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11.11.2015
Trimming your rc airplane is an important procedure, and when properly trimmed your plane will be so much nicer to fly, making your life at the TX sticks that much easier. The aim of trimming a radio control airplane correctly is to get it flying straight and level at 'cruising speed', with no input from you on the transmitter sticks.
When you're first learning to fly an rc airplane, the chances of you doing any advanced trimming are low; trimming your plane will involve nothing more than moving the transmitter trims to compensate for any unwanted tendencies of the plane to fly in any direction other than the one you want it to fly in!
These transmitter trims are located beside the sticks and correspond to their parent control. Moving a transmitter trim will move that particular control surface a very small amount, and keep that new position as the new neutral position.
For example, if your plane wants to roll to the left all the time then you would apply right aileron trim until the plane flies level on its own, without wanting to roll.
This type of trimming is completely common practice and even the best trimmed plane will need the occasional, or even regular, tweak of a transmitter trim here and there. If you've bought an RTF or ARF plane all the construction work has been done for you you, but you should still check it over to check for good and correct alignment of wings and tail surfaces. If you're building from a kit or from scratch, you need to take care when building and be sure that there are no warps, bends or twists where there shouldn't be.
Assuming that your rc airplane is correctly built and has everything aligned correctly, it should fly perfectly first time out, right? You can read about balancing rc airplanes through that link, but just to recap, the CG is the point at which your plane balances fore-aft (longitudinally). But an rc plane rarely has one exact point of balance; the acceptable CG usually lies within a narrow range, and the precise location of the Centre of Gravity can be moved within this range, without having any adverse effects on the plane's flight characteristics. This moving of the CG fore or aft, within its range, is a major part of correctly trimming your rc airplane, because any movement of the CG will slightly effect your plane's pitch attitude and how it wants to fly as a result. If you move the CG forward then this increases the plane's stability (up to a point) and generally makes it less sensitive to elevator inputs.
Balancing your rc airplane correctly (as per that other page) in the first place is very important, but once balanced you can tweak the CG position to improve the plane's flight characteristics, and to suit your personal preferences. Reduce power and apply down elevator to put the plane in to a steep dive - somewhere between 45° and vertical. The key to a successful dive test is the pre-dive trimming, because it's this that effects what the plane will do in the dive. Fly a straight pass at cruising speed and roll the plane through 180° to get it inverted, and take note of how much down elevator you need to apply to keep the plane flying level. Bear in mind, though, that not all planes like inverted flight - especially high wing trainers. Depending on the results of either test, you can adjust the position of the Centre of Gravity accordingly and you'll almost certainly see an improvement in your plane's handling. While the Centre of Gravity balancing of your plane is critical, the roll balance (lateral balance) is another one to check - you can read about this on the 'balancing rc airplanes' page via the link further up this page. This is an often overlooked aspect of trimming your rc airplane, but the improvements in flight characteristics can be dramatic with only slight changes to the motor thrust angles.
Typically right thrust values amount to just two or three degrees, but the exact amount will vary from plane to plane.
Down thrust is commonly used to reduce the natural climbing tendency of the plane, but it isn't always necessary. If it yaws to the left, then more right thrust is needed, if it yaws to the right then there is too much right thrust. To test the down thrust you can perform the same vertical climb; if your plane wants to pitch inwards as if starting a loop then there's not enough down thrust. Ideally you are looking for nothing more than an increase in speed and a slight gain in altitude when you increase power, this gain being a result of the increase in lift as the airspeed increases. Motor thrust angles can be adjusted by placing small washers behind the motor mount, or by adjusting the angle of the motor on the mount.


