Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Comparing Free Flight and RC Sailplane Contests

I enjoy both outdoor free flight and radio control sailplane competition, in both types of competition you must have your model aircraft flying in rising thermal air currents. The rules and the nature of the aircraft differ between the two types of model aircraft competition.

Winch Launch RC Sailplane
Altitude Electric RC Sailplane Contest

In RC soaring contests you are required to launch at your specified time to fly. The height of the launch is pretty close for everyone. If it is an altitude limited contest by using an altitude sensing device in an electric powered sailplane all launch heights should be close to the same. If launched by winch the height can vary based on the zoom obtained after releasing from the winch line.

Glow Powered Free Flight Launch

Free flight airplanes are normally limited by the engine or motor run; be it glow engine or electric motor. Rubber powered free flight can have limitations on the amount of rubber used to power the airplane. Unless it is FAI free flight competition which uses a series of rounds in which you must fly once within the round and wait until next round starts before making another flight; you are free to launch any time you want.

Free Flight Discus Gliders in Thermal

 Discus launch height in both radio control and free flight is whatever height the pilot is able to throw his sailplane to.

RC soaring scores are normally adjusted based on a factor of the best flight time for the pilots flying at the same time.  

In free flight you are pretty limited where you can launch your model. With RC sailplanes you are limited where you launch but after launch the sailplane can be flown anywhere to search for thermal lift.

FF Glider Launched Within Glider Pen Area

What does this all mean as far as strategy of the contestants in either event? Basically in free flight you try predict as closely as possible when strong thermal is passing through your immediate area and launch, hoping the airplane will continue to circle in the thermal for a max flight.  In RC soaring you launch when required and direct your sailplane to find the thermal lift often a fair distance away from launch.  The signs you look for are often other sailplanes or birds climbing in lift or the blowing of tree leaves in the distance. Free flight contestants often use a variety of tools to measure temperature and wind speed as well as using Mylar streamers and blowing soap bubbles. They watch other airplanes as well often resulting in a bunch of airplanes in the air at once.

Wind Speed and Temperature

Both types of model competition are challenging and fun for the contestants.

Bill Kuhl

My Related Videos Nats 2016 Free Flight  Electric Sailplane Introduction   RC Sailplane Electric Winch Launching

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