Sunday, January 27, 2013

Calculations For Additional Capacitors Necessary in a certain 21-motor Airplane Setup


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These are my calcs, in regards to Posts 540~543 (here: and here  Basically, I tried to figure out how many additional capacitors are necessary on each of the 21 ESCs in order to offset the voltage ripples caused by increased battery lead length (which can destroy/damage the existing capacitors in your ESC if you don't add capacitors to help absorb the magnetically-induced voltage spikes [refer to post 1 in the above thread for more info about this]).

I am only putting this spreadsheet here because RCGroups won't allow it as an attachment on their website.
To download the file, click here then go to File --> Download:
The above link is to the old spreadsheet.  I have corrected some errors, and the NEW SPREADSHEET LINK IS FARTHER BELOW!

Update: 20 March 2013 - Spreadsheet corrected and now available here (go to File --> Download to save):

Update notes:  I added the "Total Capacitance Needed" (Row 25 in the new spreadsheet) in the calculations, and I removed the row called "Additional Length, beyond ESC's design, for which you must add Caps (in.)" (Row 22 in the old spreadsheet).  I then added Row 26 as well, and corrected the formulas in Row 27.  This allowed me to account for the additional current in the entire wire station length, not just in the length beyond that of what the ESC was intended to handle (Cell Q14) at its max rated continuous current (Cell Q11).

Here is a table of the differences in end-results between the old and new spreadsheets, for this one particular example:

For jaccies (referring to Post #579 here)
Download spreadsheet here (go to File --> Download to save)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Parallel Charging Your LiPo Batteries


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Parallel Charging Your LiPo Batteries
By Gabriel Staples
Initially written 12 April 2011
Preface & explanations added on 22 Jan. 2013
Most Recent Update: 26 Feb 2017

-added a lot of notes about fuse-protected parallel charge boards - 21 July 2015
-added a couple more things to list of Do's & Don'ts, & clarified "But what about cell balance..." section; added another rule about battery chemistry - 5 May 2013

Why Use Parallel Charging?
I use a Triton 2 EQ 100W balance charger ( [Note: I don’t really recommend this charger, I just bought it before I knew much about chargers.  This thing is ridiculously expensive for what it does and has some silly quirks, occasional bugs, and outdated firmware]) to regularly charge up to 8 2S 500-1000 mAh packs simultaneously, all in just over 1 hour! I also regularly charge 3S LiPos and micro 1S Lipos (I’ve done up to 14 of those at once) simultaneously using that one, single-port charger. This is called parallel charging. Essentially, parallel charging allows you to plug in many batteries at once, into one port in a single charger, and, if your charger is powerful enough, charge them all in ~1 hour or less.  All at once—boom, done!  No more messing around buying many chargers or setting up the charger many times to charge multiple batteries.  I use this charge board (shown above) plus a couple other parallel adapters I plug into it.  If you use Deans connectors, use this board instead.  The board by itself is designed for only up to 6 batteries at once, so I added a couple parallel harnesses to get 8. However, YOU MUST KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING OR PARALLEL CHARGING IS DANGEROUS. For example, if you plug a 2S battery in with a 3S battery, the 2S battery will be destroyed and catch fire if you leave it there.

One thing that annoys me very much about virtually all local hobby shops is that as of today, 22 Jan 2013, I haven’t found a single one that uses parallel charging or sells parallel charging equipment yet, and yet I’ve been into about 12 local shops in the past few years and looked specifically for parallel charge equipment.  This charging technique has been around for probably 6 years, and is very effective and safe when done right, so I have to assume that most local hobby shops are either A) completely oblivious about parallel charging, B) do not want to promote it because it is better for them to sell another charger rather than a parallel charge board (ie: they’ll make more money selling another charger), or C) they secretly use this technique at home but simply don’t want to be responsible for user error if a customer destroys their equipment or property if they don’t know what they’re doing while attempting it.

UPDATE (21 July 2015): I have found a hobby shop that now has parallel charging equipment! It is Radical RC. (They've had them for a couple years now, I just haven't updated this article until now). Way to go Radical RC!

(photo below: parallel charging in progress--6 2S LiFe batteries plugged into a parallel charge board
[photo source:])

Despite this, I am a strong proponent of parallel charging and have used it nearly every charge I’ve ever done since I discovered it in the early part of 2011.  I am always recommending to people that they use parallel charging, as it allows any single port LiPo charger to charge many batteries at once instead of just one battery at once.  With the right harness, even a cheap $5 2-3S LiPo charger can do parallel charging!  (However, this is less useful since these low-power chargers don’t have enough power to maintain a 1C charge rate anyway).  So, let’s get started. 

First off, parallel charging can be done with LiPo, LiFe, or Li-Ion batteries ONLY.  Do NOT attempt to use this technique with NiCad/NiMH batteries, etc., as they use a peak voltage (ΔV) detection charge technique rather than a constant current/constant voltage (CC/CV) charge technique.  A battery chemistry capable of being charged via the CC/CV technique is a must for parallel charging to be safe and effective. 

What is parallel charging?
Parallel charging means that you plug many LiPo batteries into each other via a special board or harness so that all of their negative leads are connected to each other, and all of their positive leads are connected to each other.  Now, the entire battery packs are in parallel.  In order to balance the cells with your charger, however, the balance wires of all of the batteries must also all be connected in order to put the individual cells in parallel with each other.  WARNING: YOU CAN ONLY PARALLEL CHARGE BATTERIES OF THE SAME CELL COUNT (or the lower cell count battery will catch fire), AND SIMILAR STATE OF CHARGE (or damage to the lesser-charged battery will occur).  When many batteries are connected in parallel, the charger “sees” all of them as a single, large battery, with a capacity equivalent to the sum of their individual capacities. 

