|Sep 08, 2004, 05:14 PM|
Newbies Guide to the Slowstick
This will be available in website format for easy printing soon. I'll update this post with a link when its available.
The Newbies guide to the GWS Slowstick
Compiled by Mike Forbes, AKA ‘Vanning’
(edit: i cant get the pictures to come out where they belong. Im workin' on it!)
Welcome future pilot!
Ok, so your interested in getting an RC airplane. Excellent hobby choice. Waayyy more fun than golf - though not necessarily cheaper…
I’ve been flying almost a year now, largely due to the great help and advice I’ve received from the forums on RCGroups.com. After that first successful flight (no, not the very first flight!) I was totally hooked. Flying is now my favorite pastime, and I strongly recommend it to friends & strangers alike. In appreciation for all the help from the members of RCG, I’ve tried to compile as many of the helpful discussion threads as I could dig up, along with my own ideas and recommendations. In most cases, I’ve copied the posts and edited them together so it reads more like a book instead of a collection of forum posts. For all this material, it would be impossible to thank everyone individually, so instead I must simply thank you all collectively.
Your probably reading this because you asked the question that almost as old as airplane modeling itself: “What first plane should I get?” Well, I’ve compiled a nice neat little newbie primer here for those of you who are interested in the GWS Slowstick. There are certainly many other planes available that would also make great trainers, I haven’t flown them so I cant really offer much insight. Many of the tips here would carry over to any plane though. The humble, inexpensive Slowstick was heavily recommended to me when I started, and I’d like to share the reasons why. Hopefully, some of this will sink in and it will save you some of the money and headaches ive dealt with. She looks extremely basic because she is – but don’t let looks fool you. With her, you will learn most of the concepts of flying, especially the weird sensation of flying remotely. You wont spend a bundle. You wont get bored of her. You will be able to re-use some of your flight gear in future planes, and there WILL be future planes! This stuff is FUN, and there is no such thing as a ‘full’ hangar.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:15 PM|
Here’s a brief outline of what makes her so special:
Simple to build. Take your time and it might take 2 hours. I can do it in about 45 minutes now.
Cheap. The airframe costs $35, and it uses simple, common, inexpensive radio equipment.
Versatile. She's by far the most versatile airplane ever made - modifications and uses are limited only by your imagination. The large wing and the lightweight make for possibly the best aerial photography plane available.
Flight characteristics. Graceful and relaxing at lower throttle, but capable of ultra-quick loops and turns when you wanna cut loose a bit or for flying combat competitions.
Convenient. The simple radio and battery installation will accommodate almost any size and brand radio equipment. Strapping in a fresh battery takes about 30 seconds so you can fly - almost uninterrupted - till your thumbs hurt.
With a pocketful of spare parts, propellers, epoxy and clear packing tape, pretty much any crash damage can be repaired on the spot in just a few minutes. The plane itself is quite durable, but nose-first crashes typically break the propeller and can sometimes bend the prop shaft or even break the plastic gearbox. Those three items each cost less than $3
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:15 PM|
Heres a short list off the top o’ my head:
Aerobird series of planes
Parkzone J3 Cub
Internal combustion “glow-powered” planes
Since I have little or no experience with most of these, I’ll keep it brief. Whether it’s the Slowstick or not, you WANT a full 3 channel (minimum) rc airplane. Some of the cheaper Ready To Fly (RTF) planes use 2 channels. You WANT a real throttle, rudder and elevator. Some cheaper planes use ‘thrust vectoring’ instead. You give it throttle and it climbs, you drop throttle and it descends…at least in theory. Some use twin motors and propellers instead of a rudder. To turn left, the left motor slows down and the plane turns…again, in theory. Reality is that these super-cheap toys need a massive flying field because you have no way of avoiding anything, and you quickly become unhappy with the sensation of uncontrolled flight.
