Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Remote Control Helicopters But Were Afraid to Ask!

So, you’ve just gone out and bought your first RC chopper – you must be over the moon! And now, how do you fly it? And what if it breaks down – how can you repair it? Wait – well, how can you maintain it so that it doesn’t break down in the first place?

So you think You’re Han Solo, eh?

Han Solo

Flying RC Helicopters like Han Solo

The following statement is the single more important sentence of this entire blog, as well as in your career as a RC helicopter pilot:

 More than 50% of all RC choppers crash within the first minute, if not SECONDS, of their first take-off.

rc helicopter crash

rc helicopter crash

So what am I trying to get at? The importance of doing your homework BEFORE your maiden flight and making sure you don’t wreck your copter before you have a chance to enjoy piloting it! 

So, adhere to the following tips and you will be a seasoned pro in no time: 

  • Have as your main goal: to bring your helicopter home in one piece after the first day of flying
  • Make sure you follow the instruction manual CAREFULLY- techs and mechanics take the sweet time prepping real-life choppers and the pilots can’t fly until they get the green light from the mechanics; the same should hold true for you.
  • You first few times out, stick to a smooth surface, so as not to catch a skid and crash your nose. If you can, practice indoors, sans wind; if there is no indoor venue available, go out on a CALM day (zero breeze). 
  • Focus on just hovering and skimming the surface. Then begin to lift off the ground (not your first time out!) and practice your take-offs and landings.
  • Once you can touch down smoothly and consistently, begin trying some figure-eights. Once you KNOW you can keep the chopper in the air, feel free to practice forward flight. 
  • After each flight be sure to do a thorough check of all your copter’s components- real copter pilots don’t get to fly until their mechanics give them the green light, and neither should you.

  

Everybody wants to be the pilot; never the mechanic

rc helicopter technician

rc helicopter technician

Be sure to follow the following tips and your chopper will repay you ten-fold in performance: 

  • Store your chopper away from the elements. Yes- this means heat, wind, rain, snow, etc. Keep it in a cool, dry place.
  • If you fly your chopper less than once per month, disassemble it and store it properly to extend its lifespan.
  • Clean all parts before storing, or rust will be waiting for you the next time you want to go for a spin.
  • If you own a nitro chopper, you should test the engines every COUPLE weeks. No need to fly her; just make sure the engines run smoothly and the blades work properly.
  • Keep her away from pets and pests.

 

Common Chopper Problems

  • Bad Vibrations: If your RC helicopter has a tail that jukes up and down, then you probably have a problem with the head of the copter. If the tails wiggles left to right, then there is most likely an issue with the rear of the chopper; quite possibly with the tail itself.
  • Frontal Issues: If the issue has to do with the front end of the chopper, one measure that often clears up the problem is by tightening each one of the blades in an equal manner- this helps balance them out evenly. Crashed helicopters commonly end up with bent rotor shafts and you will need to be on the lookout for this problem
  • Rear Issues: The origin of most rear-end issues of a RC chopper would be the tail drive. As with frontal issues, tightening rotors (this time in the tail) evenly should help alleviate any problems. It is also important to be on the lookout for any bends in the blades.
  • Motor Failure: Sooner or later, RC motors WILL burn out. The best you can do when this happens in shop (online) for a replacement motor that matches you choppers specs.
  • Drifting: When flying an RC helicopter, you will commonly see the ‘toilet bowl effect’, in which the chopper spins and drift tightly in a circle. This resembles water in a toilet flushing. If this happens to your copter, you probably need to loosen and clean the fly bar. If this still does not fix the problem, you may need to get new parts for the top-rotor assembly.
  • Radio Interference: Like most remote control devices, RC helicopters are controlled via radio signals, sent and received on specific channels. If another RC vehicle or machine, or even another radio signal latches on to the same frequency, your chopper will normally crash (ouch). The best trick in the book to avoid this? Avoid AM RC radios.
  • Overheating: Is still a very big problem among RC enthusiasts. Here, you have two options: a) fly shorter sorties (certainly not as fun);   or   b) poke some holes in any and all canopies to improve the ventilation for the chopper’s motor.

So in summary, its very easy for your to repair your electric rc helicopter yourself, however there are many companys that can repair it for you. Normally for around £25/hour you can have your model setup and test flown professionally. Don’t think its worth it? well let me tell you, if your tracking or balance of rotor blades is not correct then your helicopter will almost certainly crash and you will never progress your skills.

 

RC Helicopters 101: Flight, Maintenance and Repairs

Congratulations! You’ve obviously done your homework, surfed the web, interviewed some veteran RC pilots, compiled your scouting reports and finally come to a decision on which RC model you want for your maiden flight; and its finally arrived in the mail. I am also sure that you have also already read the entire owner’s manual, right? (No? Hmmmmmm….Fiery end in your future, I see….)

