In this article, we will look into how to make RC planes and the multitude of options there are for the aspiring RC model aircraft builder.
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It is easy to assume that building RC airplanes is a difficult task but, in reality, they are actually fairly simple to make at home. It requires a little planning and a few materials but if you give it a few hours you could become an expert at building RC airplanes. All you need are the main components of a plane: the body (fuselage), wings, rudder (or ailerons/elevator), wheels, motor and radio transmitter. Building RC airplanes has become easier recently because of less expensive radio equipment and more efficient batteries and motors.
Building RC Planes – Quick Overview
- Building RC Planes – Quick Overview
- RC Planes Types
- Nitro RC Airplanes
- Things to think about when Building an RC Plane From Scratch
- Building the Model
- Installing The Radio Equipment
- Running The Engine
- How To Build An Electric Model Airplane
The process of building RC airplanes should always begin with the layout of the plane; you want to make sure all of the parts are attainable and that they will fit on the plane. You can use plastic, balsa wood or foam – the former two are definitely good choices but the most affordable and safest materials would be foam. Building RC airplanes is made easier by foam because you can simply purchase one 1/2’’ foam core board for the entire plane (for a 12-18 inch plane). Additionally, building RC airplanes out of foam keeps them intact when they crash.
To continue the process of building RC airplanes, use the fuselage and fit your ailerons into a groove in it using packing tape; this type of tape is the best kind for making a plane because it is lightweight and cheap. Then, fit your elevator into a groove in your fuselage or using packing tape. When building RC airplanes from scratch, it is essential to maximize the surface area between the fuselage, ailerons and the elevator and the packing tape. This makes sure none of the pieces fall off while the airplane is in flight. Next, put the wings on the plane. Make sure they are even; when building RC planes, accuracy is essential for a successful flight. After this, put the servos on the plane’s wings. When building RC airplanes, servos are important because they ensure that the plane is easily controlled and that it flies properly.
The next step in building RC airplanes is to assemble the motor. For a beginner, it makes sense to simply purchase a pre-made motor. If you have training, you may craft the motor yourself while you are building RC airplanes. For a plastic or balsa wood plane you can put the motor and radio transmitter inside the plane (with insulation so the motor doesn’t light the plane on fire) but, with a foam plane, you will have to put the motor and radio transmitter on the outside while you’re building RC airplanes.
In the process of building RC airplanes, the last and most important step is to test your airplane out. If it is not flying straight, check the propeller and make sure that you have mounted your motor with at least two degrees of right thrust to ensure that the torque of the plane is counteracted. Hopefully, you find that building RC airplanes is a fun process!
RC Planes Types
RTF RC Airplanes
Nowadays there is a bewildering amount of choices for the budding aero modeller who wants to learn how to make an RC airplane. Recently the emergence of ready to fly or RTF RC airplanes is probably the easiest route into beginner RC airplane flying with no assembly required. You literally unpack, charge the batteries then go flying.
ARTF/ARF RC Airplanes
Almost ready to fly or ARTF/ARF RC airplanes have shortened the time from purchase to the first flight to a few hours with just simple assembly to do before the first flight.
Many people enjoy the build phase as much as flying the aircraft, and they will design and build the whole airplane from scratch.
Kits make building a plan quite easy. There are many diverse types of airplane kits. You simply need to find a design you like, buy it and then put it all together. Kits vary from the simple to the very complicated and come in wood, plastic and metal.
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Electric RC Airplanes
Over the last couple of years, electric power for RC airplanes has made enormous gains on the traditional world of the nitro RC airplane. The reason for this is twofold in my opinion. Firstly, advances in both electric motor and battery technology have made electric airplanes performance and practicality extremely attractive to serious RC airplane enthusiasts, where cost is an issue Electric Power for RC Airplanes makes very good sense as you don’t have to keep buying nitro fuel. Secondly, the environmental issues that go with traditional nitro RC airplanes i.e. Noise and pollution are no longer an issue.
Personally, I feel there will always be a place for the internal combustion engine within aero-modelling, especially with large scale RC airplanes, however, these advances in motor and battery performance are blurring the issue.
