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Saturday, February 7, 2009


Remote Control Helicopter FAQ – TrueMax Lesson Learn and Frequently Asked Question

I am putting the summary of Lesson Learn from my experience into this page. I will continue to update this page as when I have the time or have new important items to share out to the RC community. (RC can also stand for Radio Control)

I hope that this will be helpful for all RC Community especially for beginners or newbie who are just starting into the Remote Control Helicopter hobby, probably who just bought or thinking to buy one. This FAQ is focusing very detail on Nitro Glow Powered Helicopter.

Happy flying.

Last update: 2009-02-07

Basic Equipments

Scope: Nitro Helicopter in General

Q1: What need to be purchased with helicopter for it to fly in basic configuration?

A1: Need:

  1. Helicopter Kit (normally this contains the frames, skids, gears, tail boom assemblies etc) . Some package may have the engine, rotor blades or even governors etc.
  2. Engine, this normally comes with glow plug
  3. Rotor Blades
  4. 3 Servos for Cyclic (assuming that it is using CCPM) + 1 servo for throttle
  5. 1 set of gyro and servo for the rudder.
  6. 4.8v or better battery (higher volt battery will need step down conversion)
  7. Switch and harness to connect the things together.
  8. Good Radio (and its receiver), I would recommend at least 2.4gh 7 Channel. 6 Channels is the minimum. Radios/Receivers are not normally cross-brand compatible (Futaba, Spectrum, JR etc). Check your long term plan.
  9. See Equipment question on other supporting equipment needed (but for a start, you can actually borrow these from fellow fliers)

Please take note: The remote control helicopter is a very complex machine. Putting the kit and parts together correctly is very important to ensure it will fly as expected. If you are not sure on anything, you should consult more experience flier for clarification. A real aircraft have 3 qualified engineers to check and verify before it is cleared for take-off. In this case, you are the person!

Q2: What are the basic equipments needed for Nitro Helicopter Hobby?

A2: The basic equipments are (you need this to fly!):

  1. Glow heater. I have 2 glow heaters. In case one is not working, I will have another one for backup. Furthermore, if the battery type is NiCd, it is better to use it until completely finished then only recharge it.
  2. Starter and starter shaft.
  3. Nitro Fuel (consumable) at least with 15% Nitro. 30% is better but I think it is overkill for basic learning.
  4. Fuel Pump, to get the fuel into the Helicopter tank.

These are optional field equipments, things that really helpful if you have it:

  1. 12v battery for the starter and its charger (optional). I was using my car battery earlier, but with the dedicated battery it is very convenient.
  2. No 8 Socket (for glow plug and blade grips)
  3. Tool box, to put all these necessary equipment and other supporting equipments.

Maintenance supporting equipments:

  1. Locktite (blue, thread lock)
  2. The Hex Screw driver set
  3. Phillips screw driver
  4. Pliers – Long nose, Gripping pliers
  5. Lubricant for bearings
  6. Small Knife
  7. Pair of scissors
  8. Tooth brush – useful to clean up hard to reach position
  9. Small cable ties
  10. Cutter
  11. Caliper – Missed placed mine!
  12. Blade pitch gauge
  13. Small container to keep loose items (screws, glow plug etc)

Q3: What are recommended additional items that are also 'needed'?

A3: Even though you can fly the helicopter with the basic configuration above, it is highly recommended to have these items installed:

  1. Battery Volt indicator – so that can verify the battery is good for the flight
  2. Glow plug extender, electronic plug heater – so that don't have to open the canopy to start the engine.
  3. Header tank – while it provides additional flying time, it also ensures more consistent fuel flow to the engine regardless of helicopter attitude and maneuver.
  4. Fuel filter – needed to ensure the fuel is free from foreign object when entering the engine
  5. Hard damper (later when want to do fast forward flight and others)
  6. Air filter (at the carburetor) – with this I am confident no foreign object enter the engine
  7. Governor (err.. still don't have this, can live without it)

Q4: How to start the Nitro Helicopter Engine

A4: It may look tedious but once you are familiar with it, you will realize that it is actually quite simple. The step below with assuption that you already put the fuel into the helicopter's tank.

