"Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis - RCCanada - Canada Radio Controlled Hobby Forum
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:54 AM   #1
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"Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

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I really didn't know where to put this topic, "Fixed Wing" seemed the logical choice. Mods feel welcome to move it to where it might do the most good. Trash bin included.

So, a lot of RC plane folks (being politically correct) like to assemble ARFs versus Kit or Stick building. They are relatively inexpensive (not talkin' just money here, but time investment too), don't require a lot of tools a lot of people don't have...and go together quickly.

I've lucked out and had both kit built planes and a few ARFs fly Ok to great. On the other side of the coin, I've had a couple ARFs that flew poorly or crashed. About the only thing I will say definitively is that the ARFs were assembled as per manufacturers instructions. The control surfaces were set up using the recommended travel.......the engine/motor was installed as per the manual, and the CG wasn't guessed at!

So, the maiden is completed. It took off, flew, and landed. Now what can we do? This is probably where a lot of people like me (a year and a bit into the hobby) become frustrated, disappointed and maybe even discouraged.

If we've been subjected to instruction, we have a pretty good grasp on the fact that a flat bottom, high wing trainer plane is going to be more forgiving than a fully symmetric mid wing pattern plane.

One observation I've had about ARFs is that they don't usually indicate where the datum line is on a particular air frame. When you get into the sport and 3D planes, they even give you a range of where the CG can be set up. My question is much simpler, how is the plane supposed to look flying by me at 1/2 throttle? Is it flying as the manufcturer intended, or did I mis-read a step in the set-up manual???

Lets (for the sake of arguement) I set it up exactly like the manual said. After the Horizontal and Vertical Stabilizers are glued in, you've likely set how that plane will fly, for the rest of it's life. Maybe not!

My question is: What can be done, or looked at to improve the flight characteristics of a poor flying model. To be fair, i guess we should address the question to specific style air-frames. Lets say, Trainers, Sport, 3D and gliders.

I'll start with a couple issues I've encountered. A Four Star 40 that had to be re-trimmed whenever you moved the throttle. Turned out to be a warped wing. The second one was a dog-tracking, tail low flight attitude. Discovered that it was tail heavy and the Vertical stabilizer was crooked to the fuse.

I don't know much about to improve the flying characteristics of a built plane. I hope I'm not the only one thats asked why they fly so terrible. IMO there is a heck of a difference between a plane that flies, and a plane that flies well.

Attention to detail, while assembling an ARF can only get ya so far, how can we make a silk purse out of a sows ear? I guess one answer is to remember the old phrase "you get what you pay for", but, I've even noticed inconsistancies in "quality" name models.

Have at her! And lets be nice about it, 'cause we all can appreciate that the only stupid question is the one not asked.
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:30 PM   #2
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Thumbs up Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

Hey Brent. GREAAAT topic! Having owned numerous Barf's, as well as still being a very active builder I have a few things to say...I have gone against what the Barf manual said as far as control surface throws and C of G because it just didn't "look" right. One arf had an aileron throw of about 45 degress (whatever that was in mm) , but I knew that was just way too much and gave it about a third of that and it flew just fine.There was something lost in the translation from Chinglish. Experience here was the only way that it was noticed.
Also, there are just bad designs. Like a lot of things we buy, we ask ourselves "What were the designers thinking?" Black horse models that came out a few years ago flew like crap no matter how well I balanced/set the throws.
If you are really unhappy with the way something flies, change the balance point 1/4 ounce at a time and also the throws just a little. Just remember to change ONE THING at a time because if you change two, you'll never know what made the improvement.
Lastly, " You can't polish a turd" (well, technically you can because they did it on Mythbusters a few years back). Some planes will just not fly correctly no matter what we do, so I personally just scrap them and move on..... John
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:46 PM   #3
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

The one ARF was renamed the "Flyin' Grey Turd", yup, I polished it off in 2 flights!

When one has exhausted the TLAR (That Looks About Right) method and doesn't have the experience, one tool that (I think) can help is an incidence meter! But without knowing where the datum line is, it is an expensive (not costly relative to the replavement cost of a plane) tool for setting control throws.

I may not have explained what I was looking for real well. My wife says I'm a poor communicator! I discovered that most of the F3A PAttern planes have the ability of dialing in both the HS and airfoil! Cool option! Now as I understand it, a plank HS versus a airfoil HS is like day and night.

The order of things to check and/or change is what I'm after. Thanks for your input John. Like I said, I only have enough experience to be real dangerous at this stage of the game. I also don't have the time and money to get a degree is aircraft engineering!

Last edited by PurgatorY; 04-02-2012 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:35 PM   #4
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

I mostly have built kits and scratch build.

I own a couple ARFS too. Four to be exact.

Before I buy an ARF I want to see someone elses and ask them what they liked/didn't like about it.

Second thing, I wont buy any ones ARF until I have done some web research from other owners. There are lots of good highly recommended ARFs available. Just Google it. I bought one electric arf early on with out any research and I hated it. It just wouldn't fly right!! Learned my lesson then and there. Maybe you've learned yours.

