Trying different types of models can be an eye-opener! Sam Wright steps out of his RC comfort
zone to try Indoor FF Scale.
Weight and balance are of vital importance to any aircraft, large or small. A full-scale
airplane pilot pays close attention to
how a cargo load affects the center of
gravity (CG), and will not take off unless the balance point is
within recommended limits. Why should we treat our models
Have you ever watched video compilations of RC model
airplane crashes? Video editors seem to play it for laughs, with
funny music in the background, but there is much to learn
from those runway impacts.
Most of the crashes seem to involve an out-of-balance
airplane—usually one that’s tail-heavy. These are nice models,
built with care, but some of the pilots in the videos apparently
did not understand the importance of a proper CG. They soon
Have you ever seen a modeler “dial in a little down-trim”
to treat a CG problem that really required some ballast? The
problem is that the trim adjustment is dependent on airflow,
which is ever changing. At the edges of the flight envelope,
elevator trim alone might not be enough to maintain control
of an out-of-balance aircraft.
Inexperienced pilots sometimes learn with the loss of a
model (and a chance at video stardom), but there are safer
ways to be taught.
Wing warps, improper decalage, and other setup issues
can lead to trouble as well. A new pilot might not grasp how
important such things can be. In fact,
without some modeling experience, it
can be hard to see a problem. “Yup, that
wing looks fine,” they could say, but
a practiced eye might see something
Where am I going with this? Well,
skills such as these used to be acquired
by young modelers experimenting with
Free Flight (FF) rubber-powered aircraft.
When they progressed to larger airplanes,
the experience made them safer pilots
with better-flying aircraft.
These days, many new AMA
members start out with RC models
and sometimes skip flight training. The
fine hobby products available these
days can make a new pilot look good,
but that is no substitute for knowledge
and experience. Learning the basics pays off, and a refresher
course now and then doesn’t hurt.
I’m a big fan of the current trend of fish-out-of-water events
that challenge the skills of experienced pilots by having them
fly a different type of model. Trying something new is fun, and
I always learn something. Usually what I learn is that I’m not
good at other aeromodeling disciplines. No surprise there.
The Scale Squadron of Southern California is a well-
97 Model Aviation DECEMBER 2015
SAFETY COMES FIRST
Bill Watson doesn’t
need to worry about
wing warps because
his RC electric Martian
Spaceship has no wings!
Photo by Barry Dougherty.