Free flight (model aircraft)
Overview
 
The segment of model aviation known as free flight is the original form of the aeromodeling hobby, extending back centuries.
The essence of free-flight is that the aircraft have no need for any form of external control, for instance by radio. Aircraft of this type have been flown for over two centuries. They are designed to be inherently stable in flight; if disturbed by a gust of wind or a thermal up-current they will return automatically to stable flight.
Encyclopedia
The segment of model aviation known as free flight is the original form of the aeromodeling hobby, extending back centuries.

Description

The essence of free-flight is that the aircraft have no need for any form of external control, for instance by radio. Aircraft of this type have been flown for over two centuries. They are designed to be inherently stable in flight; if disturbed by a gust of wind or a thermal up-current they will return automatically to stable flight. For this reason most free flight aircraft are not replicas of man-carrying ones, for they are designed for a quite different purpose. Their stability is achieved by a combination of design and trim, - the relationship between centre of gravity, wing and tailplane incidence and rudder setting.

Because they are much lighter with respect to their wing area, free-flight aircraft fly much slower than the engine-powered radio-controlled models that many people first think of when ‘model aircraft’ is mentioned. Most of them glide at little more than walking pace and few weigh more than 500 grams.

Usually the sole object in free-flight is flight duration, and one of the sport’s fascinations and challenges is to design the most efficient aircraft within the various competition limits on such parameters as minimum weight, maximum wing area and motive power. It is solely a stopwatch, rather than any judge’s opinion, that decides the result.

Types

Free flight models may be broadly divided into four categories:
  • Gliders
    Glider aircraft
    Glider aircraft are heavier-than-air craft that are supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against their lifting surfaces, and whose free flight does not depend on an engine. Mostly these types of aircraft are intended for routine operation without engines, though engine failure can...

     (towline and hand-launched)
  • Rubber-powered (pure duration, and scale with duration)
  • Power (CO2, Methanol
    Methanol
    Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH . It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol...

    -fueled glow engine, or electric)
  • Indoor (pure duration, and scale with duration)

When flown competitively, the usual aim is maximum flight duration. In the case of models flown outdoors, the modeler attempts to launch the model into rising column of air, a thermal
Thermal
A thermal column is a column of rising air in the lower altitudes of the Earth's atmosphere. Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface from solar radiation, and are an example of convection. The sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it...

. These outdoor free flight models tend to be designed for two very different flying modes: climbing rapidly under power or tow, and gliding slowly while circling with minimum fall rate. Much of the challenge in designing and flying these models is to maintain aerodynamic stability in both modes and to make a smooth transition between them. Modern models use mechanical or electronical timers to move control surfaces at preset times. Detecting the thermal into which to launch is vital and can involve several methods, ranging from radio telemetered temperature and windspeed measurements plotted on a chart recorder to Mylar streamers or soap bubbles to visualize the rising air.
Because competitions normally involve up to seven rounds during the day, each flown to a maximum flight time hard to achieve without thermal assistance; an automatic on-board timeswitch upsets the trim of the aircraft when the "max" is achieved, to bring the aircraft down safely and quickly. Locating and recovering the aircraft for further flights is an important part of free-flight. Many aircraft carry radio location beacons, and flyers will use GPS, binoculars, a compass and a directionally sensitive radio tracking receiver to assist them. A day's flying and retrieval may well involve 20 miles (32.2 km) or so on foot or on bike, depending on wind strength.

Models flown indoors do not depend on rising air currents, but they must be designed for maximum flight efficiency, because of the limited energy stored in the rubber or electric power source.

Within each category, there are different classes. Typically, there is an Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is the world governing body for air sports and aeronautics and astronautics world records. Its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland. This includes man-carrying aerospace vehicles from balloons to spacecraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles...

