the first issue of AMP'D; the on-line column all about electric
flight! A continuous flow of new technology has rapidly changed
the scope of electric flight such that formal organizations,
manufacturers, vendors, hobby shops, and most of all, users
like us are having a hard time keeping up. Even when your
hobby is an obsession, as it is for me, the new products and
changing technologies appear so fast that it can make most
people confused. The flooding of various brand names from
overseas helps provide competition that lowers prices and
increases choices but it is often at a cost of confusion,
service, and quality. At AMP'D, we will try to sort out these
issues while focusing on electric flight.
will sometimes address social or organizational issues related
to electric flight, but mostly, it is about new products and
the application of new technology. As the column evolves,
we will add sections for upcoming products and reader questions.
Please feel free to ask questions or make suggestions by e-mailing
me at email@example.com
advances in electric flight technology, flight simulators,
and all-in-one packaging (referred to as RTF or Ready-To-Fly),
have created safety issues not only at designated flying fields
but mostly at local parks or school athletic fields. An R/Cer
no longer needs to join the AMA to fly at the local club or
even know much more than where the On/Off switch is located.
Many R/Cers find an open field just down the street from their
house to fly and we see the pilots starting at a much younger
age. Various RTF packages are now sold at local hobby shops,
on-line, or even Walmart that may have potential safety issues
when used inappropriately. While this topic is vast, my intent
is to narrow it for this issue to a recent attempt to improve
safety at one of our local R/C clubs. The difficulty, which
is often unresolved, is in defining a parkflyer so that a
specific class of planes can be flown in its own time period.
size of a park is subjective to an individual perception.
In general, most R/Cers do not feel that electrics are as
potentially dangerous as glow or gas powered airplanes. This
is mostly due to the lack of noise and a lingering perception
about the underpowered origin of electrics over a decade ago.
Unlike a glow or gas powered airplane, an electric prop can
be stopped but still be armed and have a dangerous potential
for an accident. The
term "parkflyer" has been used extensively in the
last few years at an increasing pace. Since there are no clear
rules or definitions for this category of plane, it is often
confusing to people when they see a model being called a
if it does not conform to their own pre-conceived definition.
month, we will investigate the term "parkflyer" to
understand why advertisers so often use it and why there are
so many perspectives on its definition.
coined the term PARKFLYER?
you can hand toss it, it must be a parkflyer!
The term "parkflyer" was coined by marketing people
to be a wide ranging moving target. Originally, it may have
had a more limited scope but it never had a distinct set of
rules and is typically used to describe electric-powered
models. The term "park" alone can be very subjective
to an individual perception of the size of a park. The size of
a park is undefined, like the area around a soccer or baseball
Since the explosion in
recent years of electric flight, RTFs, and
Almost-Ready-to-Fly (ARF) models, the term "parkflyer"
is now commonly used in a wider range of models to help
promote them through a known level of customer comfort.
Although the definition of a parkflyer is based upon
each person's skill set and experiences, it generally
conveys a safer, smaller, electric-powered aircraft.
do you define PARKFLYER?
You get many different answers when asking people how they define
parkflyer. Often, an individual will
emphasize some characteristic that they are comfortable with,
and, when enough people are asked, certain categories emerge
repeatedly. Many smaller planes that can be launched by hand
are not guaranteed to be safe parkflyer's. The model's flying
speed can drastically change the amount of kinetic energy upon
are some vendors and manufacturers that attempt to
define a parkflyer by using derivatives of the
original term. Here are some of the additional terms
commonly used to help categorize a parkflyer:
J3 Cub 25
Although we see a common theme in our parkflyer
definition that usually conveys safety, the actual
perspective of what we consider to be safe has a wide
scope that can be associated with a personal
preference. The E-flite J3 Cub 25 (shown above) looks
docile in the air but weighs over 4lbs.
general, a small, lightweight, slow flying,
electric-powered airplane that can safely be flown in
the presence of others in a park-like setting is
considered a parkflyer. While this explanation appears
to be linked to common sense, it is also quite
people consider popular models like the GWS Lite Stik, GWS Slow
Stik , Tiger
Moth 400 , Kavan Wingo
or ParkZone Slo-V
to be good examples of a "true" parkflyer.
higher powered Speed 400 motor in the Kavan Wingo and
Tiger Moth 400 draws around 10amps compared to the GWS IPS
DX-series of power systems that draw only about 2amps. All
three planes, however, fly very slowly and docile.
do not see speed as a limitation and also include faster, more
aerobatic models like the Trick R/C Zagi
Tazz wing and the Great Planes Slinger
to be good parkflyers. These two models both use a Speed 400
size power system like the Kavan Wingo but fly much faster and
have seen highly skilled pilots, like Team JR's Devin McGrath,
fly a 3D freestyle routine or an electric helicopter in a very
small area and felt safe watching close by. My own 60-inch,
8lb, Graupner ShowFlyer 3D has many parkflyer-like
characteristics for a larger plane. Although it can fly very
docile, it's 2000 watt power system can deliver almost 3h.p.!
consider a partial list of categories that can mold our own
definition of a parkflyer:
electric powered in general
size, weight, and
spectator quantity (how many
people are watching)
spectator knowledge of R/C
Frequency management required
(27 MHz. "toy" vs. 72 MHz. or Spread Spectrum)
Loss of control damage potential
categories all have some level of validity in our own
perception of a parkflyer. It is usually only a handful of
these categories that we choose to emphasize.
example, the Graupner GeeBee shown above, uses a direct drive
Speed 480 power system. It's low drag wing design makes it a
fairly fast model to fly in a small park setting. Likewise,
the Aeronaut F7F Tigercat uses twin geared Speed 480 motors
and also flies very fast. Convert these models to
Lithium-powered brushless motors and the power level increases
the air, it is difficult to tell that my custom Super
"Zagi" wing is 6 feet long and weighs over 4
pounds! An uneducated spectator may confuse it with
another model and not sufficiently respect the
potential for danger. The pilot must assume
responsibility for deciding when it is safe to fly.
folks seem to be calling larger planes parkflyer's
because they can fly them in a small lot or field. The actual
size of the plane and emphasis on the required piloting skills
is often overlooked. An R/Cer's timid or aggressive nature can
easily sway his perception. The level of comfort, risk, and
responsibility to accept any consequence, are summed up by an
individual's character and experience.
humans, we love to define and containerize just about
everything. As enthusiasts of electric flight, we do not care
for disorder in our hobby even though it has created many new
challenges for existing clubs and the AMA (Academy
of Model Aeronautics). The very thought that a parkflyer
does not conform to our own definition is quickly discarded.
We automatically fall back onto what we are comfortable with
seeing in a parkflyer so that any disorder dissolves. Without
a strict set of rules to define what a parkflyer can be, we
usually take a common sense approach that conforms to our own
set of norms. When flying in the presence of others, we must
exercise proper judgment that applies to ourselves and to the
safety of others. Perhaps, this is why the term "parkflyer"
is so often and successfully marketed.
first issue of AMP'D, although a bit thought provoking, will
hopefully open our eyes to the fact that as we enjoy the
benefits of new technology in our electric flight hobby, it
has a definite impact on the people surrounding us when flying
and some common sense must be applied. When you fly electric,
fly clean, fly quiet, and fly safe!
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