Busted! 15 First-Flight Myths Revealed
Getting started has never been easier
GETTING STARTED HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER Myth: Learning to fly model airplanes is difficult.
Fact: Many years ago, this was true. But today, getting started is easy and learning how to fly by yourself is quite possible. There are countless rugged, molded-foam ready-to-fly (RTF) RC airplanes available, and many are extremely stable and require almost no assembly. There are even some that have built-in flight-stabilization systems that ease the learning process. And if you can find an experienced modeler to help you learn, the process is even easier. Myth: I need a new radio system for every airplane that I buy.
Fact: That is not true. If you stay with one brand of radio and airplane, you can control all your models with the same transmitter. Bind-andfly airplanes are designed to use the same radio system, and they come with a built-in receiver that works with its appropriate brand of transmitter. These airplanes usually come with everything else you need, but you won’t have to buy a new transmitter every time. With some larger airplanes that come in a “receiver-ready” package, you do have to supply your own receiver and transmitter, but they include everything else.
Myth: Flying RC model airplanes is too expensive for regular people.
Fact: Wow! This is far from the truth. Back in the early years of the RC hobby, RC modelers and successful pilots were viewed as big boys with expensive toys, but it’s not like that anymore. If you are thinking of getting started, you’ll be happy to know that there are countless sport airplanes that cost less than $50—and that includes the RC system, batteries, and a charger.
For many years, the editors of Electric Flight have enjoyed building and flying all sorts of RC airplanes. We’ve met a lot of interesting and talented people along the way, and we’ve answered a lot of questions about getting started in the hobby. Depending on who you talk to, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Here are the top 15 myths that seem to keep many newcomers from getting involved.
Myth: RC model aircraft are complicated and require lots of tools to build.
Fact: While some larger, more involved airplanes are indeed more complex and require advanced building techniques, there are many more sport models that require almost no building or assembly. Some of the smaller molded-foam model planes come out of the box with nothing for you to do except install the batteries in the transmitter and then charge the battery pack with the included charger.
Myth: To add more power to my model, I can just use a bigger propeller.
Fact: Replacing your propeller with a larger one can increase power, but it also makes your motor system draw more amps. This will increase heat and can overload your speed controller, drawing more amps that your battery can supply safely. The best way to add power is to use a battery that increases voltage. But again, you must make sure your motor and speed controller can handle the added volts. The safest way to add more power is to switch to a larger motor and use the recommended speed control, battery, and propeller for it.
Myth: I can fly my model airplane anywhere I want to.
Fact: Well, this is not entirely correct. Safety should be everyone’s first concern, so going to a local park or schoolyard to fly your model while other people are there is not a good thing to do. Always be a good citizen and ask permission of the land owner or manager before flying someplace. Then tell people there what you’re up to. Many times, you’ll find that there is a designated area where other modelers meet up to fly. This type of information is usually available at the hobby shop or from experienced modelers in your area.
Myth: Learning to fly takes a lot of time and training.
Fact: Several years ago, computer programs called “RC flight simulators” came on the market and quickly become popular. Today, we have generations of excellent RC pilots who learned to fly using these virtual training tools. With a flight simulator, you can experience safe RC flight right in the comfort of your living room or den. And since there’s a reset button in case you crash your virtual model airplane, you’ll save lots of money and grief as well. It is not unheard of for student pilots who’ve learned to fly on a flight sim being completely successful when flying a real RC airplane their first time out. Here again, an experienced instructor makes the transition from virtual flying to real-world piloting even smoother.
Myth: It doesn’t matter what type of charger I use to charge my batteries.
Fact: Wrong! It is very important to always use the correct charger.
For most RTF airplanes, a battery pack and a compatible charger will be included in the box. If, however, you decide to buy a charger that can charge various types of packs, you have to properly set it for the type of packs you use. These chargers are known as “multichemistry chargers,” and you have to set them up according to the information printed on your battery pack.
Myth: I must have an experienced instructor to learn to fly my RC airplane.
Fact: Well, as we have just mentioned, having an instructor to show you the ropes will be a great help, but with today’s lightweight, foam RTF model airplanes, you could indeed learn to fly unassisted. Since these airplanes are so simple and lightweight, there’s very little inertia built up when they fly, making them pretty damageproof. Modern materials also make these airplanes quite rugged. And even if you do manage to damage them, they can be easily glued back together. Many airplanes also have replacement parts available.
Myth: I need to join a club to enjoy RC model flight.
Fact: Joining a club is not a requirement, but there are lots of model-plane clubs across the country for RC enthusiasts. They provide the opportunity to talk with other RC modelers, and they’re great resources for information, offering lots of experience you’ll find helpful. And many offer the use of a flying field for their members.
Myth: Electric power systems are good only for smaller airplanes.
Fact: Back in the beginning of electric power, this was true; the costs of larger motors and battery packs went up greatly when flying bigger models. But today more efficient brushless outrunner motors and speed controllers as well as higher-cell-count LiPo battery packs are a lot less expensive. Also with today’s CADdesigned and laser-cut airplane designs, bigger airplanes also weigh much less than before, which is always a good thing with electric power.
Myth: I need to get a license to fly my RC airplane.
Fact: You do not need to acquire or pay for any type of radio or pilot certification to fly small, electric-powered RC model airplanes. And with the new foam RTF models, you can fly easily in your own backyard if it’s big enough. Today, however, if your model airplane weighs more than half a pound, you do need to register with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA requires every unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operator to register before flight, and all model airplanes, quadcopters, and other multirotor models are considered a UAS; for more information, go to drone-registration.net. It is also a good idea to get your AMA membership card and the liability insurance that membership provides (modelaircraft.org).
Myth: I can glue a broken propeller back together.
Fact: While there are some amazingly strong glues on the market, propellers are one of those airplane parts you should not try to repair. Always replace a damaged propeller with a new one.
Myth: Electric planes aren’t affected by high altitudes like glow engine airplanes are.
Fact: It’s true that the motors aren’t affected by altitude, but prop efficiency can decrease. In extreme cases, you may need to increase the size of the prop to compensate.
Myth: To make my airplane faster, I can clip its wings to reduce drag.
Fact: It is true that by reducing drag you can increase speed, but when you reduce the wing area of your airplane, you also increase wing loading, which can make your airplane more challenging to fly. With an increase in the ratio of model weight to wing area, your model will land at a faster speed and will also stall sooner. Try sealing the control-surface hinge gaps with masking tape, removing the landing gear, and hand launching your model to increase speed.
You don’t have to buy a new radio for every plane you buy as many similar brands can bind together, so you can fly your planes with one main transmitter. At the worst, you simply buy a new receiver, or switch out the receiver and use it in the new plane.
Flying RC airplanes is a lot of fun, and anyone can learn to be a pilot. Attending events is a great way to learn more about the hobby and to see the planes you might be interested in flying.
The hobby shop is a great place to see what’s available and get information. You can also learn where modelers hang out and fly their planes.
A great learning tool is the flight simulator. These computer programs help you experience RC flight without endangering a model airplane. Just hit the rest button and you’re ready for another flight.
Although you don’t need a full-time instructor, there is a lot of information to be had by going to the local flying field.
The Triton2 EQ is an excellent multichemistry battery charger, which can charge all types of battery packs.
Short wings mean fast speeds, but it also means that the model will be more demanding to control and will land faster .