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|HeliFreak General Helicopter FAQ|
This FAQ is a collaborative effort based upon the vast bank of user knowledge available in the forums. It is split into major sections, with each major section having sub-sections with more specific details and possibly links to specific resources available on the HeliFreak web-site.
2. What kind of information will I find in the FAQ?
A better question to start would be, "What WON'T I find in the FAQ?" This FAQ is for general knowledge questions that pop up repeatedly in the forums - basic stuff a quick search would provide answers for. What won't be here is product reccommendations, personal opinions etc. There may be a few product-specific questions answered with basic setup or troubleshooting answers, but this FAQ is not meant to be an all-emcompassing guide on how to build, set up and fly your particular model. What it is, is another resource to quickly find answers to common issues and problems. Just be aware that while some answers will be provided by experts who have a commercial interest in the hobby, most will be opinions or general consensus based on experience.
3. I couldn't find an answer to my question, now what?
As mentioned above, this FAQ is not all-encompassing. The answers here are culled from the thousands of threads in many different sections of the forum. Perhaps your issue is the first. Perhaps it's one of the oft-asked questions and was simply missed or not yet added. Your best bet is to use the Search feature from the menu bar and see if someone else has had a similar issue. Should you fail to find an answer, post a question in a relevant forum.
4. How do I get a question and answer added to the FAQ?
Use the Contact Us link (here or at the bottom of every page) and select the option "Add an FAQ Entry" with the question and the answer. If the question is deemed relevant and the solution deemed accurate, it will be considered for addition.
6. I have "X" helicopter, how do I set it up?
This FAQ is not a vehicle to address the specifics of a particular helicopter model's build, setup or tuning in much detail. There are far too many variables to consider. However, general setup information such as pitch and throttle curves, common servo setups etc. will be addressed in later sections. Known issues for specific models may be found in later sections as well. As of this writing,your best bet is to check out Finless Bob's Helifreak Tech Room to see if a video for your particular helicopter is there.
B. Getting Started
1. I'm interested in getting into RC Helicopters. What all do I need?
"Need" is a subjective term and the "needs" of some will be different than those of others. Below is a basic list of items to get you started. Thanks to HF user ThBrtmn for the initial items.
1. Helicopter kit - General consensus seems to point to a "400" sized kit or larger.
For a Glow (Nitro) powered helicopter, you'll also need the following:
1. An engine of the appropriate size for the kit you've purchased.
For an Electric helicopter:
1. Brushless motor sized according to the helicopter you've purchased.
Tools Needed for Assembly
1. Ball link pliers
1. Head Button (to slow your head speed down when retrieving the Heli or tuning the motor)
Again, this is a basic list and by no means covers everything you may need. If you're like mosT RC modelers, you'll soon have a full toolbox and probably more than one "junk box" with RC stuff in it.
2. Sounds cool. What kinds of helicopters are available?
(contributed by OliverDots and edited for content)
There are 3 different types of helicopter available for purchase and it really comes down to your own personal circumstances and personality. Money plays a factor as well, but since your wife or significant other may be reading along with you, we won't go down that road. You also need to consider where you'll be flying as a large helicopter won't be welcome at the city park.
First up is the coaxial helicopter.
The 4 channel version like the Esky Lama V3 for example. These helicopters have no tail blades as the twin main rotors rotate is opposite directions, eliminating the need for a tail rotor. To turn, one set of rotors will either speed up or slow down and the torque differential between the two rotors turns the helicopter. The pitch of these blades are fixed and altitude is controlled by the rotors either speeding up or slowing down. The main control unit in the helicopter is called a “4 in 1”. This is the Receiver, speed controllers and gyro. The gyros in these "magic boxes" do a pretty good job holding the tail but tail inputs are still needed when hovering. These helicopter are very stable and can nearly hover hands-free without any control input. These are usually flown indoors as they really can’t handle more than a very very light wind. A lot of people learn to fly with these helicopters as they are very easy to learn on and fairly durable. They have the same control system as single rotor helicopters so you can learn the basics of flying, without the expensive crashes and repairs. Not only will it teach you rudder / aileron / elevator and throttle control, but will also teach you about orientation. This means you can learn to fly side-in and nose-in. Orientation is very important to flying helicopters and with the coaxial heli being so stable, it is not too difficult to learn.