  1. Position your helicopter, starter (with the battery), glow heater, radio where you can reach easily without getting up.
  2. I recommended having your Radio on left side if using mode 2, and right side if you are using mode 1. This is because you may need to reach the throttle quickly with your correct hand/thumb throttle.
  3. Turn on your radio, make sure all switched are in correct position (take about 5 seconds)
    1. Flight mode in normal position (not idle-up) - Safety
    2. Throttle stick all the way down! - Safety
    3. Throttle cut in off
    4. Throttle hold in off
    5. Gyro is in Heading lock position (some gyro will not initialize properly if not in this position)
    6. And the rest which is less severe (dual rate etc)
  4. Switch your helicopter electronic on – wait for 3 or 5 seconds for the receiver, gyro etc to initialize.
  5. Check throttle stick, rudder, cyclic response accordingly at the helicopter
  6. Connect the starter to battery (if not yet done)
  7. Put the shaft to the starter
  8. Plug the glow heater to the glow plug
  9. Hold the main blade at the blade grip with left hand
  10. Insert the starter shaft to the helicopter, and activate the starter.
  11. Put down the starter and the starter shaft
  12. If needed you need play a bit with the throttle stick, throttle trim or HSN.
  13. Disconnect the starter from battery
  14. By this time the engine should already run for more than 5 seconds
  15. Take out the glow heater.

There, it is ready to fly.

All these steps normally performed in 1 or 2 minutes.

Please take note: You need to bring the helicopter to bigger space (or at least to move the starter and other equipments further before flying the helicopter). To carry the helicopter, always hold your radio with your throttle stick pushed down with your thumb (that's why you need to have the radio at you throttle hand side). The other hand, hold the helicopter firmly at the blade grip. The helicopter while tend to rotate counter clockwise when you lift it up. Just be prepared, not to hit the tail rotor.

Learning to Fly

Q1: What is the sequence of skill need to acquire and what is the suggested method to learn

A1: Need this is what I think the logical sequence:

  1. Orientation, need to know which control what
  2. Learn to hover, there are many methods, I personally recommend just do it in Simulator! Keep trying until it becomes reflection. Then you are ready to try it on your real helicopter, with the ping pong ball /trainer set.
  3. Hover Tail in
  4. Hover Side (left or right, your choice)
  5. Hover Nose in
  6. Forward Flight, Back Flight
  7. Turning/Circle
  8. Auto-rotation(!)
  9. Fast forward flight
  10. Stall turn 180 degree
  11. Backward flight
  12. Stall turn 540 degree
  13. Loop
  14. Then, you can go with more advance maneuver

Please take note: It takes lots of patient! It took me about 1 week getting the grasp of it, 2 weeks for 'ok' take off and more time to continue to familiarize with the tail-in hover itself.

Q2: What are the tips to avoid crash?

A2: Crash is something that will happen, but we can minimize it and minimize the damage in the crash.

  1. Make sure you double check that the helicopter is in good condition. No part damage, loose etc.
  2. Space, you need 2x or 3x of the normal space when you are learning
  3. Do not assume that you can do it again like yesterday! Today is different day. You will still need to be careful and need the extra space.
  4. Provide full focus.
  5. Spin up the rotor slowly, watch for any weird behavior, vibration or weird sound. If there is any, abort the take-off and verify the aircraft condition.
  6. Learn a bit a time. Get familiarize with the new skill for 5 or more flights then only proceed with the next.
  7. Lots of time on Simulator. Do not try it if you have not able to do it without crashing in Simulator. This also means that Simulator is the must!

Nitro Engine

Scope: I have experience only in OS .50 Hyper so far.

