Paul Naton's Performance Tuning DVD Review

**NOW with additional video preview clips!** George Voss explores this 2nd tuning and setup video by Radio Carbon Art, and finds it amazingly complete and informative for pilots of all types of models, and all skill levels.

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Venue:North America
Media:High Quality DVR
Format:DVD from Digital Master
Packaging:Standard DVD Case
w/ Color Artwork
Runtime:Over 2 Hours
Available From:Radio Carbon Art and
selected distributors

Paul Naton from Radio Carbon Art has come out with his 2nd “how to” DVD. The first was the very popular Hand Launch Building Clinic (reviewed here) and now, the second and the focus of this review, is Performance Tuning (PT). PT literally takes you from basic aircraft assembly through each and every step needed to take not only sailplanes, but any fixed wing aircraft, and turn it into a finely tuned craft.

DVD Contents

Those of us who have been in the hobby for many years have flown airplanes that were total dogs. Yet there were other examples of the same design which flew circles around the dog. What was the difference? There are a number of obvious things we look for -- like warps in the wings, fuselages that look like a long yellow cylindrical fruit that rhymes with Havana, CG, and overall weight just to name a few. However, those are things that are (or at least should be!) basic to building any model aircraft.

What Paul brings to light in PT are the little things that can make a huge difference into transforming your dog into a ballerina!

The Chapters are laid out as follows:

  • Beginning
  • Tuning Tools
  • Rig it right
  • Rigging 2
  • Double Neutral
  • Incidence
  • Incidence 2
  • V-tail tuning
  • Center of Gravity
  • Radio Programming
  • Adverse Yaw
  • Differential
  • Flight Testing

To bring this subject down to an entry level pilot, Paul’s initial subject is the $110 Great Planes Spirit Elite. This is arguably the least expensive way for an up and coming pilot to try his hand at a full house, aileron, flap, elevator, rudder sailplane, and all for just a few coins more than $100. This plane was chosen for several reasons, as are explained in the video. Like Paul mentions in the DVD, he could have used a $1000 molded sailplane, but this could have been interpreted as the information is only for the big spenders, when it’s really as basic as gluing part “a” to part “b.”

You may remember the review I completed on this very plane around the middle of last year. We put it on a weight loss program, changed a few minor things and got the plane to fly very well. Many of things we changed during our setup are covered in PT. You know what they say, great minds think alike!

Chapter Two is where the meat of the DVD starts. This chapter focuses on the necessary tools to do a workmanlike job. Paul covers the ‘must have’ tools, and some specific, nice to have but not necessary tools. The necessary tools are a straight edge, some sort of device to accurately determine where the CG is (your fingers aren’t accurate enough to determine the proper CG,) a gauge or device to determine wing to stab decalage, and a deflection gauge. These can all be made or purchased for less than $50 and will pay for themselves every time you set up an airplane. Of those, you may be able to get away without the deflection gauge but the others are vital in my opinion.

Great Planes Incident Meter, CG Machine and Deflection Tool are demonstrated, along with a home made CG machine and the Robart Incidence Meter. I like to have multiple incidence meters so I don’t have to move them from surface to surface. However, it's crucial that I then make sure each gauge is ‘zeroed out’ to get accurate readings from all of the gauges. Probably the one tool that most of us don’t have or use is an Inclinometer.

Paul demonstrates a very powerful inclinometer, the Aero Perfect Digital Control Throw Meter from Right after this DVD came out a number of modelers tried to buy it and discovered that the company could no longer produced the item at the price quoted in the DVD. To show the power the soaring group has, after a number of requests to purchase the tool, the company agreed to produce them, but at a slightly increased price. If it hadn’t been for modelers like you and me, this tool would have gone off the market. Now, because of our voice, it’s available again. If you are serious about aircraft setup, I strongly recommend getting one of these, or a similar tool to get accurate measurements. I have one coming for myself. If the cost is prohibitive for you, try to get two or three of your modeling friends to chip in together so all of you can gain the benefit of this powerful tool.

Rig it Right and Rigging 2 cover wing to fuse, tail to fuse, fin to fuse, and tail to wing alignment. Also looked at are warps, wing panel and component weights. Although Paul doesn’t use the word “trammeling,” that is what we are doing. Basically we are making sure everything that is symmetrical and perpendicular to the fuse centerline.