Advantages of a coaxial helicopter are….
Next we have the FP (Fixed Pitch) Helicopter.
The following 2 paragraphs contributed by Dusty1000
There are various designs of the offset flybar/head type FP helis, but the one thing they all have in common is that the flybar and blades are approximately 45 degrees apart. These helicopters will stabilize themselves into a stable hover, to various extents, in much the same way as coaxial helicopters do, when the cyclic stick is centered. They are designed to be considerably easier to fly than 'traditional' FP helicopters with 90 degree flybars, and as such the advantages and disadvantages are in-between those of coaxial helicopters and traditional FP helicopters.
These are 4 channel helicopters and the altitude is controlled by the single rotor either speeding up or slowing down. These helicopters have a motor driven tail rotor. The main control unit in the helicopter is called a “4 in 1” and like its Co-Ax cousin, contains the receiver, speed controller and gyro. Like the Co-Ax gyro, it does a pretty good job holding the tail but tail inputs will still be required when hovering. The smaller “micro” helicopters are normally flown indoors or outside with near to zero wind. The larger types, like the HoneyBee, can be flown indoors but require a larger area. Something like a double garage is fine. They can also handle a gentle wind.
Advantages of a single rotor helicopter
Lastly we have the CP (collective Pitch) helicopter.
Now we have what some call, a “real” helicopter. These helicopters are 6 or more channel, with main blades that change pitch. Throttle and pitch are automatically mixed for you in the transmitter. You don’t need 3 sticks and 3 hands. This is a single rotor helicopter but now, altitude is controlled by changing the pitch of the blades. This means a given height is easier to maintain. Climbs and descents are faster and more precise. This type of helicopter is capable of flying inverted and performing complex aerobatics and what's called "3D" flight. The tail-rotor is usually belt driven. A belt runs off a gear that is driven by the main gear (the main gear drives the main rotor) to the tail gear driving the tail rotors. The tail blades also change pitch to turn the nose of the heli. This makes the tail control very precise and responsive. The electronics in these are all separates, (no 4 in 1) and consists of a receiver, multiple servos and a gyro. The gyro typically has a heading hold feature which for best part, holds the tail very well in hovers. Little or no input is needed at all to keep the tail still but you will need control inputs to get the tail to move in a turn.
Note: For the absolute beginner, a CP helicopter is probably not a good choice. They are dangerous and potentially lethal. It can be done, but you are STRONGLY encouraged to seek some hands-on help from an experienced modeler. You will probably crash very often at first. Crashes can cost you quite a bit of money and many many hours of repairing and setting up, and increase the frustration level enormously. You could soon become disheartened and your wife will be asking where all the housekeeping money has gone!
3. What's all this going to cost me?
Like any hobby, the deeper you get into it, the more it is going to cost. While there are a lot of RTF helicopters out there that can be had for a couple hundred dollars, the reality is that they're not very high in quality or performance. That's not to say you can't start with one of these helicopters and be successful, but that old adage, "you get what you pay for" certainly comes into play here.
Typical initial cost for a name brand helicopter, radio and basic tools/support equipment is $500+, a not insignificant amount of money to get into a hobby you may not enjoy or be successful at. There are other options though. The proliferation of "clone" helicopters, models that are direct copies of the name brand models, and cheap electronics have made it possible to get that number closer to $300. HF user Racer38 shows you how in his Beginners 450 Part 1 Cheap Cheap Cheap thread.