Another minor thing to consider is standardization. Many of the less expensive RTF’s use a control board with everything built in. Servos and all. Individual parts of the system are not available. However, assuming that nothing breaks or fails, this isn’t that big a deal. I really wouldn’t pull a radio system out of a functional airplane to outfit a new one anyway. The more flyable planes you have in your trunk when you get to the field, the better! Just buy new gear with the new plane. However, be advised that if one little thing fails, you cant just go to the hobby shop and buy a new servo or whatever – you end up ordering a whole new board
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:16 PM|
Glow planes are great, don’t get me wrong. I have a .40 trainer myself. But I don’t have space here to get into the pros & cons of electric vs. glow. You’re reading this because you want an inexpensive, durable trainer with a bare minimum of headaches. I’ll assume you’ve chosen electric. As I write this, I’m rebuilding my glow trainer for the second time. I’ve had 4 flights and two horrendous crashes. Though it flies wonderfully, it just cant compare to the Slowstick for crash-ability. It’ll take me a few weeks to repair. The Slowstick could probably have been repaired in the field and flown some more. Practice is what learning to fly is all about. A durable plane with a few spare parts will maximize your stick-time.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:17 PM|
Online or Hobby shop? Sure you can save a couple bucks online, but I always try to support my LHS whenever I can.
Some good online vendors ive used are:
and there are countless others, but pick up the phone book first. If you have an LHS nearby, check out his stock and his prices.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:17 PM|
What to order
This part is confusing to a newbie. Fortunately, im very opinionated, so I’ll tell you what you want.
Plane: The Slowstick is available with the 100, 300, and 400 motor, as well as a ‘slope glider’ kit that has no motor. You want the 300 or 400. The 100 is too small, so forget it. The 300 series motor works well and is standard on sooo many planes, its easy to find replacements. The larger 400 is actually less powerful than the 300’s given the same battery pack. The advantage is that it can take more voltage. A 300 is limited to a 7cell pack, and even then its life expectancy depends on what prop, gearing, flying style, etc. The 400 just don’t care. It doesn’t really wake up until you run it on 8cells or more. So the choice is between lightweight performance using commonly available equipment or heavy durability that requires a bigger battery and you are less likely to find replacement parts locally. Either is a good choice, just select a battery accordingly. One other thing, ive heard that some 400 Slowsticks do not come with a gearbox, but instead use direct drive (the prop is connected right to the motor). Be sure you DON’T get a direct drive. They are much less efficient and poorly matched with a Slowstick.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:19 PM|
Radio: not so easy. The good news is that there are very few radios available that are sub-standard today. The bad news is that there are hundreds to choose from. You want to order what suits your expectations. An inexpensive GWS transmitter works fine, but you’ll eventually end up buying a nice 6channel computer radio for your 2nd or 3rd plane. If you have the cash and you expect to be in this for the long haul, go with a sweet radio right off the bat. You wont have to buy twice. If your unsure, the lesser expensive radios will be fine. The only feature you really NEED at this point is ‘servo reversing’. More on that later. Just be sure to get a 4channel (minimum) and get it with an ‘air’ designated frequency. Here in the ‘states, that’s 72mz, and 27mhz. Given the choice, id rather have 72mh. The 27mhz band is used on every single cheap Radio shack rc toy there is, plus its very close to the CB band, so you have a better chance of getting hit with interference.
Please check around if you don’t live in the states to see what bands are designated RC ‘air’ and order accordingly. You usually have a choice between dozens of channels within the band. Just pick one. Doesn’t matter. If you live in Central NJ, just don’t pick channel 42….
Transmitters are generally sold with the frequency crystal. Receivers are not. You will need
1. a transmitter
2. a receiver
3. a receiver crystal that not only works with the receiver itself, but is the same channel that the transmitter comes with.
Be advised: for the most part, transmitters and receiver crystals are brand-specific. A GWS receiver crystal may not work in a Hitec receiver…
Unless you are ordering a package deal, be sure to stick with a brand.
