My Recipe For Success When
Learning How to Fly Radio Controlled Airplanes
The JK Aerotech T-52, in my opinion, is the ultimate trainer. If trimmed & balanced properly, it flies itself! At the time this text was written, I have flown well over 100 flights on this plane and I've enjoyed every minute of it(well, except for those days when I flew it in really gusty conditions). With all of this said, let's get on with the recipe for successful R/C flying:
1 - Get this equipment:
1.1 - Plane - JK Aerotech T52
1.2 - Propulsion system:
* - Robbe Speed 400 motor
* - 8 cell 500 or 600 mAh battery packs
I suggest getting three battery packs, which means you won't have much "down time" - one pack flies in the plane, one pack is cooling, and the other pack is charging. The 600AE battery packs are designed for longer flights, the 500AR battery packs are designed for higher power & faster recharging, but slightly less duration
- you might also want to try using the RadioShack NiMH battery packs instead - click the icon for more info (since this page was originally written, this would be my first choice for battery pack selection):
* - 20 amp ESC (Electronic Speed Control)
- Make sure it uses BEC (Battery Eliminator Circuitry)
(since this page was originally written, my first choice for an ESC would be a lightweight 35 amp ESC instead - like the Castle Creations Pegasus $50, or the WattAge IC-550 for only $30)
* - Prop (select one of the following)
- Prop adapter and a 6x3.5 non-folding prop (make sure the prop has been drilled out to fit the adapter, 6mm or 15/64")
- Robbe 6x3.5 folding prop with spinner
* - Anderson Power Pole connectors - see diagram below - adding a 20 amp fuse with this Speed 400 setup is a good idea, but not required (this can help save the ESC in case the motor draws too many amps):
1.3 - Four channel radio system with 2 micro servos (I use the Hitec RCD Focus 4 FM radio).
1.4 - Get a variable rate peak charger for the batteries - the peak charger will help insure the batteries are fully charged without over-charging. Being able to adjust the amount of amps when charging the batteries can help make sure they won't be overcharged. Make sure you follow these guidelines for maximum charge rates when charging battery packs:
500AR type cells - maximum charge rate of 2.5 amps
600AE type cells - maximum charge rate of 1.5 amps
1420 mAh NiMH - maximum charge rate of 2.0 amps
Click on this link for more information about equipment selection & sources:
2 - Build the plane:
2.1 - Follow directions included with the plane & also posted at JK Aerotech's web site (& see video option below)- you may want to install the control rods from the servos to the elevator & rudder as I've done (see the T52 button below)
2.2 - Balance the plane - make sure the center of gravity (CG) is located properly - VERY IMPORTANT!!! Click on the button for more construction techniques:
3 - Fly the plane
3.1 - You may want to test-fly the plane by tossing it down the slope of a grassy hill - that's how my two younger sons learned how to fly - my older son used a trainer cord hooked up to two transmitters
After building the T-52 and checking all the surface control movements (elevator & rudder surfaces) to function properly & within the suggested guidelines, you'll take your plane to the field and perform the following tests to insure your plane will operate as desired:
Test out all the equipment in this order:
1 - Insure the transmitter is fully charged
2 - Insure the the airborne battery pack is fully charged
3 - Insure the airborne battery pack is in a secure position in the plane
4 - Insure there are not any bystanders who might get hit by your plane if you loose control
5 - Turn on the transmitter with the antenna fully extended
6 - Make sure the throttle stick is in it's lowest position
Note -->> from this point on, stay away from the prop - consider the plane "armed" and capable of spinning the prop whenever the airborne battery pack is connected to the ESC
7 - Connect the airborne battery pack to the ESC
8 - Turn on the switch to the ESC (your ESC may not have an on/off switch)
9 - Check to see if the control surfaces are moving properly (moving in the correct direction & moving in the proper amount)
10 - Pick up the plane in your right hand, stand up and hold it with the wings level - with the transmitter in your left hand, move the throttle stick with your left thumb, providing full power to the motor & toss the T-52 out level (not up) into the wind.
