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Building Scale Helicopters by Peter Wales

Build a Bigger, More Realistic RC Helicopter

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A scale RC helicopter is designed to look and perform as closely as possible to the full-size helicopter it represents. These aren't little electric flyers made to look like insects that buzz around your living room. From the authentic body styles to the realistic paint jobs to the type of engines, a true scale helicopter is as close as many pilots will ever get to piloting a real Chinook, Cobra, or Huey. In Building Scale Helicopters, Peter Wales tells you and shows you what is involved in the hobby of building realistic scale RC helicopters.

Getting Started in Scale Helicopters

The first chapter, aptly named "Where to Start?", goes over the basics that all inspired beginner RC pilots need to know. For example, you'll need to know what size is the best for you. That's not necessarily the biggest or the most common size. You are the one flying the RC after all so you don't want to lose control of a large scale RC helicopter that you can't control. That can lead to pretty expensive repairs. The chapter talks a little about how you can take your existing RC mechanics (RC helicopter without the body) and find a suitable body or fuselage so that you can get into scale RC helicopter flying with minimal effort. Wales talks about doing as much research and getting catalogs and brochures that have pictures of the helicopter that you are attempting to model your RC helicopter after. Pay close attention to details like antennae and such -- authenticity is the key here. He also gives a few suggestions as to what would make a great first scale RC helicopter for beginners.

Building the Scale Body

Chapters 3 through 6, "Starting To Build It," "Cutting Up The Fuselage," "Preparing To Paint," "Painting The Body," and finally, "Finishing Off" get into my favorite topics. These chapters cover the do's and don'ts of scale RC helicopter building and the finalizing of the construction process. Wales tells us, "My giant BK117 came in a 7-foot long box and was one enormous fibreglass moulding that required special handling while assembling it." Man, that is huge! I also got a good chuckle when he was explaining what he built as a work bench for this monstrous helicopter which included a nice carpeted section. He said, "I did have some trouble explaining to my wife about the 3-foot square hole in the carpet under the bed in the spare bedroom though." Sounds a lot like something I would've done. These scale RC helicopters come in all different sizes so you might not necessarily be dealing with such a space-hogging monster. Wales also goes over some of the confusing but important building details we might miss even when we read the instructions that come with our model.

Powering Your Scale RC Helicopter

After covering the outside, Wales goes into detail on the importance and choices of the type of engine you'll need to complete your scale RC helicopter. He outlines the pros and cons of 2-stroke and nitro engines, providing horse power and torque curves for both types. Gear ratios and how they will affect the performance of the RC helicopter are explained. If you prefer electic motors, the book ocvers what type of electric motors are ideal for different situations. Brushed or brushless setups and their differences (both inrunner and outrunner) and lithium polymer batteries vs. traditional NiCad batteries are covered in the electrics chapter. The importance of the number of blades on the RC compared to the type of motor is also discussed. Although a first time scale RC helicopter builder may want to stick with nitro or electric, there is a chapter devoted to the "ultimate in scale realism" -- the turbine.

Scale RC Helicopter Electronics

Since you can't sit inside your model you'll be piloting it from the ground. A good radio system is essential. The chapter of Building Scale Helicopters devoted to electronics gives good examples of what you're going to be up against using radio control to fly your RC. It covers the servos and other internal parts that control flight, how many channels you need, and what type of controller to get.

Rounding out the book are chapters covering a few miscellaneous questions and answers that might not be covered in the instructions for your model, a chapter on tools, one of tips and tricks, a few words on competitions. Building Scale Helicopters has lots and lots of text but there are also a lot of pictures that show examples of what the text is describing. If you are seriously interested in building scale RC helicopters but don't know where to start or how to proceed, this book takes you through the entire process quite nicely.

Disclosure: Review copy of book was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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