 (FAI) world-championship class, a so-called mini class, an open class, and possibly any number of national or unofficial classes, for which regional or national competitions may be held. Within the competition classification codes specified by the FAI, free flight aeromodeling gets the generic code of F1, where the "F" stands for flying model aircraft in general, with the "1" stading specifically for free flight models.

"Gliders"

Gliders have no onboard motive power. The only energy inputs are the launch, and rising air encountered during the flight. During launch many gliders withstand 30G or more, far more than any manned aircraft is stressed to and launch speeds of sometimes over 140 km/h which energy is then converted in altitude ; this has only become possible since the advent of composite materials such as carbon (graphite), fiberglass, and Kevlar, which are used extensively in many of their structures.
The FAI glider class is F1A, also known as A/2 or Nordic glider. The model must have a projected area (wing and stabilizer) of between 32-34 dm2, and a minimum weight of 410 g. Launch is by hand tow, using a cable of 50 m length. The mini glider class is A/1 (F1H). A/1 gliders must have less than 18 dm2 total area, and weigh at least 220 g. Open glider contests are rarely flown, and most competitors in such contests use F1A gliders. Other glider classes include magnet-steered (F1E) gliders - essentially a free flight slope soaring class, and hand-launched glider (usually abbreviated HLG, and also widely known as simply chuck glider). HLGs are small models which are launched from level ground simply by being thrown hard. This is one of the more athletic of the free flight disciplines.

"Rubber-powered"

Rubber-powered models are powered by the stored energy of a twisted elastic material. These range from the simple rubber-band powered toys available in many toy stores, up to the open rubber class, examples of which often use 200 g of rubber in their "motor". Rubber does not produce a constant power output; when fully wound a rubber motor produces its maximum torque, but this drops rapidly at first before 'plateau-ing', finally declining again, after which the propeller stops. Using this initial burst efficiently is vital and automatically variable pitch propellers help here, together with timer-operated changes of wing and tailplane incidence and of rudder setting. At the end of the power run the blades fold back alongside the fuselage to minimise drag during the glide.
The FAI rubber class is F1B, also known as Wakefield. Charles Dennis Rushing has written on the history of the Wakefield Cup. F1B models may have a maximum of 30 g of rubber motor, and the empty weight of the airframe must be at least 200 g. The maximum total area of the model must be less than 19 dm2.
The mini rubber class is Coupe d'Hiver (also known as F1G). "Coupe" models have no area restrictions. The maximum weight of rubber allowed is 10 g, and the minimum empty weight of the airframe is 70g. .
Open rubber is a popular event, featuring large models with enormous amounts of rubber crammed into them. Open models often have 50% of their flying weight composed of rubber.
P-30 is a common beginner's event. A P-30 must use an unmodified commercially available plastic propeller. P-30 has a maximum wingspan and overall length of 30 inches (76.2 cm), and uses maximum 10 g of rubber. The empty airframe must weigh at least 40 g.
The most well known beginner rubber powered models are the AMA
Academy of Model Aeronautics
The Academy of Model Aeronautics, based in Muncie, Indiana, USA, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of model aviation as a recognized sport as well as a recreational activity. It is the largest organization of its kind with a current membership of more than 170,000...

 Cub (also known in the USA as the "AMA Delta Dart"), Denny Dart, Canarsie Canarie and Squirrel. They are commonly used in workshops or for beginners to learn about construction and flying.

The Squirrel, designed by Darcy Whyte is the easiest to build. Free plans are available for download for a Squirrel.

The smallest rubber powered model aircraft was built in 1931 by a Philadelphia high school student, called the Flying Flea and was one and a quarter inches long and could remain airborne for approximately one minute.

"Power"

Power models are those with an onboard power source which is not a rubber motor. Frequently this is an internal combustion engine, and the engine run is limited, typically to just five seconds. Designing an aircraft which climbs as high as possible, with minimum drag at a low lift coefficient, but then must convert to a slow flying glider, is a challenge unique in aviation. However, the category also includes compressed gas motors and electric power. The FAI power class is F1C. F1C models are equipped with an internal combustion engine of up to 2.5cc and need to weight at least 300 g per 1cc (i.e. minimum weight of a 2.5cc equipped model is 750 g). These engines are usually custom made for optimal power output and often yield 1 hp at more than 30,000 RPM. Many F1C models feature folding wings, to minimize the aerodynamic drag during the climb phase.

