As mentioned earlier, taking off is one of the easiest parts of RC flying. The technique for taking off is different depending on whether the airplane;
- Has a tricycle landing gear – two wheels under the wings and a steerable nose wheel landing gear.
- Is a tail dragger – 2 wheel sunder the wings and a rear wheel or skid
- Has no landing gear and will be hand launched
General Take Off Principles
The surface of the runway has a major affect on your take offs. The best is a hard smooth surface such as a well cut flat grass, concrete or asphalt. Longer grass or an uneven surface with ruts can cause the airplane to nose over causing possible damage to the propellor. With the electric plane revolution, there are many new foam planes on the market that have quite small wheels.
The smaller of these often will not take off well on anything other than concrete or asphalt or sometimes very short grass. Some of the micro RTC electric planes such as the Eflite UMX Beast for instance, have removable landing gear so if no smooth surface is available you can hand launch them and do belly landings.
Ensure all the previous pre flights checks mentioned earlier including range check have been carried out successfully. You must also have undertaken some ground handling discussed earlier.
With the airplane down one end of the runway facing the wind, increase the throttle and steer with the rudder ensuring the airplane tracks down the center of the runway. Smoothly increase the throttle to full and when the airplane is moving along at a brisk speed, slowly apply up elevator.
Don’t apply full up elevator as the airplane wing’s angle of attack may be too great for the speed resulting in loss of wing lift (called a stall) ending up in a nasty crash.
As the airplane lifts off keeps the wings level by controlling the aileron stick and keep the power on. As the plane keeps climbing be ready to ease off the elevator a little and start your first turn while reducing power a little. Well done!
Differences For a Tail Dragger Take Off
A tail dragger RC airplane will have 2 wheels up front, often under the wings and a rear wheel or skid. When taxing a tail dragger, apply full up elevator as this will help prevent the nose tipping forward and the prop hitting the ground. As the throttle is increased during the actual take off you should have some up elevator applied.
The amount required will depend on your airplane and set up. As the airplane gains speed the tail wheel or skid will lift off the ground. You will need to slowly bring the elevator back towards neutral as the speed increases. Your goal with the elevator is to keep the tail off the ground and prevent the nose from nosing into the ground. Up elevator will be required to lift the plane off the ground into the air.
How to Hand Launch An Electric Power Plane of Glider
Ensure you have carried out all pre flight checks as discussed earlier above. During your first few hand launches it’s normal to feel a bit uneasy but it’s really quite easy. If possible have an assistant do the launch for you. If a raw beginner, you can do the hand launch and your instructor or someone from your rc flying clubs with good experience can do the initial flying and trimming.
The hand launch needs to be done into the wind. Find a comfortable and safe place away from the prop to hold the plane in one hand at head height. The plane should be launched with a firm yet smooth action at about a 30 degree angle up while taking a step forward.
There are 2 schools of thought regarding use of throttle. Some advocate launching while the throttle is at 3/4 to full power. This does carry some risk of the prop hitting fingers, especially for rear props. The other school of thought is to hand launch the plane and as it leaves the launcher’s hand, full power is applied.
I have tried both methods and they both have worked well. I suggest you try both and see what you prefer. If you have a somewhat heavy airplane suitable for hand launching, it probably makes sense to launch with power.
Two other launch methods I have tried successfully with powerful rc electric foam RC airplanes, is either holding the top of the fuselage behind the motor and pushing the hand and plane forward and letting it go with the nose pointing at about 30 degrees up with 3/4 to full power. The other method involves holding the airplane on the front and underside of one wing and moving the arm backwards, then forwards letting the airplane go at a 30 degree angle while at 3/4 to full power. Not each method will suit all RC electric model airplaness and the best method will depend on the plane’s design weight and power.
If Things Are Looking a Bit Pear Shaped.
If when flying you suddenly find yourself in trouble, don’t panic! Yes I know – easier said than done for a beginner! The first thing to do though when in trouble is cut the throttle. This will slow the airplane down and give you more time. There are exceptions to this rule such as if the plane is stalling and dropping out of the sky you may need more power to regain control. If you were wise enough to be learning with an instructor via a buddy box, they will simply take over control, level the plane and give control back to you.
Flight Training Summary
So there you have it, we have covered some of the basics of RC flying. Before flying solo you will need plenty of practice with a good instructor. Everyone learns at a different speed so be patient and enjoy the process.
The training is a pivotal and important part of flying an RC plane. Without adequate training you risk damaging your plane through not understanding the flight process of an RC plane, you also risk the health and safety of anyone in the vicinity which includes yourself.
Flying an RC plane is one of the most enjoyable pastimes I have ever had. Seeing your plane soaring high above the ground and knowing you’re in control really does make you feel great. Remember to take heed of all the information in this article and then put it into practice during real training on a RC trainer airplane with an instructor who can show you everything you need to know. In a short period of time you will become well trained in controlling an RC plane and people will be asking you for hints and tips.
Here’s some links to our training tutorials to help you get stuck into getting your plane off the ground and back down in one piece! They are a work in progress so keep coming back.
Here are some training tutorials to help you learn to fly.