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The Electric Flight Option

Exciting new electric flight technology is arriving constantly, where glowfuel engines don't change much. Here is a quote from a jet (kerosene) turbine flier who flew his model turbine jet in the Arizona Jet Rally last year:
 "The AJR was held … this weekend.  As part of the "please the spectators" thing, Steve Neu flew his (electric) F5B plane.  We jet guys like to think we have a corner on fast airplanes.  We are quite wrong.  You should have heard the oohs and aahs when Steve launched his plane directly to the vertical where it essentially disappeared in a few seconds.    And high-speed passes pushing 200 mph had ALL the jet guys watching.  It was kinda neat.  And for me, with jets in the 100 mph range, it was kind of embarrassing … It was 'way cool."
 So what was that F5B plane, well it is an electric hotliner race glider designed for competition, usually in Germany, powered by brushless motor and 27 conventional or 9 lipoly cells.  These electric planes climb vertically at 100 metres per second, and as you read above, do over 250 mph in level flight!!
 Considering a model jet?  A micro turbine costs about €3200, the airframe is about €1000, then there's a gallon of fuel per day, and you will be sending it back to the maker's factory for servicing.  If that sounds too expensive - try a 2-stroke ducted fan jet. - €630 for OS91DF engine & Ramtec fan, say €450 aircraft, total €1080, and it will gobble glowfuel €€€. Nitro version is still dear-ish? Consider electric. When you are looking at jets, electric is far better value.

EDF DH100 Vampire

Geared 400 Katana KV20 EDF Bae Hawk
 
Tell Me More About Electric Jets
An electric Alphajet 480: plane and fan costs €118, motor €30 but we want top class so we get a hot brushed motor €170, speed controller €60, nicds €45, and hot charger €105. Now, that’s a full jet with charger under €470, fuel prepaid for years! And we even selected the expensive motor. These are much much better value, half the cost of glow-jets.
       I saw an E-plane in an RC magazine …
Don't !! Electric flight toy planes with cheap low voltage 7 cell chargers and 2 cell lipo batteries is dismal. Power is lacking so you must go flat out, this heats the batteries, increasing their internal resistance and using up their lifespan, the motor overheats, heat is wasted power. A nice flying electric fire you might say. Maybe in gliders where you can switch off and let it cool while you glide but in motor aircraft it fails dismally. For performance eflight - avoid glowfuel background sellers. They understand glowfuel not eflight. Buying mistakes are costly, Europe is years ahead in e-flight technology and some gear that looks similar just works a lot better .
How Do E-Jets Perform?
Well, here is a friend of mine about his scratch built MiG: "… we got some radar speeds on the latest version of our MiG 15. Running the (brushed Plettenberg), the WeMoTec …fan, and 14 V the plane topped out at 133 mph…we're pretty pleased…" Not even brushless and hitting 133 mph … "go faster to 150 mph by putting in extra cells"…to do that in glow a new faster engine would have to be purchased. However remember, these are not the €12 “600 cheapo can” motors used by the 7 volt brigade.
       We use 10 - 40 Volt batteries in our German models!
high volt, low current, low resistance, low heat systems with geared motors, better chargers, & carbon fibre  e-propellers. Grass takeoff, aerobatic, etc. We fly these electric aircraft ourselves. They turn heads with their good looks and flying ability, and we recommend them to our customers without reservation
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When the German gear is too costly we look to Eastern European makers selling into Germany, where crud is not acceptable. In the English speaking countries far eastern make rubbish is intermixed with good stuff and only experience teaches you what to is robust enough. Robustness beats a few cents off when you have a bumpy landing and hope it didn't break!

Parkfliers are quiet enough to allow eflight nearer home, the glowfuel model flying club may be far from the town, but eflight is usually possible a LOT nearer to where you live! Glowfuel learners must fly high to have reaction time to avoid crash but electric parkfliers don't. Slow-flight novices are more time from the ground to they can fly lower, they can see it better, they fly slow enough to correct mistakes. These compact "400" size aircraft cost under €60. A new "can" engine costs only €8.00 and brushless is under €30 ! Note that Irish parkfly planes have a higher power than the similar named models used in continental countries like eg US, Spain, France etc, mainly due to the windy Irish weather.