Just a few years ago electric power for RC Airplanes was reserved for only the cheapest RC Models, indeed the phrase “remote-controlled airplane” would have been synonymous with electric power. The main reason for this increased practicality and performance is the Brushless RC motors and Lithium Polymer batteries also known as Li-Po batteries. Electric motors also work really well with ducted fan RC airplanes, these can be an alternative to real RC Jet Engines, so jet appearance models are now available almost ready to fly without the cost of true jet technology.
So electric power for RC airplanes is now a totally viable alternative to traditional Nitro Power RC Airplanes, I think that it is a great, clean, quiet and thoroughly modern power source.
Nitro RC Airplanes
2 and 4 Cycle Nitro RC Airplanes
Most traditional engines used in radio-controlled airplanes are 2 stroke glow engines, this means that they operate on the 2 cycle principle, just like a chainsaw engine. However, rather than having a spark plug to ignite the fuel/air mixture a small glow plug, which is preheated by a battery at startup, continuously glows and burns the fuel. These engines are simple, light, and inexpensive so this is why Nitro RC Airplanes are so popular. They are fuelled by Nitro-methane/methanol this fuel is mixed with 20% oil for lubrication. Most engines for Nitro RC Airplanes are categorized by their size in cubic inches e.g. 40 size = .40cu in.
4 Cycle engines are a bit more expensive and complicated, so are more often used in the larger and more expensive airplanes, where their better low down power suits this type of airplane. 4 cycle engines are more suited to the more experienced modeller, as they are more complicated to use and maintain.
Nitro RC Airplanes versus Petrol and Diesel Engines
The much larger petrol engines are for use with the large scale RC airplanes that have become popular lately. These large engines are normally between 32cc to over 100cc so are clearly serious bits of equipment, with price tags to match. When used with the very large scale RC airplanes they make for a truly stirring sight. Diesel engines used to be quite popular and work by igniting their fuel using very high compression ratios, these engines were available in a large range of sizes and although were less powerful than similar-sized nitro engines they did produce good low down power, they have however become hard to obtain. So Nitro RC Airplanes have become the most popular aircraft for more experienced modelers.
Building RC Planes from Kits
Airplane plans and kits are available in many variations to suit all potential aviation enthusiasts. There’s a great deal of pleasure to be had from piloting your own plane. It’s a hobby that can bring hours of fun. Model planes are available for children, adults, and those of all skill abilities.
There are choices for both new and experienced users. Plastic aircraft kits have a flexible selection of uses. Lightweight designs afford a higher flying speed and the ability to fly for a longer distance. Costs are low for basic airplanes and if you don’t need your aircraft to fly, there’s always model aircraft for display purposes only.
Kit planes made of wood offer similar attributes to the plastic planes, giving choices between models for display only or construction of aircraft that will actually fly. Wooden aircraft kits take longer to put together than their plastic counterparts, but assembly is usually straightforward.
Remote radio-controlled airplane kits, usually called RC airplanes, suit the most fun type of model aircraft. The controller becomes the pilot! RC aircraft models are available to a varied range of beginners right through to the expert level. Moneywise the cost can be quite low but it can also reach thousands of dollars depending upon the superiority, dimensions and detail required.
Model aircraft are hugely popular. Thousands of airplane aircraft kits and plans are available to make replica aircraft Plans are can be bought not just for modern aircraft, but for plans of airplanes since the early days of their invention.
There’s a great deal of interest in aircraft from the World War One and Two eras – these represent the highest plan sales. Approximately 200,000 model aircraft builders face the same problems in selecting the aircraft they want to construct and then finding the right plan to suit them. Many plan purchasers will build the aircraft from balsa wood which is easy to work with.
It’s vital to get full assistance for each aircraft’s building method. This will ensure that each piece is exactly correct for both size and weight. This will aid the ‘balancing’ of the aircraft during its time in the air.
Some plans will include specifics of what types of wire should be used, whether it’s piano wiring for propeller shafts or electrical wire for motors.
Ready constructed, fully functioning motors can be purchased for your airplane if you intend to fly it. This applies to nearly all plans for aircraft, airplane plans, and kits.