A sub chapter of Rigging 2 is Servo Symmetry. Like many I’m sure, Paul admits to initially being nonchalant about installing servos, control horns and linkages so they were symmetrical from one side of the aircraft to the other.

Some will consider Paul’s preferred method of making control linkages for the flap and aileron servos non-adjustable a no-no. I can assure you that if your radio is set up correctly and turned on while making the pushrods, there should be no need to make adjustments to the control lengths. If the lengths are made correctly the first time, the sub-trim on your radio or the trim switch on your radio will take care of any minor adjustments. This does two things; one it makes the control hookup solid with no slop whatsoever, second it’s lighter than having an adjustable pushrod system.

The flap servo setup on the Spirit Elite is possibly the only thing Paul did in this video that I disagree with. Paul’s flap installation shows the servo arm pointing straight down at neutral, and the control horn pivot for the flap aligned with the leading edge of the flap. The normal practice is to have the control horn pivot location 1/8-1/4” behind the hinge line and have the control arm tilting toward the trailing edge of the wing 30-45 degrees. By setting up the flap control system like this, you can use a longer control horn and a shorter servo arm. This gives you more torque with less play in the system while still allowing 80-90 degrees of flap travel. It should be noted that with Paul’s setup, he gets about 80 degrees of flap throw. That’s more than enough for just about any plane.

Following the flap/aileron hookup, Paul shows one of the most common problems with any airplane: Double Neutral. Double Neutral is where the surface doesn’t return to the exact middle after a control command is given. For example, when ‘up’ elevator is commanded and the control stick is returned to neutral, the surface doesn’t quite go all the way back to the center, but either stops with a little bit of ‘up’ travel or if it over shoots, centers with a little bit of ‘down’ travel. Double neutral makes accurate trimming completely impossible. Paul clearly shows how to determine the cause of the problem, whether it’s the servo, the linkage, the surface or a combination thereof, allowing the viewer to solve this problem on their aircraft.

Incidence or Decalage is explained in the following chapter. It’s in this chapter we are introduced to most of the tools needed for proper aircraft trimming, including the Aero Perfect Digital Control Throw Meter. This tool isn’t limited to control throws. A more accurate description would be a digital inclinometer. With the Aero Perfect meter, one can determine incidence, decalage, surface throw, panel warps, servo position and centering repeatability, double neutral problems and probably a dozen other uses I can’t even begin to imagine.

While this portion of the DVD is focused on using the Aero Perfect meter, you can get adequate results using a Robart, Great Planes, Hangar 9 or other incidence. The ability to ‘zero out’ the Aero Perfect gauge and its aerospace grade accuracy, and its aerospace grade price is what sets this unit apart from the sub $50 units. If you look at tools as an investment instead of an evil necessity, the Aero Perfect gauge is well worth the money.

A word of information; The DVD shows each plane being set up with what is called “Zero-Zero.” This is where the wing and stabilizer are both set at zero degrees. Not all airplanes are designed to fly at zero-zero. Check with the plans or instructions that came with your plane and set it up according to the manufacturers instructions first. If you don’t like the way the plane flies, you can change the decalage by shimming the wing, shimming the stab or changing the trim in case of a full flying stab.

As a lover of V-tail aircraft, I know how difficult it is to get a V-tail aircraft to fly neutral, or as similar to a standard tail aircraft as possible. It takes many flights making seemingly minor adjustments to get the plane to fly well, but it can be done. Trimming a V-tail sailplane can cause you to turn your hair gray or pull out what hair is remaining. The principle of aligning a V-tail to the fuselage is really no different than a standard or what we now call an “X-Tail aircraft.” How we get the V-tail square to the fuselage is exactly the same as a standard tail aircrafts stab lined up as shown in the DVD.

