LIGHTENING - Worth While? - RCCanada - Canada Radio Controlled Hobby Forum
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Old 05-21-2013, 07:47 PM   #1
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LIGHTENING - Worth While?

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OK Guys - I’m about to start a discussion.

I am NOT trying to pick a fight!

I have been watching Trev Brum make beautiful Aircraft for quite a while and I have been in AWE of both his ability to build and reduce the weight of the AC through active use of his Dremel tool and assorted saws.


The other day I was describing such actions to a chum at the airfield and he disagreed with such notions!

His point was that SOME AC work better with a heavier stance.

Now… the current point of view is that by lightening the AC it becomes ‘Better’… someone please define ‘Better’.

Better – has been represented as ‘faster’, because it is lighter and needs less power to make it move, which for AC is good. Or is it??

My friend’s contention was that; [b]“Yes a light AC needs less power to fly – BUT - in a wind it is harder to control and land!”[\b]

I had a hard time arguing with that …

I have an 18 year old Great Planes Mustang that is heavy (by definition) and it cuts the wind beautifully, I fly when half of the club is grounded! When I cut the power I KNOW that the Mustang is coming down on a very predictable glide path.

When I had a Cub… it would glide FOREVER! (man was it light!) I HAD to push the nose down to MAKE it land!

So this then leads to the next series of questions / conversation…

When is an Air Craft TOO light?
How much weight should we strive to cut off of an AC?
Is it worth all the effort to trim weight? (stop looking at your waist! )
Do some AC fly better with a little extra weight? (let’s think about some of the WW1 & WW2 AC that have a stubby nose and you HAVE to add 1-2 pounds of lead to the nose in order to balance them. Was it worth shaving off all that weight? hmmm… )

As I said… I am NOT trying to pick a fight! (with Trev)

I AM trying to have a conversation.

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Old 05-21-2013, 08:29 PM   #2
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

Well from my experience, faster is not the point, it is slower. The heavy planes I have flown, flew fine, with lots of throttle and when I kept the speed up. But when I slowed them, they got sloppy. They could not harrier or elevator or do similar near stall maneuvers well or at all.
In comparison, the light planes I have had and flown, seem to float, they fly at a crawl, they often harrier at a walking pace, they elevator flat and level practical straight down. The light ones will go fast also. But the heavy ones won't go slow!!!!

Last edited by cravenjw; 05-21-2013 at 08:33 PM. Reason: Typo fixes
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:10 PM   #3
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

Light and strong is the real answer.
the beauty of building light is that once the airplane is balanced, and if you need it heavier, you can add the weight where it will do the least harm (bang on the CG.)

That said, there was a glider kit from years ago - the Mirage - that needed a small amount of ballast to fly well, even in light wind conditions. (well, light winds for Winnipeg)
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:20 PM   #4
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

In my opinion, an overweight plane is never good. Having said that, I think that extreme lightening (ie: where a lot of effort is made to lighten the airframe) is better suited for 3D planes where extreme 3D, high alpha and slow flight is desired. I see nothing wrong with a heavier (not overweight) plane when dealing with a scale subject that will be flown in a scale manner.

I enjoy 3D flying and love the challenge. My 3DHS Slick is light and will go low and slow all day long. As much as I enjoy this type of flying, there is a problem with pilots (including myself) flying today's super light, over powered airplanes (including the electrics). The problem is that we forget how to fly. What I mean is, these airplanes are spoiling us and are giving us a false sense of reality in terms of how an airplane is supposed to fly and react to control input. Sometimes, these airplanes fly like big kites with engines or electric motors strapped to the front. I love flying these type of planes myself as they are a blast but I think we are losing something in terms of flying skill.

I know this is a pretty harsh statement and I mean no offense. This is just meant to get people thinking and get the debate going
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Old 05-21-2013, 10:08 PM   #5
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

Lighter is always better. On extreme windy days I end up flying some of my smallest models that have the greatest power to weight ratios.
Build em to fly not to crash!.
Some one said to me as well that my 10lb 1/4 scale Cub was way to light for windy days.....BS. Just make sure you have lots of throws, plenty of expo and a good power to weight ratio.
Heavy models will give you a nasty bite eventually.

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Old 05-21-2013, 10:10 PM   #6
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

Simplicate and add lightness.
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Old 05-21-2013, 10:40 PM   #7
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

Helium filled Micro Balloons?

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Old 05-21-2013, 11:00 PM   #8
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

Lighter is always better!

A lighter plane flies faster, lands slower and lasts longer. Without exception when comparing 2 identical planes.

Penetration into the wind has far more to do with how aerodynamically clean the airframe is than how much it weighs. And the more it weighs the less clean it is because it has to fly at a higher angle of attack to stay airborne. So therefore the heavier one is worse in the wind!

So - when is a plane too light? When it's no longer strong enough to sustain flight and/or landing loads! (and the lighter it is the less strength it needs!)

Many confuse smaller vs larger with lighter vs heavier when having this discussion! Two different things guys!

Good topic to discuss!! Merv
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Old 05-21-2013, 11:20 PM   #9
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

It depends on the mission! If you want to fly 3D then YES, lighter is always better. General sport flying - I would also say that a light plane is much better than a heavy plane. For precision aerobatics though (F3A or IMAC), based on the information I have and the people I have talked to, I am of the opinion that lighter is not always better. For example, on one DVD I have of the TAS, Mark Leseberg is describing the thought process behind the development of the Dalton MEL Extra 300. He clearly describes how they intentionally reduced the wingspan in order to increase the wing loading. The benefit of this "heavier" plane is that it performs its mission (precision aerobatics) better in the wind. I have also been told the same thing by Chad Northeast (longtime Canadian F3A champ). I don't intentionally build "heavy" but on the other hand, I do not go to extreme lengths to lighten a plane either (I don't fly 3D).
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:40 AM   #10
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Re: LIGHTENING - Worth While?

This will be a entertaining thread. Everybody is right. trumpetman is right on the money. Depends on the mission.

BTW when I get enough saved up in my toy account I would love the oportunity to get a aircraftmade by Mr.Brum kinda like getting a shelby mustang compared to a regular one. Kinda looks the same only better.
I am sure there is a better way to make kindling but I haven't found it yet.
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