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  1. #1

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    Help with first plane choices!

    Hello,
    First post here Im looking to get 2 trainer planes so i can learn with my son and not have to always take turns flying

    I am currently choosing between an Alpha 40 or Tower Hobbys Trainer 40 and a Calypso EP.

    This way we can practice in many areas, gas or elec, and High wing and glider.

    My first question is what planes would you choose? Please dont be limited on just my suggestions Im open minded

    Second, what "extras" do i need to buy right away. I know chicken stick and fuel, but what elsek?

    Please feel free to throw in any insight as well.

  2. #2
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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    G'day

    In 1989 my son (12 years) and I (about 40) decided to learn to fly RC planes. I built a semi symmetrical wing trainer (wing curved underneath) for me (first mistake) and a short time later a Great Planes PT 40 (flat bottomed wing) for my son. It really should have been the other way round with the slower flat bottomed wing for me. There is an old saying in real plane pilot training. "It takes as many hours to learn to fly as your age." It is pretty true.

    To cut a very long messy story short. He my son soloed in about 2 months. I was still learning about 6 months later and even a year later I was not confident except with glider type models.

    You will take longer than your son. He can learn quite easily on any of the trainers you have mentioned. You would be better with something slower, larger and lighter like the Sig Kadet LT-40 or its great little (but not small) brother the LT-25. The 40 is again available as an ARF I think but the 25 is only available as a kit. It is an easy kit to build but you may not want to do that. Both of them fly really well. Their older and even bigger cousin the Sig Kadet Senior is even better for the "more mature" learner. I use a couple to teach with and I always start with them.

    Having said all of that, I would REALLY STRONGLY suggest you find a club and an instructor you can get along with and see if you can get some initial instruction on his plane or his club's plane. Then you will know what to buy and what you need.

    Basically though, you need -

    A Trainer which is a purpose designed trainer. Not a scale model trying to be a trainer. The bigger the better.
    A reliable engine. This will start all sorts of suggestions. OS are reliable but expensive and if you are starting out are a good place to start. Thunder Tiger too. Then there are a lot of cheaper Chinese engines. I'd suggest either the OS AX46 or its simpler brother the LA 46. The LA is simpler, tougher and works really well in trainers. It is cheaper too.
    A starter or chicken stick and a battery for the starter.
    A glow driver. The pocket ones with a NiCd or NiMh battery are my favourite. Get the charger too with it.
    A glow plug spanner and some spare plugs.
    Fuel. 10% nitro is fine more is better for power but is not necessary. I use fuel with a mixture of Synthetic and Castor oil and 10% nitro for all my engines including four strokes.
    A box to put it all in and some basic tools. Use spanners on your engine not shifting spanners or pliers.
    Some props. They do tend to get broken. 11 x 6 is a good starting size.
    Rags to clean up etc. The list goes on forever.

    But as I said before, the best bit of advice I can give you is to find a club and ask some questions.

    Cheers and have fun. Oh yes, the E-Flite Radian (not the Pro) is a great electric glider. You can learn to fly quite quickly with one of these.

    Mike in Oz

    \"I just had no control. Must be the radio.\" Club Saito #597 Kadet Brotherhood #66

  3. #3

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    The Hobbico Superstar is also a good, flat bottomed wing trainer. Takes a .40-.46 size nitro engine. It's an ARF with the engine mount and front, steerable gear attached. Very detailed instruction book to complete assembly and quality hardware. It sells for $124.95. Finding an experienced modeler willing to helpyou out and train you to fly will result in less frustration and fewer repairs.