I have a friend who has kit built a couple of 4 start 60s and he loves them. Reason he has built a couple is because he wore the first one out after 600+ flights. The 4 star series are usually pretty good. Don't know about the ARF.
John Kovats

aka Johnny Versatile

MAAC 65460

Hespeler Model Aviators Inc.
Cambridge Float Flyers

I don't have the answers, but I have a personal relationship with the Guy that does.
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Old 04-02-2012, 03:00 PM   #5
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

There's good, bad, and ugly on all fronts. I've had a bit of both worlds. Some ARFs are just a poor design and there's not much you can do about it, while others can be tweaked to get better flying characteristics. A kit is only as good as it's built, and there are just plain bad plans. As mentioned, reviews are a good place to start...I find RCUniverse, RCGroups, and of course RCC to be good sources.

What you are describing is the process that leads to tinkering. Yes, there are lots of things you can do to improve your plane's performance...from adjusting balance to throw rates to control surface mixing to different engines. You can try different servos. You can move landing gear. You can reinforce blasa joints. You can correct wing warp by a couple different means. You can buy replacements parts. You can totally rebuild parts of a plane.

Problem is you start getting into some pretty hi-tech modifications and need some building experience, but that's where the fun starts! It's like rebuilding an engine, you gain a while new appreciation for the mechanics of it.

My suggestion is - decide what you want to change about your model, then ask away for advice on how to do it. Most ppl here are more than willing to help.
Dean Myers
MAAC 81138
CMPRA Calgary (www.cmpra.com)
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Old 04-02-2012, 04:30 PM   #6
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

Just out and doubled the number of flights on a over powered Beaver after lunch. I believe I've finally seen the "P" factor at work.

Dale Hunter got me into the air by encouraging (spelled "correcting") assembling, building and flight training. Will Gross has explained the finer points of trimming. Sadly I am no where near anyone that flies, builds and tunes planes well. I can see where belonging to a club, and going to fun flies and competitions would pay off immensely.

The first plane I built (high wing trainer) doesn't have bad habits, just a bad pilot! It's the plane I have to use to judge how well other planes fly!

So, correcting an issue, the first thing someone should check is CG, what next? Squareness of air foil, VS and HS. Only one of those three is very easy to remediate.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:43 PM   #7
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

Also, you want to check the relationship of all flight surfaces (eg, stab parallel to wing in side-to-side and trailing edges, rudder at right angle to stab) and the possible impacts to straight flight when adding inputs.

Next step once the plane is doing straight and level flight, race-course circuits and figure-eights, plus take-offs and landings without issues, is to start working on having the plane fly through specifiic points in the sky consistently. Next is basic aerobatics, precision advances aerobatics.

If you're into scale or jets, fee free to add whatever additional flight skills are needed.

Lots of websites and books that cover how to set up airplanes correctly and how to do basic aerobatics.

As you said, this is where having a club and fellow flyers to learn from comes into its own.

Sounds like you might have to make the occassional excursion to the nearest club, and get in a couple days of solid practicw with an instructor plus some bench time while there (not shooting the breeze entirely but asking the questions to move you along in your skills.) May be a bit expensive on gas and time, but cheaper than getting bummed-out or crashing your way out of the hobby.

Might become the basis for starting a club -- finding that there are a couple/three people in the area who are in the same boat as you.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:54 PM   #8
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

Well said Bryocat. It appears that I have already caught the Precision bug! For me, that style of flyin' is where its at! Thats the other beauty of this hobby, so many types of planes and styles (of flying) to pick from.

Its really kind of sad in my area. I know that theres at least 50 planes in the municipality I live in. IF they fly, they don't in front of anyone else. LOL Lots of people know I fly, I do it parallel to the highway! Sooner or later, someone will stop in and I'll have 'em hooked on the hobby!!!
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Old 04-03-2012, 09:39 AM   #9
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

Like everyone else, I start with the basics. Set the plane in a cruise speed Make sure that the plane doesn't yaw and/or roll and it maintains a steady altitute.

After that I check for straight uplines, straight down lines, in some airplanes I had to mix a bit of down throttle to down elevator (3% or less) to keep a dead straight long down line. Then I check the amount of mix (if needed) required to hold a dead straight knife edge both ways. I found some airplanes change the proportion of mixing from one way to another.

Once the knife edge mix is figured out and down lines are straight same as the up lines then it is time to set the throws for the flying conditions. (Snaps, spins, stall turns etc).

Listening to awesome pattern pilots like Chad and Nedim from Calgary their little tips here and there, I came to the realization that there is no free lunch when it comes down to trimming. It takes time not just to trim the plane but to learn to identify what is out of trim.

Last year, I spend a fair amount of hours setting up my pattern plane, you know...snaps, spins etc, etc my conclusion was... it is only tricky the first 200 times. After that the plane feels about right.


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Old 04-03-2012, 11:21 AM   #10
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Re: "Post Maiden" flight Diagnosis

Thanks Will. You mention "Cruise Speed" I would assume you mean the speed you start the majority of your techniques?

One particular plane I own (H9 ShowTime 50) is a really unique flier. Anything under a 1/2 throttle, and it flies with a tail down attitude. They refer to this thing as a 4D plane, whatever that means. From 1/2 throttle to 3/4 throttle it flies straight and true. Over 3/4 throttle it has a gradual climb (~ 2 degree up-line).

I guess this is where "knowing what to trim" is the big question, maybe there is no trimming that out, instead, mixing is required?
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