You may be confused by all the three-letter acronyms that are used to describe radio features. Here’s a list of some features and an opinion of their value. If you don’t care, please skip ahead to “The rest of the gear” section.
PCM = Pulse Code Modulation. Instead of sending the receiver simple commands like ‘up’ and ‘left’, everything is sent in an 8-bit code. If the signal that reaches the Rx isn’t precisely in that code, the receiver does nothing. This is the ultimate way to filter out noise. Unnecessary for the Slowstick, but hey, if ya got the scratch, it certainly wont hurt. This would only be found in investment quality radios, like $200 & up. Again, a simple Fm 4 channel radio will usually do the job fine.
EPA = End Point Adjustment. Can be used to limit the travel of the servos if you want. Not as useful as Dual Rates, but ok.
D/R = Dual Rates. A servo travels 60 degrees each way. If you set up the linkages to ‘throw’ the rudder & elevator as far as they go, then you will have an extremely nimble plane that can do loops in the blink of an eye and can do a U-turn in about 6 feet. The downside is that minor flight adjustments require much more practiced and sensitive thumbs. The plane feels like its going all over the place. Dual rates allow you to cut the throws to half, while using the full range of the stick. Typically you flip the D/R switch for takeoff, landing and for relaxing flight. Set to Full rate, your doing loops, stunts, combat etc. Gives you the option to mellow out or ‘kick it up a notch’.
EXPO = Exponential servo travel. Not unlike D/R, with this feature you can set your servos sensitivity to your input. With expo enabled, you can have very fine, precise control of your elevator and rudder, while still maintaining ability to do stunts. This is a nice feature. Without expo, the servo moves the same amount for every little bit of stick travel you give it. 0=0, ½ = ½, full = full. With Expo, 0=0, but if you move the stick say ¼ of the way, the servo only moves say 15%. Move the stick ½ way and the servo moves to say 33%. Move the stick up to ¾, and the servo starts increasing its throw to maybe 66%. Move the stick all the way, and the servo goes to 100%.
Dual Conversion. A dual conversion receiver filters the signal twice. Less interference. More money. Not generally necessary on a little electric plane unless you live in an urban or industrial area where you will experience lots of the dreaded Radio Interference (RFI).
Very important for a larger glow or gasoline planes. Little electric planes might hurt somebody if you lost control, but internal combustion planes can kill.
Shift. This is REALLY important. You MUST order a transmitter and receiver that have the same shift. Futaba, GWS, and Hitec transmitters use a NEGATIVE shift. JR and Airtronics (sold as Sanwa in some countries) use POSITIVE. A (-) transmitter and (+) receiver wont talk to each other. Since you will probably be ordering both from the same supplier, just ask him to be sure they work together. Neither is better than the other, just be sure your equipment matches.
AM/FM. Turn on your car stereo. Hit that ‘AM’ button. Now try FM. Whaddya think is better?
Trainer Compatible. A VERY nice feature IF you have someone who can train you. By simply running a cable between your radio and your instructors, you can fly until you get into trouble and with the flick of a switch, the instructor can take over control of the plane. If an instructor is available to you, find out what kind of radio he has and be sure to order one that’s compatible. Many different radio brands cant ‘talk’ to each other, or at best, an adapter cable is hard to find. You will probably also have to order the trainer cable as well, unless your instructor already has one.