Essentially, aileron differential is the difference in deflection amounts between upward moving and downward moving ailerons. It's another thing you might want to, or need to, look at when trimming your rc plane, but in the interests of keeping this page relatively short, you can read about aileron differential here.
The trick to trimming your rc airplane correctly, and well, is to just keep trimming it until it flies nicely and goes where you point it, without you having to fight the sticks all the time. It's often the case that several trimming flights are needed, so it's not a process that should be rushed.
Well hopefully the above info should give you an idea of how to correctly trim an rc airplane in a way that goes beyond just using the transmitter trims each time you fly. As I said at the beginning of this page, as a beginner to the radio control flying hobby you're not expected to do much more than use the TX trims, but with time you will probably find yourself wanting to correctly trim an rc airplane by using the methods outlined above.
The Beginner's Guide To Flying RC Airplanes - all you need to know in one place, and guaranteed to save you time, money & frustration! RTF stands for Ready To Fly and RTF rc planes offer the beginner the easiest, quickest and often cheapest option for getting started in radio control flying.
Ready To Fly planes can be IC powered (internal combustion eg glow plug) or, more commonly, electric power (EP). Whatever they are, RTFs need no construction or installation work done to them to get them flying, only some very basic final assembly stuff such as attaching the wing to the fuselage and fixing the tailplane and landing gear in place. Having said that, the smaller RTF rc planes - such as the Ultra Micro™ ones - do come fully assembled because their wingspan is only around the 16 inch mark - plenty small enough to fit in a box. RTF rc planes have introduced thousands of people to the hobby of radio control flying, but it's only in more recent years that they have become so widely available, affordable and popular. One downside to foam RTF rc planes is that any scale appearance is slightly ruined not only by the obvious texture of the foam surface itself, but sometimes also by the numerous injection moulding marks left behind - but neither of these things are seen when the plane is flying! A second downside to foam is that, because of its soft nature, it is easily damaged if handled carelessly.
The completeness of electric RTF rc planes means that the only thing left for the buyer to get are the batteries for the transmitter, but there are manufacturers that offer a complete one box purchase that includes the batteries, notably ParkZone and HobbyZone, for example.
While a true RTF rc plane comes complete with its own radio control system, there are some brand-specific variations on the RTF theme. Most notable are the Bind-N-Fly (BNF) and Plug-N-Play (PNP) planes from Horizon Hobby brands ParkZone, HobbyZone and E-flite. Other than the radio gear, these planes are exactly the same as RTF rc airplanes - just the price tag is different. With the advent of affordable RTF rc planes, a noticeable but almost inevitable decline was seen in the sales of traditional built-up kits. Of course RTFs weren't solely responsible, indeed ARF rc planes played an equal and probably larger role in the traditional kit demise. This was to be expected because not everyone who wants to fly a radio control plane wants to build one, and the temptation to rush out and buy something that is ready to fly is hard to resist. The logical line of thought here is that RTF rc planes have brought a huge number of newcomers in to the hobby over the years and those newcomers aren't newcomers any more - they're now intermediate and experienced rc pilots who want to get in to the model building side of the hobby.
So it's probably fair to say that while RTF and ARF planes knocked the wind out of traditional building for a while, they've actually healed the wounds that they once inflicted - a strange irony there, I think. Love 'em or hate 'em, RTF rc planes make up a huge number of models across the hobby and they're here to stay, indeed it's fair to say that they're just getting better and better as the manufacturers learn new tricks in the ongoing effort to outsell each other!
So while an RTF can be a basic foamie trainer perfect for the complete beginner, it can also be a complex multi-channel scale aircraft that the experienced rc veteran is happy to be seen with at the flying field. The Beginner's Guide To Flying RC Airplanes e-book talks more about learning with an RTF plane. In other words, with the elevator, aileron and rudder sticks in their central positions the plane should fly in a straight line. They can be analogue slide trims, held in position by a simple ratchet system, or they can be digital button trims - common on today's computer radios.


And as I previously mentioned, this kind of trimming of your rc airplane is what you, as a beginner, will do.
But trimming an rc plane actually goes beyond only relying on the TX trims; it involves a bit of aerodynamical knowledge and good workshop habits!
This all might sound very technical and complicated, but it's really not and once you've done it once, and seen the results, you'll want to do it to all your planes.
This means that when your plane is supported on its CG position and is balanced correctly, it will balance level or perhaps slightly with its nose down. Conversely, moving the CG rearwards increases the sensitivity to elevator inputs and makes the plane less stable - but better for aerobatics. The dive test: climb your plane to a safe altitude (say, 100m) and set the TX trims so that it flies straight and level, at cruise speed, with the elevator stick centred. The increased speed during the dive makes the elevator more effective, so any elevator trim you applied beforehand will have an exaggerated effect in the dive.
Inverted flight: use your transmitter trims to get the plane flying straight and level with the elevator stick centered. If your plane wants to climb and you need to apply up elevator to keep it level, the CG is too far back. For this reason, inverted flight isn't a brilliant way of testing the CG, but it's just another option open to you. The two common types of thrust angles are right thrust whereby the motor is angled slightly to the right, when viewed from above, and down thrust whereby the motor is angled downwards slightly. Apply full power and pull up in to a vertical climb, using rudder only to straighten the climb initially. How you can change your plane's thrust angles depends entirely on how the motor is mounted.
Set aside one or two flying sessions soley to trim your plane and get it flying at its best. Essentially, anything that makes the plane difficult to put in a box at the factory is left off for you to fit at home, otherwise the plane is complete. Both of these trainers have taught many beginners to fly IC planes, especially at club level. The level of assembly of the airplane is the same and the variation is with the radio side of things. With PNP planes you're free to use whatever radio gear you can lay your hands on i.e you're not tied to any specific brand. RTF-based rc planes are gettingbigger and better all the time, as this superb example shows. But it seems that more recently traditional building is making a comeback, with retailers noticing a marked increase in traditional balsa kit sales. In other words, you need to build your plane correctly and understand the forces that act on it in flight. RC planes rarely fly perfectly, the best we can ever hope for is that a couple of clicks of transmitter trim will sort things out on its maiden flight.
As soon as you can, centre the rudder stick and see if the plane yaws one way or another as it's climbing vertically. If the plane suddenly pitches downwards when you apply the power, the down thrust is too much.
You'll notice a huge improvement in the way the plane handles, and aerobatic maneuvers will be so much easier to pull off!



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