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Failure to Launch!

Old 12-27-2006, 02:25 PM
  #1  
cp33c
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Default Failure to Launch!

Hi All,

Firstly let me introduce myself. I'm a newbie to the RC Plane scene and have wanted to get into it since I was a kid. Now I'm 25, my mrs decided to buy me a RC Plane - Firebird Commander 2.

I have a tiny problem.......well actually quite a large problem! After persuading the family to come out to the park on a very cold, damp but calm day to see the maiden flight, we all head down to a football (soccer) field to see what its like. I do all the necessary checks and announce that we're ready to fly. So with controller in one hand and plane in other, I full throttle it and the plane attempts to leave my hand there and then. Perfect I thought, so I launched it at the 'recommended' level (into the wind and all that) only for the plane to decide it doesn't want to fly today and nose dives straight into the grass. As this was my first crash (if you can call it that) my heart sunk and my wife saw pounds of money dissapearing in front of her. As all men I thought that I must be doing something wrong and tried again. Only this time it nose dove into the ground and the prop took a chip of the wing! Again same feeling .........heart sunk, money wasted. After conferring with a mate of mine (non-flyer) and the wife, we decided that we'd launch from the ground. First obstacle we're on a damp, but short grass field. Everytime the plane looked as though it would take off the landing gear found a small hole to dig into the nose went forwards flipping the plane over. Second obstacle, the only concrete I could find was just wide enough to fit one person walking on and slightly tilted to the right which meant the plane would turn slightly just as it got enough speed and hit the grass. After that I decided it was time to call it a day.

I'm about to start repairing the wing and making it more durable (ruler + packing tape), but still wondering why it wouldn't launch by hand.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:06 PM
  #2  
Sky Sharkster
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Default We Have Liftoff!

Hello cp33c, Welcome to Wattflyer!
First off, your problem isn't unusual; Many of the Ready To Fly (RTF) models have marginal power and there are several tips to make sure you get airborne sucessfully, that are not addressed in the Owners Manual (since they don't want to imply that the craft is marginally-powered).
If you can get an experienced flyer to help you trim out the model, it's best. For now, these tips will presume you're on your own.
Assuming you have the recommended prop and battery, make sure you "top off" the battery pack just before you fly; This is especially true of NiCads and NiMh packs. Those last few electrons can and do make a difference.
Don't just "toss" the model with a standing arm movement; It may seem like the prop blast is enough to fly the plane, but it's deceiving. Your hand is directly in line with the prop wash and it feels like it's raring to go, but prop wash and true airspeed have differences. One is that the prop is spinning fast, but it's like starting a car out in 4th gear; You need to have the vehicle moving before the model can "catch up" to the prop speed. Electric motors don't have transmissions and the prop is spinning at max RPM already; This isn't the best acceleration mode.
With the model held overhead and level, nose slightly down (NOT "UP", you'll stall, for sure!!) take a few steps forward, walking briskly, not running, and with a smooth, continous motion, THROW the model towards a spot on the ground 50 feet in front of you. Wings level, nose SLIGHTLY DOWN.
At first the model will descend slowly, don't panic, it's getting airspeed, getting into 2nd gear....then it will level out (nose) again, no control inputs with the elevator (again, you'll stall) maybe a touch of rudder or turn to correct a sideways veer. All this is normal.
The model will begin to climb slowly...don't "force" it with elevator control, remember you're dealing with minimal power! Keep heading into the wind until it has both good airspeed and some altitude, then gradually turn left or right, make the turns slow, wide and smooth. Get it heading back upwind and keep using whatever wind is available to add to the airspeed.
Soon you'll be 100 feet up, 200 feet up and you will have a "cushion" of altitude to work with. Keep the model upwind and in front of you.
Eventually the battery will begin to "wind down", my suggestion is to cut off the motor and set up the landing; The plane will glide and by shutting off the motor you'll save a bit of power in case you have to "Go Round" for a landing. Set it up straight into the wind and add a touch of "Up" at the very last to flair out the touchdown. Disconnect the battery and shake hands all around!
Good Luck!!
Ron
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:22 PM
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Don Sims
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Please don't tape the ruler to the wing, (If that's the plan.), the packing tape should be enough. Just use enough tape to cover the gouge. Your FB doesn't need any more weight than it already has.
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:23 PM
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cbatters
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Good points above.. couple more comments based on flying the Commander II with my son.

1. Make sure the battery is fully charged

2. First 2 chjarge/discharge cycles of the battery should be with the plane taxiing on the ground to break in the motor and the battery. Also a good way to get a feel for the transmitter and sort out reverse control when the plane is headed towards you.

