Tuesday, November 16, 2010

RC Helicopters--Coaxial, Fixed or Collective Pitch Setup?

If you have decided you want to fly RC helicopters, and further decided you want to pursue the activity on a hobby level, you next decision will be whether to start with an electric or gas-powered model. If for whatever reason you have your heart set on a gas copter, stop reading now and go on to my blog about nitro helis, but if you are still open to suggestions, there are three good reasons for the novice to choose electric:  1. they are easier to fly, simpler to operate and maintain, and more reliable; 2. they are quieter and non-messy; and 3. they cost a lot less money.

If you are willing to consider an electric model, you have at least one more major decision to make and that is the pitch setup.  Without getting too technical, “pitch’ refers to the angle of the helicopter’s rotor or blade, the rotor blade being the part of the helicopter that produces lift.  There are 3 types of pitch designs for RC helicopters—coaxial, fixed pitch (FP) and collective pitch (CP), and each has its pros and cons.  A traditional pitch design (such as FP or CP) uses one main rotor and a tail rotor to generate torque and produce lift, while the coaxial setup has twin-mains and no tail blade.  Coaxial helicopters are by far the more stable of the 3 pitch options, meaning they are also easier to fly, an important concern for most novices. Coaxial copters also come RTF, or Ready to Fly, right out of the box, another plus for someone just starting out.

Fixed Pitch helicopters are a step up from coaxial in terms of performance capabilities, but are also less stable and therefore harder to learn to fly, and a good choice for the novice who wants to start out with something slightly more challenging, but still manageable, than a coaxial copter. Collective pitch helicopters offer maximal handling and performance; capable of fully inverted 3D flying, collective pitch models are also the trickiest electric copters for beginners to master. The least stable and least forgiving of the 3 pitch options, CP rotor setups involve the steepest learning curve for newcomers and are not considered a good choice for those without previous experience with RC helicopters. Because of their relative instability and better performance capabilities, CP copters are also more dangerous than coaxial or FPs, and are probably best viewed as something to work toward but flown only after the novice has mastered the rudiments of RC helicopters and acquired good, strong flying skills.      

Venom Beacon 24GHz 4-Channel RTF Helicopter

Align T-Rex 250SE Super Combo RC Helicopter

Electric RC Helicopters

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is That a Park Flyer I See Under the Tree?

With the express train that is the holidays already barreling down the tracks, you can bet lots of folks are hoping they’ve been good enough this year for Santa to bring them a shiny new radio controlled aircraft. If it’ll be your first RC plane or helicopter, have you given much thought to what kind of plane or helicopter you want to fly? If space is at all a consideration--i.e., you don’t have a whole lot of it—or price or ease of operation, you should think seriously about starting out with a park flyer.

According to the AMA, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, park flyers are the fastest growing subset in radio controlled model flying (aka aero modeling). Because of their reasonable cost and ease of flying, they are particularly popular with younger people both as a sport and as a recreational activity. Powered electrically, park flyers are small and lightweight—most are 2 lbs. or less—with wing spans of 8-36 inches. Including both fixed-wing (plane) and rotary-wing (helicopter) models, park flyers are also quiet and because no fuel is involved, clean and non-polluting. They are also slow-flying, with speeds ranging from 20-60 mph, making them ideal for beginners to master the basics of RC flying.

In addition to being less expensive, simpler to fly and maintenance free, park flyers, unlike other beginner aircraft such as standard gas-powered trainers, require relatively little space to operate safely. Gas trainers like the Hobbico Nexstar are great planes but should only be flown at a flying field or similar large, unobstructed open space; local ordinances permitting, park flyers can be flown in public parks, or in gyms, practice fields, sports arenas, even good-sized backyards.

While you don’t need a flying field to enjoy your park flyer, there is no better or safer place to operate RC planes and helicopters. They are run by AMA-sanctioned flight clubs which follow proper RC etiquette and enforce strict safety standards. With over 2500 chartered clubs and better than 2000 flight fields in the US, there’s a good chance there’ll be one near you. To locate a club or field in your vicinity, visit the AMA’s site at

