THINGS TO CHECK ON AN RTF
THINGS TO CHECK ON AN RTF
by Ed Anderson
aeajr on the forums
I think ready-to-fly airplane packages are great. This is how I started flying. If I had been required to build a kit to begin my flying experience I would never have gotten into the air. Now, after thousands of flights and almost five years, I have expanded to 20+ planes, multiple radios and all kinds of tools and things. I am having a ball. But there are things I know today that would have helped me with my first plane. Let me pass on some tips.
Regardless of the plane, RTF or not, it is the pilot's responsibility to insure that the plane is flight ready. If you put a plane in the air without checking it, without following the instructions, any problems that follow, any damage that is caused is your fault and responsibility. It does not matter if the plane is defective, if you did not check it, any damage that occurred is your fault. I can't make it any clearer. No full scale pilot would takeoff without checking everything. You should do the same.
READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!
There is a manual or instruction sheet that comes with your plane, read it! I read the manual several times on anything I get. It took the manufacturer time and money to create it. I contains important information. Some instruction sets are poorly done and some are very good. In either case, READ! If there is a video included, watch it. It was put there to help you. Take advantage of that help.
If they have a web site about the plane or product you purchased, visit the site. Sometimes there is an FAQ, frequently asked questions page. Sometimes there are additions to the instructions that have been added since yours was packaged and shipped. And sometimes there are coupons, or specials for owners. Go, look and see, and benefit from the manufacturer's web site.
I often post this in my notes on the forums, "RTFM". To put it politely, it means, " Read The Friendly Manual".
I have read so many trouble reports by new flyers. They crash, they have problems and are angry and upset. Why was this happening to them? Often, the answers were all in the instructions.
We had one club member who used to buy RTF planes, show up at the field and ask me how to get them set-up and flying. I would ask him for the instructions. "Oh, I left those home." So I sent him home to get them. No matter how experienced I might be, unless I have this plane, I check the instructions.
He brought a computer radio to a meeting and asked me to show him how to use it. "Sure, where are the instructions?" He left them home. I could not help him as I had never seen that radio before.
Needless to say, he crashed and crashed and destroyed things. Fortunately for him he had the money to do this. But he occasionally created a safety situation and we had to "advise" him to change his ways. He has yet to become a successful flyer. He is still a nice guy and I hope some day he will be successful, but he needs to follow instructions.
THINGS TO NOTE WHEN YOU READ THE MANUAL
1) Does the plane need to be balanced, or does the balance need to be checked?
2) Are there linkages to be connected? Do they need to be adjusted? How do you adjust them?
3) Is there tape or glue to be added. Is there covering material to be removed?
4) Do the batteries need to be charged?
5) Do they recommend some kind of "break-in" procedure?
6) What is the proper range check procedure for the radio system?
7) What is the working range of your radio system?
8) How do you adjust the surfaces to get the plane to fly correctly? Are they moving in the correct direction?
9) What is the proper placement of the battery and how is it moved to adjust balance?
10) Is there a maximum recommended voltage that can be safely accepted by the ESC?
11) What wind speeds are recommended for new flyers?
12) How much space is recommended to fly this plane?
13) Who do you call if there is a problem? Do you call the hobby shop or the manufacturer? Is there a web site?
14) Are there repair tips? What kind of glue can you use? Where can you get replacement parts?
15) What channel is your plane using and how do you avoid channel conflict?
Often, in order to meet a packaging goal or to keep the shipping weight down, the manufacturer will expect you to do something or to add something. These are usually common household items like tape or glue. In some cases the plane's balance has to be checked and/or adjusted. They may include weights, or you may need to buy weights, but coins work too. A dime is about .1 ounces and a quarter is about .2 ounces. Coins can actually be cheaper than buying weights.
It is common to have to mount the tail and the wing. Are there alignment marks or procedures that you are to follow? Do you have to remove covering material so the glue will hold properly? How many rubber bands are needed to hold the wing properly? Don't use less than the recommended number of rubber bands.
My Great Planes Spirit 2M glider came RTF, including the radio system. This was my second plane after my Aerobird. The Aerobird did not need to be balanced, the Spirit did. If I had tried to fly it without balancing it first I would likely have broken it badly on the first flight. It took four ounces of weight in the nose to get to balance properly.
A friend's RTF was brought to the field so we could help him. Following the instructions we did a range check and found there was a problem with the radio system. No problem! He packed it up, took it to the hobby shop and they exchanged it immediately. He was back at the field in an hour. It was clear it had not been flown so there was no question of flight damage. If he had flown and crashed it, they could have easily refused to replace it, and they would have been right, as crash damage is not covered under warranty. It was the pilot's job to make sure the plane was flight ready.
Often RTFs come with flight instructions and tips. One of the most important to follow is related to wind. Many planes, especially two channel planes, do not handle wind very well, especially in the hands of an inexperienced pilot. If you don't know this, you could loose your plane, or worse, you could hit someone or cause damage. What wind speeds are recommended, especially for new pilots?
Sometimes the plane will "porpoise" or tend to roll, or want to dive. Is it you or is it the plane? The instructions may tell you.
Once the pilot has become comfortable with the plane, there may be adjustments that can be made to make the plane more responsive. Sometimes it is that switch on the radio, or a button you need to push, that goes from mild to wild. Or maybe you have to turn something on the linkage, or move the linkage to a different hole. Go back and read the manual for the proper procedures to make those adjustments.
Just because the plane says ready to fly, don't take that literally. Compared to a box of sticks and a tube of glue, it is ready to fly. However there are often set-up procedures, or assembly steps that need to be followed. It is best to read the instructions to see how to do them correctly. You will have a much better flying experience and your plane will last longer.
Clear skies and safe flying!