General Information About R/C
[Common Questions and Answers]
[What Do I Need to Get
How much does it cost?
- A lot depends on your budget. You can spend as little as
$100 or as much as $1,000 on assembling the basics.
Average cost for a complete beginners package runs about
How fast does a model go?
- Trainers usually cruise at about 25-30 MPH and can land
at speeds as slow as 12-15 MPH. However, there are also
unmodified, off-the-shelf airplanes that can deliver
speeds of up to 200 MPH!
How far can a model fly?
- The range for a modern R/C system is about a mile.
However, to maintain control, you need to have your model
close enough to tell what it is doing. Even a plane with
a 5-6 foot wingspan looks tiny at half a mile.
What happens if I run out of gas during a flight?
- Contrary to popular belief, you have complete control
even if your engine stops running. You just glide your
plane in for a "dead stick" landing. The radio
system has its own batteries for power.
- Wing placement, for the most part, falls into two major
categories: high wing design and low wing design. In a
high wing design, the weight of the model is suspended
below the wing. When the model tilts, the model's weight
tends to try to return the model to a level position. As
a result, high wing models tend to be more stable, easier
to fly - and natural choices for trainers. A low wing
model is just the opposite: with its weight above the
wing, it tends to be less stable - excellent for advanced
fliers who want to perform rolls, loops and other
- If you face the wingtip of the plane and cut it from
front to back, the cross section exposed would be the
wing's airfoil. There are three major categories of
airfoil. The Flat-Bottom Airfoil will develop the most
lift at low speeds. This is ideal for trainers and
first-time pilots. A Symmetrical Airfoil's top and bottom
have the same shape allowing it to produce lift equally
when right-side up or upside down. Lastly, is a
Seni-Symmetrical Airfoil which is a combination of the
other two and favored by intermediates and sport flyers.
Wing Area / Wing Loading:
- Wing area is the amount of wing surface available to
create lift. Wing Loading is the weight that a given area
of the wing has to lift and is usually measured in ounces
per square foot. Generally, a light wing loading is best;
the plane will perform better and will be easier to
- Dihedral is the upward angle of the wings from the
fuselage. Dihedral increases stability and decreases
Landing Gear Location:
- Tricycle gear includes a nose gear and two wing (main)
gears making take-offs and landings easier. This
configuration is ideal for beginners. A Tail-Dragger
configuration has two main gears just forward of the wing
and a tail wheel at the rear of the airplane.
There is no "typical" first airplane. The type of
plane is the pilot's choice and should include the factors listed
above. In terms of actual equipment, here's a list of a complete
- Model kit - Typically all balsa wood construction,
although some use foam components. The model kit will
usually include everything need to build the basic
airframe. (Hinges, pushrods, landing gear wire, nuts
& bolts) Typical cost: about $70
- Covering - If you're building your kit and didn't get an
"Almost Ready to Fly" model, you'll need
covering. Monokote is used frequently to do this. It is a
Mylar heat-shrink material that sticks to the wooden
frame and then shrinks around it, forming a smooth
surface. To apply it, you'll need a special mini heating
iron. Typical cost: about $40 (Provided by
RPI R/C Club at no charge)
- Engine - Obvoiusly, you need this to fly. Engines come in
all sizes and generally run on a
methanol/nitro-methane/oil mixture called
"glow" fuel. You'll need to buy the size engine
recommended by the manufacturers of the model kit you
bought. Typical cost: about $80 (Can be
provided by R/C Club)
- Radio - Most airplanes are controlled with a 4-channel FM
radio. The four channels are rudder, elevator, aileron
and throttle. Typical cost: about $150 (Can
be provided by R/C Club)
- Miscellaneous parts - The diagram below shows all of the
components of an R/C airplane fully assembled. (Provided
by R/C Club)
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(All of the above
information was provided by the Tower
Hobbies 1996 Catalog)