RC Planes and Copters

Sky Eagle EP Park Flyer

Megatech Real World Police Airplane RTF

Megatech Sky Trooper RTF Helicopter


Thursday, November 11, 2010

RC Helicopter Safety Tips

RC helicopters have certainly come a long way over the past few decades. The introduction of smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries; improvements in rotor technology such as coaxial blade design; and the wide availability of assorted electric models have all contributed to the upsurge in heli popularity. Once considered the most difficult to operate and among the most expensive to purchase and maintain of all RC vehicles, helicopters are now more widely flown than airplanes in some parts of the world. While coaxial electric birds are more stable and thus easier to fly than nitro-powered, fixed or collective pitch models, hobby-grade helicopters, whether electric or glow, still deserve respect and, as with all RC aircraft, must be treated with caution--the safety of pilot and spectator should always be of paramount concern. Hobby-grade helicopters produce very high rotor speeds and their blades are capable of inflicting serious injury. To ensure your own safety, as well as that of others, learn and put into practice AMA and manufacturer safety guidelines; follow them to the letter pre-, during, and post-flight.

Get in the habit of running through a pre-flight checklist each time before you fly. Make sure the radio’s batteries are fully charged and all controls are operating properly, and check to see your signal output is strong enough for normal flying ranges. Work the servos, linkages and control surfaces, and be sure all nuts, bolts, screws are properly tightened. Always start out with a fully charged battery pack—if you are counting on 10-12 minutes of fight time, you won’t get it with a less than fully charged battery. Until the various pre-flight checks are committed to memory, it is not a bad idea to work from a written list to be sure you don’t overlook anything.

Be aware of wind conditions--it’s just too windy, there’ll be another day--and don’t push your helicopter past its limits until and unless you’ve attained strong flying skills—even then, know that you are increasing the chances of damaging your copter in a crash. Give yourself ample open space in which to fly, with no trees, power-lines, telephone poles or other obstructions within or adjacent to your pattern area. And don’t fly too close to yourself or others—keep a distance of 25 feet or better. If something goes wrong, these birds can come down fast and you don’t want to be in one’s path of descent. When taking off, stay away from spinning blades—even smaller models generate serious blade speed—and on landing, keep a safe distance until the blades have stopped turning.

If you follow the rules for RC safety, and use good commonsense, you will be able to fly with confidence and assurance, by showing respect for your helicopter and its capabilities and concern for the well-being of others. Flying helis is a great hobby—it’s our responsibility to make it as safe as possible. Have fun and keep 'em flying!

RC Helis

Venom Beacon 4-Channel Coaxial RTF Helicopter

Venom Kodiak Coaxial 3-Channel RC Helicopter

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Touchdown! for Airtronics with SD-6G 2.4GHz Radio

Whether you are a novice looking for a good entry-level radio, or a pro pilot in the market for a value-packed 6-channel rig, you will be hard pressed to find a model with more features and better performance at a better price than the Airtronics SD-6G.  Sporting 2.4GHz Frequency-Hopping spread spectrum technology, the versatile SD-6G is ideal for both airplanes and helicopters, from trainer models to sophisticated sports and 3D aircraft. Paired with Sanwa’s small, lightweight (under 12 grams with case) and easy to bind 92224 receiver (compatible with all Sanwa 2.4 radios), the transmitter’s FHSS-1 equipment ensures interference-free, full-range performance. Whether you’re flying mini or scale, nitro or electric aircraft, this is one radio that complements just about any plane or copter out there that doesn’t need more than 6 channels.

The SD-6G’s menu set-up is modeled on Airtronics acclaimed SD-10G, but the SD-6G is easier to program than its big brother; and novices will particularly appreciate the well-designed, clearly-written, user-friendly instruction manual. Key features include a 10 model memory, allowing storage of programs for up to 10 different planes or helicopters; advanced airplane and helicopter software; FN, F1 and F2 flight modes ( planes and copters); 2 program mixes; gyro switch for helis; and trainer system compatible for Buddy Boxing with SD-5G, 6G and 10G radios. Instead of Ni-Cds, the transmitter uses 6 AA Alkaline rechargeable batteries, which come included.

Coming with a 1 year warranty, its look and feel is that of a much more expensive radio, which brings us to possibly its very best feature—the SD-6G is priced at under $200.00! You may find another 6 channel radio that rivals its features in some areas, but as a total package, this model is going to be hard to beat. For versatility, performance and affordability, Airtronics SD-6G is truly in a class by itself.


