If you’ve read the previous articles in this series, you already know quite a bit more about flying RC airplanes than you did before. You may even have a few flights under your belt, preferably under the tutelage of a trained instructor, and hopefully you’ve also been introduced to the basic rules of RC safety, the topic of this piece. Even if you have, whether from a close reading of your manual (good for you!), looking at Internet videos or learning from experienced pilots, safety is such an important precept of RC aviation that it can’t be over-emphasized. Though not a comprehensive list, here are some of the things to consider to ensure not only your own safety, but also that of others, when flying RC airplanes.
1. Wind conditions-this may seem like no-brainer, but lots of beginners are so anxious to fly that they sometimes disregard the limitations of their airplane. Some models should only be flown in calm conditions; others are safe to fly at 5, 10 mph or even more. Know what your plane is capable of-if it’s too windy, it’s best to wait for another day.
2. Flight area-if you plan to fly on flying RC airplanes in a public place, first check to see that it’s legal; some communities have ordinances against it. Don’t fly in a space too small for your plane and avoid areas with too many people, animals or obstructions. Of course, if you fly at a club field, you won’t have these concerns; all you have to do is obey their safety rules.
3. Pre-flight check-it’s a good idea to run through most of the pre-flight inspection twice; once before you leave home and again just before you fly. Make sure the plane is properly balanced and wings and tail are in correct alignment; that all nuts, bolts and screws are tight and all connections secure; and check control surfaces to see that they’re moving properly. All batteries should be fully charged and be sure that your transmitter signal is strong enough to fly within normal range limits.
4. Frequency control–when other pilots are flying RC airplanes nearby, do not turn on your transmitter until theirs are off unless you’re sure you’ll be on a different frequency-if you try to operate on the same frequency as another flier, the signals will interfere and you’ll cause him to crash. This is not a concern if you use a 2.4 GHz radio system, but is an issue when using any narrowband set.
5. Extend that antenna!-this also applies only to narrowband users, but is very important to remember for those who do. Just about everyone forgets once in a while, but without full antenna extension, you’ll have problems controlling the plane and its flying range will be limited.
These safety guidelines are for before you start your motor; I’ll have tips for safe takeoffs in the next article in this series. Your manual should address all the points discussed here but if not and you have any questions, talk to someone at your local hobby shop or an experienced pilot. All but the smallest planes are capable of causing serious injury and/or property damage, so always use commonsense and make safety paramount whenever flying RC airplanes.
*Check it out friends!*
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D. D. Wright is a small business owner who gets a kick out of flying RC airplanes and helicopters. In his spare time, he also sings and plays guitar in garage-rock legends The Used Goods and dynamic roots.