How To Build an RC Plane From Scratch
Many modellers, myself included, get a great deal of pleasure from constructing a model either from a basic kit of parts or building from scratch from plans. Plans are often available for free from magazines all you need to do is to copy them and get the paper blown up to the required size. Often designers will sell the plans on the internet or from magazine classified ads, all you need is the time and raw materials to turn their plans into reality.
This method will obviously take more time to produce your flyable model, but for many people, this is the only way to go. There is a good chance you are going to go through several designs and variations before you come up with your first good working project.
Building your first park trainer out of foam is a great way to get started and most of the other parts you need will be useful in future projects as well. So right from the start, when deciding how to build an RC plane from scratch, think about how you want to get started in the hobby.
If you aren’t quite sure yet, if it is for you, sticking to the lower end parts and electronics is understandable. If you are already planning your second and third projects, you might want to consider investing a little more to get the gear that you will work well for those projects as well.
Things to think about when Building an RC Plane From Scratch
- Start out with the end in mind, if you are going to get into the hobby, you will need your own workspace. So find an area where you can get set up to do some work and keep your tools that will be out of everyone’s way. Having a workbench or table to work at is important. You aren’t going to want to start out on Mom’s dining room table, she won’t be impressed if you nick the table with your Exacto drip some glue on the chairs.
- During assembly, your project will need time for the glue to set up and the last thing you want is to be moving it around or having to stuff it into a closet.
- Once you have your workspace and materials and figured out how to build an RC plane from scratch, all that’s left is to get to it.
- The learning comes from the doing and don’t be scared about things not working out, if it’s your first project, you may end up reworking some of the details…
- My first plane project was all balsa and to be totally honest, it took way too long and as a young guy, my patience was challenged to finish it.
- That’s what makes this foam project such a great first start to flying. You will be able to put it together reasonably quickly and get out there and test your flying skills!
So now’s the time, stop wondering how to build an RC plane from scratch, and let’s get started.
Building the Model
The main difference between this type of project and kit construction is, of course, that you are manufacturing all the components yourself – once that has been done you are back in familiar territory of kit building, so this article will simply concentrate on how to go about those operations in preparation for the actual construction.
Having chosen the model and obtained the plans, the first thing to be done is to obtain your raw materials – chiefly balsa and lite-ply – if your own stocks are not sufficient. Your plans will show what sizes of balsa you are looking for, so draw up your shopping list and head for your local model shop! From what we read in the modelling press, the availability of good quality balsa in your local shop is not what it used to be and specialized direct-mail suppliers are also getting thin on the ground. Basically, though, what you are after in most models is the best combination of lightness and strength, so it can be boiled down to looking for denser weights of balsa for those parts subject most likely to take the knocks or subject to stress and strain and less dense material for the rest! Less dense balsa will have a slightly ‘fluffy’ feel and appearance, whilst the harder balsa will have a smoother surface. Good savings can be made by buying sheet balsa from which to cut your strip balsa requirements, rather than buying all the strip material ready-cut. A balsa strip-cutter (above) is a great investment, but it can also be done with a steel rule, a steady hand, and a good sharp modelling knife! Matching the weight of parts falling either side of the center line of the model is
Next, take a photocopy of the plans. These can usually be obtained from the more professional stationery suppliers or office bureaux who offer plan copying. You might even have such facilities available through the drawing office at your place of work. If you want to keep your original plan in pristine condition, you might even consider the luxury of having two copies taken, if it’s not too expensive, since you will be cutting one plan up and building on another.
The first part of construction can be anything you like. The easiest way of doing it is to start with the fuselage (The body of the plane) These can be put together in different ways according to the model. The easiest model to build is an ARTF (Almost ready to fly) model. These come pre-built, covered and decorated. This is the only way of ensuring a perfect result and they can be built and ready to fly in as little as three days. The most common and cheapest way of doing it is a kit. These are basically a box of wood that you have to make a plane out of.