  • 10-Model Memory
  • Advanced Airplane and Heli Software
  • 3 Flight Modes (Heli and Air)
  • 2 P(rogram)-Mixes
  • 3-Axis Dual Rate and Expo (program feature)
  • 5-Point Throttle Curve (Heli and Air)
  • Gyro Switch (Heli)
  • Advanced Swashplate CCPM Mix (2 and 3 sx)
  • Advanced Swashplate Leveling (Heli)
  • Servo Monitor
  • Throttle/Engine Cut Switch (prgrm feature)
  • "Buddy Box" Trainer Compatible with other SD-6G, SD-5G and SD-10G radios
  • Adjustable Gimbal Spring Tension
  • Advanced Aircraft Mixes
  • Direct Select Model Select Buttons
Program Features (Common for Both Heli and Air):
  • Model Naming
  • Model Select
  • Model "Direct Select"
  • Data Reset
  • Data Copy
  • Trainer System (Compatible with SD-5G/10G)
  • Throttle Cut
  • Wing/Swash Type
  • Dual Rates (3 axis) (Common or Individual for Flight Modes)
  • Exponential (3 axis) (Common or Individual for Flight Modes)
  • 3 Flight Modes
  • Individual or Common Trims
  • Program Mixes (2)
  • Servo Reverse
  • Sub Trim
  • EPA
  • Servo Monitor
  • Stop Watch
Airplane Functions:
  • Wing Type
  • 5-Point Throttle Curve
  • Aileron Differential
  • Flaperon Mix
  • Flap-Elevator Mix
  • Dual Elevator Mix
  • Ailvator
  • V-Tail
  • Delta
  • Program Mixes (2) (Note: Curves, D/R, EPA, All Mixes can be individual for Flight Modes)
Helicopter Functions:
  • CCPM/Swash Type (2 and 3 servo swash plates)
  • 5-Point Throttle Curve
  • 5-Point Pitch Curve
  • Revo-Mix
  • Gyro Control
  • EPA for Individual Swash Servo (swash leveling)
  • 3-Axis EPA post-mix
  • Swash Mix Control
  • Throttle Trim Inhibit for Aerobatic Flight Mode
  • Program Mixes (2) (Note: Curves, Gyro, D/R, EPA, All Mixes can be individual for Flight Modes)
  • 6-channel operation with RX600 receiver
  • FHSS-1 Frequency-Hopping Spread-Spectrum
  • 2.4GHz band
  • Programming Features: Aircraft AND Helicopter
  • 10-Model Memory
  • Mode 2
  • TX Battery: 6 AA 1200mAh Ni-MH  

Friday, November 5, 2010

RC Model Aviation Clubs

If you're looking to fly RC airplanes and/or helicopters as a hobby, as opposed to an occasional diversion, working with and learning from seasoned pilots is absolutely the best way for beginners to get started. And the best way to hook-up with experienced fliers is through your local flying clubs. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) maintains a directory of flying clubs, searchable by zip code or city/state, on its website at, and another way to find clubs and RC enthusiasts is through your local hobby stores. It is certainly possible to learn to fly on your own; many excellent RC pilots have taken that route, but many more who tried self-instruction found it so difficult and had so little to show for their efforts besides damaged or destroyed aircraft, that they gave up in frustration. With RC clubs within driving distance in most communities across the country, there is just no reason not to take advantage of the assistance that membership in one (or more) can offer.

Some, if not most, flying clubs have a designated instructor(s), many of whom will have been certified by AMA to teach novice pilots. Most clubs also have club trainers, planes designed for beginners which the instructor and new pilot will use while training. Working with a certified instructor will significantly shorten the beginner's learning curve, while modeling the right way to safely operate and, in the case of glow-powered planes, maintain an RC aircraft. Instructors typically use the Buddy Box system for teaching; this involves the use of two transmitters (TX), a master and slave, linked by a cable. The novice holds the slave and the instructor the master, and transfer of control of the aircraft from one to the other is effected by depressing or releasing a switch on the master box. Buddy boxing eliminates any delay in passing a single TX and allows the instructor to take control at once if trouble looms. This takes pressure off the novice aviator and boosts confidence, and also serves to avert many beginner-error induced crashes.

Club or side-by-side instruction is the easiest and safest way to lean to fly and the buddy box is the preferred method of club instruction. If you are thinking about taking up flying RC airplanes or helicopters and ready to get started, do yourself a favor and check out a club or 2 in your area. You will not only learn everything you need to know to be successful in the hobby, you also will have the opportunity to make new friends with folks who share your interest in RC aviation.    