  4. #4

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    If it stays fairly windy there in Colorado Springs you will probably do better skipping the traditional trainer and going with what most companys call an advanced trainer. It's always windy in Texas, especially by the lake where my club is. So we really love the Hobbico Avistar. It's a semi-symmetrical wing but it's loaded lightly. It slows down very well, handles the wind well (for a trainer anyway) and is very predictable. If you want a straight up shopping list, here it is:

    Hobbico Avistar plane
    Thunder Tiger .46 PRO engine (IMO, skip the bushing engines like the OS LA series. You'll probably want to use this engine on your next plane, and the extra power will be welcome)
    Radio set- At least 6 channel, computerized, 2.4ghz from one of these 4 manufacturers: Futaba, Hitec, Airtronics, Spektrum/JR (talk to your instructor to see which brand he can buddy box with)
    6v flight battery 1000-2000 mah NiCd and appropriate charger (see "optionals")
    Props, 4 way glow plug wrench, and spinner- 11x6 works with the .46 PRO just fine, but check the manual if you buy a different engine
    Standard ball bearing servos (I'm a fan of the Hitec HS425 or Futaba S3004)
    a servo extension for the ailerons

    Box of rubber bands for the wing
    Fuel- Omega 10% works great, or Powermaster if they have it
    Electric starter and self-contained glow driver (I really prefer attaching the starter battery to the starter, but plenty of people do fine with a 12v lead battery and a cord)
    Field box (doesn't have to be one from your hobby shop, but you do need something to put your sundries in. I use a plastic tool box from Walmart)
    Hand tools, CA glue, exacto knife and blades, and every kind of fastener your plane uses (it really stinks to not be able to fly because a 5 cent screw vibrated out and you can't find it)

    Optional (get these if you can afford them now or borrow them if you can) Covering iron and heat gun for fixing covering, a computerized charger for fast charging and cycle testing batteries (this has saved me two planes since I bought my first one), prop balancer (I love the DuBro one because you can also balance your spinners with it), a radio case big enough to also put your charger in

    As you can see, this stuff adds up. If you want to be able to fly at the same time as your son, you obviously don't need all the field gear twice, but you will need everything in the first group per plane. You might consider buying one trainer for you both to use so you can "spot" for each other between flights. There is actually a learning benefit from watching another person learn while you watch, because the observer soaks in the instruction without the stress of flying at the same time. You also can see each other's mistakes and learn from them. Then when you son solos (90% likely he will before you) put your money into an Ugly Stick or similar plane to do sport flying with. But I can heartily recommend the Avistar as a primary trainer. I've watched it myself on windy days when the traditional flat bottom trainers are all over the place and stressing out the students the Avistars are flying smooth circuits and doing great. Over the 5 years I've been an instructor and hearing the experience of guys who have instructed for twice that, the students who fly Avistars learn faster and solo faster than anyone else simply because the plane is so obedient.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  5. #5
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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I agree with what Jester said.

    Frank
    AMA #5810
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  6. #6

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Me and my dad did a similar thing 3 years ago and the hobbyzone supercub LP was perfect If you get the one with the 2.4 GHz radio download the RC desk pilot Sim and you can hook up your transmitter with the computer with a $15 adapter cable that you can get from your local hobby shop. From one of the links on the RC desk pilot website you can download a supercub model for the sim. It may not work for you but it sure did for me and my dad. 


    JM

  7. #7

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Iappreciate all the advice. Iwas kind of scared to get an ARF just because Iknow there can be a laundry list of extras needed, especially building tools and epoxys. Ijust wouldnt know what to get without overbuying.

    Ido like the idea of the Avistar though. Here is the issue. It appears that many places list it as discontinued. Great Planes has an Avistar Elite though. It measures a bit larger, has an option to add flaps with a 5th channel, and has the same claims as the hobbico. Great "2nd trainer", good first with an instructor. What do you think?

    Ido have a field nearby and will be joining the club and learning with an instructor.

    As a second note, Imay have reconsidered getting the second plane, or changed it up a bit. What is a good and fun brushless park flyer glider. That way when we dont want to goto the field, we can just hit some open land. We would still have the option of flying both at the feild as well.

