2000mm Giant Scale B-24 - Silver

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How to get started in RC helicopters

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  • How to get started in RC helicopters

    I know a lot of you have seen them at your local flying field, and certainly in your local hobby shop. Maybe you looked at them and thought they were too difficult or too expensive. Maybe you saw a video on youtube of some hard core 3d flying and thought it just wasn't that interesting because you would never see a full scale helicopter doing those maneuvers. Maybe you watched that video, and you like that 3d flying, but are a bit nervous to take the time to get started. Whatever the reason, you should give them a chance. They're a lot of fun, and the small ones don't require very much space to fly them. (I still recommend flying at an AMA field, or using the AMA guidelines at a local park when it is safe to do so.

    The good news is that it has never been easier to get into RC helicopters! Gone are the days of building a kit, and modifying it so it even works! Gone are the days of hovering practice for months just to be able to learn a solid "tail in" hover.

    Getting started.
    Question: What helicopter should I buy?

    Answer: The best answer is to start with a computer simulator. You can start on a beginner model as well, but the simulator actually works really, really well for learning the basic hovering orientations. They are super easy, and just about anyone that can understand the instructions included in the box can have a lot of fun INDOORS with a co-axial model. Coaxial helicopters are not good if you intend to try to fly outside. They are generally very small and light and are easily pushed around by wind. Even the slightest breeze will easily push them and they do not have the control authority to counteract the effects of wind.

    Fixed pitch are helicopters look more like a conventional helicopter with a main rotor, and a tail rotor to counteract the torque of the main rotor. The blades of a fixed pitch helicopter are fixed with a certain amount of "positive" pitch, usually around 6 to 8 degrees of pitch. Much like an airplane prop, the faster they spin, the more air is moved, and the helicopter will climb vertically. Collective pitch helicopters have main rotor blades that increase or decrease the pitch, while the motor spins relatively constant. Some models have tail rotors with variable pitch as well, while many less expensive intermediate models use a fixed pitch tail rotor that speeds up and slows down to counteract torque and provide yaw control. This is how a full scale helicopter works.

    I used to feel that spending time with a fixed pitch helicopter was a waste of time, but there is one on the market right now that works amazingly well. The Blade 200 SRX is fixed pitch, but uses sophisticated control algorithms to reduce and even eliminate some of the negative tendencies that other fixed pitch models display. It also has "self leveling", which means that the model will return to upright when the right stick is released.

    Q: How do I practice/learn to fly?
    A: Again, the simulator is your friend, but the best way to start is learning to hover. Helicopter flight revolves around the hover, and it is a very cool aspect of helicopter flight. I always recommend learning to hover "tail in" first, meaning learn to hover with the tail pointed towards you. The controls for cyclic (the right stick of a mode 2 transmitter are more obvious when the model is "tail in". I.e. forward on the right stick will move the helicopter away from you, right on the right stick will move the helicopter to the right, etc. Generally, you should start with small "hops" just lifting the helicopter into the air to get a feel for what the model is going to do after it lifts off the ground.

    It is normal for a model helicopter to drift a bit just as it lifts off the ground. You'll quickly learn which stick movements will keep the helicopter from moving around. After you can "predict" which direction the model will drift as it lifts off, you can increase the hover altitude a bit, and you'll notice that it actually gets a bit more stable as it ascends. Practice keeping the model in a stationary hover as you get used to the controls.

    Once you are able to hover "tail in" comfortably, while keeping the model from drifting around too much, you are ready for some deliberate "tail in" movement with the model. Gently push forward on the cyclic stick, and the model move away from you. Pull "back" on the cyclic stick and the model will move closer to you. Push the stick to the right, the model will hover to the right, and so on and so forth.

    After learning the basic "tail in" hover, you should start practicing sideways hovering, i.e. with the tail pointing to the left and to the right. You can practice the same type of hovering maneuvers you did when the helicopter is "tail in". Finally, you'll want to start to learn hovering "nose in", i.e. with the nose of the helicopter pointed at you. Most people find this to be the most difficult.

    Stay tuned to this thread for part II!














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