This plane can be comfortably flown in a soccer field sized area. If this is your first plane, I'd recommend taking short flights first, then, move up to longer flights. Figure out which way the wind is blowing. ALWAYS toss the T-52 INTO the wind and, never try to learn how to fly your T-52 during very windy conditions.
Look around your flying area - make sure you are aware of potential obstacles, like trees, people, buildings or power-poles & lines. When learning how to fly a radio-controlled plane, you should never even consider flying your plane around other people. Your ideal flight area would be a flat grassy field with no people in it, and no obstructions around it. Also, note the position of the sun - fly your plane in a pattern so you won't be flying your plane between you and the sun. If you fly your plane "into the sun", do the following:
1 - get the plane as stable as possible - maintaining level flight
2 - keep only one eye on the plane as it nears the sun
3 - close your eyes quickly as the plane flies into the sun
4 - open the other eye when you think it's passed
All this usually takes place within 3 seconds, or less. Getting your plane "lost" in the sun is another reason why crashes occur.
Crank up the motor to full speed, give the T52 a sturdy, level toss and there you have it - you're flying! Let the plane fly out level for 3 or 4 seconds, building up speed,before gaining altitude. When gaining altitude, let the plane ascend slowly - not making quick moves to "jump" higher. You'll want to gain some altitude for several reasons, including, but not limited to the following:
1 - Fly up high, so you'll have room for errors. When you perform maneuvers incorrectly, the plane will probably loose altitude. When this happens, recovery is important to avoid crashing. Flying high above the ground will help avoid crashes due to recovery errors. Don't fly the plane so high you can't easily see it. I like to fly this plane at an altitude of about 100' or so.
2 - Your motor will stop eventually and you'll need altitude to allow you to glide the plane safely back to where you're standing. The T-52 glides very well - just keep the speed up and you'll be able to maneuver the plane with precision. Get any plane going too slow and it'll be difficult to fly - loosing lots of altitude during turns & the plane may stall, usually resulting in a crash.
After you gain some altitude, the T-52 won't need as much speed to maintain level flight - so you can ease off the throttle a bit and just "putter around". Keep enough airspeed so the T-52 will handle nicely, but you don't need to keep the throttle "wide open" when learning how to fly.
When an airplane like the T-52 turns, it usually looses speed &/or altitude. The tighter the turn, the more energy will be required to keep the plane in level flight & continuing at the same speed. You will be controlling the plane withgradual inputs to the transmitter. Make your control movements slowly - usually, you want to give a little rudder control along with slight elevator up control. This will help you to make turns which are gradual and level.
Initially, you want to fly the plane in a very simple pattern. When I'm teaching someone how to fly the T-52, I take off, climb to a comfortable altitude (~100' high), then have them fly in an oval pattern, trying to maintain level altitude:
Then, as you get comfortable flying this pattern, try a "figure 8" pattern:
Make sure you realize when you are looking at the plane coming towards you the controls will be reversed - left to turn right & vice-versa. When learning how to fly, you can point the transmitter antenna in the direction of the plane and look back towards the plane when flying - this helps many people with their hand-eye coordination.
You'll want to practice landing without power because you'll be forced to do this sooner or later. This is another reason to fly with a good amount of altitude - after flying around for a while, your airborne battery pack voltage will drop to a point where the motor will stop. When this happens, you'll want to have enough altitude to glide back to where you're standing.
With electric powered aircraft, you'll notice a drop of power just before the motor stops. As your plane flies along, the battery looses voltage. The ESC will stop sending power to the motor when the voltage drops to around 4.7 volts - this may vary with each different ESC. When the voltage cutoff stops power to the motor, the receiver will still continue to operate and the servos will function normally for a few minutes. Depending on your ESC, you may be able to use the motor again for a brief period after the initial motor cutoff.