But what about cell balance—how does parallel charging really work?
In nature, whenever a gradient exists, a natural balancing process will occur.  A gradient means that there is a high concentration of something as compared to a low concentration of that same thing near it.  For example, if you pour salt into still water, the area of water where the salt is will become very salty.  The rest of the water lacks salt, so this “salt gradient” will naturally cause the high concentration of salt to balance out, or diffuse, into the water with a low concentration of salt.  The same occurs with heat.  Heat will naturally diffuse from a hot area into a cold area, attempting to find a balance.  If the hot area always remains hotter than the colder area, it is not because the heat isn’t diffusing, but rather it is because a heat source exists at the hot spot, and there is a resistance to the heat flow preventing it from fully diffusing.  Pressure also follows this natural balancing process.  Take a blown up balloon, for example, and untie it.  There is a large pressure difference (or gradient) between the air in the balloon, and the air in the room.  The high-pressure air in the balloon will rush out into the lower-pressure air in the room, diffusing the high pressure into the lower pressure until an equilibrium pressure is achieved.  Electricity also follows this principle of diffusion.  The battery with the higher voltage will naturally push its charge (electrons) into the batteries with lower voltage, when plugged in parallel, until all batteries equalize to the same voltage.  Since the individual cells of each battery are also in parallel with the individual cells of all the rest of the batteries, when the balance leads are connected in parallel (by plugging them all into a parallel charge board), all of the strings of cells in parallel will also equalize to the same voltage.  Now, when you plug the entire parallel charge board balance lead into your charger, your charger will balance out the cells of each battery as if it was simply one large battery.  The charger will "see" the first string of cells in parallel as a single "Cell 1," and the second string of cells in parallel as a single "Cell 2," and the third string of cells in parallel as a single "Cell 3," etc., balancing them as if they were individual cells of a larger capacity battery!  The result is that in parallel charging, all cells come out properly balanced so long as the cells are not damaged, your charger is functioning properly, you plugged them all in properly, and nothing else is wrong!

Update Notes [21 July 2015]
Fuse-Protected Parallel Charge Boards: 
This entire article is written for those of you using raw, unprotected parallel charge boards with NO fuses or current protection circuits of any kind. If anyone tells you that you *must* have protection power fuses and polyfuses and things on your board, they are flat out wrong. I don't own such a board. I still use the raw, unprotected boards. IF YOU FOLLOW MY PROCEDURES THIS IS PERFECTLY FINE AND SAFE. If you make a mistake, however, a fuse-protected board could prevent a battery mishap, so feel free to buy protected boards. 

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, as parallel charging has become more widespread, companies selling parallel charge equipment have added things such as large power fuses to the main leads, and small polyfuses (self-resetting, automatic fuses), to the balance leads. You can recognize these well-protected and more advanced boards usually by their price tag. They are oftentimes very expensive! (Think: "I could buy another cheap smart charger, or I could buy a parallel charge board" kind of expensive). 

Here's how a fuse-protected parallel charge board might work/save your butt:
  • If you are foolish or inattentive and plug a fully-charged battery into an empty battery, for instance, the main fuse will blow. You'll have to replace it. It may be an automotive-type fuse you can buy at an auto parts store. If you make this mistake on an unprotected board, this large current may damage the main leads, blow the large traces in the parallel charge board, and damage the lower-charged battery, causing it to puff up or even catch fire.
    • Note: the main fuse requires a *lot* of current to blow usually, so, you better still follow my guidelines below to keep you and your batteries safe.
  • If the batteries are too far out of balance, or if you plug the balance leads in parallel first, before the main leads, an unsafe surge might go through the balance leads. A polyfused parallel charge board will automatically limit this current flow through the balance leads, preventing any problems. The polyfuses will simply close off (passively, but automatically increasing their resistance) to limit the current flow. If you make this mistake on an unprotected board, this large current may heat up and melt, damage, or blow the balance leads, blow the balance traces in the parallel charge board (I've done this by touching the balance leads to the balance board backwards, in reverse polarity, for instance), or cause a high enough current to the lower-charged battery to damage it. 
  • The same goes for reverse-polarity protection: a protected board may protect against this mistake. An unprotected board.....could cause the same problems as above. You might experience damage to the leads, blowing traces in the board, batteries on fire (if the reverse-polarity contact is prolonged), spark-welding of plugs together, etc. 
Summary of the above: I like the raw, unprotected boards. They work well for me. They are very inexpensive. They are easy to find, and parallel charge harnesses can be easily hand-made if desired. If you follow my rules below, unprotected boards work fine. If you are prone to errors or want extra protection, consider buying the protected boards with things like main lead fuses, balance lead polyfuses, and reverse-polarity protection.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Parallel Charging/A Couple Things to Know About Parallel Charging:

General Rules of Thumb (again, these rules work perfectly well for normal, unprotected [without fuses] parallel charge boards, and they work great for fuse-protected boards as well!):
  2. ONLY PARALLEL CHARGE BATTERIES OF THE SAME LITHIUM CHEMISTRY TYPE TOGETHER.  Ex: LiPo with LiPo, LiFe with LiFe, Li-Ion with Li-Ion, but NOT LiPo with LiFe, LiPo with Li-Ion, etc.
  3. Preferably, use batteries of similar capacities. Ex: 500~1500 mah batteries together, or 1000~2200 mah batteries together, but not a 500 mah battery with a 10,000 mah battery.
  4. Use batteries with similar states of charge (how much they are charged/discharged). Ex: do NOT put a 1/2 full or 3/4 full battery in parallel with an empty battery. All batteries must be at similar discharge state.  SEE PLOTS BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.
  5. Use batteries of similar ages. Ex: it is not as advisable to put a new battery with a 2 year old battery, but not critical as long as the batteries are similar capacities (mAh ratings), the same cell count, and at similar discharge states.
  6. Always plug in the *main* plug first on ALL batteries, *then* plug in all the balance plugs.  Also, it is good to *wait several minutes* AFTER plugging in the main battery leads into the parallel charge board BEFORE plugging in the balance plugs. This prevents high currents from flowing through the balance plugs as the batteries equalize based on their varying voltages upon plugging them in. The main plugs can take more current. This is also the reason you want to use batteries of similar states of charge/discharge.
    1. Fuse-protected parallel charge board note: this rule of plugging in the main leads, waiting a while, *then* plugging in the balance leads always works if you also follow all of the rest of my advice, *even with fuse-protected boards.* However, people have told me that some polyfuse-protected parallel charge boards recommend you plug in the *balance* leads first, wait a while, *then* plug in the main leads. Why? Well, it seems logical to me that this is because the balance leads are polyfuse protected. Since the balance leads have polyfuses, they act as automatic current limiters to let the charge between the LiPos more slowly balance out. The main leads require too much current to be easily polyfuse-protected, however, so the balance leads are probably the ones with the current-limiting polyfuses. So...if your particular "protected board" recommends this "reversed plug-in order," that's ok. You may choose to follow their advice, depending on how well-designed their board is, or you can just follow my standard advice and order. I like to just stick to all of my standard rules here, because I know they always work, for all boards, whether fuse-protected or not, all of the time. 
  7. Be VERY CAREFUL to plug in the main leads and balance leads correctly.  Attempting to plug them in backwards will cause a short circuit and a spark, and potentially damage your batteries and/or your parallel charge board or battery leads.  (Note: many parallel charge boards require the balance plugs to be in a certain orientation on one side of the board, and in a reverse orientation on the other side of the board, so pay careful attention to the plastic guides on the plugs to ensure you attempt to plug in the balance leads correctly.)
  8. Once all batteries are plugged in together in parallel, wait several minutes (3~10 minutes or so) for them to equalize their voltages.  The farther apart the batteries' charge states, the longer you should wait.  See plots below.
  9. To determine the charge rate when charging in parallel (assuming the standard 1C charge rate), ADD all of the battery capacities together, then use that value as the charge current. Ex: parallel charging three 3S 1300 mAh (1.3Ah) LiPo's with two 3S 1000 mAh (1Ah) Lipo's would mean that you should set your charger on the 3 cell LiPo setting at a charge rate of (3 x 1.3) + (2 x 1) = 5.9A. Therefore, in this scenario, a charge rate of 5.9A corresponds to a 1C charge rate, and the charger will consider all of those batteries in parallel to be a *single* 5900 mAh (5.9Ah) 3S Lipo.
  10. It is recommended to use a fire-proof LiPo-Safe Charge bag when charging, such as this one here.  I like to place the entire charge board with all of the attached batteries, if possible, inside of the same charge bag.  If the batteries are very large, and this is not possible, feel free to separate the batteries into separate charge bags.  Note: charge bags have a special slit in the side, near the velcro, to allow the cables to come out of the bag, so placing the entire charge board, or individual attached batteries, into a charge bag is not a problem.
Feel free to Google for more info on "parallel charging" of LiPo packs. Again: this method is NOT recommended for NiMh or NiCad cells, as it may cause them to catch fire, though for LiPos it works great!

Also see these links as additional sources:

To purchase parallel charging equipment:
I recommend HobbyKing (, ProgressiveRC (, or BuddyRC (

Parallel charging all these batteries at once with only 3 chargers!
[photo source:]

Useful Plots:
And is only an ***approximation***

Parallel Charging Note: 
AS LONG AS THE BATTERIES ARE WITHIN ~25% (OR LESS) STATE OF CHARGE OF EACH OTHER, THEY MAY BE PARALLEL-CHARGED TOGETHER.   If they are more than ~25% apart, the higher-charged battery will push a current into the lower-charged battery equal to or greater than a 1~2C charge current, which is bad. 
(To know for sure how much current the higher-charged battery is pushing into the lower-charged battery, and to see when they are nearly equalized, I like to hook up a power meter in between the parallel charge board and the *lowest-charged* battery, then I plug the remaining batteries into the parallel charge board, one at a time, beginning with the one that is least-charged and plugging in the one that is most-charged last.)

Also, after plugging in all main battery leads in parallel to each other, it is best to let the batteries’ voltage equalize for a few minutes before plugging in the balance leads in parallel and beginning the charge.  The chart below is just a rough estimate of how much time is recommended to let the batteries equalize their voltages prior to plugging in their balance leads and starting the charger.  Note: State of charge range = most charged battery State of Charge – least charged battery state of charge.  Ex:  If the most full battery is at 50% and the least full battery is at 30%, the state of charge range is 50% - 30% = 20%. 

For additional general LiPo information:
See my extensive article I wrote, titled “The Details of Electric Radio Controlled Aircraft,” under the “Battery” section of the document (approximately pgs. 22-35), found at my other website here:

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Buying Parts for the FliteTest NutBall Swappable - a little at a time - Stage #1


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I have a friend who wants to know which parts to purchase for the FliteTest Nutball (, as his very first plane.  He owns absolutely no RC vehicles or components whatsoever, so this truly is his "beginner plane setup."  Several months ago I started helping him build it.  However, due to budget constraints, he has never gone through with the build to finish it up.  So, I am going to split up the electronics/extra components he needs into several low-cost (~$30 each) "stages" in order to see if he can do it this way---a little at a time.  Let's see how this goes....

This is the $35 (-ish) Stage #1 (of approximately 4 total):  I'll try to put the parts roughly into a recommended purchase order, according to what is needed first to complete the plane.