  8. #8

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Whoa....slow down here a sec.....flaps on a trainer to learn with is not a good idea....you're gonna have your hands full at first just learning to fly....trainers don't need flaps anyway as you can cut power on the down wind leg and still float on in to a great landing. After you learn to fly you're going to want something a bit more zippy anyway. Then you can always add flaps to learn and play with after that second airplane you're going to want.
    To answer your question, I'll ask you one. If you were a qualified RC pilot now what would you like to fly? A big areobatic gasser? A detailed war bird? Or something a tad smalled, perhaps a 90 sized glow to fly around with. If the answer is yes to any of that...well they are all 4 channel at least, so learn on 4 channels with a glow engine. If electric is more to you're liking then learn on an electric powered airplane. The Sig LT-40 Kadet is an excellent trainer.
    One of the hardest students I ever had was an old glider pilot...he never had throttle or ailerons....you're primary turning surface is ailerons, and throttle becomes altitude control especailly on approach....he had to un-learn what he was used to and re-learn 4 channels. I'm telling you this because you mentioned a glider...after you know how to fly have a ball but while you're learning stay with 4 channels.
    I'm glad you said something about an instructor....he's who you should talk with as to what to buy to learn on.
    Now this of course is just my opinion....the goal here is to learn to fly, have fun and make memories of Dad and me for your son....Good Luck

  9. #9

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I should have been a bit more clear.  I plan on learning excusively on 4 channels.  I like the idea that the avistar can handle wind better, and has the ability to be fairly acrobatic once im ready.  As far as flaps are concerned, they can be locked to make them inoperatable.  At some point in the distant future, when i want to buy a plane that flaps would benefit from, I can always break out the old trainer and learn to use them on a more stable plane first.  It comes eith a radio thay can handle it, although not a very good one from what i read.  Great engine though.  Rtf is the only option right now

  10. #10

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Man, it seems that every time a great product comes out and gain a following, it has to get messed with and then discontinued! I would skip the RTF as that Tactic radio isn't going to be buddy box compatible with anything other than another Tactic, and it's not a very good radio anyway. If you go the ARF route with the Avistar, you'll do fine with it. You don't even have to put servos on the flaps. I had a plane once that I didn't want to use the flaps on, so I just glued a plywood piece to attach a pushrod to in order to hold them straight. As an alternate, even though I have no personal experience I have heard nothing but good about the Hangar 9 Alpha trainer. All the same shopping list above will work equally well with the Alpha or the Sig LT-40 mentioned above.

    Now thinking outside the box just a bit, if you feel that you're going to pick this up fairly well, and especially if you plan to work on the simulator some, consider buying an Ugly Stick as your primary trainer. They have no self-righting characteristics, but they are outstanding in the wind and can do any aerobatics you'll want for the first couple of years. Every student (including myself) who has gone from a standard trainer to a stick as their second plane has said the stick is easier to fly, including having better control on takeoffs and landings. Way back in the day when servos and channel were expensive, the standard route was to start with a 3 channel dihedral trainer and then move to a stick as an aileron trainer. Another plus is since you're thinking about having a park flyer too, E-Flite has their Mini Ultra Stick which is the nicest flying small plane I've ever worked the sticks on.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  11. #11

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Scuba, one thing you don't mention in your first post is if you are planning on finding a club and an instuctor to help you learn or if you plan to "got it alone" with your son. The reason I ask, and most will concurr, is that first plane choice is going to be dependent on if you are going to learn with an instructor or just plan to learn to fly with you and your son and the plane. If you plan to "buddybox" with an instructor, then the planes you have been advised to get are all good ones, although for the life of me I don't understand why you would want to go fuel when electric is so much easier and less messy.

    If you plan to go it alone, then I would recommend these planes:

    Hobbyzone Super Cub
    Flyzone Sensei
    Parkzone Apprentice
    Hobbyzone Firebird Stratos
    Ares Gamma 370

    The HZ Super Cub is a 3 channel trainer with no ailerons, but is a pleasure to fly. This plane will probably give you the greatest chance at success. You could also augment this plane with a Hobbyzone Champ, but the Champ can only be flown in windless conditions for optimal results. The Champ is basically a micro version of the HZ Super Cub.

    The FZ Sensei and PZ Apprentice are 4 channel foam trainers with a great following and I have heard many instructors endorse them.
    The HZ Firebird Stratos is a very beginner friendly plane with a unique stabalization system that actually works as advertised. The downside to this plane is it has a proprietary TX and cannot be bound to any other TXs.

