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Beginner's Guide: Getting Started
By Andrew Gibbs
(i) A suitable model, along
with a few tools and glues
etc to build it.
Let’s look at these one at a time:
Generally, suitable training models are high winged types which are purpose-designed for the job. The particular requirements of a training model are:
a) It should be as easy to fly as possible, with good natural stability. This generally means a high wing design with broad chord (the front to back dimension) wings for easy handling and predictable stall behaviour. However, not all high wing aircraft are suitable for training, so choose with care.
b) It should be large enough to be sufficiently docile, easily seen and able to deal with turbulence and gusts, yet small enough to be practical and reasonably able to withstand the rough and tumble of training. These requirements mean that medium sized models tend to be favoured, the ideal wingspan probably being somewhere between 40 and 65 inches (100 - 163 cm). All else being equal, models towards the larger end of this range will be significantly easier to fly for a beginner. Smaller models may require hand launching and so offer less opportunity to learn about take offs. Powered gliders can safely be a little larger, perhaps between 55 and 72 inches (140 – 180 cm) wingspan.
c) It should have sufficient power – but definitely no more than this. Overpowered models are much harder to learn with and excess power should be avoided like the plague. Don’t be tempted to fit more power than you need, reasoning that you can always throttle it back – this is rather like saying you can learn to drive in a Ferrari, provided you keep a light foot on the throttle!
d) It should be robust and able to withstand heavy landings reasonably well. A well designed model, whether made of foam or balsa will be able to do this, although a hard crash will badly damage almost any model. All else being equal, smaller models tend to do much better in this respect than larger ones, especially if they are made from resilient foam.
e) It should be easily repairable. Kit built balsa models can be excellent in this respect. One of the main reasons for this is that if you built it, you’ll be intimately acquainted with its construction so you’ll have a much better idea of how to repair it. For similar reasons, balsa ARTF models tend not to score so well. Also, matching covering material can be hard to find, though this may not particularly bother you, especially if you like the idea of recovering the model. Foam models can be quite easy to repair, although they can start to look scruffy quite quickly around the joints.
With the above requirements in mind, let’s have a look at the choice of suitable model types for training:
or ‘Old Timer’
style of model
I believe this style of model is unquestionably the easiest to fly and is very suitable for the mature modeller - three channels are quite enough to cope with when learning to fly and such models also have excellent flying characteristics for a beginner – their slow flying speed coupled with plenty of natural stability give a new pilot time to think. This type of model allows take offs and landings to be practiced much more easily than with smaller alternatives.
With this style of model
it’s also possible
to successfully use either
a modern brushless system,
or else a ‘traditional’
brushed motor and suitable
ESC. Standard RC gear with
standard size servos is
quite acceptable. Wings
are held on with shock absorbing
rubber bands and this, combined
with a slow flying speed
gives a valuable measure
of resistance to damage
in a crash. The nostalgia
aspect of this type of model
may also be attractive to
the mature modeler, although
younger pilots may understandably
prefer a different style
of model. An example of
such a model is the Junior
One advantage of electric gliders that they enjoy inherently very low aerodynamic drag, so very little power is required to fly them. Consequently, long flights may easily be obtained even with inexpensive equipment. They usually fly slowly, giving plenty of time to think. However this low drag also means that they will tend to gain speed relatively quickly in a dive. The low drag can also make for landing difficulties if this has to be carried out in a confined space. Also, they are not generally as robust as a vintage style model. Electric gliders must be hand launched, so they don’t allow take offs and landings to be practiced.
Powered gliders typically have a little less natural stability than a vintage style model and the higher aspect ratio (long and thin) wing may tend to make pitch (elevator) control more sensitive, so elevator movement may need to be small. Again, standard size servos are quite acceptable unless opting for a smaller model.
This type of model can use either a brushed or brushless system. Brushed power systems used to be the only choice for this type of model, usually employing a ‘600’ motor and a 7 cell NiMH pack. This type of system is still available, but it isn’t really the best choice any longer. While it will work well enough for initial training purposes, it doesn’t make sense to invest in obsolete technology which will probably have no practical use for later models. It’s much better to install a modern brushless system from the beginning. This will be a lot lighter, allowing slower flight, and more importantly greater crash resistance.
These models are relatively easy to fly, but nevertheless they generally don’t have the very forgiving flying characteristics of vintage style models. Their ‘modern’ appearance probably gives them more appeal for younger pilots, for whom their minor disadvantages are probably of less concern, especially if experienced help is to hand for early flights. Models of this type are usually built up (balsa) ARTF types. If you choose to go this route then a brushless power system is the way to go.
foam electric trainer
The foam used is a resilient type and therefore relatively crash resistant, plus the models aren’t too large. These models are excellent choices for beginners, especially if you want to ‘go it alone’. Of course, they won’t appeal to the traditionalist for whom models have to be made of balsa but they are undeniably good models to use for training purposes.
Again, I’d recommend a brushless power system in all cases for these models.
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