You know you’ve been eyeballing those RC planes at your local hobby shop or favorite web site. It’s understandable to feel the need to stand by the sidelines and watch vs. participate when it comes to these exciting models. Let’s face it, there’s a lot more to flying an RC plane compared to an RC ground vehicle. You must maintain a certain speed, manage the wind, learn to take off, learn to land, be more conscious of your battery life, and of course, learn to control a vehicle on a whole other axis… Things can be pretty overwhelming. At the same time, flying has a feeling of freedom and excitement that’s hard to match on the ground.
This article is here to provide answers to some of the most common questions most new fliers have when starting out in the world of RC planes. We hope this helps make your transition to the skies a fun and exciting experience.
Should I get a flight simulator?
Flight simulators are a great place to start, but should be treated as a training tool for orientation, different types of planes, and incorporating new features like flaps or landing gear, or practicing high risk maneuvers. No flight simulator, no mater how realistic, will ever prepare you for how an RC plane handles in reality. You don’t NEED to start with a simulator, but if you do, you should transition into flying in reality as quickly as possible.
What kind of plane should I buy?
No RC Warbirds…
Seriously. No RC Warbirds, or ducted fan jets for that matter.
If an RC warbird or other low wing plane is your ultimate goal, that’s great. However, starting with a low wing, scale RC plane will almost always end in frustration. For many, their first plane will generally be a high wing trainer (High and low wing defined by where the wing intersects the body or “fuselage” of the airplane.), Cessna, or Piper Cub style plane with a dihedral type wing.
A Dihedral wing will be more forgiving and will help the plane level out during flight. This style of wing is identified as one that is angled upward slightly from where the wings meet the fuselage. An entry-level trainer will generally have just 3 channels: throttle (turns the prop, thereby moving the plane forward.), elevator (Lifts or lowers the nose of the plane.), and rudder (shifts the nose of the plane left or right.).
For those who have already conquered 3 channel flight or want to start at a more advanced level should look at a 4-channel plane. A 4-channel plane features a Prop (Moves you forward.), elevator (Lifts or lowers the nose of the plane.), rudder (shifts the nose of the plane left or right.), and ailerons (rotates the plane like a cork screw left or right).
If you plan to start with a 4 channel plane, you will want to find a large wing glider style plane like the JPower Skysurfer. This plane will provide a greater challenge to the new flier or be a great second plane for someone that started on a high wing trainer.
Where can I get advice when I need it?
Find a flying friend. Sometimes this is easy to do sometimes it is not. Check your local hobby shop for groups or clubs that meet regularly. Check your area for local flying fields (Airfield locator) and ask frequent fliers at the field if they would be willing to help. You’ll find most veteran pilots are more than happy to help you with your adventure in flight.
Still can’t find someone? From your local hobby shop to online message boards, there is a wealth of information out there waiting for you to tap into it. Want to know how to upgrade your plane? Need to know what prop works best for your plane? Can’t get your plane to trim out properly in flight? Do you need to learn what “trim out” means?? All of this info is out there on message boards or at your local hobby shop. All you need to do is ask. Usually there’s a small army willing to give you advice. (Our advice is get a few opinions on ANYTHING you’re asking online as there will ALWAYS be varying opinions.)
Okay, all of that is fine and good, but do you have any actual TIPS for flying?
Alright, easy there, we can tell you’re already getting anxious to get out there and pilot your own plane, so here’s our flying advice:
Pick a day with little to no wind. A little wind is actually preferable as long as it’s somewhat consistent. Always launch and land your plane flying into the wind. By flying into (or against) the wind, your plane’s motor will not have to work as hard to create “lift”.
When heading out to fly, find a large open area clear of trees and power lines preferably with the sun at your back. When you fly, keep the plane in front of you and try not to let it get so far away that you cannot determine orientation. Yet, you should be high enough that you can make a mistake or two and still come out on top. The old rule of RC flight is “fly three mistakes high”.
When you put a plane in the air for the first time, you may need to “trim” the controls. In other words, you want the plane to track straight and true, but you might find that initially the plane may dive, climb, or turn a bit on it’s own. You will find buttons or sliders next to the control sticks corresponding to a control axis. One click at a time, move the trim controls in the opposite direction you are trying to correct. If the RC plane climbs, you would push the elevator trim up, or forwards. If the plane turns to one side, you may need to trim the rudder or aileron controls the opposite direction until the plane flies straight. You will need to re-trim the plane any time you change battery size or make any weight altercations to the plane or after an accident.
Learning to fly takes serious muscle memory. While you may be used to banging your RC controller steering wheel around to get your truck to do what you want, experienced fliers will tell you smooth flight comes from small, controlled motions on the sticks. Ease in and out of your maneuvers, avoid aggressive quick movements, and always remember to steer out of your turns to return to level flight. That tip is especially important when you start to fly 4-channel planes.
This article could literally be 50 pages long as there are so many different aspects to learn about RC flight. Hopefully we’ve encouraged you to get off the sidelines and get your first bird in the air. Ask any RC fanatic that flies, once you’re up in the sky, it’s hard to come back to the ground! Check out the many planes & jets we have available at atomik-RC.com! Do you have a question for us? Need help with something? Did we miss something in this article? Leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!
Article by: Jeff Simon