The difficulties come when we are trying to get both the incidence and vertical alignment correct. You can’t use the incidence meters the way you would on a flat surface like the wing or stab. Since they are on an angle, the readings would be incorrect. You can use the Aero Perfect meter along with an incidence meter to get the correct incidence. Again, not everyone is going to have the Aero Perfect gauge, Paul shows what he calls “the poor mans way” of using the incidence meter and a simple bubble level. Setting up V-tail throw is next and Paul gives some general ideas on how to set up control throws for V-tail aircraft. Of course, the issue with a V-tail aircraft is that the tail halves are working as both vertical and horizontal surfaces and therefore their response to elevator or rudder throw affect each other. Depending on how much up and down throw you have, your plane may climb or dive with the addition of rudder.

Center of Gravity or CG is the key to having a good flying sailplane. If your CG is too far forward or too far aft, the plane can be either a lousy flyer or a one flight aircraft. PT goes through the whys and how’s of CG settings in simple and clear illustrations. All of us at one time or another has used our fingers to determine the CG. We casually take our plane and hoist it upon our index fingers and declare “that’s perfect.” Trust me, it’s not. There is no need for expensive gauges to accurately determine the CG of your aircraft, but there are some home made and commercial units to help you get accurate CG readings. PT demonstrates both the home made and commercial units.

Paul recommends that you start at the manufacturer’s recommended CG location -- great advice. However, don’t take that as gospel, or that you have to stay there. Set your CG where you are comfortable with it, once you've tested the stock CG.

There is one small error in the CG section. Paul states “Mark the aft-most CG point and then mark the rearward-most point.” These two points are the same. He means mark the forward and aft-most CG position on the wing.

Radio Programming: Chapter 10 focuses on radio programming and as Paul mentions in the DVD, there is no way he can cover everything concerning radio setup. What he does do is let you know the “whys” of aircraft radio programming so you can adapt it to your radio and your aircraft. He leads you through the majority of mixes used on a typical 4 surface model.

Chapter 11 gives an excellent description of what adverse yaw is, how and why it’s produced and how to stop it. This chapter, like many of the previous, has short video clips throughout to show what adverse yaw looks like. This is a huge help for someone who is better at visualization than understanding text or language. I wish I would have had this knowledge when I started flying.

Chapter 12 discusses aileron differential. This chapter and the previous are really continuations of the radio programming. Finally, there is a summarization of this chapter and the previous two chapters. All in all, very good information is presented for the novice and the up and coming modeler.

Chapter 13 is what it’s all about; flight testing. The DVD shows a list Paul uses, and he puts each new sailplane through this list of flight regimes to determine what changes need to be made to end up with a fully trimmed sailplane. I enjoyed the discussion of the controversial “dive test”; however Paul explains what the dive test will show and what changes need to be made to get a neutral flying sailplane according to the results of the dive test. The Spirit Elite, the Stork and an unnamed sailplane are used to show the different results of changes in CG using the dive test.

Again, adverse yaw is demonstrated and what corrections need to be made to correct it, and then it’s on to flap to elevator compensation. There are a couple of different opinions on how this compensation should be set and again, the descriptions of the whys and how’s are clearly explained so the modeler can choose to set up his sailplane to achieve the maximum performance.

Is This For a Beginner?

Absolutely! This video program is designed to help every level of pilot better understand his/her model, and get the best possible flight performance.

Video Previews



This is excellent follow up to the Hand Launch Building Clinic. The material is more general in nature so it can be applied to all sizes of model aircraft, not to a specific size aircraft. The use of clear diagrams, explanations and video footage showing exactly how the plane will react to certain trimming changes help the viewer understand the information easier than just using a single description. From novice to expert, everyone will learn something new from this DVD. Beginners and weekend flyers will probably learn the most, but the experts can still gain a lot of knowledge from Performance Tuning. I highly recommend adding this DVD to your collection.

Thread Tools
May 30, 2006, 10:33 PM
Registered User
Paul Naton's Avatar
A few of the demo video clips that were to appear with this review are missing, but the staff should have them up by the 31st. Come back then to view 3 short clips from the DVD.

Thanks George for another nice an fair review!