Academy of Model Aeronautics

RC Airplanes

RC Helicopters


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Venom GPV-1: GP Racing Realism in a 1/8 RC Bike

Most of my experience with radio controlled vehicles (okay, almost ALL my experience) has been with RC aircraft and that mainly with airplanes. I do love the helicopters but at this stage have better skills and more confidence with the planes. I have also dabbled with a few RC cars and trucks, but had never tried out a motorcycle until a friend bought one a few months back and invited me to join him on its maiden run.

His new purchase was a model we happen to carry at RC Planes and Copters--yes, we do have a few RC products other than electric airplanes and helicopters--one introduced by Venom in 2008, the GPV-1 RTR 1/8 scale racer. We both have had so much fun with it that I thought you might you like know a little bit more about this exceptionally well-designed, highly detailed, high performing yet versatile RC motorcycle.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the GPV-1 is how great it looks. Modeled after Moto GP racing motorcycles, these bikes look so realistic that you’ll think someone turned a shrinking ray on one of the big models. And the GPV-1’s performance is equally outstanding: it’s fast enough and handles so well at high speeds that there is plenty to interest those who really know their way around RC ground vehicles, but also simple and manageable enough for beginners to operate. That’s not to say that 2 wheels are as easy to handle as 4; the GPV-1 is more stable at higher speeds and beginners will need practice to keep the bike upright at lower speeds. The good news is these bikes are very durable and hold up well to the inevitable crashes that novices should expect as part of the learning process. Once you begin to get the hang of the GPV-1, you can start making adjustments and fine tuning the suspension, and for competition purposes or just to have the hottest RC motorcycle on the block, a wide array of hop-ups are available.

If you are an older teen or adult who is into RC vehicles and wants something new and challenging, and values superlative engineering, great performance and attention to detail, the Venom GPV-1 may be right up your alley. Available in red, yellow and green, with Venom’s VR3T 3-channel transmitter, these bikes are Ready to Run and everything is included, even AA batteries.     

  • Adjustable Rake Angle
  • 6061 T6 Aliminum Components
  • Polycarbonate Body is pre-painted and decaled
  • Realistic Pro-painted Neo-cell Foam Rider
  • O-Ring sealed inverted forks with Teflon Bushings
  • 6 Ball bearings on the Chassis
  • 1-piece Truss-type Swingarm and captured shock pivot pin integrated into swingarm
  • Glass-filled Nylon parts
  • Front & Rear Track Stands
  • 6-CELL 7.2V 1200mAh NiMh Micro Battery Pack is included
  • COMES in 6 Different Frequencies for Competitive Racing
  • The V-Series 18R Micro ESC features reverse lockout and an easy one button setup
  • Adjustable Down Stop
  • Quick-Change Style Spur Gear
  • Built-in Steering Dampener with Auxillary Dampening
  • Fireball 370 Micro Motor with Machined Alloy Motor Plate
  • Micro Roller Chain
  • Adjustable Triple Clamps
  • Indexable Cam Chain Tensioner
  • Adjustable Shock Angle, Composite Threaded Rear Shock Body
  • Scale Exhaust 
  • Y-Spoke Wheels
  • VENOM'S Griplox Tire and Molded Insert System Featuring High-Grip Natural Rubber

Venom GPV-1 RTR RC Motorcycle

RC Radio Rigs

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A (Still Learning) RC Enthusiast Looks Back

When I first began this blog in the summer of 2010, my husband and I had only been flying radio control airplanes for a little over 5 months, and had yet to try our hands at RC helicopters. Although we had done quite a bit of reading on RC aircraft, from a practical standpoint we started out knowing virtually nothing--except that it sure looked like a lot of fun!—and while we have learned much, we acknowledge that we both have a long way to go to realize our goals as in the hobby. Sometimes at the airfield, I feel I’m still at the early beginner stage and other times, after a particularly good day, I think I’m ready for whatever intermediate level challenges come my way. Sounds kind of like life, hmm? Some days, good; others, not so, or as John Denver sang, “Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.”

Our idea in starting the blog was to write about what we knew concerning RC airplanes and helicopters—admittedly, very little, at first—to get up to speed on technical matters as quickly as possible, and to provide news and information about upcoming events, new products, and any issues or concerns relevant to RC enthusiasts. The idea was to appeal to those at a relatively early stage of the air modeling experience, and to mix in enough news about the hobby to appeal to more experienced fliers as well. Some times I think we’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to that original premise, but in looking back, it is obvious we have occasionally strayed off course--que sera, sera.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that our blog, like our RC skills, is very much a work in progress, and as we mature in knowledge and competency in the hobby, our blog will hopefully reflect that growth and thus appeal to a wider audience within our fraternity. Having said that, we intend to always keep in mind the needs and interests of those new to RC aviation, and to offer as much advice and provide as much pertinent information to novices as possible. Newcomers are, after all, the lifeblood and future of our sport/pastime, and we all have a responsibility to assist and encourage them in every way we can, just as we have benefited from the kind tutelage of more experienced pilots.

