The flying monkeys got me...

Helis and fixed wing

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So you want to fly helis?

Kenny Chandler asked me to pen some advice for his brother who wants to get started in heli. Here's a slightly updated version of what I sent.
START HERE! Finless Bob's Tech Forum on
Read, read, read these posts, watch the videos, before you do or buy anything, in particular ones involving setup. Don't be intimidated, it looks hard but isn't! join the Helifreak forum community: best thing I ever did learning to fly helis!
SECONDLY, find someone who lives very nearby who is good with helis and doesnt need to contorl everything your do... You can do this yourself though!
THIRDLY, SIM! Phoenix is best for helis.
FOURTH, let go of the fear of crashing. You will. And you will spend more hours repairing than flying. But it gets better. I'm still trying to figure this all out.
FIFTH: Stick with Align compatible clones. Part are everywhere and are cheap. Think about what happens if that maker stops making that heli and parts become scarce...
I would recommend starting with a 500 size electric heli. No plastic head or tail parts, all metal. Get a clone or a used Align. No less than a 450 size, which are cheaper to buy and repair, but a little harder to learn on. No fixed pitch or 250 sized heli's! When buying parts, generics are fine in most cases, just match the stock specs until you learn what you like.
Clones: EXI, Tarot are good. No matter what anyone tells you, yes Align is the best, but most people start with and most people fly Align clones.
ESCs: Hobbyking, Hobbywing, Gens Ace. HeadsUpRC also makes good products. Get a prgramming card... the Hobbywing one can be used on most ESCs. Cards make it sooooo easy compared to programming an ESC with a transmitter.
Batteries: Hobby King Turnigy, Hobbypartz, go least expensive and you will be fine, no less than 25C. Change all the connectors to EC5, and get the right connectors for the right end (ie battery is male plastic connector-female pins, ESC is female plastic connector-male pins).
Motors: Any of the heli motors that match the specs for your heli are pretty good.
Gyros: Don't cheat here... Align GP780 are excellent and can be had on eBay for less than $100. They are a bit sensitive and can create a tail wag unless everything is vibration free. People swear by Quarks, but they don't come cheap, around $150. That said, they are simple, and work very well. Stay away from piezo gyros, you'll just end up replacing them. For FBL I like the BeastX, easy to program and it friggin' works. I am testing the Tarot generic one, which is supposed to be good, but I don't know yet.
Blades: generic, fiberglass or carbon fiber. Plastic can be good but are unreliable. I never have flown wood, but some people love them. ALWAYS balance your blades.
Servos: EXI from Hobbypartz, Hitec, Futaba, JR. I prefer cheaper metal gear except for my higher end helis, where I use all Hitec. Stay cheap at first because you will strip a few. The higher end ones you can replace gears on, so its not so painful. Solar 9g metal gear from Hobbypartz look like relabled EXI D213f. (Not sure I like them. I was replacing the EXI servos on my BeastX EXI 450 with Solars. Two are fine but the pitch channel servo freaked out on two consecutive servos during set up and fried them dead. I replaced that one servo with a used EXI and it works fine...).
Radios: I would likely go Futaba... I fly Spektrum, and like them, but Futaba seems more reliable. JR is the same as Spektrum, really, since they are the same company, just differnt tech. Any of their radios and receivers are compatible. Once you buy a radio transmitter, you will have to buy the same brand recievers, so a locked in. Choose wisely, ask around. DO NOT BUY CHEAP BRANDNAME RECIEVERS that are likely fakes, usually Spektrum. If its cheap its almost certainly a fake. Orange receivers from Hobbyking are not fakes and are surprisingly good inexpensive ones compatible with Spektrum DSM2. You don't need full range recievers for helis, park fliers or microlites will do as they never go that far away (if they do, not to worry, it won't be coming back... you'll loose orientationnand kill it).
Sources: - Their clones are good. Also, tons of part. Try to stick to the US warehouse (look for the little US flag next to items. Their 500 clone is a good one. - HONEST, good tech support, not cheap - if they have it in stock, its usually a good value. Kinda slow to ship. Customer support on This is where I get most of my replacement parts - good clones. The EXI clones are very good and are Align compatible. Stay away from The Erazor, nice heli but you can only use their parts, and if they ever stop making that heli, you won't be getting any parts. Also, they are always out of stock of stuff, almost as much as they are in stock. - like Helidirect
Get blades, only fiberglass or CF, online at eBay. Shop around. You will go through a lot of them, and they are best priced on eBay buying larger lots, like 3-6pairs. 500 sized blades can be tougher to find... most of the Chinese vendors are actually very good, just gonna take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to get to you. Always use Paypal.
Check out Radds School of Rotary Flight for a good primer on getting off the ground with the least trouble and crashes.
Take a look at my blog from the very beginning and follow a typical journey. I highly recommend learning to fly fixed wing first, but some people can skip that step. I wasn't one of them... You will learn fundamentals of control in a stable flight environment, and have quick success to build on. Heli's are very, very challenging.
Learn to fly flybar helis. They are classic, and easy. Flybarless is the future, but there will always be flybarred helis, and I like learning the basics from flybarred helis.

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