Setting Up a Helicopter
First thing after you bring your newly purchased Helicopter home, regardless whether it’s new or second hand, is to check that the helicopter is properly set up. Even an experienced helicopter pilot will not be able to fly an improperly set up helicopter. He might not crash it if he is lucky, but he will definitely have a hell of a time trying to fly it right.
A properly set up helicopter will fly the way you want it to. You will not have to fight the controls just to get the helicopter to a position you want it at. Flying improperly set up helicopters is both a risk to yourself and others so please make sure you do it correctly.
The things that are most important to look out for are as follows.
Make sure all parts are secure – You wouldn’t want a screw to work loose during flight. A helicopter needs all its parts to be working in harmony for a successful flight. Any parts which work loose during flight will most definitely be the end of your helicopter. If you’re lucky it will meet terra firma. If you’re not, it will meet someone before crashing. So make sure all parts are secured and put on some lock-tite (threadlock) for all metal to metal screws. Do not put threadlock on metal screws that will contact plastic.
Make sure your blades are properly balanced – There are many things to balance for a helicopter. Firstly are the main blades, you have to make sure that the rotor blades are properly balanced laterally and horizontally. This will ensure that no vibrations creep in when your rotor spins. When you are done with your main blades, make sure your tail blades are balanced the same way. As soon as you see any vibrations on your helicopter, land it and make sure you fix the problem. Vibrations are the source of many mechanical failures. Parts will work loose during flight and wear and tear will be exaggerated. A well balanced vibration free helicopter is a pleasure to fly and it will appear to run smoothly at all times.
Make sure your Helicopter is properly balanced – Do not fly with a nose or tail heavy helicopter. Apart from loosing unnecessary power in maintaining proper balance during flight, you will once again increase unnecessary wear and tear on the swash plate. To balance a helicopter, make sure the helicopter balances at the main rotor shaft. Pick up the helicopter by the rotor head and make sure the helicopter and tail boom is parallel to a horizontal reference. Once that is achieved, your helicopter is properly balanced. In achieving perfect balance, try not to add any unnecessary weight to the helicopter if possible. A heavier craft although more stable will use up unnecessary power. Try to balance the helicopter by re-arranging the positions of your onboard equipment, which may be the servos, battery packs or even gyro.
Make sure no bindings occur – Very important in the functioning of the helicopter is to ensure that no moving parts bind. Make sure the gears are not meshing too tightly since they draw power and increase wear and tear. Other areas of binding might occur on your swash plates. If the swash plates seem to be binding, just reduce the throw of the servos enough to a point where full stick movement will not cause the cyclic swash plate movements to bind.
Ensure servos and equipment are properly installed – When installing servos, make sure that they are properly secured to the craft with no free play or movement. Also make sure that the servo travel direction is properly corresponding to your intended stick movement. If they are not, reverse the servo direction either mechanically if possible or though the controller. As a general rule, ensure linkages from the servo horns are at 90 degrees position at center stick. This ensures linear movement on both sides of travel.
Make sure your Pitch Settings are correct – There are many ways to set up your pitch for your collective pitch helicopter rotors. All of it is based on personal preferences and flying style. However a general guideline would be to ensure that your pitch throws do not exceed the maximum recommended pitch for the helicopter in both positive and negative pitch positions. Make sure that the negative pitch does not exceed maximum when the throttle stick is moved all the way to the bottom and likewise ensure that the positive pitch does not exceed its maximum when you move the stick all the way to the top. For beginners, you might want to set 1 or 2 degrees positive pitch for bottom stick position until you are more used to flying a helicopter with negative pitch or you might get a nasty surprise of “helicopter meets ground REAL FAST” when you redude throttle. Apart from getting the pitch correct for the main blades, ensure that the rotor head paddles are in line with each other with 0 degrees pitch when the swash plate is level. Having positive or negative pitch will only create unnecessary drag and loss of power.
ADVISE TO BEGINNERS: If possible, always get an experienced pilot to help you with your first setup and flight. Even after a helicopter has been properly set up, you will still need to fine tune the trim on the helicopter to make sure everything is perfect. This is where most beginners, especially those who don’t know how to hover yet (even on a properly set up machine) might crash and get disheartened