    The Ares Gamma 370 is a little bit smaller than the HZ Super Cub but is essentially a 3 channel high wing trainer very similar to the Super Cub. The upside to this plane is that Ares markets a 4 channel "aileron" wing and brushless motor system for the Gamma 370 and both are essentially bolt on accessories. This plaen is designed for the pilot that has advanced from a 3 channel to a 4channel trainer.

    Hope this helps and good luck.


  12. #12

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I looked at the arf. First of all its not released yet. Secondly, I have reeled in my budget a bit. I am at 355 right now at tower with their current promo included. I would be way over that, and probably skimp on the engine to save a buck so I could get the radio I would want.

    I am going to make contact with the local clubs tonight, and one question ill ask is if they have a tactic. if not seeing it is such a poor radio thats included in so many packages I bet I can find a 4 channel on ebay for super cheap. Ill bring it with so I have an instructor box. I might even donate it to the club.

    I want gas for 2 reasons. I always wanted a gas truck as a kid and just want to explore the other side of rc. Second, I want to not be limited on how many flights I can do based on how many lipos I have. With gas I can fly till Im out of fuel.

  13. #13

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    FWIW, I see trainers for sale on Craigslist and sometimes here for pretty good prices. I saw a package just last week locally for $175 with everything including field gear. It had an old but usable radio and a jug of fuel that would only be trustworthy as weed killer, and it would need new batteries most likely, but for under $200 it wasn't bad. I sometimes even see trainers that have never been flown for sale. Lots of impetuous guys get into this and spend their money, then when they realize it's going to be work they move on to something else. One of my very best buys was a package that included 4 flyable airframes including a trainer, 4 good engines, a 72mhz 7 ch computer radio, lots of spare parts and such, and a quick field charger. I paid $175 for the whole works. It would have been an outstanding package for someone just getting into the hobby because it included a couple of sport planes to move up to and a very serviceable radio set.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  14. #14

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I have had trainer plane as an auto crsigslist search for 2 months now, and never had any good results. I usually have good luck on cl.

    Regardless, I just pulled the trigger!

    Bought a club membership and awa for both of us.

    Here is my final order. let me know if I missed anything. I read the manual, and it is a glueless assembly. The wings are bolt on so no rubber bands either. The tail doesnt need alignment either. Ill buy fuel from a local store.

    Great Planes Avistar Elite RTR. Great engine, crappy 6 c radio
    Glow starter with meter
    Hand crank fuel pump
    A kit to mount tube fitting onto fuel bottle caps Also includes a good fuel filter
    3ft fuel tubing
    Chicken stick (Starter will probably be my first upgrade)
    Os 8 glow plugs x2
    Stock props x2
    10x6 prop It is the recommended size for engine breakin
    4 in one glow/prop bolt wrench
    4 in one installation tool (wing boltd, clevices, ball links)
    Exaust Deflector
    Fingertip prop balancer

    367.76! Seems like a great deal to me!

  15. #15

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I just flew the Alpha 40 for the first time with the clubs instructor and its a very easy plane to fly. It was my first flight aside from a simulator and the instructor was very impressed. I landed and took off several times with no problems. It pretty much glides in the air.
    Best regards,
    Ed

    P-47 Thunderbolt Brotherhood #64

  16. #16

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Get that package if you want Scuba Steve (love that movie, BTW), but you can go about it cheaper with a better upgrade path. You also have a couple of items I wouldn't buy. The big problem is the radio, which is $100 of your purchase price. It doesn't have any programming ability, which won't even let you use it with multiple models. It uses AA batteries, which you'll be buying often enough that you'll respend what you saved by buying the cheaper radio. And when you're ready to move up to sport planes, you'll be buying another radio anyway. To my mind, buying the RTF package in the long run means throwing away about $80 and having nothing for it. Here's how I would change your shopping list:

    -Wait for the ARF version of the Avistar, which should be available in the next two weeks, or buy the Thunder Tiger trainer. I have one and can report that it is a solid machine. It's not quite as wind friendly as an Avistar, but it will stil serve you well.
    -Get the Hitec Optic 6 package with the free extra receiver. At $199, it's the best value in sport radios today.
    -Skip the installation tool and the fuel jug kit. I've been in the hobby for 7 years without either.
    -Skip the chicken stick. That's just an exercise in frustration. The props you'll ruin as you get frustrated will nearly pay for a starter.
    -Skip the exhaust deflector. They are handy on some models where the exhaust is directly aimed at a part of the plane, but there's no point on an open engined plane like a trainer.
    -Get the prop balancer, and build a wooden "v" to put it in. Those things have too much friction to be useful with the fingers, but they are serviceable with a fixture.

    So to work with your budget, here's how I'd do it.

    Tiger Trainer $105
    Magnum XLS .46 Engine $75
    Hitec Optic 6 $200
    Futaba 3004 servos $13.99 x 4
    Fuel tubing $3
    Six Shooter fuel pump $15
    Tower Glow starter (you don't need a meter) $13
    Props and balancer $13
    Tower Starter- $37 (depending on the field layout, you may be able to use your car battery for power. Otherwise, if you have a jump start device that will power it)

    That has you at $517 before any discounts. When you add a jug of fuel bought locally and a few incidentals you're looking at $550 to get started in the hobby. Yes, that's more money than you're talking about spending, but that also means that the only thing you'll have to buy for your next plane is the plane. The Magnum engine is a little slower to break in but you can have two of them for what the OS will cost you. This also assumes you're committed to sticking with Tower Hobbies. They are a good vendor, but with some shopping around you may do a little better. It's also very productive to get field gear from the classifieds or on Craigslist. Whatever you decide though, welcome to the hobby.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  17. #17

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Everyone has given good advice so far. I did find a Hobbico Superstar on Craigs list with all the stuff needed to fly for $175 and I bet the guy would have taken less. I never did buy itthough. But those deals are out there. I have bought two computor radios off EBay and both have been just fine. The JR had to have a new battery but I only have $160 in it and it will control 10 planes. It even came with a second brand new receiver and 7 servos. Two were digital servos. It was new in the box and had never been flown. The other is a HiTech Prism that I paid $40 for and it has a batteries that won't die. That was a great deal.

    I like the suggestion of a Stik type model. I learned to fly with a little stik. I had to build it too. No ARFs back in 1977. I have 3 Stiks now. The planes just simply fly very well.

    Jester I see you fly at Benbrook. Me too. I mostly fly a S.P.A.D. Stik that is red and yellow. If you see me there introduce yourself please. Here is what I fly most of the time. Plus I have a sky blue Sweet Stik with me sometimes. Thomas.
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    Sig Kadet Brotherhood #142. WooHoo!!!
    BUSA Brotherhood #69.

  18. #18
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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Since you already ordered, this is too late: Club members often have trainers and other stuff they will sell to a new member for a good price. My brother bought his trainer from a club member.

    A few years ago I was given a RTF Thunder Tiger Trainer (new in box) by a fellow club member. It was given to him by someone who got it for Christmas and was never interested in learning to fly.

    This kind of stuff is not 'for sale' in the sense of putting forth effort to advertise it but the owners are happy to see it go to someone who will use it.

    I think you will be happy with the setup you ordered. The plane and engine are great and the radio is perfectly ok for getting started.
    You can get a second Tactic transmitter http://www.rcuniverse.com/market/item.cfm?itemId=871210 for $59, possibly less, that will let you buddy box any time an instructor is available. If you go through too many AA batteries, you can buy a package of nicad or nimh cells at Wal-Mart for a few bucks and a wall wart charger http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin...?&I=LXNK66&P=0 for $20.