This is probably old hat to you RC pros but noobies might not know that lawnmowers can fly:

Great Prices on RC Airplanes

Save on RC Helicopters

RC Planes and Copters for 18 and under

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't Stress Out--Fly RC Airplanes!

With the economy still in the doldrums, the level of political discourse in our country at a nadir, and all the daily pressures and frustrations, it is very important to find healthy, constructive outlets for letting off steam.  It may seem hard, what with work and all our other responsibilities, but we all need to make time just for ourselves, to do things that give us pleasure or provide us satisfaction. This is, in fact, the exact reason I took up flying radio controlled airplanes and helicopters in the first place, but what began a short while back as a simple relaxation tool has become so much more. Today, I am certain that I’ll be involved in this wonderful hobby as long as I am able, and only wish I had come to it sooner.


As a great philosopher once stated, “Different strokes for different folks,” but RC aviation is one leisure-time activity with mass appeal for all ages, young and old. It is affordable for most, easy for novices to get the hang of with a little practice, yet demanding enough to offer real challenges asyour skills improve and you tackle faster, more maneuverable aircraft. Unlike some hobbies, RC aviation encourages you to get outdoors with family and friends but, with the right kind of airplane or helicopter, when the weather is bad, you can fly indoors anytime of day or night.


In the past, you had to have pretty deep pockets to purchase a model plane, and then be willing to spend many hours to master the requisite skills; the same held true for RC helicopters, only more so. Now, good quality electric and nitro trainer models are available in the $100-$200 range, and improvements in stability and reliability have made the learning curve for beginners much less steep.  If you have ever had in interest in flying, you owe it to yourself to investigate RC flying. It is one of the best ways I have found to, for just a few hours, put aside all your cares and do something fun, exciting and rewarding, something just for you. Try it—you may find it’s the perfect prescription for what ails you.

Venom Micro Troop Transporter RTF RC Helicopter

Venom Kodiak RC Helicopter

Phase 3 Mini Spitfire RR

Electric RC Helicopters

Electric RC Airplanes

Monday, November 1, 2010

RC Helicopters--Electrics v. Nitros

From an aero-engineering perspective, RC helicopters are amazingly sophisticated machines, able to execute tricks and stunts, movements and maneuvers that far surpass the performance capabilities of “real” helicopters. But learning to control a hobby-grade RC copter isn’t something that happens overnight; it takes practice and persistence to acquire the tools to be successful, and novices are well advised to seek the assistance of an experienced pilot and to utilize training aids such as flight simulators. While it’s true that helicopters are the most difficult to master of all RC aircraft, it is equally true that they are the most rewarding and exciting to fly.

Many beginners opt to start out with electric-powered helicopters, as they are not so expensive and less difficult to operate than nitro models. Electrics are also more environmentally friendly—they don’t cause noise or emission-related pollution—and easier to maintain. Improved technology has resulted in smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries and longer flight times per battery charge. New, coaxial  rotor designs provide increased stability and greater ease of control, significantly shortening the learning curve for those just learning.

While electrics have come a long way in recent years, most serious enthusiasts still consider nitro-powered models to be the ultimate in RC helicopters. Running on a mixture of nitro or glow fuel, they are noisy, messy, and expensive to purchase and maintain but in return offer a higher degree of realism and for some a more challenging experience than electrics. If you want to get flying as quickly as possible, without a major investment of time and effort, you can always start off with an electric model and move on to nitro helicopters as you hone your skills and gain confidence. However, many RC pilots begin on and stay with electrics, for some or all of the reasons previously mentioned.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into RC helicopters, there has never been a better timer than now, in terms of availability of models and affordable prices. Do conduct a little research before you buy; the internet is a great resource, as are magazines for hobbyists like “RC Heli” and “Rotary Modeler.” And when you’re ready to start shopping, you’ll not only find the best selection but also the most competitive prices online. What are you waiting for? Get started and get flying!

Electric RC Helicopters

ALIGN T-Rex 250SE Super Combo

ALIGN T-Rex 450 Pro Super Combo

VEMOM Beacon 4-CH w/2.4GHz RTF

RC Planes and