Yes, I know, nobody likes to do homework! But as I often remember from my time in the Air Force, "people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan". There is certainly a lot to be said for doing some research before building your first park jet or in fact if you already have built one, doing some research before building your next one. I hope not to be overly blunt or insult anybody's intelligence with my advice and recommendations, but hopefully try to set you up for success. I still see far too many guys jumping on the RC Powers forum, buying plans for a plane, starting a new thread every time an idea pops into their head and really never getting anywhere and they sometimes give up or never have the success they could have if they did a little work on their own.
Unfortunately, the less experience you have, I think the more study is required to ensure best success when taking the test with your first park jet flight :) Also, I think it prudent to do some work to educate yourself so that when you do need to ask a question, you can do it with some knowledge and ask much better questions to get the answers you seek. From hard earned experience, I know it will get you where you need to be much more quickly with hopefully greatly reduced frustration and embarrassment.
Also, it will give you a far better idea of what materials, components, etc you need to acquire before you can build your first park jet. Long term, building and flying foam park jets is one of the most economical ways to enjoy the RC flying hobby, but there is a certain amount of money you will need to spend to get started and set yourself up for success long term. The great thing is once you have a couple motors, ESCs, batteries and a handful of servos, you can recycle them into follow on planes which greatly reduces the cost over time. I know for a fact I have components, pushrods, carbon reinforcement that has been in at least a half dozen planes and is still going strong. I like to think of the park jet part of the RC hobby as having a very high "fun to dollar" ratio. In other words, a whole lot of fun for very little outlay of money and very little building time to get you in the air.
Although the info in this article I wrote awhile back covers planes with full up controls, if you give it a browse, you will get an idea of what the cost will be for a plane starting out (this does not include other building materials or your transmitter).
If you haven't already, I would strongly encourage you to join the RC Powers forum. It is free to join and there is no requirement to post at any time, but as soon as you join, you get access to free plans for the Mig-29 V1 and F-18 V3 which are the two planes I strongly recommend you try as your first park jets, especially if you are brand new to the hobby. Here are a couple of pictures of my favorite Mig-29 V1 and F-18 V3. I literally put hundreds on flights on each of these airplanes, nothing fancy about the paint schemes, but the skills and confidence I gained from these planes was crucial to my development as a park jet builder and pilot.
Although the RC Powers threads may seem lengthy, I would recommend taking the time to sit down with your favorite beverage and some snacks and have a read through them. You don't necessarily need to do it all in one day or even read the entire thing, but very quickly you should get an idea of what setups have worked best for folks from the most basic to the most advanced. You might also get an idea what guys you might go to for questions or advice based on how they have written their comments, feedback or provided advice to others. Of course it is like any internet forum, you will have your good guys and your not so good guys, sometimes you just have to figure that out on your own. Quite honestly, you will probably find about 25% or more of it is just mindless chatter between members which you can just skim through. But as I mentioned before, you don't have to interact with anybody if you don't want to and you can still learn a lot. On our links page, I have picked out some of the best threads to have a look at, especially if you are just getting started.
The embedded search function on the RC Powers page located up towards the top right is also very good and will take you to the subject you want to research pretty easily. Many people fail to use this and start threads or ask questions about topics that have been covered over and over and over and often suffer the wrath of less patient members, making their experiences less than positive.
Anyway, enough of my rant on the RC Powers forum, I certainly have had my ups and downs with the forum in my time, but if you want to learn about park jets, it is definitely a rich gold mine of information.
As I mentioned in the first post, here are some questions you might start asking yourself as you decide what park jet might be right for you. As I mentioned, try to be as honest with yourself as you can when answering, it might save you a lot of time and frustration. Of course if you are brand new to the hobby, perhaps you don't know the answers, but do your best :)
- What are your flying preferences?
- Do you want a plane that is forgiving and relatively easy to fly?
- Do you want to challenge yourself, flying a plane that is a bit more difficult to fly but perhaps more aerobatic?
- Do you go for scale looks over performance or the other way around?
- Do you want a plane that is versatile and able to handle a wide range of power setups, wind conditions and has a large flight envelope (in other words flies well from quite slow to very fast in just about any environment)?
What are your normal flying conditions?
- Do you fly at a smaller field where having a plane that you can keep close to you is important?
- Do you normally fly in windy conditions (in other words anything but dead calm winds)
Is the plane I want to build popular and well supported?
- Does the designer provide instructions you can follow, or are you going to be pretty much on your own? Some designers provide very detailed instructions, others a few build pictures with little explanation, so it might be important to assess how self sufficient you can be in your build before selecting a certain plane.
- Have lots of other guys built it and enjoyed it? Of course with every plane you will get guys who love and hate it, but in general, has it been a successful design and good flier? The Mig-29 V1 for example has been around for seven years which is amazing for a park jet, the F-18 V3 has been around for three years and they are still the most popular planes for guys getting started. I still to this day have one of each in my hangar :) A few modifications since the first builds and a little better quality paint jobs, but still a ton of fun to fly.
You don't need a terribly complicated transmitter to enjoy most park jets, but if you have something too simple, you are probably going to need to consider on board mixers which can make your control setups a bit more complicated, take up more room in your plane and add unnecessary weight. So you don't necessarily need to splash out hundreds of dollars on an overly complicated and capable transmitter, ask around, shop around and you can get set up with a good radio you can "grow" into that should meet all your park jet needs. You Tube is an excellent source of information I have found, lots of reviews and comparisons available. What you want to try and avoid is what I did, I started off with a Spectrum Dx6i which is a good basic transmitter, but has limited mixing functions. I quickly outgrew it and then had to buy a second transmitter just to be able to keep up with the complexity of my setups as my skills and desire for more advanced setups increased.
If you already have a transmitter, I would suggest learning how to set up mixes in it and start playing around with those. Almost every park jet I have ever flown will fly well with elevons only, so if nothing else, learn if your transmitter is capable of doing that and how to set those up.
I hope that I haven't scared you away from thinking of building and flying a park jet, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I am only being a bit blunt to hopefully prevent you from making many of the same mistakes I have made or that I see others repeating over and over. Some research before spending any money doesn't cost anything but some time and in the long run will hopefully set you up for success, save you some stress and frustration and get you on your way to flying and enjoying a cool park jet.
I shot this video awhile ago and although a couple of the items I discuss I don't use any longer, hopefully it will give you an idea of how my park jet workshop is set up after much trial and error to get the goodies and products that work for me. It is quite lengthy and detailed, but that is what fast forward is for :) Also, if you watch on You Tube, you can find the index to the video that will allow you to navigate around to find the subject or subjects that you are interested in most.
In the next two articles, I will discuss why I think the RC Powers Mig-29 V1 and F-18 V3 are such good choices for starter park jets. They do have some qualities that are different from what I will discuss throughout the rest of this series, but they are proven airplanes, quite straight forward to build, quite beginner friendly and a lot of fun to fly regardless of your RC experience level. Follow on articles will then start to discuss specific qualities and behaviors of park jet design and features that may help you in your park jet choices in the future.