4. OK, I bought a helicopter and radio and all my basic tools. Now what?
What comes next depends on what type of helicopter you've obtained. Some helicopters come RTF (Ready To Fly) with transmitter etc. Some are ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) which means the airframe is assembled and you need to install the electronics and power system. Some are BNF (Bind 'N Fly) - the helicopter is fully assembled and set up (set up being completely subjective here) and you need to "bind" your transmitter to the models' receiver and do some programming. Some come as a box of parts - a kit - and you have to assemble it, install your electronics, set the mechanics up properly then program your radio. It sounds a bit daunting at first, but if you've got a little mechanical aptitude and a willingness to understand some basic concepts, it's not that difficult.
For RTF and BNF models, you really should double check the set up of the helicopter. While your shiny new RTF heli may say in the instructions it's been test flown at the factory, it does not necessarily mean the helicopter is properly set up. Same with the BNF. It may look good and controls may move around when you fiddle with the sticks on your transmitter, but it doesn't mean it's correct. Any intermediate pilot can probably hover a poorly set up helicopter, but that's the last thing someone just entering the hobby needs.
For an ARF or kit built helicopter, you need to do the setup regardless. Just bolting everything together and spooling up won't necessarily result in anything good. The forums are full of posts from people who assumed if they just assembled it, it would fly. Take the time to set up the helicopter properly.
One final word (ok, maybe a few dozen words) about all these types of helicopters, especially the ARF, and BNF helis (or kits with some assemblies already..um.. assembled) Check each and every screw that goes into a metal part for threadlock. Most people pull one screw out, clean it, apply threadlock and reinstall the screw regardless of whether it feels like it's got compound on it or not. Nothing sucks more than having a part fly off in mid-air and helplessly watching your helicopter crash to the ground. For a kit helicopter, remember, any screw going into a metal part needs threadlocker. Screws going into plastic do NOT get threadlocker. Some people put a dab of CA on these screws, but usually the plastic does a good job of holding the screw in place without it.
Now that you're thinking you're in way over your head, there's some good news. That news is in the form of HUNDREDS of free videos in Finless Bob's Helifreak Tech Room These videos cover dozens of models, radios, gyros and of course, basic concepts. The information available in these videos is staggering to say the least and finding what you're looking for sometimes turns into a project itself.
Thankfully, as a member of the Helifreak community, you've got a tremendous resource put together by HF user and Support member, kgfly - the Heli Skills and Setup 101 compendium. Inside you will find over 100 videos covering the absolute basics up through actual kit builds for several dozen helicopters. Most find it best to start with the basics while assembling the helicopter. Watching the build videos for your particular helicopter often sheds light on typical "gotchas" encountered during the build. Of course, as always, if you get stuck or can't figure something out, there's the forums and the HF community. Finding local help is another great alternative. Most fellow RC'ers are more than willing to help you get going and you may make a friend in the process.
5. My helicopter is assembled and set up. How do I learn to fly it?
Everyone is different in how they learn to fly. Some just dive right in, some find local help from an experienced modeler, some pay for lessons. There are a lot of web site that offer free tutorials on how to fly but one that seems to get the nod time and time again is Radd's School Of Rotary Flight. Based on responses posted in the forum, it seems to work pretty well as long as you're disciplined enough to follow the lesson plans.
Of course, a simulator can be invaluable in developing those initial skills and allow you to get your brain wrapped around the skills required to get your new model off the ground and safely back down again.
6. I hear about simulators all the time. Do I really need one?
Need? Not necessarily. Will a simulator help? Absolutely. Simulators these days are much improved over the 1st computer based RC simulators. The SkyLark RC Heli simulator of the early 1990's used a modified transmitter plugged into the game port on your PC. The graphics and physics were rudimentary at best, but it was a valuable tool for learning to hover and get into forward flight. You did have to know how to set up the transmitter so it was by no means "plug 'n play" but for what it was, it worked well. Today, you simply install the software to your PC, plug the supplied lead into your transmitter and the USB port on your PC and you are good to go. In most cases, the interface cable is the copy protection for the simulator software and they are not interchangeable between the different simulators.