I like this guy: http://stores.ebay.com/Toms-RC-Simul...derLinksQQtZkm
Servo Reversing. Its hard to find a radio these days that doesn’t have it. Ok, so you’ve built and installed everything. You read my section about pre-flight checks. You were a good boy and actually did one. Unfortunately, you see that your rudder moves right when you move the stick left! What to do? Flip a tiny little switch somewhere on your transmitter. Simple. Some computer radios don’t have little switches, instead, you have to scroll through menus and hit ‘enter’ buttons or some such thing.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:20 PM|
The rest of the gear:
Receiver: the gws 4 channels’ are ok, but spend the extra $2 and get the 6channel. It has twice the range. Cheap insurance. There are many other rx’s out there, but I haven’t used them or felt the need to. Futaba’s are nice generally, but you pay a premium price. The Hitec Feather is rumored to be glitchy, so avoid it. You don’t really want or need a full-sized receiver that was designed for a glow plane because of the weight and size. If you scored one cheap from a friend or in an auction, it’ll probably be ok though. Again, the Slowstick can carry a lot more weight than most electric planes.
Servos: The GWS ‘Mini’ servos are the best for the Slowstick. Cheap & durable.
The ‘nano’ & ‘pico’ servos are too small. The weight savings isn’t necessary for the Slowstick. You want the durability. “Standard’ size servos can be rigged to fit, but they really are overkill, and they aren’t cheaper.
Speed controller: Your Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) performs two vital functions. First, it varies the speed of your motor depending on how fast you are telling your plane to go. Second, it has a voltage regulator that feeds 5 volts of power to your radios’ receiver and servos. You want an ESC that is easily capable of handling the current that your motor draws. On the Slowstick, typical current draws are between 7 and 9 amps. The GWS ICS 300 can easily handle that. The ICS 100 can just barely do it, and has been known to burn out sometimes. Go with the 300. The 400 and 480 are designed for much larger airplanes, and though they will work fine, they are unnecessary weight and expense. More expensive speedos like the Castle Creations Pixie line and Jeti’s are well known to be quality stuff, but feel free to save a few dollars and go with the ICS300. On a typical electric plane, you only have one battery to run both the motor and the radio gear. What happens when the battery goes dead? The ESC senses when the battery voltage is getting too low and it will turn off the motor, leaving enough battery power to operate the radio. This is called the Low Voltage Cutoff, or LVC. Some nicer ESC’s have an adjustable LVC so you can use different types of batteries. You can typically run a Nicad or Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack down to 5v or so, but a Lithium Polymer battery would be ruined if you discharged it that far. More on batteries later. Should you be interested in possibly getting Lipo batteries later on, then start with the CC Pixie 20. Once again, you wont have to buy twice.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:20 PM|
Battery: There are three categories to choose from.
1. Nickel-Cadmium (Nicad) Dirt cheap, indestructible, heavy as a brick. Flight times will be quite short.
2. Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) Reasonable price, fairly durable, Longer flight times than nicad.
3. Lithium Polymer (Lipo) ‘Spensive. Not durable. Unreal capacity. About 3 times as much as Nimh. The chemistry of a lithium battery is POTENTIALLY dangerous though. Any denting, puncturing, overheating or improper charging could result in a rather nasty fire. Statistically, it doesn’t happen that often but when it does, your house or car usually catches fire too. Lipo’s are typically not recommended for beginners.
I have experience with only one GWS battery – my first one that came with my package deal. A 7cell 730mah nimh I think. It really didn’t work out well. Between the high drain stresses and my crappy charger, I had nothing but problems. Upon the advice in the forums, I then picked up a couple KAN packs and had great success. KAN is a brand name, and they make two different NiMH cells that’ll work – the 1050mah and the 650mah. The smaller 650 is better suited to some of Gws’s other planes that are more weight sensitive. Since the Slowstick actually flys better with a little weight, the 1050 is the way to go. The ‘mah’ part is the batteries capacity, in Milli-Amp-Hours. Example: a 1050mah battery can run a 1.050amp load for theoretically 1 hour before its dead. The math is proportional too. If your load is 10 amps, it’ll run 1/10th of an hour, or 6 minutes.
