RCU Review: Greg Covey's Amp'd Issue 1: What is a Parkflyer?


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    Contributed by: Greg Covey | Published: October 2007 | Views: 51307 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon


    Issue 1
    Article By Greg Covey


    Welcome to 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.

    AMP'D 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 greg@rcuniverse.com

    Recent 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.


    The 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 "parkflyer" if it does not conform to their own pre-conceived definition.

    This 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.

    Who coined the term PARKFLYER?


    If 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 field.

    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.

    How 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 impact.

    There 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:

    • Micro Flyer

    • Indoor Flyer

    • Frontyard Flyer

    • Backyard Flyer

    • 3D and 4D Flyer

    • Slow Flyer

    • Schoolyard Flyer

    • Aerobatic Flyer

    • Scale Flyer

    • Fun Flyer

    E-flite J3 Cub 25

    Parkflyer Categories


    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.

    In 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 ambiguous.

    Many 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.

    The 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.

    Others 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 aerobatic.

    I 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.!

    Let's consider a partial list of categories that can mold our own definition of a parkflyer:

    • electric powered in general

    • size, weight, and wing loading

    • speed

    • power level

    • spectator quantity (how many people are watching)

    • spectator knowledge of R/C (alertness)

    • ability to fly in wind

    • AMA license required

    • Frequency management required (27 MHz. "toy" vs. 72 MHz. or Spread Spectrum)

    • Loss of control damage potential (kinetic energy)

    • Performance based

    • Equipment based

    • Common sense

    • Piloting skill set

    These 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.

    For 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 dramatically!

    In 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.

    Summary


    Many 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.

    As 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.

    This 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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