What he already has:
  1. two $1 sheets of 20"x30" foamboard from the Dollar Tree.
  2. 1/8" plywood sheet (maybe 8"x10") from the Hobby Lobby balsa sheet rack in the back of the store ($1.79 last I checked I believe)
  3. $1 roll of cheapo clear packing tape from the Dollar Tree
  4. $1~$2 pack of 100 shish-ka-bob (bamboo) skewers from Walmart (in the BBQ section of the Garden Center) or wherever
  5. Jumbo popsickle (craft) sticks at Walmart - pack of like 100 for a couple bucks - to be used to make the 2 control horns
Ok: Stage #1 - buy this week
  1. "Music Wire" (0.047 in. [1.19 mm] diam. From local hobbyshop) (sizes as small as 0.032 in. [0.81 mm] also work, but the 0.047 in. is better). Cost: $2.29 for a pack of 4 long (36" maybe) rods. - will be used for the two control rods.
  2. Scotch Strapping tape (has fiberglass strands running down it) from Walmart or wherever, ~$3
  3. HobbyKing order:
    1. motor:, $8
    2. HXT900 9g servos x 3 (1 for a spare), $2.70 each: 
    3. XT60 connectors x 1 pack, ~$3.50,
    4. Shipping: ~$6
  4. Stage 1 total:  ~$31.50

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bonus Bomb Drop


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-Building a Bomb Drop can be *very* simple, fun, and cheap, but you'll need a few extra parts in your HobbyKing order.  Here's the Bomb Drop Video by Josh and Josh of Flite Test.  And here's a picture of it to the right.  What you will need to purchase is very simple:

1) Extra HXT900 Servo
2) Servo Extensions (to get the bomb drop servo wire to be long enough to reach the receiver)
3) Servo Wire Splitter (Y-harness).  Note:  If you have a 5 or more Channel Radio, all you need are items 1 and 2, but if you have only a 4 Channel Radio (like what comes with the Bixler V1.1), then you will also need this item.  In the case of using your bomb drop on a 4-channel radio, the splitter will be used to send the rudder signal to both your rudder servo, as well as your bomb drop servo.  That way, you activate your bomb drop by moving the rudder.  This is ok since you don't need to use the rudder much during flight anyway, but it's still available if you need it, once you drop your bomb.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Beginner RC Airplane Setup - Person 1 - Response 1


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Here’s my response to the below info (my responses are in bold).

This is what I figure would work:
Bixler 2 ARF: $69.99  #9310000060 – some design improvement over Bixler V1.1 but not complete system. –
True. that's why I'd just stick with the Bixler 1.1 unless you'd like to do a radio upgrade.  It's got everything you need and is an excellent plane as well.  

Turnigy 4x FHSS 2.4 ghz TX and RX: $27.04 #9255000013 – more compatible with other receivers than HobbyKing and low-price?
Great price, yes, but not more compatible with receivers that I can tell.  Looks like a fine radio; receivers cost $9 each for more.  The Tx/Rx that the Bixler 1.1 comes with is this one for only $23 and also has $9 receivers, but does not have mixing.  If you choose to go with the Bixler 1.1, it's radio is fine for starting, but the Turnigy one you found above is *definitely* an upgrade from it as it has delta mixing too, which the other does not.  
1) However, for $27 this radio is even better, since its got 2 extra channels (6 instead of 4), servo mixing, and servo reversing: Fun fact: this $27 radio in many ways is better than my $180 I bought as a kid in 1996.  PS. Considering 3~4% annual inflation, that puts my $180 at something like $300+ today.  Sad huh?
If you do want to look at other radios I'd recommend, check out these too:
2) <--yet another upgrade still, as it is a computer radio! This $65 radio is also "Spektrum" receiver compatible, which means basically it's compatible with stuff from local hobby shops even! Spektrum receivers are the most popular in the world, and this is a radio I've had my eye on for a while. An excellent value.  Note: hobby-king Spektrum-compatible (ie: not genuine Spektrum brand) receivers are only $6!!!:
3) An alternative to the one above would be this for $50:  plus this Spektrum-compatible module for $30:  This system is great because it's the *only* completely-open-source-code radio that I know of, and is fully customizable.  However, that also means it's got the potential to be more complicated to get to work for you.  When I buy my next radio (which in some ways will be an upgrade from my $280 radio here), I am thinking I will for sure buy one of the last 2 radios (option 2 or 3) above.  

IMAX B6-AC Charger/Discharger 1-6 Cells (GENUINE): $39.99 #B6AC  - with just 2 batteries, I figure I don’t need the parallel adapter yet.  Is there a cheaper way to charge batteries before investing in this.  Or is this critical?
From everything I can tell in my research, the charger I have in the main document (, item 2), is still a better charger than the one above, and will come cheaper than HobbyKing's IMAX once you add in shipping.  Therefore, if you're going to go with a nicer charger and don't want to spend more than $45 or so, I still recommend the one from my main document.  To answer your question though, YES, there is a cheaper way to charge batteries than this.  It consists of using the supplied, cheap $5 charger that comes with the Bixler V1.1 (or Dynam Hawk Sky).  See for example this one:  However, as chargers usually do *not* come with power supplies, you'll have to either use your car battery to charge using the cheap Bixler charger, or you'll have to buy a power supply with the following specs:  12V 1.5A or more, 5.5x2.1mm plug (positive on the inside).  Here is a good power supply with those specs from ebay. So, why use a better charger?  1) the cheap charger can ONLY charge 2 or 3 cell LiPo batteries.  If you decide you want rechargeable batteries for your radio, for example, the Lithium-iron [LiFe] pack in item 12 of my main document, or NiMh AA rechargeable batteries from your local store, you're out of luck--in that case, you really should get the $45 charger.  2) the cheap charger will take between  2.5~3.5 hrs to charge a *single* one of your 2200 mAh 3S batteries, listed above.  The nicer 50W charger alone can charge 1 battery in as little as 40 min (but I still recommend doing the standard 60~70 min charge to prolong battery life), or with the parallel board, can charge two in ~45~50 min, or even up to six in ~3.5 hrs.  3) sometimes cheaper chargers have a tendency to slightly overcharge a Lithium-Polymer battery.  A LiPo battery should be charged to 4.20 V/cell.  Some cheap $5 chargers have been known to charge up to 4.25 V/cell or so.  This will cut the longevity of your battery down to something like 1/2 of its normal lifespan.  4) The nicer charger, with the right adapter, can charge nearly *any* rechargeable battery in your entire house, including NiCad, NiMH, LiPo, LiFe, Li-Ion, and Pb chemistries.  
-ok, so having said all that, the $5 chargers usually work just fine and can oftentimes be used for months or years without a problem.  Now you know a little bit more about the tradeoffs though.  