If your load is way too much, say 20 amps or more, then the battery is being overworked and will not live very long. You will see very often batteries will have their discharge limits described by a ‘C’ rating. A KAN 1050 cell is rated for 15C, meaning it can be safely discharged at 15 times its capacity. (1.050a x 15 = 15.75amps) If you were to place a load on the battery greater than 15.75 amps, you would shorten its lifespan. Fortunately, the average Slowstick only ever really draws 7-10 amps at wide-open throttle. Typically I get 10-12 minutes of runtime at full throttle out of one pack, and they are barely warm when I land.
A battery also has a charging rate expressed in “C” as well. The higher the ‘charge C’, faster you can charge it. Nicads can be charged really fast, at like 4C or so. Nimhs and Lipo’s don’t like much more than 1 maybe 2C. So if you get a 1050 battery, set your charger between 1 and 2 amps. I prefer 1amp. Takes twice as long to charge, but your cells will get fully charged and they will live longer.
So in short, I recommend the KAN 1050 pack for your Slowstick. If you get the 300 motor, go with 7 cells. For the 400 motor, go with 8cells. These packs can be bought at www.cheapbatterypacks.com, and like the name implies, they are very cheap! About $17 each. Buying several packs means you can fly longer.
Optional: GWS speed controllers & batteries have always come with the little red plugs called “JST connectors”. They are really not rated for much current, but they usually do the job. Cheapbatterypacks will build your packs with any connector you choose, including the JST. If you want a little extra reliability and performance, and you don’t mind doing a little soldering, then I suggest ordering the batteries with quality Deans Ultra plugs right from the start. You will also need to order a couple loose Deans Male plugs to solder onto your ESC and your charger. Again, this is optional. The JST’s will do, and you can always upgrade to Deans plugs later. Getting them from the start will save a bit of work later on.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:21 PM|
Charger: Again, lots of options here. There are three things you absolutely MUST have.
1. your charger must be compatible with the battery you get. DON’T charge a Nimh with a Nicad charger – you’ll ruin it. Try to charge a lipo with a Nimh or Nicad charger and you’ll very likely start a fire.
2. Peak Detection. Not ‘peak predicting’ or timer style chargers. They are junk.
3. Charge current that suits your battery. Some chargers are adjustable, so you can set it for different size batteries. Nice feature. Otherwise, just be sure it will deliver 1amp. Less is fine, it’ll just take longer to charge. More will shorten your batteries life.
Many chargers are available in DC only. A few are AC/DC – but generally cost more. A DC charger typically runs off your car battery or cigarette lighter, but you can also buy or build a 12v power source so you can charge from the comfort of your workbench. If your handy with a soldering iron, you can hack the power supply from an old computer (what I did) for almost no cost. Junk computers typically line the streets on garbage day, just grab one. Note: big computers have bigger power supplies. Little desktops may not be big enough to run your charger, plus they are harder to get your fingers into to work on.
Go to www.rcbatteryclinic.com and scroll down to the bottom on the left side. All you need to know.
I recently junked my lousy MRC 959 charger and bought a Hobbico 12v Quick Field charger MKII. I’m very happy with it. It can charge two different batteries at once, has adjustable current, can be set to charge Nicad, Nimh or lipo, and was affordable at $60. You will need a power supply though or your stuck charging from your cars cigarette lighter. The only charger I know of that can do everything and runs on AC or DC is the Hobbico Accucycle Elite, but its $150. It also can do two batteries at once, and it has a nice display readout that tells you what’s going on. I’ve heard good things about the affordable Wattage PF-12 ac/dc charger too. All the features you really need, nicad/nimh only, for $60. The GWS 12volt charger seems ok from what ive read, but I have no personal experience with it. Consider it a decent option if your on a budget and don’t mind the 12 volt issue.
I have nothing nice to say about the MRC line of chargers though. They claim to do all sorts of things, but my old 959 is a pain to use and false-peaks often. The newer 969 is supposed to be Lipo compatible, but it doesn’t peak-detect lipos, causing a potential overcharge and fire. Avoid.