No, no- I won’t berate you nor force you to go back and blow the dust off the manual so you can finish reading the boring chapters (not yet, anyway). You’ve come to the rest place- here we will look at the three burning questions on every rookie pilots mind.

Ready? So let’s gets cracking!

 

Use the Force, Young Jedi Pilot

 

Jedi Pilot

Jedi Pilot

I’m going to avoid giving you the most basic (re: important) flight tips here; you’ll find those in the flight manual.. However, I will share with you some neat Jedi flight tricks to maximize your fun in flight:

  • Always touch down before LVC (low voltage cut-off)- if you see your chopper’s red LED lights begin to blink, this is not good; it means that your battery is at minimum power and flight SHOULD not be continued, or else you will risk damaging the battery. If you continue flight past the LVC, you will most likely damage the battery this will result in shorter air time for all future flights with that battery.
  • To fly faster, you must increase the throttle while pitching forward, and/or via flying in a light turn either left or right. Simply flying forward using only pitch will not significantly increase speed.
  • Small, subtle movements are key. Quick changes in direction and/or velocity will lead to a loss of control. 
  • To land, decrease throttle so that you chopper lowers to the ground gently. If at any moment you lose control, shut down the throttle immediately; a rotor that is spinning when it crashes into the surface has a much higher percentage of breaking.
  • Keep a spare battery (charged) always ready- double your flight time (and thus, fun) !

  

Tender Loving Care For Your Chopper: Maintenance

Want to avoid unnecessary accidents? Copy the pro’s keep you helicopter in excellent condition by using proper maintenance techniques:

  • Read the chapter in the manual regarding maintenance.
  • keep all necessary parts well-lubed; never pass up a chance to re-lube.
  • Test the engines at least every three months- no need to take he chopper out for a flight; just make sure the engines and blades run smoothly.
  • Always have small parts on hand; when in doubt- replacement is always better than a glue-job
  • Keep the main shaft absolutely clean- hair is a common culprit when it comes to motor trouble, as it will snag in the gears. Regular cleaning of the shaft will remove the hair before it can become a problem.

 

 

Last But Not Least: Making Repairs:

If you think that you’ll never have a major crash as an RC pilot; well, I have some bad news for you- it’s the nature of the beast. However, I also have some good news for you: Repairs can be simple for an RC helicopter:

rc helicopter repairs

rc helicopter repairs

  • When purchasing replacement parts, it is important to confirm the condition of the items which you want to purchase. You can do this by visiting the brick-and-mortar store and/or inspecting photos found online- you want to make sure that you are absolutely sure of the true amount of wear and tear on an item before buying it. Beware of any spare part being offered, ‘as is’ .
  • It’s not sacrilegious to use use glue to patch up your chopper- just make sure it doesn’t start sounding and/or acting funny.
  • Sometimes, It’s possible that your helicopter isn’t broken/damaged; it just has a few screws loose. Check EVERY screw.
  • If the motor is dead, remove it/them and see if you can spin it- if at least one spins with difficulty, that means that it is dead or dying, and needs to be replaced- repair isn’t an option.
  • If the tail boom is cracked or broken, you don’t necessary need to replace the whole bird. Electrical/duct tape can save her (and you a lot of cash). Just be share to do a proper job and avoid using tons of the stuff; this will add extra weight to the tail, and that is certainly not desirable.

RC Helicopters For Dummies

Flying a RC helicopter is as easy as 1-2-3:   1) flying it with practice and common sense; 2) Keeping your bird in serviceable condition (maintenance) ; 3) Repair (when necessary).       Let’s have a look!

 

  1. Flying 101

Any pilot worth his/her salt with tell you that a fine pilot is made through lots of training, with baby steps. Remember- before a butterfly learns to fly, it has to crawl!

flying a electric rc helicopter

flying a electric rc helicopter

 

  • Location; location; location! Find a smooth surface (and preferably with walls and a roof to avoid wind)
  • Be patient- nothing wrong with spending your first flight never touching off the ground. Get used to the controls, rotating and horizontal movement, always with your skids touching the smooth surface.
  • When you feel more confident with the controls, graduate outdoors to practice the same steps, this time with wind. However, stick to a smooth surface- you don’t want to catch a skid and face-plant your copter into the ground….Once your comfortable enough, hover and fly above the ground around 2-3 feet.
  • Remember, simply flying forward will not gain extra speed (you’re not on a hill). You need hit the throttle while going forward to increase your velocity. You can also achieve this by doing the same in slight gradual banks.
  • Keep a spare battery charged and handy- why in the world would you only want to fly twenty or so minutes when you could double your flight time?