Current simulators do a much better job of replicating the "feel" of the simulated model and most allow you to use your actual transmitter to control the model. There is a lot of personal opinion out there as far as what's the "best" simulator, but when it comes down to it, they all offer the same basic functions; learning to control the helicopter, learning orientations, learning new tricks, developing what some call muscle memory so that piloting our model becomes more natural. With a simulator, there is no danger of a crash destroying your model. Press the reset button and voila! You're back in business.
(Copied from a post by OliverDots and edited for content)
7. I've decided to buy a simulator. Which one should I get?
As stated before, there is a lot of personal opinion among which simulator is "best". Some offer free upgrades and aircraft, some charge for major updates but have huge amounts of community support. Others are popular in some parts of the world than where you may live. A lot of Hobby Shops (at least here in the States) now have demo stations where you can try out various simulators and some simulator companies offer a trial or demo download so you can see for yourself what the simulator is like.
This is by no means a recommendation nor a comprehensive list, but two of most popular simulators available are Phoenix and RealFlight. Again, some will argue the merits of one over the other, but it really comes down to what you like. Be aware that many simulators offer the ability to "fly" with friends online (i.e Multiplayer) but you cannot fly in an online session with a RealFlight owner if you have Phoenix and vice-versa.
There are some free sims out there as well. FMS is one and is sometimes bundled with some Co-ax or Fixed Pitch helicopters. Additionally, HeliFreak user markb has written a free sim, HeliSim and it is available for download right here: http://www.helifreak.com/showthread.php?t=53247 In either case, you will need to find an interface cable for your particular transmitter. These are usually available from your local hobby shop and/or online retailers.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, simulator software is only available for PCs running Microsoft Windows. Many Mac users have reported success in running the simulator under a Windows Emulator. There are also a few people doing the same with Linux based systems. You'll have to do a search to find specifics on what you need and how to set it up with your system.
8. I've got my helicopter and been practicing on the simulator. Where can I fly?
It's really best to join a club and fly at the club field, but many modelers fly in empty fields, parks, private land etc. Legally, you can fly just about any open area as long as there are no local codes preventing you from doing so, however, you have to remember the potential for injury and damage these models have. Most of the public has no idea of the potential danger an RC Helicopter poses and will wander into your flying area, or allow their pets/children to do the same. While you may have the skills to completely control your helicopter, things happen and the last thing you need is to hit someone or something with your model.
If you don't have a local club and your only option is to fly at a park or open space, take all precautions to ensure you don't endanger anyone or anything else. If you can, bring a buddy and have him "spot" for you - that is, keep an eye on the surroundings and keep you informed. You can't concentrate on the helicopter and the happenings around you at the same time. Don't fly over or near others, near walking or bike paths etc.. Use a little common sense. Time of day can make a big difference in how "available" your chosen flying area is. For example, early mornings a park can be full of joggers or completely empty. You will need to figure out the best times and days for your particular flying area.
Another consideration is the noise. Even electric models make noise and that noise can carry for surprisingly long distances. That noise can upset people living in close proximity to where you choose to fly and while you may think the noise is great, others won't necessarily share your enthusiasm. Time of day is another consideration here. Your local park may be deserted at 6am, but it's a good bet the people living near the part don't want to hear the high pitched whine of an electric motor at that time. Again, use some common sense and be a good "neighbor".
9. I've found a local club and want to join. How do I do that?
Easy. Fill out an application, send it in with your club fees and wait for your membership to be approved. In most cases, it really is that easy. Some clubs are private and have specific limits on the numbers of members. Some are military personnel only, some are a mix that require a specific ration of military to civilian members. Some clubs are helicopter or fixed wing only, some are a "if it flies, it's welcomed here" organization. In all cases here in the States, membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics is required. Other countries have similar requirements with their modeling organizations.
