According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the weight and balance of an RC plane are crucial not only in the design and development stage but also in maintaining the stability of the plan. When the center of gravity clings towards the nose instead of the center, the plane becomes nose heavy. Flying a nose-heavy plane is challenging, and without exceptional piloting skills, the plane may crash.
When an RC plane is nose heavy, the pilot may quickly lose control since more force is exerted to the tail. Flying becomes difficult as the wings struggle to maintain balance and stability midair. This makes the plane sluggish, and it may fly up and down in an uncontrollable way.
This article will explain in detail what happens when an RC plane is nose-heavy and how it flies. We’ll also discuss how to recognize if a plane is nose-heavy or tail-heavy, what an ideal weight is, and how to establish the center of gravity for your plane, with and without additional weight.
What Happens When an RC Plane Is Nose Heavy
Typically, an RC plane gains more stability when the nose is slightly heavy. However, it’s a big problem when the center of gravity tilts excessively towards the nose of the plane.
When an RC plane is nose heavy, you may find it difficult to control. The plane may quickly spiral out of control and crash if not appropriately handled. It may force you to give it more elevation for it to fly level when gaining altitude, and it typically flies lower than usual due to its tendency for descent rather than the ascent. You may also find the sticks to be heavier and reactions to controls to be slower.
But the real problem comes when you have to land. With a heavy nose, the plane won’t have enough power to give it the lift needed for a balanced landing. If that wasn’t bad enough, a nose-heavy plane also tends to speed when landing.
If you’re new to piloting an RC plane, you may find controlling a nose-heavy aircraft to be a hassle, because in most cases, such planes crash. Nonetheless, most RC plane enthusiasts prefer flying a slightly nose-heavy plane to one with a balanced center of gravity. Still, shifting the center of gravity makes it difficult to gain altitude, as the heavier weight clinging towards the nose tends to pull the plane forward and downwards.
Differences Between Nose-Heavy and Tail-Heavy RC Planes
The main difference between a nose-heavy RC plane and a tail-heavy RC plane is seen in the center of gravity. For nose-heavy planes, that tends to be towards the nose, and for tail-heavy planes, it’s towards the tail. Even though these are both issues of shifted weight, the way the plane behaves is very different depending on which direction is leaning.
Typically, a nose-heavy plane will usually have its nose facing downwards. Such an aircraft often experiences high stall speeds and will require more airflow to force its nose to lift during take-off. In such cases, the plane takes longer and covers more take-off distance.
Conversely, an RC plane is tail heavy when the center of gravity pulls the plane backward and downwards. In other words, there’s more weight towards the back of the plane forcing it to lean backward.The tail will feel heavy, and if it stalls or spins, it’ll become difficult to control. In most cases, the plane will crash because it is practically impossible to compensate for a heavy tail.
Overall, it’s much easier to control a plane that is nose heavy than one that is tail heavy. This is because once a tail-heavy plane loses stability, it’s not easy to regain control.
What Is the Ideal Weight for an RC Plane?
The ideal weight for an RC plane ranges between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds (1.13 and 1.59 kilograms). This low weight is what makes it possible for RC planes to take off and fly with ease. Since they rely on buoyancy, they need to displace an air mass equal to that of the plane.
Most RC planes are made out of balsa wood and foam to keep their weight as low as possible. Manufacturers tend to set different standard weights for their aircraft, and in most cases, this information can be found in the user’s manual.
How To Balance an RC Plane
Before flying an RC plane, it’s essential to establish its center of gravity. According to NASA, the center of gravity is the average weight location of the plane. In other words, it’s the point of balance between the nose and the tail of your RC plane.
In most cases, you’ll find your aircraft’s center of gravity described in the user manual.
You’ll find that after repairs or crashes, RC planes tend to lose their factory set center of gravity. Also, adding more load, such as cameras and engine parts, often shifts the center of gravity.
In such instances, there is a need to determine the point of balance manually.
To determine the center of gravity for an RC plane, you’ll need the following:
- Wooden plank board (with two holes on either side)
- A flat surface
- Two long wooden poles
Once you’ve gathered the mentioned tools, you’ll be balancing the plane twice: once without the engine or batteries, and a second time with those parts back on.
Balance the Plane Without Battery or Engine
By first establishing the center of gravity of the plane without the weight, it’ll be easier to determine the new point of balance when the weight is back on. The weight, in this case, includes the motors, batteries and any other additional parts, such as cameras.
Determining the original center of gravity can also be very useful information when it comes to deciding the final positioning of the motors and batteries.
To determine the center of gravity for the plane without the weight on, follow the steps below:
- Identify the location of the original center of gravity from the user manual. Depending on the RC plane model, this point will be somewhere between the nose and tail and slightly below the wings.
- Remove the batteries and engine from the RC plane.
- Place the wooden plank board on a flat surface.
- Insert the wooden poles in the holes located on either side of the board.
- Place the plane on the wooden poles.
- Ensure that each side of the wing sits above the pole.
- Mark the point of balance where the RC plane is level (where the nose doesn’t lean forward and the tail doesn’t pull backward).
Balance the Plane With Batteries and Engine On
After balancing the weightless plane, it’s time to find the center of gravity when all the weight (batteries and motors) is back on the plane. After all, it’s impossible to fly without the motor and batteries, and both of these add a fair amount of weight to the plane.
To determine the center of gravity in an RC plane with these parts on, follow the steps below:
- Put the batteries and engine back on the RC plane.
- Balance it on the two wooden poles with the wings sitting on either side of the poles.
- Observe where the plane leans (either forward or backward).
- Adjust the battery either forward if the plane leans towards the tail.
- Move it backward if the plane leans forward.
- Adjust several times until you achieve the ideal point of balance.