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Aeromodelers top ten March madness- A flying season gear check list

Top ten list for March Madness

To an aeromodeler that has been cooped up inside all winter March Madness is a condition of not being able to get out and fly. And you thought it was about men’s college basketball. 

Even if you have not been stuck inside for several months waiting for spring to arrive, here is a list of the top ten items modelers should check prior to the up and coming flying season. This will help keep you busy in between basketball games.

1. Batteries

This hobby lives and dies by rechargeable batteries. Whether it be for the transmitter, receiver, motor, pacemaker; good batteries are very important. This is the time to make sure they are good and healthy for another season of flying. Whether you use NiCd, NiMh, LiPo, Li-ion, A123, or whatever, you should have a good charger that allows you check the milliamp hours a pack is able to provide. Battery maintenance and cycling is a whole article on its self so I won’t go into the how and why; other than to say due diligence battery maintenance is a necessity for modeling success.

An assortment of rechargeable batteries used by modelers

An assortment of rechargeable batteries used by modelers

2.  Airframes

Thoroughly go over every airframe you plan on flying. Check every nut, bolt, screw, clevis, ball link, wheel collar and arm. When you’re done with those items go over the airframe itself very carefully. What you’re looking for is suspect glue joints, cracks or any possible failure point. Sometimes it’s necessary to peel back some covering to get a better inspection if something doesn’t feel right. Pay particular close attention to firewalls during this inspection.

3. Covering

Get the covering iron and heat gun out and remove wrinkles by re-shrinking the covering where necessary. Also seal down edges that are coming loose. If you come across any holes cover them up with a patch. Now there’s another topic worthy of its own article. Since many patching tutorials exist on the net, I’ll leave it to Google to answer the how for those unsure of the best way to patch covering.

4. Gas and glow engines

Check that throttle linkages are moving freely and the carburetor barrel moves freely as well. Remove the spark plug or glow plug and turn the prop over by hand. You want to check for fairly free movement while keeping an eye open for excessive slop. Also listen for grinding that may indicate a bad bearing. Check to make sure the engine is securely mounted to the airframe.

O.S. 70 FS

O.S. 70 FS

5. Fuel tank and fuel lines

I’ve witnessed many modelers bring a plane out to the field from winter storage, add fuel only to watch it spill onto the ground by way of a hole in the fuselage. A quick and easy fuel system check I like to do is to close off all vent lines with hemostats then blow into the fuel line creating pressure in the tank. When I have sufficient pressure I don’t release it, but rather pinch off the line with another pair of hemostats. After letting the tank sit a few minutes I release the hemos while listening for escaping air. If I hear air I’m good to go. If not, the pressure released somewhere and I’m doing some investigating for a leak.

6. Electric Motors

Well I talked about fuel engines so I should include electric motors for those that burn electrons. Even though electric motors are pretty much maintenance free gifts from the gods,  this doesn’t disqualify a need for any examination. Grab a hold of the prop to check for any unnecessary slop in the motor, indicating a bearing is ready to give out. Inspect all the wires and look for any fraying. Also, give a gentle tug on connectors to make sure they are still firmly soldered to the wires. Like fuel engines, check to make sure the motor is securely mounted to the airframe.

E flight electric motor

7. Control surfaces

The major components to check are linkages, control arms, hinges and excessive gap at the hinge line. What I like to do to a plane that may have seen a lot of airtime the previous season is to remove the control arms from the servos and move each surface manually by way of the servo arm. While doing this I’m checking for excessive resistance or binding and if there is any slop in the system. I’m also noticing at what point the surface reaches its end range where can not move any more.

With all the surfaces manually checked, I reconnect the arms to the servos, get out the transmitter and turn everything on. I actuate each surface individually, through the transmitter, making sure servo actuation is stopping the control surface short of the end range of motion that I noted during the manual test. Any surface that is reaching that end range just might be causing the servo to bind. I’m also watching for jerky movements and centering issues indicating a dying servo.

8. Flight box

Regardless of the type of flying you do I know you have some sort of flight/tool box. Go through it and make sure it has the all tools, extra parts, equipment you find necessary. Often something gets removed and not replaced. At least once a year I pull everything out, do an inventory and give the box a cleaning. This would be a good time for that.

9. Transmitter

The smart thing to do would be send your transmitter(s) to a repair shop, or to the manufacture’s service center for a check up. I never claim to be smart so the only time my transmitter is going to see the inside of service center is if it stops working or something breaks. However I do clean the case every so often and give it a good inspection for any possible problems or loose switches.

10. ?

I’m leaving number 10 up to you. What do you think would be an important item of your  R/C gear to check prior to the start of flying season? Don’t be shy leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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  1. One thing I can add is to make sure everything works. Is frustrating to arrive at the flying field after a lay off to find that the fuel pump doesn’t want to pump fuel into the plane.

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