 Absolutely!  As a matter of fact, if you want to build a NutBall (my round plane) or any other scratchbuilt plane anytime soon, get at least 3 of these (2 for the Nutball + 1 spare).  

This looks like a good speed controller, and it has good reviews, but for only a couple bucks more you can get a much better one.  The Turnigy Plush 30A ESC is slightly higher quality and has a higher current rating to keep your system running cooler:  I really like the Turnigy Plush series, and as a bonus, you can make your Turnigy Plush play music, like mine, when you plug in the battery!

TGS Sport 7x5E Precision propeller: $1.64 #TGS7x5E –a spare.
Great choice, but will only work for the Bixler 2.  The Bixler 1.1 requires a smaller prop or you could burn something up due to too much heat.  (if you decide on the Bixler 1.1, get a 6x4 prop, like this: or this:

You suggested a bunch of different XT60 & JST adapters and such but I didn’t see where they would be needed.  Aren’t the battery/charger/receiver all plug-compatible?
 ...Sort-of.....If you get the Dynam Hawk Sky, last I checked you will need to buy the XT60's for sure, *and* the JST connectors (to build adapters).  My buddy's Hawk Sky came with JST connectors, but your spare Turnigy batteries are XT60.  If you get the Bixler 1.1 RTF ["Ready to Fly"] you should be good as-is, and (I think) not need any extra connectors. If you get the Bixler 2 ARF ["Almost Ready To Fly"], however, you will need the XT60's to solder onto your new ESC you have to buy separate.  

Don't forget this important item:
-Velcro (click directly on the link in Item 5 in my updated version [13 Jan 2013] of the Beginner Airplane Setup document):  Note that I have made substantial changes (basically just additions and comments) to that document, so after doing your order feel free to browse through it again.

-Also, you mentioned you wanted to try that foam glue.  Here it is:

-Lastly, I have added a link above to a spare $9 receiver for the radio that comes with the Bixler v1.1 RTF.  Here is that link again:  At the moment, they are backordered, I recommend that you put backordered items in a separate order if you don't want to potentially have to wait months.  

I'm glad to see you're doing your research. :)  Lastly, looking at your prices below, I want you to know how good of a deal this is.  Even if HobbyKing were to charge you $150 for shipping, you'd *still* be getting a better deal than buying at many other shops, so no complaining when they charge a pretty penny for shipping :).  The stuff you just listed would cost closer to $400 at many other places, and could have cost you the equivalent of $800~$1000 back in 1996 when I started RC (assuming, of course, that this type of technology even existed--which it didn't by the way).  ---this electric stuff and other technologies used in your equipment above, from the foam to the radio, the battery and the motor, have come around recently, since 2000~2008 or so.  (read my brief RC history portion of the document here for a little more info if you want to know:











$165.85 +S&H


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beginner RC Airplane Setup


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(This page was recently moved to its current location from my original main website here:

Beginner Airplane Setup and Links:

“A Couple of Recommended Beginner Airplanes…”

By Gabriel Staples,
Written:  26 Nov. 2011,   Last Revised:  6 Oct. 2013 (added Bixler 2 RTF Link)
Note: If any links in this document are broken, please notify me by commenting below this article.  All questions or comments are welcome.

My #1 Choice for a Beginner:  The HobbyKing Bixler (V1.1, or 2) or the Dynam Hawk Sky
(Update 6 Oct. 2013): My #1 Choice is now the HobbyKing Bixler 2 RTF, as it just came out in a Ready-To-Fly version within the past couple months.  Also, after having flown the Dynam Hawk Sky again recently, I regretfully must say that its power is nothing compared to the Bixler V1.1 or 2, so I must recommend the Bixler far above the Hawk Sky at this point, though the Hawk Sky is still a good choice.  The Bixler V1.1, for example, has so much power that a skilled pilot can easily do belly-TAKEOFFS on grass, simply by sliding along its belly until it has enough airspeed to lift off.  The Hawk Sky, on the other hand, had such a dramatically lower amount of power when I flew it that it couldn't even budge when given full throttle sitting on the grass.  Overall, I haven't ever seen a better, more economical and functional, Ready-to-Fly trainer than the HobbyKing Bixler 2 RTF.  
-Note: if you want more SPEED, buy the Bixler V1.1 RTF instead, as it uses a higher-Kv motor and smaller prop.  If you want more THRUST AND EFFICIENCY (longer flight time), buy the Bixler V2 RTF, as it has a lower-Kv motor and larger prop.  Also, the Bixler V2 RTF comes with a better Transmitter, since it is 6-channels instead of only 4.


There are a thousand different opinions out there about which "beginner airplane" is the best.  The truth is, there is no one single answer.  There is no such thing as "the best" beginner airplane. However, this is an attempt to characterize a beginner airplane and explain what kinds of things need to be considered, and what parts/equipment may be desired.  Many links are provided to help the absolute novice think about what they might want, and see some of the more intricate parts required for a more enjoyable & successful RC experience.

What makes a good beginner plane? 

Here are some good characteristics to look for:

·   prop & motor high and in the back (avoid breaking it in nose-first, right-side-up crashes), or having a prop-saver for nose-mounted motors (propeller is held on with a rubber O-ring so that it bends/flexes back when one of the propeller blades hits the ground or is pushed back)
·   made of tough, durable EPO (Expanded Polyolefin) or EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) foam (crash resistant and easy to repair with low temp. hot glue gun, or Shoe Goo/Goop/E-6000)
·   easily upgradeable to higher power setup and larger battery/longer flight time
·   inexpensive:  ≤ $100~$200 for a plane with *all* necessary electronics, including brushless motor, propeller, Electronic Speed Controller (ESC), LiPo battery, cheap balancing charger, and Radio Transmitter (Tx) and Receiver (Rx) all in one box!
·   In other words, look for an RTF (“Ready to Fly”) plane.  Nope, sorry, it doesn’t actually come ready to fly, but it should come with all of those electronics just mentioned above (read its description carefully though to make sure it actually does) and it can be put together in only 1-3 hrs.
·   easy to put together.  Can be ready to fly in just a couple hrs.
·   4-channel control (not just 3-channel).  Has throttle, rudder, elevator, *and* ailerons.
·   natural roll stability due to a main wing with dihedral (V-shaped wing when viewed from the front) or polyhedral (tips curved up, acting like a dihedral wing).  See page 4 for pictures.  Both of these main wing types will cause the plane to naturally right itself/roll level if banked.
·   flat-bottomed airfoil (provides the best lift possible, with gentle stall characteristics, excellent glide ratio, and the ability to fly very slowly). Do NOT get a plane with a symmetric airfoil (curved on the top and bottom of main wing when viewed from the side)—this plane will be aerobatic and not able to fly as slowly.

