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R/C Aircraft Modeling Articles

After the Crash
Author: Clay Ramskill


-by Clay Ramskill

Let's face it- sometime, some day, one of your wonderfully crafted RC planes may crash. Some RC airplanes may last years, until they're just flat worn out; others have been completely destroyed after only a few tense seconds of flight!

When a crash does occur, there are several things you need to do.

LOCATE- Whether or not you are the unfortunate pilot, if you see a plane go down out in the toolies, establish a line of sight (a bearing line) to the crash. Do this by noting your position at the time, and by sighting to some recognizable landmark; in the absence of anything that stands out, lay your transmitter down, antenna pointing to the crash site. Then, if possible, a search party can just walk out that line to find the wreckage. If two separate lines of bearing have been established, the wreck site may be even more accurately pinpointed.

In a dense forest or swamp, it may be helpful if someone will fly a plane over the bearing line to aid the searchers on the ground. And in those trees, don't forget to look UP, as well as down and around; the plane can very well be perched up in the branches and leaves.

RECOVER- When you find the plane, be sure to pick up everything of importance. If there's any doubt, pick it up! Even some smaller pieces can be of aid in reconstruction. Naturally, you're interested in locating all the expensive stuff- radio, engine and such. The hard part is that heavier items (engine and battery) can travel a long way from the initial impact site; they will often be found some distance off in the direction the plane was travelling at impact. And be sure to count servos- sometimes one may be separated from the fuselage or wing. Also at this time, be sure that any leaking fuel situation is not allowed to continue. Fuel soaked wood is very difficult to repair.

If you should have to leave without all the goodies, be sure that the crash site is marked well enough that you can return to it at a later time for further searching.

ANALYZE- Sometimes the cause of a crash is obvious, sometimes not. If not, do what you can to find out what happened. This is crucial to your peace of mind, and toward preventing future occurrences.

Radio failures are usually the most difficult to sort out, but you can often narrow down any fault to a specific component. If there was a complete loss of control and all the servos went "hard over," then that is definitely a radio or interference problem. But if you were able to cut the throttle, then perhaps only one servo went haywire. And if the plane `went in' with all the controls locked in the last commanded position, then the failure was more likely the battery, switch harness, or associated plugs. Note that on a PCM computer radio, your "failsafe" mode can give you a similar effect. If only one control surface failed, the elevator for instance, you not only need to check out that servo, but also the appropriate control linkages.

RECONSTRUCTION ?- That depends.

It depends on how bad the damage is, of course. But heavily damaged planes CAN BE REPAIRED. It's usually a question of whether you think it's worth it and many factors will influence your decision. But give yourself a chance; take the scraps home and think about it before you make any rash decisions to trash the plane.

And the repairs? -That's another subject..


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