IMPORTANT: Be careful with balsa wood as it damages and snaps very easily. The body of the plane (Known as the fuselage) is fairly daunting when you see the work involved. Don’t let this put you off, because it really is worthwhile in the end. First, lay out the plan on your board and pin it down. The first thing to do, before gluing, is to cut out all the necessary parts. You will need a modelling knife and your razor saw. Lay the wood over the plan and draw on to the wood all of the lines that will be cut out. If it is a complex, cut, it would be wise to do this with the modelling knife, not the razor saw. You could even pin the wood to the plan if you are struggling. Once all the parts are cut out you will notice lots of parts that are like squares. These start off large and get smaller and smaller. These are supports. These need to be fitted to the inside of the fuselage to strengthen the structure. Layout the appropriate pieces on to the plan and then mix some epoxy resin/PVA glue. Glue all the pieces and you should have a very good fuselage. It will then need to be shaped to get the airflow right and the model will fly both more stable and it will fly faster when wanted.
To speed things up, Plane off the sharp edges and then sand them down. You will then have extremely smooth edges. The next step is to construct the wing. This is the most difficult part. The wing of a trainer often has an angle like a V in the center so that the tip of the wings are raised up. This makes the model fly stable. Again, cut out the pieces and glue them accordingly. When fitting the wing ribs try to get the heaviest towards the center of the wing.
The leading edge must now be sanded like on the fuselage. This is made easier using a block with sandpaper around it. You have now assembled the wing and when it is sat on the fuselage it starts to look the slightest bit like a plane. Using the same techniques as above, construct the fin, rudder, elevator, and ailerons (These are the flaps used for controlling the plane). Then the model has to be covered. There is a variety of films to use. Some are self-adhesive and some are iron-on. It does not matter what you use. When the model is done you can sit back and relax until it comes to the control hardware. This is the next step.
Installing The Radio Equipment
Installing the radio equipment has to be one of the easiest things to do when you have installed the hardware e.g pushrods etc. Just slot in the servos and screw them tight. Then connect all linkages and connect the servos to the correct ports on the receiver. Now you must switch on the equipment and test it all. If everything works in the correct order then proceed to the next step.
Running The Engine
Running the engine on your model can be dangerous. Please take extreme care when attempting to start the model engine.
The engine has a number of features. The carburetor is a small hole at the front of the engine that can be opened and closed. This is used to control the intake of air and fuel. This speeds up and slows down the engine for takeoff, landing, and aerobatics.
The needle valve is a small knob on the side of the carburetor. On some engines, this is located at the back of the engine to make adjusting safer due to the speed of the rotating propeller. This valve is used to adjust the mixture of fuel and air intake. To open the needle valve it richens the mixture which lets more air than fuel into the engine and lets the engine burn cooler. This gives you less power but there is less chance of going deadstick. (Deadstick is when your engine cuts and the model has to be glided back in) To close the needle valve, it leans the mixture sending less fuel than air into the engine thus the engine burns hotter and you have more power.
The chances of going deadstick are greater. To start the engine, fill the model with fuel either using a bulb or a fuel pump. Then, you must prime the engine. This is when you open the throttle fully, place your thumb over the carburetor and turn the engine over anticlockwise 4 or 5 times. This brings fuel into the engine and makes the engine easier to start. Then take your thumb off the carburetor and move the throttle until it is 1/3 open. Then flick the engine over a few times to let air into the engine. DO NOT DO THIS PROCEDURE WITH THE GLOW PLUG CONNECTED TO A POWER SUPPLY!!! Now open the needle valve 1 and 1/2 turns. It would be wise to remember this position.
Energize the glowplug with a 1.5-volt power supply and give the engine a flick to the right and it should start running. If you do not feel safe using your finger or a stick use a starter that is a bit like a high – torque drill and will turn the engine over for you. When the engine has been running for a couple of minutes, open the throttle fully and hold the model at a steep climbing angle for 10-15 seconds. If the engine changes in sound at all or cuts, the needle valve needs adjusting again. Repeat this procedure until the engine runs smoothly. This position on the needle valve is the optimum running position. It would be wise to remember this position for future running.
