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Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

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  • Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

    I have been flying electric foam models exclusively for almost 2 years and love them. I have found them to be durable, easily repairable, and generally fly really well. However, at the flying field, some of the guys claim that the balsa and light plywood models fly better and are actually easier to fly. I have not flown anything but foam, but I am tempted to try a built up ARF model in the near future, but was wondering if some of you guys had tried both, and what your impressions are concerning foam versus the traditional built up style of plane. Which tends to be more durable, flies better, and which built up models you would recommend as an ARF.

    Thanks for any help and suggestions!

  • #2
    Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

    I have flown 85% foamies and the rest balsa ARFs. The foamies obviously are so much more durable and easier to repair. I have been flying for almost 3 years and in the beginning used the balsa electric trainers, but they were much more of a hassle to repair and just didn't hold up to my nooby skills. I have again tried balsa last year and it didn't fly any better than a good quality foamie. I do not plan buy any more balsa ARF as there is just too much quality detail that is available in foamies that is not there in a monocoat wooden kit. That is just my preference. I am sure the veteran flyers like their wooden planes especially if they are using glow fuel engines as is the case with most of my club members. We foam/electric flyers in my club are few. I can get 3 flights in using my electric power while they have one in because they spend too much time trying to get their engines adjusted.

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    • #3
      Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

      Hey Baron-Thanks for your inputs. I plan to stay mostly with foamies for the reasons you outlined, and I will definitely stay with only electric planes, whether built up or foam. I used to fly the "gas" Cox engine planes on control line when I was a kid, and remember the oily mess that I had to clean up before I could bring them back in the house, and trying to clean the oil off that plastic made repairs almost impossible since the epoxy wouldn't adhere well. Of course, those old Cox CL models had the glide path of a lead brick after the motor quit!

      What started me thinking about a built up plane was a VQ model I saw on line for the Flybaby paired with an electric 46 size motor/ESC and battery all in one package. Looks like a nice flying machine. I'll probably try that or something like it in the near future, but I suspect my allegiance will be with the foamies.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

        I have been involved, one way or another, in this hobby since I was about ten, and I'm sixty five now. (You do the math, I try not to!) Back then, ten year olds did not fly unless dad let you handle the sticks for just a moment. All the ships then were the built-up type, using 90% balsa. Did they fly better? I guess it depends on what you call better. Monocote covered balsa certainly has less induced parasitic drag compared to the rough-skinned foam models. The surface of the foam is indeed generally rougher, and all those ejector/indicator marks all over them don't help. BUT, and it's a big one, you have to follow your own gut. If you don't have confidence in your skills, you probably should stick with foam. Here's my 'test' for whether you should chance it: Fly a foam airplane over and over until you can take off realistically, (not hopping skyward as soon as possible) fly a pattern around the patch, (NO fancy stuff!) and land with no bounce, 'greasing her in' every time. Way too many flyers these days are great at flinging their ships all over the sky, but there is a saying in full size aviation that I think says it all: "Flying Is Landing." If you can't land proficiently every damn time, you haven't conquered the art of flying.

        Also, some of us actually enjoy BUILDING planes from 'the ground up'. Imagine if you couldn't just stop in at the local shop and buy replacement parts. Back then this fact made you desire to really be competent before you flew, and to be careful when you did. Foamies certainly have come a long way, and my hangar has plenty of 'em. I don't wish to disparage them at all. The relatively instant gratification of them has helped expand our hobby incredibly! And, these days you CAN get parts for ply 'n balsa airplanes. Just expect us older flyers to fly a tad more conservatively; and it's not because we're a bunch of old farts. I mean, some of us are, but that's...

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        • #5
          Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

          Thanks Motorbill66 for your inputs. First, let me congratulate you on staying in the hobby for so many years. That is a noteworthy accomplishment. I started flying control line around age 10 as well, (I am 53 now), but could no way afford RC planes, and with college, marriage, career and a family, I have large gaps in between years when I have not been active in flying models. I really only started back into RC a couple of years ago now, and am pleased with my progress, but I am guilty of part of what you said about flinging a plane all over the sky. I am working on landings and doing pretty well, but not to the point to where I can grease it in every time. I have never joined a club, and basically taught myself using simulators and some hard lessons with the real planes! Anyway, I do plan to try one of those built up ARF models either later this year, or by next year for sure. Until then, I plan to keep on working on flying smoothly and concentrating on making the take offs and landings as smooth as possible.

