Introduction to flying an RC Plane - Identifying Key Plane Components

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It’s important that you know some of the key components that make your plane. In most cases you will have to do some minor assembly for your first plane which will require some minor tweaking to get it flying right.

It also may be that you crash and need to replace parts. A good start is knowing what the parts are so you can do some research. 
 

ESC

ESC stands for Electronic Speed Controller. This device not only allows you to control your motor, it also protects your battery from being over-discharged.
TURNIGY Plush 40amp Speed Controller w/5A BEC
Image: ESC
 

ESCs are not all the same. Some will handle higher voltages and amps than others. If you're replacing an ESC, you need to make sure you choose the right ESC for your model that can handle the volts and amps. All ESCs are clearly labelled with their tolerances as a reference. 

Brushless Motor

A brushless motor uses an ESC rather than having brushes to control the engine through the continual switching of the phase ot the windings.  

Most importantly, a brushless engine is much more efficient than a standard brushed motor and generally lasts much longer! 

Durafly™ Spitfire Mk1a/Mk5/Bf-109e 3736-770kv Motor with Prop Adaptor and Mount

Image: Brushless Motor (outrunner)


Brushless motors are most commonly produced in two forms. First being outrunner which means the motor armature stands still and the case spins around it. In other words, the outside of the motor spins around the inside which is highly visible. 

The second type is an inrunner. The armature in this instance is spinning inside the case so all you see if the motor shaft spinning and nothing else moving. 

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages but do pretty much the same thing. 


LiPo Battery

A lithium-ion polymer battery known in the RC hobby community as a LiPo battery is powerful and light. They’re also rechargeable and provide enough energy in their small form to enable you to fly.

LiPo batteries can be sourced quite cheap and should be treated with respect as they can be dangerous if not managed properly. 

ZIPPY Flightmax 1800mAh 3S1P 40C

Image: Lipoly Battery

When choosing a battery you need to ensure you choose the right battery because they come in many different arrangements.

 

  • Voltage: Most common batteries are 11.1 volts or 14.8 volts
  • Amps: The amount of amp draw can differ between batteries
  • Capacity: Batteries store different amounts of energy
  • Dimensions: All batteries have different physical dimensions
  • Weight: The weight of a battery can greatly affect flight characteristics


Radio Transmitter

A radio transmitter allows you to control your aircraft through a radio signal. Your inputs are converted via signal to the plane through the receiver. 

Most radios these days operate on the 2.4Ghz spectrum and have what’s called frequency hopping to prevent others from interfering with the control of your model. This makes flying easier because there is no need for you or others to carry crystals to the field like they did in the earlier days allowing model flyers to remain on one frequency. 

Turnigy TGY-i10 10ch 2.4GHz Digital Proportional RC System with Telemetry (Mode 2)

Image: Radio Transmitter

Radio transmitters come in two different modes: Mode 1 and Mode 2. This relates to the configuration of the radio gimbals (sticks) on the radio. For more detailed information, refer to the article titled: Your First Radio Transmitter.


Receiver

A receiver is what allows you to control your plane through a radio link. Installed physically on the aircraft, it’s powered either by your ESC or a separate battery pack. 

If you’re planning on flying more planes, you can control them all by installing a receiver in each one and using the same radio transmitter. 
 

TGY-i10 Genuine Replacement Lipoly Battery Pack 1700mah

Image: Receiver

A receiver can be powered by your ESC or it can be powered independently by its own battery or a device called a Battery Eliminator Circuit (BEC). 


Servo

A servo is a small electrical device installed on your plane that moves around in an arc allowing you to control your planes movements. This is achieved by connecting the servo to a control rod through to control horn and finally, the control surface. 
 

Turnigy™ TG9e Eco Micro Servo 1.5kg / 0.10sec / 9g

Image: Servo for a park flyer plane

Servos are powered by the receiver and come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them can handle greater forces generated by wind when it comes in to contact with the control surface of the plane. 

It's important you choose the right servo for your plane because some only have nylon gearing and others are much stronger with metal gearing. Metal geared servos are generally much stronger than nylon geared servos. 


Control horn & Control Rod

A control horn is attached to the control surfaces of your plane (Rudder, Elevator, ailerons…) which in turn is connected to a control rod. The Control rod is generally a long piece of steel that connects to the control horn and in turn, all three devices move the control surface in opposite directions. 

Durafly™ Spitfire Mk1a Control Horns and Accessories

Image: Control horns connected to control rods of different sizes
 

Control Surfaces

The most common control surfaces on a plane when starting our are:
    
Plane-Control-Surfaces-(1).jpg

Up Next: Your First Flight

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About the Author
Thomas Profile
I love all things that fly! I especially love learning and passing on any knowledge I have gained! Flying multicopters is my favorite thing to do. For me, it's just as much about the build as it is flying! I love to spend time in the garage tinkering with things and working out complex problems - my 3D printers being one of them...