Q1: How do you do Engine Brake–In

A1: As indicated in OS 50 H manual:

  1. Make sure Low Speed Needle (LSN) at factory default.
  2. Turn the High Speed Needle (HSN) to 2 ¼ open (from fully closed)
  3. Start the engine
  4. Play with the throttle, mostly leave it in idle
  5. Hover with low RPM configuration
  6. At least 3 tanks

Q2: How do you do Engine Tuning

A2: Purpose of tuning can be to get most performance of an engine, or to get an engine that will last long, or to have engine running at low fuel consumption or the balance of all. In other words, we want to get the engine stable enough to continue to run without bogging down, giving enough power for rapid climb and hard maneuver while still having it last long enough.

The tuning for nitro engine OS 50 SX(H) Hyper involve 2 adjustable 'screws', High Speed Needle (HSN) and Low Speed Needle (LSN).

  1. Fully close the HSN (turn all the way clockwise till it stop)
  2. Turn the HSN counter clock wise (this turn also called 'rich' turn, or 'open' the HSN) 2 ¼ turn.
  3. Start the engine
  4. At the idle, slowly turn the HSN clock wise (also called 'lean' or 'close' HSN) until can hear higher/faster rpm in the engine.
  5. Push the throttle stick from down to up quickly
  6. If the engine response with lots of bogging then turn HSN clock wise.
  7. Repeat the process until the engine response will very less bogging
  8. Hover the helicopter, continue the process for few minutes
  9. Then land the helicopter, test the engine back plate temperature with your finger. If you cannot keep your finger there for at least 5 second because of too hot than you have over 'lean' the engine. Turn it open 2 clicks or more.
  10. Repeat the hover test again.
  11. Then land, see how the idle response. If engine not stable at idle, need to adjust the LSN (this is not that crucial for Helicopter because all the time for helicopter we run the engine at the lowest 45% throttle due to idle-up mode).
Q3: Engine won't start! What should I do?
A3: Troubleshooting engine problem can be frustrating and time consuming. However the engines are normally robust enough it should be able to start if there is no internal damage.
Common problem for beginners are (check these first):
1. Glow heater is charge enough, and it is fixed properly at the glow plug
2. Fuel is good. (The nitro fuel is very sensitive, should not be left opened and should not put under direct sun light (water in air and sun light can damage it)
3. HSN is opened enough
4. Fuel line is opened, connected and clean fuel filter.

If those already confirm ok, then need to proceed with trouble shooting:
1. Clear the fuel in the engine. Close the fuel line to the carburator. Open the glow plug. Without the glow heater connected, spin the engine using starter just like starting the engine.
2. If needed open the fuel line, and continue with the starter. Should have the tiny fuel droplet spraying out from the glow plug hole. If you did this, need to clear the engine again using step 1.
3. Put back the glow plug.
4. Prime the engine - this is to have the fuel reach the carburetor. Priming the engine is spinning the engine with the exhaust hole closed. You should be able to see the fuel pulled to the carburetor.
5. Start the engine.

If it is still not working. Fully close the HSN. then repeat the steps 1 to 3 above. Open the HSN 2 1/2 turn then continue with step 4 and 5.

That should start the engine if there is no internal engine damage, including for hydro-lock problem.

Note: To ensure that engine is always in good condition, you need to start the engine at least once a week. If you are plan to put the chopper into rest for longer than a week you need to use the 'after run' oil to clean the engine from remaining nitro fuel before the long resting period.

Century Raven Specific

Q1: What are to look for prevention of damage/crash?

A1: These are the important things:

  1. Make sure all screw are tight
  2. Ball links are not loose, easily come out from the balls.
  3. Make sure rotation pin at the end of starter shaft is center.
  4. Get a correctly machined shaft for metal fan.
  5. Blade grip pitch movements are free all the way to the extreme positions.
  6. Engine is stable; do In Flight Hover check before proceed with other maneuver.
  7. Turbo Fan (or Metal Fan) need precisely machined starter shaft. I almost trash the bearing when using custom made shaft.
  8. Frame/Engine/upper frame mount locations are very precise. A crash may move them a bit. Need to make sure all moving part have enough clearance. Had problem with Metal Fan touching the upper frame fan cover resulting in engine died and not able to start.

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