- Wing ribs and other multi-copy components. Cut out the shape from the plan and stick it down onto a piece of 1/8 ply or lite-ply, cut it to shape using a hand saw and rasp – a flat Permagrit strip is my favorite shaper. Repeat to make a second identical piece (or make both at the same time with two pieces of ply taped together). Clamp the two pieces together and drill three holes through the centerline of these patterns. Next, cut balsa strip into pieces just large enough to cover the shape, cutting as many as required of that particular size. Tape or lightly clamp the balsa pieces into a bundle, topped with one of the patterns, and drill three holes through the bundle, using the pattern as a jig for the holes. Register the second pattern at the bottom of the stack and hold the whole bundle together with suitable bolts. You can now sand and file the balsa down to the shape of the patterns.
- Complex shapes. Again, cut out a pattern from the plan, or just photocopy the particular part on the drawing, and stick it on to the balsa or lite-ply required for the part and then cut, file and sand to shape. In the case of the formers shown here for the stringers, the plan just provides the detailed edge which is then stuck down to the balsa. With a shape like F9, to prevent breaking off the very narrow supports, you cut out each alternate slot, then fit stringers into those slots before cutting out the other slots (shown in pink in the picture above right).
- Larger, less complex shapes, like fuselage sheeting, doublers, etc., can simply be drawn lightly on to the balsa from dimensions taken from the plan and then cut to shape.
- Where a part is repeated for, say, left and right fuselage sides, cut both at once to ensure identical shape. Choose your balsa as carefully as possible to try and ensure the equal weight of such parts as are duplicated either side of the centerline of the fuselage, left and right wings, etc., to maintain uniformity of weight as the plane is built. For lengths of sheeting longer than the 36″ length of your stock sheeting, join them together with a diagonal cut, using the good old-fashioned balsa cement before cutting to shape.
- ‘Moulded’ shapes. For contoured shapes like engine cowls (right), glue large pieces of block balsa together or to a frame (the plan will show the suggested method) and then carve, sand, and cut to shape.
- Wire bending for undercarriage. A wire bender is a worthwhile investment if you are going to do a fair amount of plan building. This allows you to carefully bend the wire to shape, offering it up to the plan as you go, to accurately replicate the required angles. The picture shows the wire laid through the holding pins of the bender and the wire is bent by pulling the large pivoted lever. The flat plate of the bender is designed to be permanently screwed down to a heavy base or can be firmly held in a vice.
By following these straightforward techniques, it will not be long before you have all the bits that you would normally find in a kit, but at a lot less cost. With the many hundreds of plans available, many as give-aways in modelling magazines, you have a very wide choice of model, many of which you will never find as a kit of any sort. There are also some superb plans available, together with accessory kits for some of the specialists and more complex moldings like canopies, cowls, spats, etc., as well as wheels, undercarriage, and other dedicated fittings.
How to Build an ARTF/ARF RC Plane
If you had paid a visit to any model flying field as recently as seven or eight years ago, you would have been very lucky indeed to have spotted an ARTF model airplane. Today, things are very different and you’ll probably find yourself perusing a wide variety of ‘ready-built’ models in the pit area.
Since most of the hard work has already been done for you, the construction of these models is generally a pretty simple affair, but care is still needed if the model is to be ‘straight and true’ on the occasion of its first flight. The purpose of this section is to point out a few important areas to which particular attention should be made if you wish to attain the best performance from any ARTF model aircraft kit.
Worth the wait!
Having selected your chosen kit, take a trip to your nearest stockist, and purchase the model. Due to the huge number of ARTF kits available, you may find that your favorite retailer simply does not have sufficient space to stock all the kits that he or she would like. But don’t be too disappointed if the kit which you selected is not immediately available. For this reason, it may well be worth telephoning the shop before you leave home or work to check that they have the kit you want in stock. If not, simply ask them to phone through to our sales team and, if it is available, we will despatch the model the very same day.
Check it out
Once you get the kit home, take a few minutes to carefully unpack all the main components, and give each part a thorough check-over. Thankfully, major faults are very rare, but as with any mass-produced item, mistakes do slip through from time to time. Now’s the time to identify any major problems such as a warped wing or a twisted fuselage – not when you have glued it all together and it’s impossible to replace the affected part!
If you are satisfied with the overall appearance of the model, take a few minutes to check the finer details. One area to pay close attention to is the control hinges. Check whether they are pre-installed and if so, give each control surface a firm pull. If any hinges show any signs of looseness, please cut away the complete control surface and re-hinge as necessary. Now is the time to discover any such problems, not when your model is 300 feet up in the air!
