How To Fly an RC Plane?

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Flying RC planes is an exciting hobby, however, it can get costly if we don’t do it right. I’ve seen people spend $400 on a plane and crash it just a few seconds into its first flight. But this tragedy can easily be avoided by taking the time to learn how to fly an RC plane properly.

learn How To Fly an RC Plane.

Here’s how to fly an RC plane:

  1. Do pre-flight checks.
  2. Pay attention to the wind.
  3. Get the plane to full speed on the ground before takeoff.
  4. Keep the plane level.
  5. Stay in the range.
  6. Land the plane.

Covering all the basics and avoiding common flying mistakes will make your new hobby sustainable in the long run. In this article, I’ll look at all you need to know about flying an RC plane in more detail. 

Is Flying an RC Plane Difficult?

Flying an RC plane isn’t difficult, but one needs all the right knowledge required to put the plane in the air, maneuver it in flight, and land without crashing. It takes some practice to do these three things, but it’s common to go from novice to experienced RC plane pilot in under ten flights.

How To Fly an RC Plane? (From Pre-Flight to Landing)

As is the case with most things, our first time flying an RC plane will be the most challenging. However, with a little bit of practice, we’ll improve our hand-to-brain coordination and start enjoying our new hobby. It helps to have an experienced hand around, so don’t hesitate to fly in a group where possible. Below are some things we should follow:

1. Do Pre-Flight Checks.

Here are some pre-flight checks we should complete:

Check the Transmitter and the Plane

This is the first step to flying an RC plane successfully. Look over the transmitter and the plane to ensure all components are in place and ready to go. Is the battery fully charged? Take some time to understand how the plane’s transmitter works and ensure all the controls are functional.

NOTE: We don’t want any components failing midway into our first flight. For an RTF plane, there’s not much we need to check as the manufacturers often make sure the plane is ready to go straight from the box.

Confirm the Flying Mode

Most RC planes have different flying modes, each designed to work slightly differently from the rest. For example, the “Mode 1” on one model might be designed to ensure better manual control, while the “Mode 2” features some degree of assisted flying. 

TIP: Go over the plane’s manual to see what each mode is about and choose the one that appeals to you the most.

Check the Range

A range check is one step we should never skip before we start flying. It’s basically to confirm how far away from the plane we can be when controlling it. The manual will contain an estimated range, but it’s best to confirm for ourselves.

The range check is especially important if we have to fly in less than ideal weather or when some obstacles can affect transmission.

Turn on the transmitter and the plane and walk a few dozen meters away from it to see if it keeps responding. Once we’ve confirmed the range, make a note of it. We shouldn’t fly our plane beyond the recorded range (vertically and horizontally).

2. Pay Attention to the Wind.

There are two things we should do here:

Measure the Speed of the Wind

RC planes can typically handle flights in a wide range of weather conditions, as long as we’re not looking at extremes. If the wind is too powerful, we’ll struggle to maintain control of the RC plane.

TIP: There’s a trick I’ve read and seen several times to help with this. It involves tying a ribbon to the transmitter antenna and looking at the slope. If it’s parallel to the ground, it’s probably best to postpone flying for another day. If it’s hanging 20 degrees to the ground, it’s safe to fly.

Confirm the Direction of the Wind

I’ve seen many newbies make the mistake of flying their RC plane with the wind. That’s a good way to lose control. We should fly into/against the wind instead of going with it.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but most professionals will say it’s the right thing. We can visually confirm which way the wind is blowing by looking at tall grasses or anything that will move with the wind.

When we’ve confirmed everything is in order and the conditions are right, it’s time to start up the plane.

3. Get the Plane to Full Speed on the Ground Before Takeoff.

We need to ensure the plane is at the right level of speed for a takeoff. Maintain maximum throttling until the plane leaves the ground. Hold the throttle until the plane is at 60 meters (196 ft.) and scale back the throttle to around 50%.

NOTE: Flying at full throttle is a sure way to drain the battery very quickly, and we won’t have adequate power to land the plane, leading to a crash.

4. Keep the Plane Level.

We need to ensure the plane is flying in a parallel line with the ground. Tilted flying or any similar shift can make it harder for the plane’s mechanisms to work effectively, leading to faster battery drain and a crash.

NOTE: Use the controls to bring the plane back in line if it starts to veer off the parallel path.

5. Stay in the Range.

I talked about mapping out the range for your plane before flying above. Once the plane is in the air, pay attention, and we should make sure we don’t allow it to go out of the range. If the range is small, we can get more airtime by flying in circular motions.

6. Land the Plane.

To land the plane, we have to find a spot without any obstacles, reduce the throttle and allow the plane to slow down and glide to the ground. This is a perfect landing, and it needs some practice to accomplish. 

To get the landing right, here’s what we should do:

  • Make sure the altitude of the plane is constant at around 10 meters (30 ft.). It’s not set in stone, but I have used this approach successfully every time. Other experienced RC enthusiasts can also agree with it. However, the ideal height might be different depending on the type of plane.
  • Fly the plane downward until it has passed us by 50 meters (164 ft.) and then turn it 180 degrees to bring it back to us.
  • With the turn completed, keep the plane in a straight line using the rudder.
  • Use the motor power to stay in control of the rate of descent.
  • As the plane gets closer to the ground, reduce the motor power completely and engage “up elevator”. This will slow the plane’s speed and the rate of the descent until the plane finally touches down.

As we become more experienced, we can also land the plane by just controlling the throttle and maneuvering the plane as it descends. For a beginner, this approach is risky, so it’s best to learn how to land properly first. 

NOTE: If we lose control of the plane while landing, we can limit the damage done by catching the plane just before it lands, preferably with a net. We can also catch it by hand if it’s not too big and there are no moving parts that can cause injury even through protective gear.

