There’s no doubt about it, flying an rc jet plane is very, very exciting.
Part of it is seeing a miniature F18 fighter jet scream over your head and burst into barrel rolls, but another large part is the challenge of flying. Learning new skills is some of the best kind of fun we have, as long as it’s not forced.
If the skill is fun as well, then we’re set for a great time. When you first learn to fly an rc jet it’s all about the basics – primarily not crashing the thing into the ground. Takeoff is surprisingly easy, as it is in real aircraft too. All you need to do is face the jet along a strip of concrete or tarmac, preferably into wind if there is any, and increase the throttle stick.
Once the jet is up to its full speed most models will start to climb by themselves. Those with shorter wings such as the A4 Skyhawk don’t naturally climb and so will need a touch of elevator to get them airborne.
Either way, by applying a bit of elevator your rc jet plane will be streaking along skywards and you’ve successfully taken off.
Keeping with the challenges facing the new pilot the next manoeuvre to master is the banking turn. These performance EDF rc jets have a very high top speed. Assuming you have a standard transmitter and receiver on the 2.4Ghz band, you’ll be out of your 1km range within 25 to 30 seconds if you don’t turn!
On a Mode 2 transmitter the ailerons are on the right stick’s horizontal axis. By moving the right stick to the left and right you’ll bank the aircraft – keep the movements small however.
A big jerk to the right will cause the rc plane to roll and lose altitude quickly. By keeping the adjustments small you have better control and more time to react.
To avoid losing altitude whilst banking be sure to apply a touch of elevator during the whole turn. Once you’ve got the hang of this you’ll be able to take off and fly in nice easy circles – which is more exhilarating than it sounds! Many rc pilots go out to the field time after time to do just that, and the fun is not to be underestimated!
Moving onto the final challenge of the day, it’s time to land the thing.
Real aircraft are notoriously difficult to land, so much so that pilots have their own saying “You’re only as good as your last landing”.
Unlike real aircraft with real people onboard however, rc jet planes are simpler to land and any mistakes won’t be catastrophic. The new breed of edf rc jets built using compressed EPO foam are very resilient and robust. This is good news to the first time pilot attempting their first landing.
There are no real surprises here – the easiest way to land is to fly in a wide arc approaching the best landing spot. Be sure to leave a big space around your chosen runway to allow for overshoot, undershoot, misalignment and last minute decisions to throttle up and abandon the landing.
Slowly decrease the throttle as you finish the last third of your arc, turning to face the runway as you straighten up. Most performance jets take some time to lose momentum and glide well so you’ll need to approach the runway a surprisingly long distance away.
Continue cutting the throttle until it’s completely off , all the while making small adjustments to the elevator and ailerons to keep the jet in line and gliding. Be wary of using the elevator too much whilst gliding – you can end up stalling the plane quickly and nose diving. This shouldn’t be a big problem though, as all your speed is bled off and your foam plane will bounce harmlessly on the ground.
Just a touch of elevator will do for most models, continual touches should keep the nose up and the aircraft gliding smoothly along the runway. The art of landing is not to try and steer the aircraft to hit the ground softly, but to keep it flying as smoothly as possible until the ground rises to kiss the wheels.