Taped hinges should be stuck firmly to both surfaces. If such a hinge shows signs of lifting, rub it down firmly. If it continues to lift, the adhesive may have become contaminated with dust, etc., from inside the box. Any badly affected areas should be carefully cut away and replaced. Film hinges may also lift, but in most cases, they can simply be ironed back into position using a heat sealing iron in a suitably low setting.
Check each control surface for free and full movement. Any binding should be investigated and resolved. In rare circumstances, you may find that too much glue has been used to fix the hinges in place. The excess will have settled at the hinge line and solidified, causing an obstruction. In most instances, it is easily removed and full control is regained.
Many ARTF kits have pre-installed pushrods and control runs. These must also run free and it is easier to check out and resolve any restrictions before you assemble the model. Recheck them once you have completed the model, just in case connecting them to either the servo arm or control horn has caused a small distortion. The simplest remedy here is often a slight bending of the wire pushrod to realign the linkage. In some cases, you may even need to enlarge the push-rod exits at the rear of the fuselage. Proceed with care, preferably using a small file to gently remove material from the fuselage side. Avoid using a knife as this may set up small splits in the fuselage side that may get bigger when the model is in use.
As with all model aircraft, your ARTF will fly much better if it is assembled straight and true. The wing should sit squarely to the fuselage and likewise, the tail should be level in relation to the wings, with the fin at 90 degrees. With the wing bolted or bonded to the fuselage, insert the tailplane and check its position. If it is out of square by a small amount, then don’t be frightened to gently sand away some material from the high side of the tailplane mount. Likewise, small wedges of balsa wood can be glued onto the mount to build up any low points. Of course, if the tailplane mount is way out of square in relation to the wing mount, then you will have detected this during your preliminary inspection and have already acquired a replacement fuselage!!
The same goes for the fin. Don’t just glue it into its slot – check that it is truly vertical and at 90 degrees to the tailplane. Use postcards or beer mats, etc., as simple set squares for this job, cutting them away where they clash with the fuselage sides. Again, don’t be frightened to make good any faults. Even though it’s an ARTF, it’s still OK to do a bit of balsa bashing!
Before you glue the tail in place also check that in planform it sits square to the fuselage and wings. The easiest way to do this is to use lengths of thread to measure the distances between wing and tailplane tips, as shown in the accompanying diagram below (click the image for a more detailed view}. Before gluing the tail parts in position, check to make sure that the covering film does not cover up any areas to be glued. If it does, then mark it carefully and remove using a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut into the underlying wood structure as this may weaken the airframe.
Got the gear?
When fixing the undercarriage in position, please make sure that the wheels turn freely and that they do not exhibit any large degree of toe-in or toe-out. If they do, remove the offending leg and tweak it as necessary. Don’t try and bend it whilst it is attached to the model since you will most likely rip it away from its wooden mount.
Steerable nose wheels should turn easily in their bearing blocks. Make sure that the control arm is firmly attached to the nose leg otherwise, it will slip and the whole thing may revolve in flight or, in the worst case, it may even drop out altogether! As with other control linkages, the pushrod to the tiller arm should run freely. Pay particular attention here as a binding nose leg can cause lots of battery drain and stress on the poor rudder servo every time that you yaw the model. Remember, the nose leg also turns in flight and not just when the model is on the ground!
Models equipped with spats should be closely examined to make sure that the wheels revolve freely. If the spat rubs against the wheel, simply pare it away using a sharp knife until the wheel is loose, making sure to allow some sideways clearance for the wheel to move slightly along its axle.
Ailerons may either be activated by torque rods or by independent wing-mounted servos. If the latter applies, you may find that the ends of the rods that are connected to the servo are at different angles when the ailerons are neutral. If so, the pushrods will need to be of different length; in most cases, this can be achieved by simply adding a few extra turns to the clevis on one side.
Some ARTFs will have been assembled in countries where the climate is far different from our own. During transit and storage, the wood may have ‘settled’ and have distorted slightly. This is most likely on unsupported parts like ailerons and elevators but is far less likely where the wood is bonded in position as part of the airframe.