Generally speaking, I do not like wall-wart style chargers. They take forever to charge and they don’t stop once the pack is full. These are a good example of “You get what you pay for”.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:22 PM|
Tools: You need some basics; small screwdrivers, sharp Xacto blades, a drill with some very small bits. Ruler, pliers, needlenose pliers and diagonal cutter pliers, unless your needlenose already have cutters built in. You should also have some clear 2” packing tape, 5minute epoxy, and thin cyanoacrylate “CA” glue. Be advised, CA glue will dissolve the foam that the wings and tail are made of. A Digital Volt Meter is nice – especially if you like to fiddle & modify things, but not necessary. A good 45watt or higher soldering iron comes in handy too but is not needed for the basic build.
Spares: Though quite durable, the slowstick is not indestructible. Fortunately, most crash damage tends to be concentrated about the propeller & gearbox area. Having the right spares in your field box will usually save the day.
These parts are cheap, so this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker here.
1. PROPELLERS. Their lifespan in the hands of a newbie is measured in seconds. Its rare that you crash and NOT break one. I don’t suggest attempting to repair broken ones either. Ive tried – they just fly apart. Plus, a dab of glue on a spinning blade will really throw off its balance. It’ll wobble so badly that it’ll shake itself apart. I suggest starting with six GWS 1180 props, or the 1170HD props – which work well and are a little more crash resistant. Order more props when you are down to 2 or 3 left.
2. Prop shafts. These can bend upon impact. Sometimes you can straighten them out with pliers, but its hard to really get them perfect. If the prop wobbles, you lose power and runtime. Besides, they are like $2 each. Get a couple.
3. Gearbox shells. They can break when you hit hard enough. Sometimes they can be CA glued back together, but not always. Again, for $3, get a couple.
4. Optional: a complete motor & gearbox assembly. Lets say you wreck and bend the prop shaft. You could sit there amid all the onlookers and friends impatiently waiting for you finish replacing the shaft, or you could remove one screw, slide the damaged gearbox off, slide a new one on, re-install the screw, and fly. Fix the broken ‘box later. A complete assembly costs about $17. Even if you do get a spare GB, you will still need the above-mentioned parts too, just one less of each.
5. This one isn’t a spare part, but they are really great to have. Get a pair of Dubro Mini EZ connectors for the servo horns. More on these later. $2/pair.
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:23 PM|
I recommend this for your initial order:
and finally, batteries from cheapbatterypacks.com:
(the A7KAN1050FT listed partway down – you want AT LEAST two packs, I have seven!)
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:24 PM|
Waiting for Mr Postman: Your eager as hell now and wishing you’d paid an extra $50 for Fed-Ex overnight delivery. But there is still a way to satisfy that flying Jones. Go to http://n.ethz.ch/student/mmoeller/fms/index_e.html
And download FMS flight simulator. It’s free! You can control the planes with your keyboard or go to Toms ebay store and get an adapter cable so you can plug your transmitter right into the computer. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...916731698&rd=1
He also has good prices on the radio equipment itself, so keep that in mind.
One nice thing about FMS is that there are countless different planes you can download for it. Just do a google search. Here’s a few, including the Slowstick: http://gunnerson.homestead.com/files/fms_models.htm
|Sep 08, 2004, 05:25 PM|
Unpacking: clear yourself a nice large area, free from wives, teething infants, and general clutter. You will want unfettered access to cold malted-barley beverages, bathrooms, and ideally enough room on the table to accommodate a large pizza. Check for the obvious stuff like missing parts, dents or damage, etc. The first few pages of the manuals typically list all the included parts for reference. Check your transmitter and receiver to be sure they sent you the same channel. Now would be a good time to begin charging your flight battery and your transmitter battery if it’s a rechargeable. Read through the assembly instruction manual. The Chinese translation isn’t perfect, but mostly acceptable. If you cant figure something out, a quick post on the RCGroups forum will usually get your question answered.
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