Necessary Airplane Supplies:

1)      Dynam Hawk Sky, 4 Ch powered glider, $110 OR HobbyKing Bixler v1.1 RTF [“Ready to Fly”], *Mode 2* powered glider, $103 (personally, I recommend the Bixler v1.1 more, though both are great planes).  Note: the Bixlerv1.1 has many improved features over the original Bixler.

Pictured Above: Dynam Hawk Sky (left), and HobbyKing Bixler v1.1 (right)
a.       Hawk Sky Videos:
                                    i.      5 Advantages of the HAWK SKY! -
b.      Bixler Videos:
                                    i.      Flite Test: The Bixler – REVIEW -
                                   ii.      Flite Test: Bixler 2 – REVIEW -
                                  iii.      Bixler 2: The Review – by dhdsracer -
                                  iv.      Flite Test: Who is Josh Bixler -
2)      Charger -- if you want an upgraded charger, I'd highly recommend the ones in 2.a. below.  However, if you want to go the economical route, just use the included basic charger that comes with the Bixler v1.1 or Dynam Hawk Sky.  If you buy the Bixler v1.1 (my prefered choice), however, you'll need to also separately purchase the power supply for it below in 2.b. 
a.       Good universal charger, Thunder AC6 or AC680, $45~$60 with shipping .  I’d recommend the AC680 more.  Read my "how-to" post here to learn how to install and use the computer data-logging software that is compatible with these chargers:  Thunder AC680/AC6 Charger & Computer Data-logging Software.  Find these chargers here:  They are also available from the same company at one of their alternate websites here:, here:, or here:  If I am not mistaken, will have cheaper shipping than the others.  If these chargers are completely out of stock, or if you’d like some other options, or even just want to know more about chargers, let me know by commenting below this document and I’ll answer your questions, explain more about chargers and/or point you to a good alternative.  “Thunder AC6 Battery Charger Basics” informational video here:  You may also check out HobbyKing’s entire line of chargers here:  Please note, however, that most chargers do *not* come with an included power supply, so you’ll need to buy one separately in most cases.  Look out for that.  The AC6 or AC680 above are both exceptions to this rule, as they come with built-in AC/DC power supplies.
b.      Bixler v1.1 AC/DC Power Supply: 12V 1.5A or more, 5.5 x 2.1mm plug (positive on the inside), $6:  Though (last I checked) the Dynam Hawk Sky’s included basic charger does come with a power supply, the HobbyKing Bixler v1.1 RTF’s included basic charger (similar to this one: does *not* have an included power supply.  Therefore, they expect you to use your car’s 12V battery or a separate power supply, such as the one above.  If the one above on ebay is sold out, search around to find an alternate that has those specifications above.
4)      Spare batteries (get 1~3 or more of these):  Turnigy 1800 mah 3S 20C LiPo, $10 each:, OR Turnigy2200mAh 3S 20C, $8 each:  (Note: either of the two batteries above should get you ~20 minutes of flight time).
5)      Adhesive Velcro, $2.50~$5.00 (get 1 or 2 meters of it):  <--Despite its super low price, this is the BEST adhesive Velcro I have *ever* used!  It is extremely useful for securing your batteries to your plane, or even electronics, speed controllers, receivers, etc.  It can even be used for securing a removable home-made “bomb” drop to your plane (see for ideas on making a bomb drop).  This Velcro is stronger and stickier than anything I’ve seen in stores, and still sticks well in cold weather.  I’ve been flying all winter long and my buddy’s Velcro he bought for $15 or so locally was literally falling off of his plane in the 30°F snowy weather, while my $2.50 HobbyKing Velcro held on like a champ!  I gave him some of mine and he was impressed.
6)      ***Dual temperature*** Hot Glue gun and glue, ~$15 (with glue sticks) from Walmart.  “Dual temperature” means that the glue gun MUST have dual heat settings, high/low so that you can use low setting when you need to and not melt the foam plane, yet you still have high to help it heat up faster and get more sticky on surfaces that can handle a little more heat (hotter = more sticky). You can also buy a good one of these glue guns from Amazon here: <-- Note: I own this exact glue gun and it works well. It works fantastic for RC planes and has a nice, precision tip and hasn’t broken on me with regular use in the past 4 years I’ve had it. If the glue ever gets jammed (has happened a few times after being on high heat for very long periods of time), pull the glue stick out, pull off the melted portion that may be getting stuck in the gun, re-insert glue stick, and continue use.  I use the “high” heat setting to heat it up quickly, then I switch to “low” once it’s hot so I don’t melt the foam.  So far that I have found, the quality can’t be beat for its price, though better dual temperature glue guns do exist.