AMA membership nets you many things, most importantly is liability insurance. Secondary to your homeowner's policy, this insurance will cover damages you may incur after an incident. As with any insurance policy, there are limits to the coverage both financially and in what things are covered. You can read how to join, membership benefits etc on the AMA Membership Services page of their website.
|HeliFreak FAQ Glossary|
1. Defnitions and Abbreviations
You're ready to dive in and have been doing your homework, but are completely lost by the terminology, abbreviations and acronyms. You're not alone. Here's a list that will get you up to speed and minimize a lot of those, "What the heck is THAT?" questions.
A - Amp/Ampere
Backplate - The rear cover of an engine's crankcase.
CA - Cyanoacrylate. A very strong and usually instant acting adhesive. "Super Glue" is a brand name of Cyanoacrylate.
D/R - Dual Rates
eCCPM - Electronic CCPM. (See CCPM)
FBL - Flybarless
G-10 - An extremely durable makeup of layers of fiberglass soaked in resin, then highly compressed and baked. Impervious to moisture or liquid and physically stable under climate change. Most commonly black, but is available in various colors. Used for frames and fins of some helicopters.
HH - Heading Hold.
I1 - Idleup curve 1
Jazz/Jive - An Electronic Speed Control (ESC) line made by Kontronik.
KP - Kong Power. A brand of LiPo battery.
Lawn Dart - A term used to describe a hard, nose down, vertical impact (crash) with the surface.
mAh - Milliamp Hours.
n00b - (See Newbie)
Park Flyer - Small, light R/C models, usually electric powered, flown in parks, small areas and indoors.
Rate Mode -
Scale Model - An accurate reproduction of a specific full sized aircraft.
TC - Throttle Curve
uBEC - Ultimate Battery Eliminator Circuit
V - Volt.
X9303 - A 9-channel transmiter manufactured by JR. Utilizes Spektrum's DSM2 2.4Ghz technology.
Yaw - Movement of the aircraft about its vertical axis. Controlled by the Tail Rotor in Pod and Boom helicopters and differential cyclic in tandem helicopters.
Z-Bend - A Z-shaped bend in the end of a wire pushrod, which is used to attach the pushrod to a servo output arm. Develops slop over a relatively short period of time. Many RTF helicopters utilize Z-Bends in their servo linkages.
3D - A style of highly technical, high performance flying, usually combining multiple maneuvers utilizing all 3 axis of flight simultaneously. This is the typical style of flight one would see from the top pilots.
450 - Typically used to define the Align Trex 450 series of helicopters, but also used to define a size class as well.
500 - Typically used to define the Align Trex 500 helicopter, but also used to define a size class as well. Equivalent to a .30 sized nitro powered helicopter.
600 - Typically used to define the Align Trex 600 series of helicopters, but also used to define a size class as well. Equivalent to a .50 sized nitro powered helicopter.
700 - Typically used to define the Align Trex 700 helicopter, but also used to define a size class as well. Equivalent to a .90 sized nitro powered helicopter.
|HeliFreak Contest Flying FAQ|
What is Contest Flying?
What is Precision Helicopter Aerobatics?
In the US today, precision helicopter aerobatics competition consists of four classes of maneuvers, also known as “schedules”. The first three classes 1-3 are governed by the AMA Rules for Competition. The fourth is the internationally flown class, designated as F3C by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or FAI. Maneuver schedules gradually increase in difficulty and complexity was you advance in classes. All hovering maneuvers currently flown in helicopter contests are vertical in perspective. In other words, the helicopter is never hovered away from or towards the pilot station. All maneuvers are performed on a 2D plane in front of the pilot, as if the helicopter was a brush on canvas. The hovering maneuvers are situated over the hovering central landing pad and two flags spaced 5m from both sides of the center pad. The segments of the hovering maneuvers are spaced among the central pad and the two flags on each side. Hovering segments can be diagonal, vertical, lateral, or circular. Aerobatics “upstairs” are typically centered within the aerobatic “box” directly in front of the pilot. Turn-around maneuvers are not judged, and performed at the discretion of the pilot. All take-offs and landings are judged, with the exception of the final landing in Class I. In the US, the AMA classes 1 through 3 were developed to help pilots along a path to the internationally flown FAI F3C maneuvers. These classes allow pilots of various skills the ability to fly against similarly skilled peers. As pilots gain experience and skill, they advance into higher level of competition until they reach the coveted F3C class.
