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Radio Control (RC) Equipment for Model Airplanes

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( Control Equipment for Model Aircraft

The term "radio control" is often abbreviated as R/C, RC and R-C.  I am not sure that any one of these abbreviations is more correct than the others, but they all mean the same thing.  Specifically, a radio control system allows a model to be controlled by sending commands from the operator to the model via radio signals.  There is no mechanical connection to the operator, such as a wire or lines.

The state of radio control has continually advanced by leaps and bounds since its inception.  There are so many choices of equipment today that unless you are involved with cutting-edge type aircraft, the only problem you will have selecting equipment is deciding between several appropriate types that vary in subtle ways.

It used to be that radio control equipment was the limiting factor in what we could build.  That simply is not true any more.  You can build anything you want the equipment to control it is available.

My first R/C set was an Ace 7-channel system built by my dad circa 1977.  By that time R/C equipment was reliable and there were many choices, although many fewer than there are today.  Had I attempted R/C prior to the days of digital proportional equipment I probably would have continued with control-line flying.  Being a pioneer is all good when it is something you are interested in, but electronics is not my thing.

You do not need to understand the inner workings of your radio equipment.  You simply need to know how to use it properly which includes mounting, maintenance, range checks and proper selection for the application.  You also need to be able to tell when something is not working right.

You do not need to be an electronics guru.  There are good repair shops that can do that for you unless you have the know-how and equipment to fix it yourself.  About the only type of electronic work I do is assemble the occasional battery pack or solder leads and switches.

Range of control is around 1 mile (in the air) which is generally farther than a model can be seen.  In other words, range is not a problem.

A range check is performed by turning on the radio but leaving the transmitter antenna collapsed.  Walk away from the model while moving the controls.  When the controls stop working properly (no response or moving on their own), then you have exceeded the range.  Compare the distance you walked with the range given by the manufacturer.

Before you attempt to fly your plane you should always perform a range check with the engine running.  A running engine sends vibration through the airframe which may cause intermittent problems that would not show up with the engine off.

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Copyright 2004 Paul K. Johnson