3. Very firm throw and the plane should glide even without power. If you get in the habit of hand launching the plane like it is a glider, it will never stall/crash. You cannot throw the plane too hard but a gentle lob will almost always result in a stall/crash.

4. In my experience, the Commander II is not underpowered and climbs out very nicely. Just take it easy on the turns - If you turn too hard the plane will tend to dive.

5. Regarding ACT - unless you are at 200', ACT causes more problems than it solves and I would seriously consider taping over the lower ACT sensor to disable it.


OMT - Not sure if you read the manual but the tail screws are used to adjust the angle of the stabilizer and have a significant impact on flying characteristics. If you just tightened both of them without paying attention to the angle, it is possible that the stabilizer its too high in the front which will force down the nose of the plane. I am old school and always hand toss models without power to trim them before flying with power.


Clint
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Old 12-27-2006, 09:50 PM
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cp33c
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Thanks for all the advice.

I decided to do a bit of diagnostics to find out if my plane had 'problems' or whether it was 'user error'.

Firstly I took the battery out, took it to the back garden and launched it (obviously without any power) to see if it would glide and land. Surely enough it glided down but a little steep for my liking, but still it flew further than yesterday (without any power!).

Second step was to put the battery back in unplugged to simulate the weight, this time the plane was a lot more level and landed safely much further than the previous attempt, but tilted to the left.

So I was happy with the launch without power and so proceeded to fix the damaged wing with packing tape - this fixed the tilting to the left problem. Unfortunately then it started getting dark and so I didn't attempt to try to fly with power.

Tomorrow I will take it to the park and launch without power to make sure I have the correct launch technique, then I'll try it with power. I'm really looking forward to flying it as I've seen some of the pictures/videos taken from other Commander 2's which look excellent!! I plan to attach a camera to it once I've got the hang of it.

Even though I still haven't managed to get mine off the ground I'm about to start looking into what to buy next - Suggestions welcome!

Thanks again for the advice.
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Old 12-27-2006, 10:03 PM
  #6  
cbatters
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Happy that you did not damage / crash the plane by trying to fly it without the battery. The battery is a large part of the weight and is necessary for proper balance. (I am actually very surprised it flew at all without the weight of the battery. Guessing it had a pretty weird flying attitude.)

Next time you do a test flight without power, plug in the battery so you have left/right control and trim available.

Lots to learn on the Commander before moving on but the Challenger would be good choices and allow you to use the same batteries. Challenger can also be flown with a Commander wing to tame it a bit.

PS: Make sure you either do a great job on repairing the wing or get a new one. Static trim on the Commander is even more critical than on other 3/4 channel planes because the trim cannot be adjusted during flight.


Enjoy.



Clint
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Old 12-28-2006, 02:43 PM
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cp33c
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Thanks for all the tips again, I managed to fly today. I got the plane up in the air only for the wind to take control.........neally lost it! Thankfully managed to park it in a tree. Second time round saw it take off, wind take control and land in someones front garden. Time to call it a day I think.

Thanks again.
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Old 12-28-2006, 02:53 PM
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dmmalish
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Default sounds familiar

i got one of those pieces of sh-t last christmas also picked it out myself it has since retired to the garage and i have spent a few more dollers but am much happier now with a conventional aircraft hobbico superstar ep 140.00 from tower with radio ,motor,and one battery pack worth checking out you will never be happy with that plane
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Old 12-28-2006, 03:46 PM
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cbatters
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Alt opinion - Commander II flies great but you have to be mindful of the wind - like all lightweight model aircraft. It is also very critical to trim the plane before flying because you have no pitch control once you are in the air. Trimmed poorly the plane will fly poorly.

BTW - Happy to post video of my son chasing me around in the sky - me flying a Challenger and my son flying a Commander II.



Clint
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Old 12-28-2006, 08:19 PM
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cbatters
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Originally Posted by cp33c View Post
Thanks for all the tips again, I managed to fly today. I got the plane up in the air only for the wind to take control.........neally lost it! Thankfully managed to park it in a tree. Second time round saw it take off, wind take control and land in someones front garden. Time to call it a day I think.

Thanks again.

Wait for calm air - Flag not moving - Ribbon on transmitter antenna hanging straight down.

Every MPH of wind diminishes your chance of a first successful flight by ~10%

0-1 MPH = 90% chance of success
5 MPH = 50% chance of success
10 MPH = < 10% chance of success
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