If you are an avid fan of piloting remote controlled cars or planes, then an RC floatplane will give you more of a challenge. Unlike regular RC planes, which you can only land on solid ground, an RC seaplane or floatplane can be operated on water. This gives you a whole new experience when dealing with remote controlled devices.
by SMA team
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What are my options when purchasing an RC floatplane?
Remote controlled seaplanes or floatplanes are relatively fewer compared to the traditional RC vehicle. However, HobbyZone, a company specializing in providing the best electric-powered remote control vehicles, offers a unit known as Super Cub.
The Super Cub can be modified into an RC floatplane by attaching a pair of floats. To ensure that the attachments fit right and function well, it is ideal for you to purchase the floats from HobbyZone as well. This model is ideal for newbies since it comes with a beginner mode and panic mode that will help you operate the unit correctly. This RC vehicle also comes in an experienced mode where professionals can test out the full potential of this amazing RC floatplane.
Both the unit as well as the attachments are quite durable. The company utilizes pre-bent wire struts as well as reliable lightweight foam to create the floats. The materials used is extremely important mainly because this can affect the performance of the unit depending on the current of the water or how strong the winds are.
Turning an RC plane into an RC floatplane
As previously mentioned, there are not many RC floatplanes available on the market. This is why you need to get a bit creative. You can easily turn a regular remote controlled plane into a floatplane. There is a wide range of attachments to choose from if you decide to convert your RC plane into an RC floatplane.
But considering the number of available attachments, it’s very easy to end up wasting your hard-earned cash on the wrong attachment or an accessory that doesn’t fit your standards. It is always important for you to do extensive research before you jump in with both feet and purchase RC plane attachments. There are a couple of factors that you should consider.
Since you’ll basically be removing the wheels to attach floats, this takes away a stabilizer for your RC plane. It is essential for you to buy the proper-sized floats for your RC plane model to prevent it from spinning around in mid-air.
Just like how a weather vane functions, the tail moment of the vertical fin will help you determine the wind’s direction. This is also similar to a windsock that gives you the necessary information that you need to be able to decide which way you should take off. It’s good to look for a unit and attachments that can give you this feature.
If you are looking for recommendations, check out E-Flight’s float sets. These are perfect for converting a regular RC plane into an RC floatplane. These floats are specifically designed for high winged park flyers. The process of installing it is also quite simple and straightforward.
Another thing you should consider is how big and how heavy the plane is. Small planes don’t do so well in harsh winds or big ripples in the water. Going for a larger model will minimize the hassle that you may experience when flying a remote controlled plane.
When it comes to the model, the best one is the high wing trainer. It’s the most ideal unit to convert into a floatplane. However, installing floats on this unit is not as simple as attaching floats to an E-flite plane. You should keep this in mind when purchasing this model.
Deciding on what floats to use
If you have already decided on which model you want, the next important step is looking for the right float attachment for your plane. But before we dive into that, you have to choose the type of float you want to install on your unit. You can either choose to create a set of floats using balsa wood. There are purchasable ABS plastic floats and foam core floats as well.
Size of the float
Keep this important piece of information in mind: the size of the float should be compatible with the weight of your plane. An example of this is the Hangar 9 40-Size Wood Floats. This type pairs well with a specific engine.
The size of the float is very important if you want to build the best RC floatplane. Before deciding on a size, take out your ruler and measure the length of the fuselage. Make sure to measure this starting from the backside of the propeller up to the elevator hinge. Your floats should at least be 80% of the measurement.
Now you may find the pairs of commercial floats that may closely fit the measurement. It’s not necessary for the length to be exactly 80% of the measurement. Just make sure that it is close to it. You can dip down to as low as 70%.
On the off chance you don’t find a suitably sized set of floats, you can easily make your own. There are a lot of video tutorials and written guides all over the internet. You can even join a forum for RC floatplane fans to get a second opinion.
Installing the floats
Installing floats is not as easy as switching out the batteries of your remote control. You don’t just simply attach it to the unit and be on your way. This is why most problems arise when installing floats to your RC plane. Keep these factors in mind while attaching the floats:
Center of gravity
Locating the center of gravity of your unit should be your first priority. It is best if the center of gravity is set in the default location stated in the plane’s manual.
Ensuring that the plane is balanced is paramount when installing floats. Once you attach the floats, balance out the plane by adding weights to the attachments. This is to keep the plane balanced if you need to remove the floats.
The step’s position
This is where the location of the center of gravity comes into the picture. Make sure that the step of the float is placed directly behind the center of gravity. The rule of thumb for most RC floatplanes is half an inch to one inch. The float’s front should at least stick out of the propeller by a few inches.
This is to ensure that the floats won’t get damaged by the propeller. It is also to prevent the plane from diving into the water.
When it comes to the spacing of your float, you want it to be apart from the wingspan by 24% to 25%. If you don’t follow this spacing, the probability of your unit crashing into the water is increased.
Attaching the floats at the right angle is extremely important. If placed incorrectly and your plane is angled upwards, it may mess up the lift-off and stall, making it difficult to control. It may also keep the plane from lifting off.
The trick is to attach the floats according to the attitude of the plane. Ideally, you should mount it parallel to the plane’s attitude. Attach the front part of the floats first to avoid obstructing the propeller clearance. Then you simply need to adjust the backside of the floats until it is parallel to the plane’s horizontal stabilizer.