Paul Naton
Radio Carbon Art
May 31, 2006, 08:25 AM
Sorry about that! The correct video clips have now been added. Please stop back to view them, and enjoy!
May 31, 2006, 09:36 AM
Registered User
Will M's Avatar
From a beginner's viewpoint, the DVD is a tremendous help!! Great review by George, too.
Jun 03, 2006, 04:52 PM
jcosta's Avatar
I was expecting something more advanced. The whole DVD is a bit basic for real performance tuning. For someone who flies competition all of it is very basic and the RadioCarbonArt website gave the impression it was much more tehnical than checking alignments of wings and tail (which you don't do in 99% of competition models, actually).
I must admit that, together with Secrets of Thermal Soaring, that is now two of Paul's DVDs that don't meet my expectations by a lot.
Jun 06, 2006, 12:54 AM
Registered User
Paul Naton's Avatar
As a reply to JCosta,
First, we have a liberal return policy on any DVD. If you don't like it, you can return or exchange it, no problem.

I am not sure what yJcosta was expecting, the content is clearly listed on the information web page. Some customers thought it was too technical! The vast majority of guys don't fly comps and don't even apply a small part of the tips I teach to their gliders. At our local flying site I see the same mistakes in tuning and set ups over and over. The DVD will help you correct problems and dial in your plane. I've seen comp planes with alignment and V-tail issues, I check out all my planes regardless of maker.

Sure, there are some things that the top pilots do while getting the last 2% of performance out of their plane, but that last 2% comes from fine tuning the basics of CG, trim, radio set ups, and perhaps decalage. Some of the more esoteric subjects will be covered in a future project.

If anyone has sugggestions on improving the DVD or new subjects you want learn, please PM me.

If you have any questions about the Tuning DVD content, I can answer those too.

Paul Naton -producer
Jun 06, 2006, 01:27 AM
jcosta's Avatar

"edited because it doesn't even deserve an answer".

4 - Congratulations, you have lost a customer. I will not buy again from a seller who replies like you did to a comment from a customer. After 6 DVDs, I have been cheated enough. You are a great photographer and videographer, but the rest is missing...
Last edited by jcosta; Jun 06, 2006 at 01:38 AM.
Jun 06, 2006, 09:41 AM
Registered User
gavoss's Avatar
Thread OP
As the author and as an Associate Editor I feel the need to comment on the previous posts. I've been modeling for nearly 40 years. I've built from scratch, assembled kits, designed power and sailplane models, taught people to fly power and sailplanes and I've seen models in all sorts of "trim."

Performance tuning is nothing more than taking the basics to a finer level. As an example: A seasoned contest pilot can tell the difference with the change of 1/4 ounce of lead either added or removed from the nose. Performance tuning means solving the problem instead of masking it with, say. a little right rudder, or left aileron. Performance tuning is not accepting wings that are 1/8 inch out of square with the fuse, but accepting 1/32" instead. Paul is correct. The last 2% is nothing more than taking the basics to a finer, closer tolerance.

If you have information you think is lacking from the DVD, please let everyone here on RCGroups know what it is so we can all benefit. This forum isn't for 'shootin' a man's horse' as it were, but learning from one another. We'd all like to hear what improvements can be made to the video's material that will help us all learn more about this great hobby.

Here's a 2% tip that I got from reading Winning on the Wind by George Moffet, probably the greatest American World Soaring Champion we've seen to date. George calculated the difference between his points and the second place finishers. There was only 2% difference between them and he determined that sealing the wings to the fuselage with tape to lose a little bit of drag in that area was partially responsible for his extra 2%. Do you tape your wings to the fuse or at dihedral joints? I do now after reading that tip.

Who else has a 2% tip?

George Voss
Jun 06, 2006, 01:41 PM
I found this DVD very useful.

I've been flying slope/thermal on and off for years. Whilst there are many local experts whose idea of trimming and tuning is "start with the CG at the trailing edge and move it forwards until it stops crashing" nobody has ever explained how much effort is required to get a model flying well. It always seemed a black art.

A key aspect of the DVD was the way in which all the information was integrated together and built upon, leading up to the final flight testing scenes and in particular the dive test and inverted flight for CG.

Since watching the DVD I've just been applying the methods it to a home brew "halfpipe" which is flying just great now.

Thanks Paul.
Jun 10, 2006, 11:32 PM
I picked up "Secrets of Thermal Soaring" and "Performance Tuning for Gliders" a month or so back and have been impressed with the the quality of the information in both DVD's.

I'm fairly new to the world of rc-soaring having had my first flight less than 18 months ago, so having access to the information presented in PTfG has been well worth the price of admission.

