Maximum Lift - December 2001 - RC Groups

Maximum Lift - December 2001

Ric Vaughn gives us another chapter of his guide for beginners and more information on setting up sailplanes.

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What it's all about, right?

In this my second column, I'll talk about learning to fly by building good habits from the start. I'll also show how I made a second wing for an Electra or similar model, as well as a good motor combination for sport planes. Hopefully by the third column, I'll have some specific questions to answer for some of you.

Understanding Energy

First of all, you must understand these are not "toy" planes. Just like in "Flight of the Phoenix," you don't wind them up and watch them roll across the floor. Even a 'Half-A' electric glider @ 18 oz has tremendous potential energy. Knock off the wing at 1000 feet altitude that leaves you with a 15-16 oz arrow, with a terminal velocity of a hundred of miles per hour plus. Go back to school, and remember, F =mV2. You can work out the math, or I'll just tell you I've seen pictures of planes through cars and campers! One of my friends lost a glider which then crashed right through a roof and ceiling, and then impaled itself into the master bedroom mattress! Now imagine a van full of soccer kids and you get the picture. I don't want to scare anyone away from flying, but I do want you to respect the "POWER" you have in your hands every time you launch a plane. These are "real" planes, and deserve the same respect, period!

Field Checklist

Now lets go flying. First, how many of you have arrived at the field only to have forgotten something? Name it , wrong transmitter, no transmitter, charger, battery, etc.. To prevent this, you need a checklist. Make one of your own, including all of the items that must go everytime, i.e.; charger, flight box, source battery, cooler, etc.. Then make up a grid that you can list each plane that you take to the field; fuselage, wing, transmitter, motor batteries, etc. For the beginner, balsa, ply, fiberglass, glues, 5 min. epoxy. You WILL damage your plane while learning. Don't stop flying for a day just because of a minor mishap. Repair and press on. Make up your own list, laminate it, get in the habit of using it, and you won't leave anything behind. Here's a sample:




Motor battery

Receiver battery

Plane 1


Plane 2


Plane 3


deep cycle battery


battery cooler


battery charger











One last thing, spare wing hold down screws. Buy one of the small $0.99 plastic organizer boxes. Label each bin with each plane's screws, and keep two or three spares. By pre-labeling, you won't be digging for a screw when you need them. Washers too, if your model required them!


