RC airplane accessories
- what do you need?
With radio control flying, the most essential rc airplane accessories are the field equipment items, simply because without them you won't get airborne!
IC (internal combustion) powered rc airplanes require more accessories than electric powered planes, purely because of the engine.
With electric rc planes you can normally get by with just a battery charger and a spare battery pack or two, but IC planes almost always justify the purchase of a flight box, or 'tote', because of the amount of accessories that you need at the field.
This isn't a bad thing though, field equipment type rc airplane accessories are rarely expensive and can even be borrowed from fellow flyers in your early days of learning to fly rc airplanes. But, once you're at a stage where you can confidently fly your airplane alone at the field, then stocking up with your own set of essential accessories is the best thing that you can do, so you won't have to rely on anyone being at the field.
With RTF electric rc airplanes, it's unusual for a battery charger not to be supplied in the box. But if one isn't, or you want a better one, a good quality field charger such as the one shown right is the best option.
Field chargers have a 12V input as well as, or instead of, the main 110/220V input. Therefore you can charge your airplane battery pack from your car battery, either by using 'crocodile clips' directly to the battery or via the car cigarette lighter outlet. This lets you operate the charger at your flying site - hence the name 'field' charger.
Buying a second, or even third, motor battery pack for your electric airplane is a very good idea. By doing so, you'll be able to continue flying while the first battery is charging. By far the most sensible option is to buy your extra pack when you purchase the airplane, so you have it/them from Day 1.
RC airplane accessories for IC planes
As already mentioned, 'gas' powered rc airplanes require much more in the way of field equipment. This is due to the presence of the engine, and certain accessories are obviously needed to make the engine run. They are, in no particular order...
- Glow plug igniter
- Glow plug wrench
- Spare glow plugs
- Fuel pump
- Electric starter or 'chicken stick'
|A glow plug igniter is necessary to initially heat up the filament of the glow plug to red hot, so that the fuel/air mixture inside the combustion chamber of the engine is ignited. Once running, the igniter is removed and the heat within the engine keeps the plug glowing. Glow plug igniters are 1.5V and should be charged before each flying session. A flat igniter won't heat up a plug!|
|A glow plug wrench is definitely an essential gas rc airplane accessory! Glow plugs have a habit of burning out and do need to be replaced periodically. Without a wrench you're not going to be able to remove the glow plug from the engine cylinder head, and replace it with a new one.|
|Spare glow plugs are necessary for when the one in the engine fails on you, which it will sooner or later. A broken down glow plug is about the biggest cause of non-starting glow engines, and it takes just a few seconds to change a plug - so long as you didn't forget your glow plug wrench!|
|Fuel is, needless to say, essential! Choosing a good quality air fuel is important - lesser quality fuels can have an adverse effect on your engine performance. Follow manufacturer guidelines for selecting an appropriate fuel for your engine, both oil content and nitromethane content can vary depending on performance requirements.
See fuel & fuel related accessories.
|A fuel pump can either be mechanical or electrical. A mechanical one is obviously cheaper and just as effective. Flight boxes equipped with a 12V battery and a 'power panel' will often have a pump integrated into the panel. Along with a pump, a small plastic squeezy bottle with a fine nozzle is also a good idea, in case you need to inject fuel directly into the carburettor if you're having problems priming the engine.|
|An electric starter is essentially a glorified 12V motor that's used to turn over your airplane's engine. A rubber end piece fits on to the motor shaft of the starter and pushes against the spinner or propeller. When the starter is operated, the airplane engine gets turned over very quickly, hopefully firing it in to life.|
|A 'chicken stick', or start stick, is a wooden or plastic stick with a thick rubber coating on one end. The chicken stick is used to manually flick over the propeller, thus protecting your finger against injury. Alternatively you can buy a thick rubber sleeve that you put over your finger. Either way, if you opt to start your engine manually instead of with an electric starter, the chicken stick or sleeve is one rc airplane accessory that you don't want to leave off the list!|
Other non-essential but desirable rc airplane accessories to take with you each flying session include spare props and a selection of tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers - all suited to the size of the nuts, bolts and screws that are found on your airplane.
Some kind of fuel cleaner is also a very good idea, your airplane will get oily during a good flying session and cleaning it properly afterwards is very important.
For convenience, it's possible to buy all the essential field rc airplane accessories together in some kind of starter pack, rather than buying every item separately. These deals usually work out cheaper, the Hanger 9 Start-Up Field Pack and Hobbico Field Pack Deluxe are two such examples...
Above: two examples of glow plug powered rc airplane 'starter packs'.
The Field Box
As you gather more and more accessories (it's inevitable!) you'll need a field box (also called a flight box or tote) to carry them all in, if you didn't buy a starter pack. Field boxes are simply the best way to carry everything together and most boxes, such as the Hanger 9 flight box shown below, are designed to take a power panel.
Your field box should be sturdy and fuel proof, with plenty of storage. Separate compartments and perhaps one or more drawers are good design features of a field box.
The Power Panel
The power panel is the central unit for handling everything 12V electric, such as starters and remote fuel pumps. Most power panels actually have an integrated fuel pump with fill and syphon controls. These power panels require a 12V battery to operate - you can buy batteries made especially for the hobby, such as the Hanger 9 12V 7Ah sealed battery or you can use a standard 12V motorbike battery.
The power panel shown below is the Hanger 9 Deluxe power panel, and is fairly typical of all rc airplane power panels. It's important to note though, if you don't intend getting a field box then make sure you buy a free standing panel and not one that's specifically been designed to be built into a field box.
Buying an assortment of rc airplane accessories is all part of radio control flying and, as you've seen, glow plug rc airplanes require much more items than electric planes do. All the essential field equipment items have been shown on this page, but as you get more involved with the hobby, so your accessories are bound to increase!