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Proper Prop Position Matters! Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 14 July 2010 04:07

There are many things in life that you can do backwards. You can walk backwards, write backwards, drive backward and if you’re really good you can even talk backwards, although most people wouldn’t be able to understand you. Even though each of us can do these things we probably can’t do them very well and are better off doing things the right way. I was reminded of this simple life rule a summer ago while visiting Shaky Thumb’s family in the high desert region of our beautiful state.

The trip had been planned for months and our time was to be full of airplanes, flying and good food. We crammed the SUV with airplanes and airplane accessories and made the 4-hour drive to the desert. We knew we would be greeted with flat lands, open skies and a hot sun with 3 full days of flying.  Shaky’s brother-in law was new to flying and had recently purchased a Hobbyzone Super Cub that he flew every spare moment he could find. We were excited to show him the Trojan, Stryker and Shaky’s brand new Parkzone Corsiar. Ol’ Shaky Thumbs was so excited about the Corsair that he decided to swap out the 2-bladed prop and slap on the better looking 3-blader to show off to his brother.

After arriving in town and settling down we met Shaky’s brother out at the ‘field’. The chosen flying area that afternoon was a stretch of public land that was flat and open with dogs running everywhere. We stepped out of the car and were blown away with the flying field….literally the wind was easily 20-30 mph. We thought about bagging the whole flying idea but we were determined! We didn’t drive 4 hours into the desert to NOT fly! I figured it wouldn’t be too bad since there was nothing to crash into except the ground, a few rocks and all the dogs. Because of the wind Shaky Thumbs decided to take off the 3-bladed propeller from his Corsair and put the more powerful 2-blade back on.

I did a quick pre-flight check, pointed my Trojan into the wind and in about 2 feet I was able to takeoff straight up into the sky like a harrier jet. The whipping wind was ferociously fun and the Parkzone Trojan handled it like a champ. Going into the wind was slow, but coming back with the wind made the plane feel like a jazzed up jet! I was having a ball climbing, diving, swooshing and flying until I noticed that Shaky Thumbs wasn’t keeping up with me like he usually does.  For once it wasn’t Shaky’s skills that were holding him back but something with the wind and the airplane was causing him much grief.

While I was dominating the skies like a majestic eagle he floated and fluttered around like a sickly robin with one wing. I was having such a good time flying, but after he was grounded for a long while I decided to go see if I could help him. He had the corsair on the ground and was going through all the control surfaces and surprisingly, everything looked good. We were stumped as to why the plane was flying so poorly. We decided to go ahead and try to takeoff from the ground but the corsair would roll approximately 10 feet or so before the dry desert bumps caused it to nose over. Shaky Thumbs has always had problems taking off and landing the corsair an issue he attributed to the landing gear. This time it felt different. Even with the 20mph wind gusting he couldn’t get the plane off the ground.

So we decided to try hand launching the Parkzone Corsair.

This led into what I can only describe as an hour of “let’s see how many ways we can destroy the Corsair!” With each unsuccessful hand launch the poor plane was bruised and beaten worse than boxer in the 10th round. After 2 bad throws from the ground we decided we needed to be higher up, so Shaky’s brother stepped up on the tail gate of the truck. After throwing it from the tailgate the plane managed to ‘fly’ (I use that term loosely) before prematurely finding the ground again. After looking over the plane we decided we needed to be even higher up and tried launching the plane from the very top of the truck! The Corsair cumbersomely flew until Shaky Thumbs decided to crash it to the ground as the plane was very hard to control. In a frustrated fit he began packing up all the gear ready to head back to the condo. I was sad because I was having a blast flying, but darkness was approaching and Shaky’s mood was quickly deteriorating.

Back at the condo we gorged ourselves with chips and cookies while relaxing on the couch. I began gathering batteries and charging them in preparation for the next day while Shaky Thumbs, looked over his Corsair like a NASA technician on a failed rocket launch. I was somewhere in my 3rd handful of chips when Shaky Thumb’s voice broke the silence in the room.

“ooooooohhhhhhh…..heh. I uh, think I know why my plane was flying like crap”

“oh? (munch munch crunch) What?”

“I think my prop is on backwards, aren’t the numbers supposed to face forward?”

I immediately knelt down to the beat up Corsair, grabbed the plane with my greasy fingers and laughed a hearty laugh. Sure enough, there sat his prop tightly snug on the shaft, with the numbers facing towards the plane.

“Why yes my good man that could be a problem!”

Sheepishly he unscrewed the prop flipped it around and put it back on with the numbers facing forward. Not surprising to anyone, the very next day the plane miraculously flew like it was designed to and we ribbed Shaky Thumbs to no end about it.

It is not too difficult to understand which way a prop is supposed to be mounted on a model airplane. Some props are able to only go on direction making it easy for the novice, but as a general rule of thumb the numbers (prop size and data) face forward in the direction you want to move. The only exception to this rule is some pusher prop types that have the numbers facing backwards. Still the majority of pusher props have their numbers facing in the direction of forward flight.

There is an easy solution to the headache of accidentally flying with your prop on backwards. Get a watt meter! This little device can save you time, money and headaches when dealing with RC airplanes. I put off getting one for a long time, but after burning up an ESC in my Parkzone Stryker and watching the hobby guys pinpoint my problem with a watt meter, I decided to invest. Since then I can honestly say that I have saved 3 different aircraft that were doomed to descend in flames had I not re-configured them after running the watt meter on them. In addition I found out the motor/esc combo in my Reactor Biplane was capable of producing more power than I was allowing it and with the watt meter I was able to squeeze out every last ounce of thrust.

Whether you get a watt meter or not make sure and pay attention to the position of your prop and always keep your hands clear of the spinning blades! Otherwise you’ll be known as hamburger fingers or just ‘nubs’, no one likes nubs.

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