7)      Clear Packing Tape at Walmart or wherever else you choose to buy it. – good for repairs where the full stickiness and strength of strapping tape is not needed.
8)      Scotch strapping tape at Walmart or wherever else you choose (strapping tape has fiberglass strands running down it), or on Amazon here (10 yards for $4.42) or here (30 yards for $7.83) < – use this tape to increase wing strength by running a single strip of it down the full length of the wings on the top and bottom.  Also, I highly recommend taping the wings on or they may fall off during flight (I’ve seen it happen while the plane was over 100 ft. high; luckily these planes are made out of super durable EPO foam and the repair was <1 hr.).
9)      5 or 6 min. Epoxy “glue”, $6 (optional; other type of glue are out there, and for foam planes I prefer hot glue or Goop/Shoe Goo/E-6000 over epoxy, though epoxy is good). or
10)  Popsicle sticks and wax paper at Walmart or wherever (for mixing epoxy)
11)  Goop/Shoe Goo/E-6000 (manufacturer’s website here:, ~$5, available just about anywhere, including Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc.  All three of these adhesives are very similar, and work *excellent* on EPO or EPP foam, on areas where more strength is needed than what hot glue can provide.  These glues are very strong.  Beware, however, that they do “melt” or dissolve polystyrenes such as EPS (Expanded Polystyrene, ie: “Styrofoam”) and Depron (which is Extruded Polystyrene). 
12)  Extra Servo or two, 9 g, $3 each, (in case one that comes with the Bixler v1.1 or Hawk Sky breaks)  Note: 1 of these servos can also be used to make a bomb drop! –see here:
13)  A nice Transmitter (AKA “Tx,” or Radio) battery pack, $7:  Although this LiFe [Lithium-Iron] battery pack is the best choice when it fits inside your transmitter, it doesn't fit into the transmitter that comes with the Bixler v1.1 RTF airplane.  However, it should fit into the Dynam transmitter, but may require a slight plug modification.  If you'd like to use AA cells instead [or for the Bixler v1.1, 8 AA-sized batteries are mandatory], you may buy 8 AA-sized rechargeable Rayovak NiMh batteries, ~$12 or so at Walmart or on Amazon or wherever, or you may even use nonrechargeable Alkaline AA batteries. You could also buy 8 NiMH batteries from HobbyKing here or here.  Note: again, the LiFe battery pack above will NOT work with the Bixler v1.1 RTF transmitter, so you'll have to use AA batteries in this case instead.  Whether you get the LiFe Tx battery pack above, or use 8 AA NiMh batteries, use the nice charger in item 2a to charge these batteries.
14)  Battery charger adapters, Male/Female XT60, $3 per pack of 5.  Note: if you use the charger in item 2a, you can’t charge your batteries without this.  If you ever buy other batteries in the future from other websites, or locally, you’ll also likely need these to change over the plugs on those future batteries, so that they are compatible with your plane, so I’d recommend getting 2 packs of these.  Personally, I love the XT60 connectors and the HobbyKing version of the JST connectors (other versions of the JST connector are lower quality), so I change over all of my battery connectors by soldering on either these (for high-amp applications, 15~60A) or the JST connectors below (for low-amp applications, approximately 3~18A).
14.5) Battery charger lead (for the XT-60 connector), $3: 
15)  Adapter for spare batteries (XT-60 to JST –allows you to plug the spare batteries directly into the plane without soldering a new plug onto the spare batteries [note: the Bixler v1.1 does not need this, and the Dynam may not either—depending on which connector they are putting on the plane currently—regardless, this is nice to have for future planes anyway]):, get 1 of these for $1.70
16)  JST connectors (male).  Again, depending on what connector comes you’re your Hawk Sky, you may need these connectors for your battery/charger adapters instead.  Regardless, you will find they come in handy for future planes:
17)  JST connectors (female).  Almost undoubtedly you’ll need these little connectors in future planes, if not somewhere at some time in one of the planes above.
18)  Parallel charge board (allows you to charge multiple batteries at once), $9,
19)  Parallel JST adapters (to plug into parallel charge board, depending on which connector your batteries use), get 6 of these, $1.50 each: OR solder your own together using the XT60 connectors and female JST connectors and the below soldering kit, OR just buy this to use for the main leads in parallel charging (this is my most recommended option):
20)  Battery Voltage Checker (highly recommended) – allows you to easily see if your batteries are properly charged or not.  Some even can be flown on your airplane in order to loudly beep when it’s time to land.  I’d recommend this one (with programmable beeping alarm, to be used in flight): AND 1 of the following--either this one: ($14), this one: ($8), OR this one: ($43).