Aspects of the setup info has been written about in various places, but there is a world of difference between reading about a specific procedure and seeing someone clearly explain and demonstrate how it's done. Paul has done a great job of demystifying the setup procedure with the PTfG dvd.

Highly recommended.
Jun 12, 2006, 10:20 PM
Registered User
Volts's Avatar

Radio Carbon Arts Video

Paul's video is excellent, it is full of essential information even for an experianced RC pilot like myself .
First the principles involved in tuning are relevent for all RC airplanes from 3D to Hotliners. Each aspect of tuning is well covered so that the RC pilot can not only have a better performing aircraft but also one that is more predictable and relaxing to fly.
Next Paul explains in detail not only how to tune but what is expected in performance gain, and how it will affect flying the aircraft. In some instances Paul even offers tips on makeing your own equipment to complete the job at hand.
Finally I have to say that although I have been in Rc for 15 years and am familiiar with most of the terms used in the video, I really did'nt clearly understand how to fix many of them or how to check the aircrafts performance for each condition. I have known many RC pilots over the years but only one or two who were really detailed about the set-up of their aircraft. Come to think of it they were also the best flyers in the club .
Last Pauls video can be used to develope a simple check list to make an OK flying model become a great flying model.
Aug 25, 2006, 07:19 AM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
One of our members showed this video at our club meeting. Man, what a great video!

The use of a mainstream ARF like the Spirit Select was a very smart move. If it has been some high end racing plane, the video would not have reached out to the common man, even though the info would be just as applicable.

Needless to say I purchased my own copy. Best $25 I ever spent. I have loaned it to a couple of people and am pretty sure they are going to buy their own copies.

Performance tuning is the art of tuning your plane to achieve its best, or near best performance, regardless of who made it or how much it cost. Most of that gain will come from knowing what to tune. Whether you are flying a common ARF like the Spirit, or a $1000+ plane, like a Supra or an Ion, the elements of tuning are the same.

If you are already a hot shot master plane tuning genious, then this video is not for you. I would agree with that.

But if you are like 99% of us, you will surely pick up a few good tips. And, like most of us, you will be reminded of what you already know but have fogotten to do, which can be just as valuable.

The demonstration of the dive tests was one of the best parts of the video. I have heard about the dive test hundreds of times, but had never seen one performed in a way that I could fully understand how to use it. And the opportunity to see it done in a comparitive manner so I could see the effect of changes is priceless.

Paul, for someone like JCosta you might consider a video called Competition Tuning, the Last 2%, or something like that. Invite Joe Wurts, or Dr. Drela, Tom Keasling, Phil Barnes or other top pilots to share their special tuning tricks. We will all benefit from that too.

Paul, thanks for a great video. I don't know how you will top this one!
Last edited by aeajr; Aug 25, 2006 at 07:32 AM.
Sep 04, 2006, 01:03 PM
I will say I am decently new to sailplanes. I built one (Spirit) when I was thirteen, about 12 years ago. That was my first and last plane until now. I find this and a couple other of P.N.'s dvds very informative and I only wish I had this kind of information when I was a kid. I did get that plane to fly, but I always struggled and eventually crashed and gave up. Mostly due to lack of funds as a kid, but also in great part due to frustration. I'm very positive in saying that if I had this information back then as a complete newb, I would have had a much better flying plane and not be so frustrated in the end. I give much props to you Mr. Naton. Fast shipping too (I'm in Japan). Keep 'em coming.
Mar 27, 2007, 08:23 AM
I´d rather be flying
RodrigoV's Avatar
I consider my money well spent on your useful and inspiring videos.
Bought three of your CD´s some months ago and I have applied your basics and advanced techniques to all my models (gliders and motor).
In Spain is hard to access material like yours ...not to mention Portugal.
Feb 14, 2009, 05:51 AM
Pisaneli's Avatar
Bought it, saw it and I love it.

I have one question though. How do you level the fuselage? I understand that wings must be leveled but in order to achieve that you have to have the right position of the fuselage.
I have bought myself the incidence meter and I am ready to use it. I ma afraid that the readings will be wrong if I don't level correctly the fuselage.

Gorazd Pisanec

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