          As for building one, I used to do a lot of that with the old Guillows kits, but just don't have the time or space dedicated to that right now. Maybe a workshop is in my future, but after I finish paying off my daughter's college loans!

          Thanks again for your inputs, they are appreciated!

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          • #6
            Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

            Flying both describes me perfectly! I have a few of the 1400mm, and a couple 1700mm FMS planes. I have a couple parkzone planes as well. I also have 3 Hangar 9 ARF Balsa/Nitro and 2 Top-Flite Balsa/nitro planes. I am currently building what will be my first gas plane, a ESM Skyraider. With all that being said it really depends on what it is you want to do and where you want to go with the hobby. I can get my parkzone planes out, toss them up and fly furiously, not a care at all, and its fun. I can put my FMS planes up and fly and have fun, but not as crazy as I do my little parkzone planes. With my ARF balsa planes, yes I fly them different. I do that because I know that one mishap and most likely its over. Especially with the hangar 9 planes since if you buy one from them, you can bet a year later they dont make them anymore, so parts become a real hassle in a hurry. With that being said. In my case I looked at it as a progression from the toss up foamies, to the larger landing gear foamies such as the parkzone P-47, then I built and flew my first ARF, it was a world models 50 size corsair. I killed it because I was to stupid to own it. Then it was a FMS 1400 mm hellcat, then I got the hangar9 PTS mustang and fell in love with the nitro's again. Wont get into detail but pretty much stayed with nitro planes after that, then I found MotionRC last summer and got back into the foam planes with their 1400mm and 1700 mm planes. With all that being said, I will always have some foam planes, but I like the challenge. To me the challenge is you fly something that you spent hours putting together, then you fly it, and the thrill of knowing one mistake or something not done right ends all that time and effort. That is why I must admit, my true love in the sport is the traditional balsa with smelly loud nitro motors. I see myself moving up toward giant scale this summer in the 30cc or 50cc class. My friend has a couple nitro planes in the 46-50 size and he will never go past that. As he puts it, anything more and the fun goes out of it. I can see that as well. If its all about the fun, I would say that you will stay with foam electrics. If you like some challenge, you move to some balsa, and depends on how much of the challenge you want is how far you go with size and scale or at least in my case its all about scale and now larger planes.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

              I've been in the hobby since 1987 or so. When I started you either built or didn't fly. Oh, there were a few ARF models around but they were rare and usually VERY expensive. I learned to fly on a trainer I built myself, a Carl Goldberg Eagle 63. Several other models were built and flown before I had to take a break from the hobby for school, work, etc.

              When I re-entered the hobby a few years ago I chose a foam trainer for the convenience. I have since built several other balsa kits as I just really enjoy seeing a pile of sticks come together and turn into an airplane. I also get a real sense of accomplishment when I see it completed and ready to fly. To me that is a major part of the enjoyment I get out of the hobby.

              That said, if you look at my "wish list" of models I want to buy you will find a significant number of foam aircraft, particularly from the FMS warbird line. Heck, if I had the money to buy everything I want foamies would significantly outnumber built-up models! I'm disabled and can't always sit at my building board for the hours necessary to assemble a kit. Some of the complex shapes on my favorite warbirds are also extremely challenging, even for veteran modelers. Foam offers me a chance to fly models I'd otherwise never have in my hangar.
              Tarasdad

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              • #8
                Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                I so love what I've read so far, Balsa vs Foam. These are incredible stories. So if you don't mind my 2 cents worth. I'm 50 years old and have been back into the hobby for 2 years now. When I was a kid I would build and fly all the time. Back then, foam was unheard of. So yea, carful landings is key and a huge part of mastering the ART OF FLYING. I myself prefer the electric foam aircraft after having them both in my hanger. I have a few Dynam planes and recently discovered MRC thru a friend at the airfield. The FMS planes I have are the V7 P51 Mustang and the V3 Corsair. The WOW factor is a solid 10. Easy to build, don't take gobs and gobs of time. Easy to repair when crash happens. And the BEST part for me is no mess. No clean up, no storing of hazardous fuels during down times. I charge all my batts before I leave for the field, Plug my plane in when I get there, and I'm off the ground and cheesen the whole time. I find from my experience also that foam planes seem to land a lot easer that balsa. Plus I work on cars for a living and the last thing I wanna do is come home and work on my airplane engine. I love the PLUG AND PLAY option. I do store my Lipo batts in an metel ammo box and keep them in a cool dry place when in storage. I'm big on safety first in all that I do. Love reading your guys post. Happy flying from the Pacific NW region. <smiley image="anim_claps.gif"/>
                Pacific NW Flyer *:arrow:

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                  Hello Pilots, Great read thus far. I flew a Balsa & Ply Spitfire last week; it had it's Maiden flight. I found, I really like EPO, or other forms of foam materials. The Durability is second to none.I had a bad landing on the Spitfire and broke balsa every time. Now, I've done the exact same thing with other EPO War-Birds and there is No Broken, bent or torn part. So, there is a huge advantage to pilots who fly the EPO War-birds, trainers and so forth. They last a great deal longer than a Balsa & Ply if you crash or land hard. Other wise, both are excellent products. Balsa is ridgid, so flight is a little more solid feeling; from a perspective. EPO, with carbon spares, corrects a lot of issues these War-Birds have had initially.The second thing is Scale effects, they have a lot of rivets, panel lines and so forth. This took a lot of time to detail with mono-kote & paint. Third thing, if you haven't already thought -it? Time it takes to build one, wow is all I can say. I love buying an airplane, installing my radio and installing a battey; it's ready to fly. Most days, these larger scale War-birds can be out of the box and built in 2 hours. I have two kits from Top Flight, so I know; just how long it takes to build a nice War-Bird. Forth, Cost, sometimes it's a bit more then you'd want to spend for this material. If you stop and remember, these will last much longer than a Balsa & ply, you have all the parts necessary to fly quickly. I know a lot of this has been covered, but it helps to have conformation. So, when it comes to the question, which one is better; I'd say EPO. It has everything I like without all the Fuss! Enjoy flying freinds Go Motion RC!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                    I agree, these inputs are great. I am still only flying foam models, and loving them. Just got back from the field after a good day of flying my 1410mm FMS Cub, the 1280mm Easy Trainer by FMS, and 3 of the Flyzone Aircore warbirds, the Zero, FW190, and Spitfire. All flew great. The Cub just looks so good in the air and is pretty aerobatic as well. I tried a 2600mAH Admiral battery in place of the usual 2200 size, and other than a bit of trimming, she flew fantastic and for a good bit longer. I was able to fly for 7 minutes+ and when I landed, I still had 35% battery left. The Easy Trainer I have finally gotten "dialed in" and was looping and rolling it today, even some inverted flight. The best part was that I found a thermal, and was able to just soar with no power for over 10 minutes, making it nearly a 20 minute flight on a 1300mAH 3 cell battery! The main trick to the Easy Trainer is to make sure you have LOTS of aileron throw. As for the Aircore planes, I couldn't be more pleased. They all have different flight characteristics, but once dialed in, the Zero is the most stable of the bunch, and is also very aerobatic. I had to crimp the elevator horn slightly for more "Down" throw, as it tends to fly tail heavy, but once I got that set, she flew great! Of course, the Spitfire and FW190 also fly great, but can be a bit touchier on the aileron throws, especially the FW190. Very little stick movement makes big changes in the FW190 turning!

                    Guess all this leads me to say that for now at least, I will be sticking with foam planes! Enjoy your flying!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                      I think that what is most obvious is that it is a matter of taste for what you want to fly. I am happy that both genre are available to us. That said, I just bought my first EPO foam model WACO YMF 5 from Dynam. I am just setting up the tail and I have noticed a warp in the vertical stabilizer. Can one of you gentlemen recommend a method to straighten out the structure?
                      Thanks. Mark S.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                        The easiest way would be to hold the stabilizer over some steam and slowly bend it back straight while heating it with the steam. Then maybe leave it pressed between a couple of books or something like that overnight. It has worked for me in the past, hopefully it will help you as well.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                          I also have the Dynam Wako, Excellent flyer, and I also had a warped stabilizer right out of the box. So I started using the steam trick and as I got my fingers in the way and a shot of steam gave me a little pain, my wife says to me, Hey why dont you try the blow dryer!!! Yee haaaw, Blow dryer worked like a charm. Got the stabilizer nice and warm, stuck it between 2 books, and gualah, An hour later, plane assembled and ready to fly. All parts straight and clean. You are gonna love that plane, Happy flying <smiley image="anim_claps.gif"/>
                          Pacific NW Flyer *:arrow:

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                            Thanks Loneflier and Flyboy. I will start with the blow drier as that seems the more control-able. I have heard other favorable comments on the WACO by Dynam and look forward to flying it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                              Hey Fly Boy-Great suggestion, and easier than the steam trick. Thanks for sharing, I learned something too! I also have the Dynam Wako, but haven't built it yet. Might have to give it a try here soon. I hear a lot of good things about the Wako.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                                As already mentioned, great comments all.

                                The bottom line is to remember that the choice is NOT an either or thing.
                                There are many "pilots" in my club who would have you believe that you MUST decide if your in the 'foamie-electric' camp or the 'balsa-nitro' camp.
                                And it's funny. If you typically fly foamies and show one day with a balsa plane you are viewed as having "upgraded" however, be it the other way around, you are viewed as a trader and for some reason unbeknownst to them "lowered you standards!!!

                                The only plane that I have seen receive acceptance in both camps, although somewhat muted, is the Electrify, Electric Stik. A compromise plane of balsa, monokote and electric.

                                This is a hobby!!!! Pure and simple. In hobbies, you experiment, you investigate, you have fun!!

                                If you want to fly strickly foamies? Fly them!! You want to fly balsa? Fly them!! You want to go back and forth between the two? Just do it!!!! Damn the rest.......

                                Just my two cents of course.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                                  TIPS AND TRICKS BUILDING THE DYNAM WAKO <smiley image="anim_handshake.gif"/>

                                  You guys are very welcome for the input, I have so much fun and a amazing good time flying and building models. The best part for me is when I get to share, and be shared with about builds, flying tips and so on. Today I would like to share a build tip for the Dynam Wako Biplane. I always read reviews on planes before I buy and try to obtain as much info as possible. The number 1 complaint of the Dynam Wako are the wing mounting struts. There made out of plastic and if your to rough with them during the build, they have been known to break. So take your time during this part of the build. I found with mine that when connecting the 2 wings, the holes for the struts and stabilizer dont exactly line up, so be very very careful when bolting them together. Also to help out with this part which made my life so much easier was I glued the the nut that the screw goes threw to hold everything together to the mounting on the the wing. So all I had to do is be close on hole alignment and screw in the screw. This allowed my other hand to be free so to hold the model during this part of the build, and use blue lock tight on all screws in the wing as well. The supplied screws seem a little short and lock tight is your insurance. I have over 50 flights on my Wako now and have had NO PROBLEMS with the wing struts breaking or cracking. The best trick is that the DAVE BROWN 3 inch tires fit inside the wheel cowlings on your Wako, OH YEA!!!, HAPPY FLYING FROM THE PACIFIC NW. <smiley image="smiley_cool.gif"/>
                                  Pacific NW Flyer *:arrow:

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                                    I have the Dynam Waco, rhymes with taco, for over a year and it not only looks great but it flies great. It had a slight bend in the elevator. I also used a hair dryer that had a heat and a cool set to get the edges more aligned. I also used some plastic spring clips to keep it in position. Don't let the heat get too close to the foam as it will "alligator" the surface. The one irritation of the plane was the strut screws needed to be bit longer to get a secure fit but I have a whole lot of extra screws from many other planes that have long since past into hangar heaven. I also used Locktite (the blue solution) on the screws. As soon as MotionRC gets the Dynam line in a few weeks get that Waco biplane <i>(if you are an intermediate flyer</i>). It is a lot of fun.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                                      Greetings Baron,

                                      Am I reading you right? Are you privy to some bit of info denied to the ranks?
                                      Are you saying that MotionRC is going to be carrying Dynam Planes?

                                      That would be awesome indeed!!!

                                      Clear Skies

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Re: Foam vs. Balsa/ply models

                                        Baron,

                                        86 the previous message.
                                        I just stumbled into the product request section of the forum and found the Dynam announcement.

                                        My bad.....

                                        Clear Skies

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