On the control surfaces, such distortions are likely to manifest themselves as a slightly bowed or wavy trailing edge. In most sport flying applications, they will have very minimal effect on flying performance, but attention should be taken to make sure that the controls are lined up more in relation to the wingtips rather than the center section. This is because, generally, the outer sections of the control surfaces have a far greater aerodynamic effect than the sections nearest the fuselage.
Most modern ARTFs have pre-installed engine mounts, with the engine lugs retained by simple metal straps. These have proved to be very effective and secure, provided that care is taken to tighten down the straps evenly and tightly. Such mounts also allow a small amount of thrust line adjustment, which can be of help when you are fine-tuning your model during its early flights.
Again, do check that the control linkage to the throttle servo is free and take any necessary steps to relieve any binding. In most instances, all that will be required is a gentle bend in the wire pushrod.
As with any model, take your time to set up the throttle such that it gives full movement at the carburetor barrel without stalling the servo, and that it also closes fully when the throttle stick AND throttle trim are pulled back. This is very quick and easy using a modern computer radio set, such as any of the JR Propo range of radio control systems.
Hopefully, you will have rectified any control linkage problems during construction, but it’s never too late to double-check just to make sure. Stalled or binding servos will quickly drain the poor flight battery, leading to shorter available flying times and potential servo failure in the long term. Your R/C system is the heart of your model, so treat it with care. Protect against vibration by wrapping the battery and receiver in suitable high-density foam and make sure that all servos are secured with all screws (normally four), including their rubber mounting grommets and brass ‘anti-crush’ ferrules.
The switch should be mounted either internally, where it can be operated by a short wire pushrod, or externally, on the side opposite the engine exhaust (if fitted). Take care to protect an external switch from moisture in wet or damp conditions.
How To Build An Electric Model Airplane
- Electric remote control airplanes are a popular type of model aircraft among model airplane enthusiasts. In this type of model airplane, the engine is powered by batteries, rather than by fuel. Electric model airplanes can be purchased in line-control or radio-controlled versions.
- As with other model airplane kits, electric model airplane kits can also be purchased pre-assembled or as a kit you assemble. In pre-assembled kits, the major components, like the wings and the fuselage come already assembled. Some minor assembly may be required for landing gear, battery installation, and other easy to assemble parts. Electric model airplane kits that you need to assemble can be a little complex and do take some time to build before you can actually fly your model airplane.
- Both pre-assembled and assembly required electric model airplane kits come with instructions to guide you through all the assemblies required to get your electric model airplane in the air. Read through and follow these instructions as you put your electric model airplane together.
- One of the tools you will need to build your electric model airplane, besides the tools common to all model airplane building, is a circuit tester. A circuit tester will aid you in making the right electrical connections from your electric model airplane’s battery to the engine and to the servos that control flight and landing. Circuit testers are also a great tool to take out to the field with you to perform some pre-flight inspections and /or modifications.
- Wire strippers/cutters are another tools that you may find helpful in the assembly and maintenance of your electric model airplane. This tool can strip away the plastic sheath that protects the wire and can also cut the wire to the required lengths. X-acto knives, screwdrivers, and spare parts are also suggested as part of your electric model airplane tool kit.
Make sure to set the control surfaces and center of gravity as shown in the instructions. These will not necessarily be the best positions for optimum performance of your own particular model but will be sufficient to ensure a safe first flight. Depending on your piloting skills, you may wish to change these settings to suit your own flying style, but please do so one at a time so that you can easily assess any changes to flight performance.
Novice pilots are advised to stick with the recommended settings unless advised otherwise by their instructor, who will preferably have been certified by the British Model Flying Association (or its equivalent in your country). If you have never flown an R/C model before, or have limited experience, please do seek help from an experienced instructor. Your model shop will be able to advise you of suitable model flying clubs in your area that can offer flight training.
I hope that this article has given you some positive ideas on how to get the best from your next Almost Ready To Fly kit. Although most ARTF kits can be quickly ‘thrown together’ and still fly, you will reap even more enjoyment from your new model if you take your time during assembly to make sure that everything is straight and true.
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