  

Prevention is the Best Medicine

A carpenter cares for his tools and a RC owner cares for his chopper BEFORE an accident occurs. Here’s how:

  • Always have spare parts on hand- wait times can be a pain in the butt neck. 
  • Spoil your bird- keep all her parts oiled and well-lubricated.
  • always check to make sure that there are no lose screws.
  • Listen to you bird; if it’s making funny sounds, find out why.
  • Test the engines and blades every so often- two months as a rule of thumb.
  • The elements (heat, wind, rain, snow, etc), pests and pets are the banes of an RC vehicle- keep yours away from them, for your peace of mind.
  • If you’re not flying at least once a month, your best bet is to disassemble your bird and store her back in the box for safe-keeping.

 

Addressing and Repairing Problems

The following is a list of the most common RC repairs:

  • Cracked/ broken blades: Unfortunately, there is no repair option with these; break it, replace it. In this case, the best measure is prevention: do your best not to crash hard in the first place.
  • Toilet Bowl Effect: Chopper is always spinning in circles. There are a number of potential culprits here:
  1. a) one or more rotors are loose; easy enough to fix; just tighten it up
  1. b) a connection/wire to the PCB is burnt; the good news- it’s easy to find (just look for the burnt   wire). The bad news? Gotta replace it.
  1. c) One of the motors dead; if this is the case, I’m afraid you’ll have to refer to the advice above in ‘b’.


  • Tail Boom: If your tail boom is broken, this can be a big problem. You need to get this repaired ASAP. Hobby glue is one option, yet is not as effective/strong as masking tape. Tape will add more weight, but it is worth the extra grams for the sake of a stronger repair job.
  • Main Shaft: Every so often, a main shaft might crack. It may even break. Hair may also find its way into the shaft and cause the rotor to strain and function slower, if not stop completely. If it’s just some hair, you can remove that easily enough. However, if you find the shaft cracked, you SHOULD NOT fly again until you have it replaced, unless you want to risk having your chopper skydive like a rock out of the sky.

 

Watch our Youtube Video for a great lesson on how to fly a rc helicopter.

Top Tips For a Rookie RC Helicopter Pilot

So you just bought yourself your first RC helicopter and can’t wait to soar the skies with her- but hold on, Maverick!

First off, congratulations on your order- you’re about to join a great amateur hobby. Having said that, it also must be said that you can’t be an RC copter pilot if you’re not willing also be the mechanic; and don’t think you won’t need to go through pilot school either, rookie!

In this guide, we’ll be looking at three key points to being an RC helicopter owner (=pilot/mechanic): flying, maintenance & repair:

  

First and Foremost: Maintaining Your RC Chopper- a labor of love 

  • Always store it in a cool, dry place, away from the elements….AND pets and pests
  • If you do not fly your helicopter on a regular basis, it might be best to take it apart and store it each time, to best avoid damage.
  • Keep your chopper well-cleaned and well-oiled (if the latter is necessary).
  • In the winter, always test the engine and blades to make sure that the function smoothly

 

Some Key Tips for Rookie Pilots

  • Read the WHOLE manual….yes the WHOLE thing. 
  • Follow the first bullet point again.
  • Hold the blade grips firmly when starting the engine. This way if the chopper starts at a greater rpm than you expected, it won’t get away from you. 
  • If the engine stars and is at (nearly) full power, cut the fuel line from the carburetor and reduce the throttle- unless you may damage the chopper before you even start.
  • Take it slow- there’s nothing worse than trying to be macho and wreck your copter your first time out.
  • Start off on a smooth surface and with no wind (preferably indoors)
  • Hovering actually requires more power than forward flight- remember this to avoid crashing when you decide to stop your forward flight in mid-air.
  • When flying with the wind at your back, remember that you’ll require more umpf on downwind turns.
  • Make sure to always tighten all screws after completing each flight.

 

The Unsung Hero and His/ Her Duty: Repairs

Sooner or later, you WILL need to repair your chopper; hopefully it will never be anything to serious. If you never find yourself needing to repair it, most likely you haven’t taken it out of the box yet (!).

Here are some tips to follow in case you suffer a nasty spill on one of your flights:

 

  • Keep some spare parts ready. Always. Accidents can and WILL happen; you’re a flying a RC helicopter. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait a few weeks for spare parts to arrive.
  • Remember to lubricate ALL necessary components, while you have the tool kit out; your chopper can never be too lubricated.
  • Make sure all rotors are tight; many crashes (and damage) occur due to a loose rotor
  • When replacing the motor- read and REREAD the manual
  • Hobby-grade glue can go a long way to repair breaks and even cracks. However, if you see/ hear your copter’s performance being affected, it’s time to pony up and replace/order the damaged part.