After landing the plane, the next step is to turn off our transmitter and recharge the batteries. Remember, the batteries have to be at 100% capacity for us to enjoy the maximum flight time (give or take a couple of minutes). If we fly when the battery is at 70% capacity, we’ll get the plane in the air but may not be able to bring it back down.

Beginners Tips for Learning How To Fly an RC Plane 

If we’re just getting started in the RC plane hobby, there are a few things we need to consider first to simplify the flying process.

Choose the Right RC Airplane

In general, it’s best to choose an RC plane that matches our skill level. The best RC planes for beginners are stable and less demanding. So, while an RC jet like the VOLANTEXRC 4 Channel from Amazon.com looks great and is affordable, it’s not a good choice for a first-timer.

Watch for Features That Aid Flying

Some of the features that can make flying our RC plane easy include:

Three Channels

RC planes with three channels are generally simpler to fly because there are far fewer controls to worry about. This is why they are often recommended for beginners. We’ll still retain control of the rotor and altitude without worrying about other things. If we already have some experience, a four-channel option can still work. However, they are a bit sophisticated for newbies. 

Assembled and Ready for Flights

When shopping for RC planes, we’re sure to find models tagged as Ready to Fly (RTF). Choosing such a plane means we have a unit ready to fly straight from the box. We won’t need to spend time on assembling or any other such process. Of course, more experienced flyers won’t mind the assembling.

NOTE: One good reason for choosing pre-assembled planes is that they are typically more durable compared to those that come in kits for a user to assemble. The durability means they can withstand rough landings a bit better without parts giving way. 

Average-to-Low Speed

RC planes can reach impressive speeds mid-air—which is one reason for the rise in popularity. However, choosing RC planes with the fastest speeds isn’t a great idea for beginners. Once such planes reach the top speeds, maintaining control is often difficult. 

NOTE: Medium to low speed is easier to control while it’s in the air, reducing the chances of an accident.

Choose an RC Plane Made With Durable Materials

RC planes in the market are made of a wide range of materials, all appealing to different groups. However, as a beginner, we should only choose an RC plane made of the most durable materials. This is to ensure we get the chance to practice and become adept at flying the plane without worrying about damages. 

TIP: I’d advise going with units that contain some carbon fiber components and those made from heavy-duty plastic. 

Ensure Spare Parts Are Reachable

Let’s face it. There is a high chance we’d still crash our plane, especially during our first few flights. One way to make sure it doesn’t prove too costly is to choose a model with parts we can secure easily. This is why going with popular models is usually a safe bet. More obscure models may be cheaper, but with any crash, we’d probably have to spend money on a new unit.

Tread Lightly With the Controls

We may want to try out all the stunts we’ve seen on YouTube the first time we take flight, but this should be resisted. I always recommend becoming comfortable with standard flying first before we start exploring tricks. So, we should handle the controls gently and ensure the plane makes smaller movements in the early stages.

Don’t Allow the Plane Go Too Far or Above Our Head

If we have a plane with a really wide range, we may be tempted to allow it to go the whole mile. This can be a problem as there is a chance we’d lose sight of the plane. This will make it harder to know if it’s parallel, etc.

Similarly, flying the plane directly over our head can lead to disorientation. As you turn upwards to keep tabs on the plane, we’ll find it harder to maintain ground reference in relation to the plane.

TIP: It’s best to ensure the plane is in front of us or to the sides at most. It shouldn’t be overhead, behind, or too far off.

Don’t Fly Across the Sun

Once we fly across the sun, it will take a while for our eyes to recover—even if we’ve got some shades on. That little bit of readjustment time can be costly overall. We can get disoriented, and the plane can fly out of our range, leading to a crash.

Where To Fly an RC Plane

There are three main places we can look when thinking about where to fly our RC plane.

RC Flying Club

RC flying clubs often have a designated flying area that we can share with others if we join them. I recommend finding a club near us by visiting this directory on the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) website. If we find one near us, then we can consider joining them.

Apart from getting a spot to fly our plane, we can also count on more experienced club members to offer extra help—which we’ll need if we want to upgrade from standard electric RC planes to IC-powered options.

If we find a club but don’t want to become a full member for any reason, we can still talk to them about using their field. Getting permission is important because apart from the obvious fact that we’ll be using a facility maintained with other people’s money, there’s always the possibility of conflict due to frequency interference. 

By discussing with the club owners, we can ensure our radio will not affect other flyers nearby and vice versa.

Private Open Area

If we own a private land somewhere or know a friend that owns one, we can fly our RC plane there. Again, we’ll need permission from the friend (or relative). Such options are preferred because there’s a lot more freedom. We won’t have to worry about upsetting a member of the public.

NOTE: The size of the plane will determine the amount of space we need. For instance, we’ll need space as wide as a ballpark if we own a Ready-to-Fly 40-inch (101 cm) plane.

Public Areas

We can also fly our plane in public locations such as beaches, ballparks, sports fields, public parks, etc., as long as planes are allowed there. We also need to adhere strictly to safety rules to avoid flying into trouble. We should always act responsibly to ensure the space doesn’t get excluded in the future.

Just like drones are annoying to many people, our RC plane can rub some people wrongly if we keep disturbing them with it. Just one complaint can make the authorities ban RC planes from the area permanently. So, we should pay attention to ensure we’re not flying in a way that will inconvenience other people in a public space. 

So, top considerations to keep in mind when choosing a public area to fly our plane include:

  • The presence of offices, shops, schools, or any other such spaces.
  • The proximity of the space to roads: we don’t want to distract road users.
  • The number of people in the space: many people hanging out or those on a picnic won’t appreciate an RC plane flying overhead.
  • The presence of posts, towers, lights, power lines, trees, etc.

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