 Performance e-flight startup (powerful charger, fast discharge nimh batteries, geared motors, speed controller) can seem off-putting, but running costs are almost zero later. Look at these savings - there's no glowfuel, no starter motor, no glowplugs, no glow starter, no powerpanel, no fuel pump, no tubing & filters, no fuel proofing, no cleaning the oil off after flying, no engine starting problems, no dead sticks. Just switch on and fly.

 Clubs traditionally suggest 40 size glow, but we notice that beginners who have had a 12-30 volt cell electric plane won't switch to glow. They say you can't restart your internal combustion (ic) glow engine in the air the way they do! They can afford a few jets. Their smaller electrics fit in the car made up.  If you're new to the hobby, decide your direction now, ic or electric, before you buy a load of gear. A good charger & batteries means you never, ever, have to buy a gallon of nitro glowfuel!

 Relative merits of Electric Flight and glowfuel Flight: When you want to take off a grass runway glowfuel does it for less money spent, but the fuel costs later on work against the price difference slowly but surely. Electric shines best in modern models, like motor gliders which switch on and off in mid-air, also in high rpm models like jet models, where the high rpm glow version is a lot more expensive. Hotliners use a high power engine to climb at ballistic speeds, the brushless electric motor weighs less than the glow engine of similar power, and the lighter electric model climbs faster.
On the other hand if you like World War 11 fighters then just as the originals were piston engines, so the model can be a glowfuel piston engine, unless you choose electric version for other reasons.
What other factors are there?  Well,...if you have several glowfuel models, a new electric model means buying new ground gear, chargers, batteries, etc. The new model is a bigger purchase.
Say on the other hand you have several electric models, the battery might fly several different models, thus lowering the cost of a new model, since if it too is electric you already have the fuel (battery) bought and in your toolbox! It all depends on which power system (liquid glowfuel or dry electric) you prefer, and which era of aircraft you wish to model.

  We suggest as a guideline that you try to keep them all the same. Follow the gear you are familair with already and have skills on
You can match the engine type to the era if you like some of everything: for models of the planes flown in the years 1920 - 1940 try 4-stroke glowfuel, for the 1940 - 1950 period planes consider 2-stroke glowfuel, and for 1955 - todays aircraft choose electric as your power source.
Not many model flyers stay with a multi fuel "system". The refuelling gear is cumbersome.

The best advice is this: nitro fuel is the cheapest way of getting a heavy big model into the air. But electric is smoother and cleaner and has no tuning problems. A 4-stroke nitro engine is dearer but smoother than a 2-stroke nitro engine. The 4-stroke compares with electric for prop planes as regards smoothness and is about the same cost as decent electric setups.
For ultimate cheapness electric wins because it goes right down to toy-like models of tiny size. Newbies in wishful thinking HOPE this type of blister-packed deal is as good as the "real" (more costly) models whether nitro or electric. The first time they go to where experienced flyer fly they see the difference, one is a toy, the other a small airplane with more power per weight than real airplanes.
Now you are your own boss and knowing all this, look at your location, age, wealth, and place it will be used. These factors tell you what is the right choice, not wishful thinking. But of course you can dip a toe in the water with something small. Just don't expect to get an idea of what real models do from that particular purchase!

If cost is a big issue - buy a kit. It takes a month or so to make, then you buy a good motor, a month later buy a decent radio that will last years. You get there by the slower approach, and if you are building the plane it is no harm waiting because the building process itself is aeromodelling and great enjoyment, and beats watching TV in the evenings. You learn how to fix it before you need to as a bonus, so bumpy landings have no fear.

All indoor models must be electric so as to avoid oily mess on carpet & floors. Finally, if it is a smaller model we prefer electric. If it taxis and takes off grass runways it is usually cheaper in glowfuel (remember electric models can be hand launched and land safely on softer long grass).

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Green Hobby & Model, the R/C source
38 Clareville Road, Harolds Cross, Dublin 6W
Tel (01) 4928776 , Fax (01) 4979946
Sales Norman or Patrick