Tips for high speed flying success


I have had others at the flying field ask me who want to get into flying faster models than they fly currently, what are some things that lead to being able to handle and pilot high speed models with success.  Sport flying models at very high speeds in excess of 100 or 120+ MPH does take adjustments in your flying to some degree.  It is like any type of flying such as 3D - there are tricks to the trade so to speak.  What are some things that need to be considered or practiced when flying at very high speeds such as a really high performance prop driven or EDF model?  Many things need to be considered, however, I have narrowed the list down to a few of the major keys to success in high speed sport flying.

  • Have dependable and sturdy equipment both airframe as well as electronics
  • Learn your plane - start speed runs in stages - 1/2, 3/4, then full throttle
  • Dial-in your throws - short throws are key.  Expo doesn't hurt either.
  • Learn high speed "bleed off" maneuvers such as the "Immelman Turn" or the "Cuban 8"
  • Have a spotter

First things first, before the above list, an RC pilot needs to be at least in the intermediate skill level range before piloting a plane that travels over 100 MPH.  Hopefully you will agree with this statement - I don't want a novice pilot in control of a 1-3 pound 100 MPH bullet that could hit me or someone around or a structure.  Flying at high rates of speed is something that needs to be done by someone who doesn't have to think about stick movements before doing them.  An RC plane that is moving at high rates of speed covers a lot of distance in a very short span of time, so reflexes must be much quicker as a result.

Have dependable and sturdy equipment both airframe and electronics

It becomes crucial that your airframe and electronics are dependable and sturdy when it comes to high speed flying.  Structurally, the airframe of an RC model moving at triple digits is under immense "G" forces when moving that fast and then turning or "banking and yanking" coming back towards the pilot.  For the most part, you can't just take a simple foamy plane with no carbon or other reinforcements, stick a big motor on it, and then expect it to hold up under the increased forces structurally.

Many models that can be bought that are built for some bit of speed are already reinforced with some type of carbon spars at the very least in the wing area and in some cases along the fuselage as well.  These make good platforms to mod and increase speed as they are already built for that purpose anyway.  Those are typically the ones I look for in making mods for increased speed.

Also, it becomes critical to not use junk servos, linkages, and other equipment on the plane as you don't want these to fail in a high speed past coming by you and others.  You want the hardware and electronics to be dependable and sturdy enough to take wind and other forces when the plane is moving exceptionally fast.

Most likely if you have increased thrust with a new motor of some variant, you are going to use a much bigger/better ESC as well.  However, never forget your ESC can be the weak link.  If you fry your ESC in the middle of flight, your plane becomes a large fast moving projectile heading towards the ground without any way of controlling it.

Learn your plane - start speed runs in stages - 1/2, 3/4, then full throttle

We all have the tendency to punch it as hard as it will go right off the bat.  However, many have learned hard lessons do this, by either not being ready themselves to handle a fast plane, or not discovering an issue with the plane before attempting speed runs.

Start out slower.  Make some half throttle, then 3/4 throttle passes the first flight at the very least to spot any problems and then move on to full speed passes at full throttle once you have verified the integrity of the plane and your ability to handle the plane itself.

Dial-in your throws - short throws are key.  Expo doesn't hurt either

When an aircraft is moving at very high rates of speed, it takes very little movements by the control surfaces to make changes in the trajectory of the plane.  So minimal movements in the ailerons and elevator especially can make radical movements in the plane's tracking.

Keep this in mind if you are upgrading the powerplant on your model as the throws may have been dialed in for your 50 MPH plane, however, not for 100 MPH or higher.  It takes much smaller deflection to make a change in the plane's tracking at higher rates of speed.

Expo of course makes softer movements when the stick is towards the center of the pot.  You want to be software and more precise when your plane is traveling at a higher rate of speed.  Expo by its design helps with this.  See the post on how to setup expo on your Spektrum radio.

Learn high speed "bleed off" maneuvers

What are we talking about high speed "bleed off" maneuvers?  Well, when flying speed runs, most of the time, you bring the aircraft in front of your position either left to right or right to left.  When traveling at a high rate of speed, most of the time, you will want to climb out and bring the plane back across the field in front of you flying the opposite direction.  Besides the traditional "bank and yank" there are a couple of maneuvers that lend themselves to bleeding off speed and turning back around to fly across the field - the "Immelman Turn" or the "Cuban 8".

The Immelman turn may make more sense if you are climbing out and want to set back up for a run across the field from the same direction.  In the Immelman, you climb up vertical and then pull inverted while rolling back to upright position at the top of your climb pointing back the opposite direction.  This allows you to bleed tremendous speed and momentum to come back across the field.

The Cuban 8 is essentially the same maneuver except that you pull to inverted and then still inverted angle back down towards the ground at around a 45 degree angle.  Then you roll out to upright position as you come back across the field.

Have a spotter

This last point is especially important if you are flying at a flying field with others.  Safety is of primary importance.  Having a spotter to help you keep track of the position of your plane as well as the position of others is especially important when you are flying at very high rates of speed.

Even if you are flying at a private location where others are not flying, it is still a good idea to have someone keeping track of things around you and obstacles you may be missing.

Final Thoughts

I personally really enjoy flying super fast planes and trying to tweak the most out of the planes I currently own which are built for speed.  It is a ton of fun.  Hopefully with the above mentioned tips and others, you can have a great time pushing the speed envelope with your planes.  Comment below if you have tips and tricks you would like to share or links to your speed runs.