Bad weather got you down? Here are some handy RC-related indoor activities.
Have you ever driven home with some “spare” airplane parts? We all have. How about throwing them together and coming up with a new airplane out of them?
It is not as hard as it sounds. Just make sure the original airplanes were all roughly the same size. You may need to create a new wing saddle. Be creative!
Airplanes are all about stability and control. Make sure the control surfaces work and get the CG right. Chances are, it will fly just fine.
2. Mr. Fixit
Fixing broken airplanes is not at the top of my list of fun things to do, either. But guess what? You do a good job, and you will end up with a brand new airplane to fly! And I guarantee that it will be easier to fix an old one than to build a new one.
Do not assume that you have to take it all apart before you can fix it. Strategically located holes and squirts of glue can do wonders.
3. Spit and Shine
In our rush to finish building a model airplane, what tends to get shortchanged most often is the finishing touches. A little paint, decals, and some scale details all go a long way with a minimal amount of work.
Depending on the scale of the model, you may be able to re-purpose decals meant for static plastic models. If not, there are many services around the country that will print custom decals for you.
Sprucing up a model is a real art. Most pilots do not do it, but those that do get to be real experts at it. Next time you are at the flying field, find the nicely detailed models and have a chat with the owners.
4. Go Indoors, Young Man
I am surprised that indoor flying is not more popular right now around here. I hear that these things go in cycles. Maybe. A lot of the newer indoor airplanes are a little too fast for the basketball courts where we fly. I have a hunch that many former indoor pilots have moved outdoors, at least around here.
More room for you! Find out when and where indoor flying is available in your area. Talk to nearby clubs, too. These airplanes can also fly outdoors on calm mornings. Do not feel that you are limited to the indoor flying nights.
5. Turbocharge Your Tx Programming
A modern radio control transmitter is a wonder of engineering. Even entry-level radio systems come loaded with programming features. The problem is that most of us learn just enough of the programming to create a basic setup for our model airplanes.
How about cracking open the transmitter manual and sprucing up your control functions? Once you have flown a given model airplane for a little while, you learn about the bad habits that you would like to get rid of. No need to program every single function for every model airplane that you own.
For example, mixing in down elevator to the throttle channel is usually handy. If in doubt, use too little rather than too much mixing. A model that dives to the ground when you throttle up is not much fun to fly. Ask me how I know…
6. Thorough Inspection
When was the last time you gave one of your model airplanes a complete check out? When you first built it? I thought so.
Take a good look at each of your model airplanes. I mean a real good look. Grab and jiggle the control surfaces back and forth. Is anything coming unglued? Is anything out of place? Is the hinge tape frayed? Are screws loose?
Check the alignment. Check all the servo centering and throws. Any frayed or loose wires? Any loose connectors?
It is a good idea to do this type of inspection at the beginning of every flying season.
7. Cycle Your Batteries
Most of the time batteries fail slowly over time. I have lost significant portions of the capacity of battery packs, but since it happened slowly, I did not even notice.
I consider a battery cycler a must have feature on a battery charger. Use it.
Cycle every battery pack when you first get it. Write its actual capacity on it. Monitor it over time. Consider replacing any battery that has lost 25% of its capacity.
8. RC Simulator
I do not care how experienced a pilot you are. Spending some time with an RC flight simulator will always be time well spent. Specially at the beginning of the flying season when your skills may be rusty. They are also very handy to learn new maneuvers or flying techniques.
Just do not make the mistake of treating it like an arcade game. Please. Do a proper take-off and landing on every simulated flight.
9. Model Airplane Design
Designing a model airplane is not as hard as it looks. Just keep it similar to other proven designs and make sure it has plenty of power. Honestly, almost anything will fly as long as it has enough power. Just look at those flying lawnmowers.
It is a lot harder designing an original model airplane. It is also hard coming up with something new that flies better than the design you based it on. Be prepared to iterate over the design a few times until you get it right.
10. Catch up on reading at RCadvisor
Okay, make it just catch up on RC reading. There is no shortage of excellent RC-related books available. There are even some great training videos on the market. No, I do not mean those blooper videos that just show crashes. Those are good for a laugh, but do not expect to learn much from them.