying. The way to get started is to sign up for it in the far right upper corner of this page where it says “Get OldManFlier’s Seven Easy Steps To RC Flying”. As soon as you get signed up for it, you can expect it to be in your inbox in a few short days. Try it, I think you will like it. It costs you nothing and it is packed with useful information. This is the OldManFlier and I’ll see you next time.