Tired of having your hand-launches going to pot in two seconds flat? Maybe these tips will help.
A lot of the same preparation advice as for a ground launch applies, so I won’t repeat it here.
Nothing used to bum me out more than a bad hand launcher. Yes, I know they mean well. But I don’t know what in the world makes some people believe that launching a model airplane is like throwing a baseball. Recovering from a launch like that is almost impossible.
Now I take matters into my own hands. They are not touching the airplane until I’m certain they know what they are doing. I don’t care how much RC experience they have. I don’t care how well they can fly. All I care about is how well they can hand-launch a model airplane. It’s a javelin throw, not a baseball throw. No arch to the hand movement whatsoever. Straight and level. Not up. Not down. Wings level. Wait until I throttle up. Just let it fly off your hand. I control where the airplane goes after you let go, not you. Show me how you are going to do it. Again. Okay. Now you can touch the airplane.
I have heard that sometimes the launcher runs before letting go of the airplane. Sounds plain stupid to me. I cannot imagine them having very good control of the airplane when they let go. A wild throw is never good. For a very challenging model, once I had the launcher lifted up by a crane. It sounds funny now, but it worked beautifully at the time. Getting the airplane up to the poor guy for a relaunch was a challenge, though.
The launcher is in a better position than you to detect problems with the airplane. Teach them that they have the power to abort the launch if they have any suspicion that anything is wrong. I would rather be safe than sorry. After a couple of false alarms, they learn what are the real signals to watch out for.
I remember one time a hand launcher felt that the motor was not giving full power. To me, everything looked good. It turned out that the battery had gone bad, and I had no idea. His alertness and confidence to abort the launch saved the model.
Where to Stand
I like to stand close in at about the four o’clock position on the same side as the model. Let me explain my reasoning.
I stand close to the launcher so that I can keep a close eye on the model. I look for anything that doesn’t look right, and I also listen for the motor being off somehow. Being close in helps a lot in communicating with the launcher, too.
I stand on the same side as the model. The last thing that I want to happen is to lose sight of the model right after it takes off. Ain’t gonna happen on my watch.
I need to stand somewhat behind the model, but I don’t want to risk the model veering off and going behind the launcher. Standing slightly behind him works well. Another benefit of standing there is that the launcher can communicate back to me without too much trouble.
Maybe it’s just from my general paranoia about avoiding problems, but when I apply power to the model I do it in two stages. First, I do a low power “everything still green” power check. I listen to make sure the motor sounds good and nothing is vibrating excessively. Then, a second or two later, I go into take off power. Be sure and tell the launcher to expect this! In practice, this has never been an issue.
How much power for takeoff? One school of thought says that you should always apply full power. I don’t agree. Full power is more likely to bring out trim problems in the model. What I do is try and give it just enough power for straight and level cruising flight. If I miscalculate and it’s only enough power for a long glide, that’s fine too.
This is my reasoning. The last thing I want is a squirrely airplane when something is not right. I would much rather see the airplane in the air for a couple of seconds first, and then if everything looks good, I apply more power until it starts climbing out. I have done it this way many times, and it works.
As with a ground launch, don’t try to climb out too soon. Give the model a chance to pick up speed first.