Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 09:04 am GMT -6 Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 09:04 am GMT -6Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 09:04 am GMT -6
Cute baby dressed as a pilot

Are you a gas RC pilot, ready to give electrics a try?





I have not owned an internal combustion-powered model airplane in 30 years. Flying electrics was a struggle in the early days, but they have come a very long way in the years since.

I love electric-powered model airplanes. They are clean, with no oily residue to clean from the airplane after every day of flying. They are very reliable, almost always starting by just advancing the throttle.

Electrics are also very quiet, with the only real noise coming from the propeller. Because they are clean and quiet, many more flying sites are available to them. Flying indoors is now a possibility, something which I enjoy doing myself. Most city parks and school yards are now flying fields, too. Be sure and respect any posted restrictions. In most cases you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that a perfectly good flying field is just down the road. It sure beats having to drive far out of town to the gas RC field.

With electrics, you will pay a lot less for each flight. Charging up a battery pack costs almost nothing. With lower on-going expenses, you are more likely to get up into the air. Newer technology battery packs can be charged up in just a few minutes.

Battery fires are almost a thing of the past. Universal use of balancing chargers and better pilot education have made a huge difference.


There are more pieces that need to work together to make an electric model airplane fly. The battery, speed control, motor, and propeller have to be matched to each other. The good news is that manufacturers have done a fantastic job of selling prepackaged matched systems that work great out of the box. They are even good values!

Electrics have different safety issues than gas engines. The main one is that electric motors can start anytime. There is no separate “start the engine” step involved. Although installing so-called “kill switches” is very effective, there are still accidents occurring when the throttle stick is accidentally moved forward.

Getting started with electrics can be more expensive than with gas. Chargers and speed controls do not have equivalents components in the gas world. Electrics do not need starters, though.

Finally, the energy density of batteries is nowhere near that of two-cycle fuel. This used to be a huge issue, seriously limiting what electrics could do. With dramatic improvements in battery technology, it hardly gets mentioned anymore. You can count on the most overpowered 3D model being able to fly for at least five minutes, which is good enough for almost all pilots.

Ready to give electrics a try?

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