You must seek instruction. If you try to learn on your own, do yourself a favor - just put your plane on the ground and jump on it. You'll end up with the same result, but you'll have had more fun! I know it's hard to find and instructor, but there really is no other option.
Unfortunately, what I'm going to tell you about learning to fly will probably fall on deaf ears of the instructor, but maybe he will have read this column too.
Before you fly, first learn why an airplane flies. There are several books that they sell to full-scale student pilots while learning to fly. One is " The Student Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge." This book cost about $10 when I started to fly. Go to the local airport, and see if they can supply this for you. I've known several people who fly models and have no knowledge as to why it flies. Understanding the aerodynamics of flight will greatly enhance your learning curve.
Before you fly, charge up the batteries and check out the plane. Here's where I have another checklist. You need to preflight the plane before every flight. I have my own checklist that I use when in competition. I start at the spinner and check every nut, screw, clevis, etc. till I get to the tail. You don't want to lose a plane to a loose part which you could have easily tightened before the flight. Also, check the receiver battery for voltage. Now check out the transmitter. Another list, for a computer radio:
  • correct plane, (I've seen several planes lost just for this reason)
  • trims centered
  • control check (all surfaces move in the correct directions and range of travel)
  • transmitter battery voltage
  • all switches in the correct position. I set up my radios with all switches facing up for launch. One look and you'll know you are ready to fly.
One way to start off is a hand toss. I want you to learn how to launch your plane correctly right from the start. I've seen many a plane crashed just out of its owners' hand due to a poor launch. There are so many people who are living on borrowed time. One hesitation of the motor, and the plane will be toast!!! I'm talking about pilots who give the plane a "sissy" toss at about a 75-degree up angle. Trust me, it will happen. I watched a nice Electra damaged at the first NEAT FAIR. I was asked to spot and offered to launch for a pilot, but he wanted to launch for himself. This Electra had a direct drive "can" motor, so it was no "barn burner." Just as I described, a weak and steep launch, the model immediately stalled and crashed. What could I say? Now for a better way to launch. You want to launch each plane with the thought that there is no motor. Grasp the plane and throw it hard and flat or even slightly down. Use your legs to get an even better throw. Air over the wings is the only thing that makes an airplane fly. If the motor works as expected, you're off and flying, but if for some reason you have a motor failure, you're still flying - just land straight ahead.
Now that you can launch, let's do something with it. Start off with a straight toss right down the runway. Have the plane trimmed up, and just let it glide to a nice landing. This is what you will strive for everytime you fly. Toss the plane from one end of the runway to the other, till you are comfortable. Then start to make a series of shallow turns while in flight. Just a slight turns right and left, then to a good landing straight ahead. Keep practicing this until you can do it in your sleep.
After you have mastered the above, get the plane in the air. Start with level flight right to left. Do figure 8's so that you can practice turns in each direction. When you master this simple task, start climbing and gliding between the turns. Next fly figure 8's to and from yourself. Start off with level flight, and then go back to climbs and glides. Remember when the plane is coming towards you that the thumb goes under the "down" wing to level the plane. Next is the "ground reference" maneuver to master. You want to learn to fly a "traffic pattern" at altitude. Make the plane go exactly where you want it to go. Keep practicing until you can fly a perfect pattern at two to three mistakes high. For those who don't know, a traffic pattern is a rectangle with the runway one of the long sides. If you have mastered all of the above, you are now ready to land. You will have all of the elements needed for a good landing. The only thing you need to do is get the plane in position to glide to a nice landing. If the plane is positioned correctly, it will just glide to a landing without any help from you.
Speaking of this, when in trouble at altitude, just let go of the sticks and the plane will right itself. All trainers are designed with positive stability. Given enough altitude, a trainer will return to level flight in just a few seconds on their own. The most important thing to remember is that you want to make the plane go exactly where you want it to go. After you can get the plane up and down without too many problems, put a target on the runway, and start learning how to land on it. You want to have a plan every time you go to the field. Pick out a maneuver, and practice it till you master it. If you can't master it, get someone to help you learn how. I know the above is just an outline of what you want to do, but it's very hard to teach someone how to fly without being at the field right next to them. Email me if you have questions on these topics.

Second Wing for an Electra

Here is a picture of a wing that I built as an experiment. I took a wing kit for an Electra and just used the supplied joiner for the center of the wing. The tips were installed straight to make a wing with about 8 degrees of dihedral. For ailerons, I cut the outboard panel ribs short, and used a piece of trailing edge stock for the ailerons. This wing worked very well. Don't laugh at the color. I visited my local hobby shop and ask for the cheapest roll of covering he had. This had been there for years, and I got a good deal. If you don't want to get a wing kit, just duplicate the ribs from the original kit and add your own spars, or lay out your own wing and build it. After you have mastered the poly wing with rudder and elevator control, install this aileron wing and start to enjoy a better flying plane. This is a cost-effective way to transition to aileron control. The above wing could be built for about $10-15 dollars, plus servos.

There is also a picture of an Electra fuselage that I converted to V tail. Again, I was experimenting, but it flew very well. Don't be afraid to experiment. Don't look too close at the pictures - the model was given to me, and I hacked it up quite a bit.

Sport Motor for a Glider

One last thought. I know this is written up elsewhere, but for a great motor/gearbox combo for a sport glider is the Kyosho Endoplasma 16 turn can motor with the MP Jet 3.8:1 gearbox. We tried one recently at the field and it pulled a 14X9.5 CAM prop 5300 rpm at 45 amps on 7 Sanyo 1250 cells. Now the motor won't last at that power output, but you could back off to 30-35amps and I think it might make it. The motor is about $19.00 and the gearbox is $24.00. I would buy a spare motor, and when it died, just replace the brushes and turn the commutator. Still, at $19.00, if you replaced it every two months, it's still cheap.
That's all for this month. Let me know what you want me to talk about next. To recap, make some checklists, get instruction, and then go to the field with a purpose. Make every flight a learning experience.

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