And how are electric rc airplanes controlled by the pilot? In high school science, generations of students learned that a wing makes any airplane fly by creating low pressure on the top surface and being pushed upward by the higher pressure underneath. This always seemed sort of dumb because if you’ve ever put your hand out the window of a car and tilted it a little bit – up or down – and saw how the wind pushed your hand in the direction it was tilted. Ever move a piece of plywood during a windy day? Then you know that letting the wind push on the wing, that it will move in the direction it is tilted. So tilting will get your electric rc airplane up (or down), but how do you control it?
On the trailing edge of the wings and tail are movable surfaces, powered by, and connected to, the small servo motors in the body of the plane. When these controllable surfaces (ailerons and flaps), on the wings and elevators (horizontal) and rudder (vertical) on the tail, are moved, they will cause the body (fuselage) of the electric rc airplane to tilt up or down, left or right, thus changing the direction of flight. The wind is created by the propeller pulling, or the jet engine pushing, the airplane forward through the air. To move these control servos, your radio transmitter will send varying signals depending how you move the levers and switches. These signals are decoded in the electric rc airplanes’ receiver and the servos will then move the control surfaces accordingly.
Motor and propeller speed are controlled by the electronic speed control (ESC) which also uses signals from the receiver to regulate throttle settings. Once in the air, speeding up the rc electric plane is done by speeding up the motor by moving the throttle lever on the transmitter. But to slow down for landing you will need to slow the motor AND tilt the plane upwards a little bit to allow the force of the wind to act as a brake. This gradual tilting upward is continued during the landing sequence until just as the wheels touch the grass, the plane is allowed to come back to a level attitude and coast to a stop.
So the process of learning to fly remote control electric airplanes is very much like a video game as you learn to watch the plane in the air, and move the controls on your radio to have the airplane fly where you want it to go. Here is where your instructor is worth his weight in gold, because if you lose control, he will be able to take over control with his radio to save your plane and your self-esteem. This is also why a RC Simulator on your home computer is a great aid in learning to fly and in trying out new rc electric airplanes on the desktop before actually plunking down your hard-earned $$ to buy one.