    Some people say the radio is wasted but I disagree. After you learn to fly, and want more/better stuff, keep the trainer totally intact. Put your new stuff on a programmable radio if you want. If the new radio dies, fly the trainer with the Tactic. If you just want a relaxing flight, fly the trainer with the Tactic.
    - Carrell

  19. #19

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I'll keep an eye out for you Thomas. I don't recall seeing your planes, but that doesn't mean we haven't both been out there at the same time. I usually have a Tower Kaos, a Cub on light wind days, and a complete mess of a biplane that looks like it flew into a glob of paint in LSU colors. More recently, I took my first flight on a TRex 600 and LOVED it. Will you be at the airshow Sunday?
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  20. #20

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    I don't know if I will make it or not on sunday. I will try. I will also try to send you a PM. Whats your first name so I have an idea who to ask for? Thanks.

    And to the OP I just want you to know I am not trying to hijack your thread. But this is what belonging to a club will do for you. Get you in touch with other folks who can give you first hand help and maybe a few flights on several different trainers. Hands on flying beats replies on a forum and stick time on a simulator. Good luck with your search for a first plane. With good instruction almost any plane can be a trainer.
    Sig Kadet Brotherhood #142. WooHoo!!!
    BUSA Brotherhood #69.

  21. #21

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    By all means, hijack away. This thread has accomplished its mission of helping me choose a plane. Honestly, if a arf was already out, I would have made the same choice. Budget hit me. I would have skimped on the engine, and probably still wouldnt have been able to afford the radio I want.

    Yes the tactic is a cheaper version, but still made by futaba. And yes it would be difficult to find an instructor with a matching radio. Luckily I just bought an identical radio for $50. I paid our club dues today, and I think im all set! Just need to buy fuel and wait for the plane to come in.

  22. #22

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    Oh I didn't notice above that you have already placed your order. I would have left you alone if I had. Something I see missing is a meter to check your batteries. Many of us buy a loaded voltmeter to do that, but I went the route of using a standard multimeter and just pushing on a control surface to put a load on it. If you happen to be one of the unlucky ones who gets a bad battery, that will save you an airplane. It's also inevitable that you'll want a computerized charger too. I see used ones from time to time going for $20-$30, so that doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. Just be sure to get one that cycles so you can verify the capacity of your batteries when they are new and every 6 months or so thereafter.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  23. #23

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    No problem man. I figured that I didnt make it clear enough that the plane is already on its way. Are you tslking about just testing the RX battery? Can you explain what you mean by prrssing on the control surface to use a standard multimeter? I understsnd that you cant test an alkaline battery without putting it under load, I just dont know what you mean by control surface. Also, what do I need a charger for? I have a lipo charger already, but unless I can use a lipo as my tx snd rx pack, i have nothing else to charge.

  24. #24
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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    The control surfaces are the ailerons, elevator, and rudder.
    An inexpensive, 9 bucks, loaded meter is http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin...?&I=LXWDZ5&P=0 plus you’ll need the leads http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin...?&I=LXL332&P=M
    The transmitter does not appear to have a voltage indicator so you’ll need to test it also.
    - Carrell

  25. #25

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    RE: Help with first plane choices!

    You can't use a lipo for your receiver unless you also install a regulator. I don't know about your transmitter's voltage requirements so maybe you can use one there or maybe not. If your charger can charge LiFe batteries you can use them as a receiver pack with no regulator. I'd actually say that's the best option all around, but it does require buying an LiFe compatible computerized charger which many new pilots don't want to do. The standard thing is to use NiCd's for both Rx and Tx. They are durable and don't need a fancy charger, although you'll do well to cycle test them before flying with them just to make sure you didn't get a dud.

    Buying the $9 meter is the way to go if you don't already have an electrician type multimeter. Any battery needs to have a load on it to give you a meaningful test. So a loaded voltmeter has a resistor in the testing circuit so that you can put a load on your battery (usually 1/2 amp) to see if it's delivering the voltage it should under load. If you don't have a loaded meter, you can use a regular non-loaded meter with a soldered up extension by plugging it into an unused receiver channel and flexing your elevator or rudder. Putting that weight on the servo creates an electrical load, which lets you get a reading of what voltage your receiver is actually seeing.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!


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