Optional Flight Simulator

1)      Excellent quality, Windows 7-compatible, inexpensive flight simulator--Aerofly EasyFly4 by Ikarus:, $40 with RC game controller!!!...OR, go all out and purchase the full version of Aerofly 5 for up to $300: (I’d go with the $40 version above).  For a review of the Ikarus flight simulators, check out this video review here by one of my favorite RC aficionados, "NightFlyyer."
2)      Note: if you want other options, in my opinion, the Ikarus Aerfly simulator and the Great Planes RealFlight simulators are the two best RC flight simulators in the industry.  So, if you want to check out the RealFlight option, here is their website:, here is where you can buy their $200 full version:, and here is where you can buy their $100 basic version (unlike the $40 Ikarus version, this is the cheapest version of RealFlight available):
3)      Feel free to experiment with other, very inexpensive, RC simulators, as even the free or extremely cheap ones are quite useful, so long as you can use a USB-type hand-held transmitter similar to a real RC transmitter. 

Optional Soldering Kit

21)  Soldering Iron, 60W, $8:  I recommend that you do NOT get a 30W iron—it’s not hot enough for soldering larger wires and connectors (ex: 8~10 gauge wires) which you may eventually need on future planes, and a 60W iron makes it much easier to solder hardware, such as pushrods and clevises, when necessary. Having the extra heat of a 60W iron over a 30W iron also makes soldering nearly any wire in general easier, as the heat can be applied over a shorter period of time (which is better for heat-sensitive electronics, as they will not heat up as much as they would from a 30W iron applying heat over a longer time), and the solder wicks into the wires faster.  I use my 60W iron on all RC wires and hardware I solder, even down to as small as 30 gauge wire.  If you plan on soldering very intricate parts or circuit boards, however, that is when you’d want the smaller tip and lower power of a 30W iron. 
22)  Solder: I prefer the 1 lb roll (will last you forever) of 0.062” Diameter 60/40 Rosin-Core solder–get at a local Radio Shack, item #64-008, ~$15
23)  Solder tip cleaner (tiny circular tin can at Radio Shack, item #64-020)—optional—necessary only if you have difficulty tinning the soldering iron tip, ~$8 maybe.
24)  Soldering stand (optional, since the soldering iron [item 21 above] comes with a cheap little stand)—buy at local Radio Shack, item #64-2078, $10 (see OR at HobbyKing for $3:
25)  Multipack of heat shrink tubing, Radio Shack ~$8 maybe, OR at Harbor Freight Tools for a few dollars, OR even better yet, get an assortment (red and black for each size) of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 mm heat shrink tubing here:
26)  Heat gun, $20, Optional, but very nice to have (a regular lighter may be used to shrink heat shrink tubing instead):
27)  Helping Hands, $3-$5 at Harbor Freight Tools – VERY HANDY for soldering wires and connectors without a second person’s help.  Get at *least* 1 of these, but I prefer to have two:  Note: if you don’t have a local Harbor Freight Tools store, you can buy a similar item from HobbyKing instead (, but after shipping costs you’d be better off just going to Harbor Freight if possible.

Optional Workshop Tools:

1.      A rotary tool is very nice to have, and has hundreds of uses.  (For anyone looking to get deep into RC, the two most important power tools you may ever own are an 18V cordless drill and a niceDremel-style rotary tool with a bunch of tips and accessories): 
a.       Genuine 175~190W Dremel 4000 with very large accessory kit, $139 (I’ve owned this one since 2010, works fantastic: OR
b.      HobbyKing 160W Dremel-Style Rotary hand-tool—for only $15, and having good reviews, you can’t go wrong!  Though I don’t own one of these, had I known about it before buying myDremel, I’m sure I would have tried one of these out instead:
2.      Top Flite Power Point Propeller Balancer, $20 – I’d say hands-down this is the best prop balancer on the market.  It uses magnetic suspension for ultra low friction.  The longer you are into RC airplanes, the more you’ll realize the importance of proper propeller balancing.  All props need to be balanced, and some cheap plastic props come so badly out of balance when you get them that you’ll actually see a thrust decrease of up to 33% or so (estimated, based on experience) just due to the severe vibration.  A well-balanced prop significantly decreases vibration, making poorly-balanced props usable, thereby saving you money while increasing thrust and increasing the longevity of your airplane and electronics:
-Note: to balance a prop, you'll need some medium-viscosity Super Glue (ie: CA, or cyanoacrylate) to add weight to the light prop blade, some sand-paper (220~280 grit or so) to lighten a prop blade and/or smooth added CA resin, and some "CA accelerator" to get the CA to cure almost instantly.  Here are links to those items, except for the sand paper, which you can buy from your local hardware store: HobbyKing medium CA ($3), 2 oz. accelerator in pump spray bottle ($4), 8 oz. accelerator refill ($8).

Get Local Help From an RC Aircraft Club Near You!

·         The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is the “Official national body for model aviation in the United States.”  AMA-chartered clubs are a valuable resource to get started in this hobby, and often-times local clubs have people available who can help you learn to fly by attaching two radios together in a system known as a “buddy box,” or “trainer system.”  Find a local club through the AMA’s website here: --> click on “Members & Clubs” (at the top) --> “Club Services” --> “Find a Club.”  You may also click here ( and follow the link.

Other Good Beginner Plane Features to Look For:

·   high wing (more stable than low or mid-wing designs)
·   good dihedral, or polyhedral (greater roll stability)
·   flat-bottomed airfoil (less aerobatic, but more gentle stall characteristics, slower-flying)
·   tricycle landing gear, *not* tail-dragger style landing gear (tricycle is more stable, especially in the yaw axis when taking off and landing; tail-draggers can get very “squirelly” on take-off, and may even cartwheel down the runway or spin out of control if not careful with the rudder)

Examples of other planes with good beginner characteristics:

Note: the airplane links under the pictures below are not clickable hyperlinks, so here are copies of those links that you can click on directly: 

I’d have to say that this Tuff Trainer is also an *excellent* and economical choice for a beginner.  Though it is a tail-dragger (which is undesirable), it makes up for that by having a “prop-saver,” which protects the propeller in the (very likely) event of a nose-over.  (A prop-saver is device that allows the propeller to be attached using a rubber O-ring, so that it flexes/bends back in the event of a nose-over or crash, and prevents the prop from breaking). This plane is also made of very tough EPP foam, should be easily repaired using a hot glue gun and strapping tape, and is 4-channels, so it has aileron control! 

List of other beginner/trainer planes from

List of other EPP (VERY DURABLE) planes from  For a beginner, check out the Albatross or Pelican!

Features to Avoid for a Beginner Plane:

·   low-winged aircraft
·   highly swept wings
·   EDF (Electric Ducted Fan) jets
·   highly scale aircraft
·   symmetrical airfoils
·   flat-plate airfoils
·   HUGE control surfaces
·   “3D” type aerobatic planes (note: “3D” refers to very aerobatic planes capable of hovering)
·   tail-dragger landing gear configuration

Examples of planes to Avoid for a Beginner:

Note: the airplane links under the pictures below are not hot-links.  Here are copies of those links that you can click on directly: 

And here are the clickable hot links for the next two airplanes below: 

-Now that you know what features to look for in a beginner plane, here is another good list of good tough, durable, EPP foam planes to look at.  Try to choose the best plane for your skill level, OR choose one of the beginner planes I have previously recommended.

(Again, for a beginner, choose a high-wing “trainer” type plane with the beginner features previously described in this document, or perhaps one of the flying wings.  For a more advanced pilot, you might try one of the super aerobatic, mid-wing “3D” designs.  Note: “3D” means that the aircraft is extremely aerobatic and capable of hovering or otherwise flying below the stall speed of the main wing by “hanging” on the propeller—to do this the airplane must have a thrust greater than its weight, as well as very large control surfaces to control the plane in low-speed, stalled flight).


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