AMA Class I consists of mostly tail-in hovering maneuvers, followed by simplistic, single component aerobatics. The Class I hovering maneuvers are mostly tail-in, with some side-on hovering, and 90 and 180° pirouettes, but never any nose-in segments. Pilots competent with rolls and stall turns, and hovering accuracy of about 1 meter would be comfortable with the typical maneuvers found in Class I.
AMA Class II ups the technicality of Class I, by introducing mostly side-on hovering with more 90 and 180° pirouettes. “Upstairs” aerobatics are slightly more complex, with vertical segments and more complex stall turns. Pilots competent with multiple rolls, loops, 540 stall turns, and vertical lines would be comfortable in Class II. Class II pilots should also be competent hovering over a point within half a meter.
AMA Class III is the highest of the US sportsman classes, with mostly side-on hovering, including takeoffs and landings. The hovering maneuvers typically consist of backwards travelling segments punctuated by 180 and 360° pirouettes at the stop points. Upstairs aerobatics consist of multi-component maneuvers with sustained inverted segments. Such segments may be diagonal, vertical or lateral. Multiple stall turns of 180°+ pirouettes are common. Recently, traveling flips or tumbles have been introduced to this class. Pilots in this class should be competent in all upright hovering orientations, remaining within 1 foot laterally of the point of reference. These pilots should also be competent in sustained inverted flight, rolls, and flips.
FAI F3C is the top level of helicopter precision aerobatics competition. All F3C pilots the world over fly the same schedule of maneuvers as voted and put forth by the FAI. As expected, these maneuvers are highly complex with numerous components and technical attributes. Hovering maneuvers involve travelling pirouettes, climbing and descending pirouettes, side-ways travelling nose-in segments, and all combinations thereof. Aerobatics upstairs are equally complex, with sustained inverted segments, negative G components, tumbles, and multiple stall turns. Also, F3C pilots vying for the World Championships need to practice two schedules, which is a total of 22 maneuvers. Pilots in this class should be competent in all upright and inverted forward orientations of helicopter flight and maintain hovering accuracy over the point of reference to within 6 inches laterally and vertically.
What's in a contest?
The first morning of the contest, the CD will pull a flight order during the pilot’s meeting. This is a random drawing of names from each class, or from the entire field of contestants. Larger contests have separate orders drawn for each class. CDs will make some allowances for judging slots and callers for pilots. From this point on, the contest essentially runs itself. The CD will be on your back to maintain readiness in order to keep the contest moving along to maximize flying. In some cases, you may be penalized points if you cause a delay in the event because you weren’t paying attention to the flight order. Typical 2 day contests have five rounds of flying, three on day one, and two on day two. The lowest round is dropped, and the final round scores are normalized. Scoring is usually done by a standardized computer scoring system, such as CD Pro by Dan Monroe. This system is automated and provides for printing of score sheets, call sheets, and flight orders. Contest standings are a button press away at any given time. While computer scoring is typical, some contests have been decided on tabulations on a memo pad.
Contest Flying FAQs
Do I have to join IRCHA or AMA to fly in a contest?
What helicopters are legal for competition?
Do I have to start in Class I?
Do I have to have a Caller/Spotter?
When it’s my turn to fly… what do I do?
Will I be asked to Judge?
Is there are landing fee to attend a helicopter contest?
Contributed by Erich Freymann