Flying a remote control plane equipped with floats will require more power compared to flying regular RC planes. This is because the floats add extra weight to the unit, which creates more drag compared to wheels or regular landing gear. Another reason is since you will be using this on water, it will be a bit more difficult to get it up in the air.
This doesn’t mean you have to resort to buying a whole new unit. A simple fix to this is changing the blade of your propeller. For example, if you’re running a 2 blade on your plane, switch it for a 3 blade. Although this means sacrificing some speed, it gives you more torque or power.
RC Floatplanes: Take off and Landing
If you are confident in your flying skills and can manage to operate a tail-dragger properly, then flying from the water is going to be a breeze. But it’s not a walk in the park. There are some things you should consider.
Taxiing on land can be a bit difficult. Imagine doing that on water. It takes time to get used to it, but with practice and the right weather conditions, you will be able to pull it off. But the weather can be unpredictable. Strong winds are unavoidable. It’s frustrating to watch your plane just go around in circles in the water.
Although installing a water rudder setup should help you, it’s sometimes not enough. Piloting an RC floatplane, after all, requires skill and knowledge. You have to learn how to adjust your flying depending on the wind.
There’s a huge difference between land and seaplanes when it comes to taking off. This comes in the form of drag that is present. Regular landing gear is completely different from floats in terms of structure, weight, and length.
When piloting an RC landplane, you will notice that you only encounter a bit of drag, assuming you are taking off on a smooth surface. But RC float planes encounter much more drag because of the water. This makes it difficult to get it up in the air.
A significant amount of drag will exist until the floats drag across the surface of the water and successfully takes to the skies. Keep this in mind at all times when piloting your RC floatplane.
However, one thing in common between these two types is that it needs to get airborne as soon as possible. This helps reduce the risk of encountering more take-off problems. If you don’t manage to take off on time and the wind changes, you might need to read the waves and take off parallel to it. This means you will be doing a crosswind take-off.
There’s a simple trick to avoid this. You will need to point the nose of the plane upwards at a higher angle compared to when you’re taking off on land. This helps keep the floats on the surface and prevents it from being swept underneath the water.
Utilize the plane’s ailerons as well when going downwind to prevent the wings from getting caught by strong winds. You wouldn’t want your plane flipping over mid-air and risk crashing it. These planes, after all, are quite pricey.
Another trick is to hold a full elevator while slowly increasing the throttle. Keep this up until you see the float riding up on the plane’s step.
Slowly reduce up elevator as the speed increases and just let the plane go with the flow of the waves. Once you reached the ideal speed for take-off, gently lift the plane off the water and keep it stabilized in the air.
Despite all these differences between land planes and seaplanes, once you get it up in the air, you’ll notice that they behave the same way. The hard part is over. Here are some tips that a lot of RC pilots neglect.
- You should practice taking off and landing on solid ground first. Starting out on the water can cause problems.
- You need a way to recover your plane in case it gets stranded in the water. Unless you are willing to swim all the way, bringing a boat will come in handy in so many ways.
- Stay calm at all times. Regardless if the winds start to get stronger or your plane dips or tips over, maintain your composure and focus on landing it safely.
Now that we finished discussing the difference when it comes to taking off, let’s talk about landing. There’s not much difference when it comes to landing a regular plane or a floatplane on land. Naturally, you want to come in hot by a bit while diving down slightly. Take the weight of the floats into consideration when doing this and gently set it down.
But when landing on water, things get a bit tricky. You might feel more pressured because crashing your plane in water is not something you want to do. Not only will it be hard to recover, but it might cause even more damage.
Here’s how you can land it on water properly. Try your best to land parallel to any ripples, waves, or chops in the water. Don’t try landing perpendicular to them. This might flip your unit over or it might get caught and swept away by the waves.
This takes practice though. Performing a crosswind landing can be quite a challenge to most pilots. Even professionals have difficulty doing this sometimes. But don’t overthink it. You can easily avoid having to do this by simply skipping flying if the winds are a bit too strong. You can land the plane without a problem if the water is completely calm.
It’s important for you to remember to slow down and flare as much as you can when landing your remote controlled seaplane. This makes it easier to land on the water gently and securely. Also, to avoid the floats getting caught in the water, keep the nose of the plane at a higher angle.
You have to be mindful of your float plane’s speed when stalling. You want to avoid stalling as much as possible when landing on water. This may cause problems while you land the unit.
The most important thing for you to do is to practice on dry land first. I know you’re excited to try it out on the water, but you have to remember that the conditions for landing are different depending on the situation.
Perfect your landing on solid ground first. You will know that you are ready to take to the waters as soon as there is minimal bounce and the landing is very smooth on dry land.
All these tips are important if you want to land your floatplane on water properly. But what if it runs out of battery or you experience technical problems and can’t bring it back to you? This is where a boat comes in handy.
If you’re landing on a huge lake, a boat will make it easier for you to retrieve your plane. However, if you’re willing to take a dip and swim out into the lake, you may do so as well. A boat isn’t essential for retrieval, but it is highly recommended.
An RC floatplane surely spices up your flying routine. It is a lot of fun especially if you have easy access to a lake or pond. If you really want a challenge, take it to a flowing river or out in the ocean. But before doing so, make sure to practice, practice, practice.