In recent times aerobatic and 3D RC planes have become the rage for those that want to take RC (remote control) plane flying to its extreme. By flying these planes you can literally pull off moves that many would think unachievable by a RC plane. These aerobatic and 3D maneuvers are a spectacle to behold.
If you have ever watched remote control planes and thought how graceful they are in the air, then you’re sure to be bewildered at the grace and incredible flexibility of aerobatic & 3D RC Planes.
Before buy a 3D flyer or setup your plane for 3D or aerobatic flight though, you need to be aware that 3D flying and “precision” aerobatics are actually very different styles of flying. They require different plane and transmitter setups.
In simple terms precision aerobatics can be described as carrying out a series of defined maneuvers. The emphasis is on flying the plane precisely so that a maneuver is learnt and then always carried out the same way.
Contrast that to 3D flying where the large control surfaces, powerful engines and modern computer transmitters allows the pilot to perform jaw dropping adrenalin packed maneuvers. 3D flying is more about reacting to the plane and requires fast reflexes and plenty of transmitter inputs whereas precision aerobatic pilots aim to make fewer movements to their maneuvers as their skills progress.
Both forms of flying can be extremely rewarding and there is some cross over of skills and techniques.
Aerobatic & 3D RC plane history
RC planes first started out in the United Kingdom between the 1920’s and 1930’s, this came about as the UK was looking to build a pilotless plane for military use. Unfortunately the British had limited success with this venture.
In 1937 two American men managed to take RC planes a step further by creating a radio controlled glider. The 1940’s in England saw enthusiasts start developing and flying their own radio controlled planes as a fun past time.
The use of aerobatic and 3D planes started evolving only over the last few decades as advancements in technology allowed the ability for RC planes to carry out more spectacular maneuvers. Since this time, with the introduction of foam models and electric motors the cost of the technology has reduced resulting in the ability for the general man or woman on the street to buy the technology and purchase an aerobatic or 3D RC plane. With more and more people getting involved in RC planes it means the development of both aerobatic & 3D planes will go likely grow further and become even more popular and affordable.
3D plane design
The typical basic design of an aerobatic or 3D plane is to have a lightweight plane with a low wing, large control surfaces that are capable of 30 degrees or more of movement and a large rudder. This results in a plane that is less stable but more responsive to control movements. These planes will also have a powerful engine with at least a 2-to-1 power-to-weight ratio so it can complete various maneuvers easily.
There are many excellent 3D planes available such as the scale Eflite Yak 54 (one of my personal favorites) and the Edge, Extra and Sukhoi. There also many non scale 3D planes such as the Funtana, Harrier and countless foamies.
Pictured here is a Eflite Yak 54 airplane capable of 3D flying.
Precision Aerobatic plane design
One of the primary features of an advanced aerobatic plane is a tapered wing designed for it’s special “tip stall” characteristic that will allow a good “snap roll” type maneuver.
Specific features include;
A semi or full symmetrical wing – this allows better penetration and helps with the neutral flight characteristics so that when the plane is placed in a certain attitude it tends to remain in that position. Contrast that to a trainer in a a banked turn, if you let go of the transmitter controls the trainer plane will begin to roll back to a level wing position. A plane with a semi or fully symmetrical wing will tend not to do this and will remain banked until you add a new aileron transmitter input.
Little or no wing dihedral – this also helps the plane maintain a “neutral” position once an control input is given by keeping the wing closer to the C of G.
Here is an example of a pattern aerobatic plane – The 50 size Spot.
There are many aerobatic maneuvers you can carry out including some of the most well known maneuvers; loops, rolls, Cuban 8s, and Immelmanns.
Here’s a brief explanation of a few of them.
Loops – there is an inside and outside loop, both carried out in a similar way. Loops look good when carried out smoothly.
Step 1 – Fly the plane level at fifty feet or so at 3/4 to full throttle and smoothly apply about half up elevator. (keep holding the elevator input)
Step 2 – When you’re just over the top of the loop on the way down reduce the throttle a little.
Step 3 – When the plane is flying level again remove the elevator input and reapply power.
Rolls – These are a lot of fun and quite easy.
Step 1 – While flying straight and level at a safe height and reasonably fast speed, add some slight up elevator them level the elevator immediately.
Step 2 – Immediately push the aileron stick full left and the plane will roll left.
Step 3 – As soon as the wings approach level again you must neutralize the aileron movement to come out of the roll.
Cuban 8s – The Cuban 8s can be a tricky maneuver to begin with and results will be better if you start off level and parallel to the runway.
Treat the Cuban 8 as 2 halves each requiring 2 steps;
The first half;
#1. Loop over the top
#2. Do a half roll (ensure wings are level)
The second half;
#1. Loop over the top
#2. Do a half roll (ensure wings are level)
Don’t forget to pull out!
Remember to pause before and after the half rolls as this helps ensure the half rolls will be axial at 45 degrees.
Immelmann turnaround – This easy maneuver combines loops and rolls an dis a handy way to quickly turn around.
Step 1 - Fly straight at level and around half to 3/4 throttle.
Step 2 – Smoothly apply about half up elevator.
Step 3 – Quickly return elevator to neutral near the top of the loop.
Step 4 – Then quickly apply full aileron (either left or right) to roll upright. Remember to neutralize the aileron immediately the wings are level again.
3D maneuvers include such maneuvers as the 3D back flip (micro loop), the 3 parachute, the advanced whip stall, 3 D harrier turns and rolling Harrier turns, and many other hovering and inverted 3D moves. The techniques for these and others will be covered elsewhere.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you are someone who wishes to become a master at aerobatic and 3D RC plane flying then you need to practice, practice, and then practice a little more. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect and if you have the time and dedication to practice maneuvers then you will become a grand master over time.
The best way to practice is finding a large open safe space where there is no one around so you have full use of the space without worrying about people around as you practice some crazy and awe inspiring moves. Joining a RC aircraft club is highly recommended.
Use of a good flight simulator such as Phoenix or Real Flight will allow you to practice new moves in a safe environment. Always “think through” your new maneuvers before carrying them out. This greatly improves training.
Finding Your Aerobatic Plane
Aerobatic & 3D RC planes have developed brilliantly over the last 20 years and more people are turning to this type of radio controlled plane flying. These 2 types of RC plane flying are both exciting and inspiring.
If you’re looking to turn your attention to developing your skills for precision aerobatic or 3D flying then ensure you take the time and effort to hone your skills through practicing and learning from those experts in your local RC club who are usually more than willing to help teach others.
Also try finding a great plane to practice with, don’t go rushing out and purchasing the most expensive or first plane available. Choosing the right plane will accelerate your growth as an excellent and safe RC plane pilot and save you money in the long term because you will be doing more flying and less building.