Another type of powered free flight models is CO2 (its FAI
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is the world governing body for air sports and aeronautics and astronautics world records. Its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland. This includes man-carrying aerospace vehicles from balloons to spacecraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles...

 category is F1K ). These models fly using a small engine powered by carbon dioxide. This models are very light. The amount of CO2 is limited to 2 cm³, which is enough for cca. 2 minutes of flight.

Another popular free flight Class is FAI category F1J which is similar to F1C however the engines are 1/2A Class
Model engine classes
In the world of model aircraft there are several competition classes to signify engine displacement....

 is less than .050 cubic inches. These models use engines like the Cox Tee Dee .049 model engine
Cox Model Engines
Cox model engines are used to power small model airplanes, model cars and model boats. Cox engines were in production for more than 50 years between 1945 and 2006. The business gets its name from Leroy M Cox, the founder. Roy Cox started L.M. Cox Manufacturing Co. Inc...

.

Sport free flight fliers also use Cox model engines
Cox Model Engines
Cox model engines are used to power small model airplanes, model cars and model boats. Cox engines were in production for more than 50 years between 1945 and 2006. The business gets its name from Leroy M Cox, the founder. Roy Cox started L.M. Cox Manufacturing Co. Inc...

 and others to power free flight scale models.

"Indoors"

As the name suggests, indoor models are designed to fly indoors. These models are typically very light in weight because they do not have to withstand external weather conditions.

There are a number of classes of indoor free flight models. Some are scale reproductions but others are designed purely to fly for as long as possible. These models are timed with a stopwatch.

The FAI
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is the world governing body for air sports and aeronautics and astronautics world records. Its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland. This includes man-carrying aerospace vehicles from balloons to spacecraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles...

 is the international organising body for all air sports worldwide, including aeromodelling. The FAI sanctions World and European Championships for the ultimate indoor duration class designated F1D. F1D models must have a minimum weight of 1.2 grams and a maximum wing span of 55 cm. These models are constructed from very light balsawood sheet and strip, boron filament, carbon fibre, and a transparent covering of plastic film less than 0.5 micrometres thick. The models are powered by 0.6 grams of rubber in a single loop about 9.0 inches long that can be wound to take around 1500 turns. The average propeller RPM during a flight is less than 50 and these models fly at less than walking pace. F1D models require a large space, such as a sports hall, aircraft or dirigible hangar
Hangar
A hangar is a closed structure to hold aircraft or spacecraft in protective storage. Most hangars are built of metal, but other materials such as wood and concrete are also sometimes used...

, with the famous atrium of the West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
The West Baden Springs Hotel is a historic landmark hotel in the town of West Baden Springs in Orange County, Indiana, United States, known for its vast domed atrium. It is currently part of the French Lick Resort...

 having been previously used for indoor free flight competitions in the United States, and there is even a salt mine in Romania 400 feet (121.9 m) underground that has hosted the FAI world F1D championships several times. Single flight times approach forty minutes.

Although most other indoor model aircraft are also rubber-powered, gliders and aircraft powered by compressed gas or electric batteries are also flown indoors. Some classes concentrate on scale or semi-scale replicas of man-carrying aircraft. Others feature unusual flight configurations, such as ornithopters, helicopters or autogiros.

Indoor modelling is now about a century old. A history of indoor models may be found here.

"Old Timer"

Sanctioned in the United States by the Society of Antique Modelers http://www.antiquemodeler.org/, and by a growing number of "SAM" organization chapters around the world (as well as similar national clubs in some nations) so-called "Old Timer" free flight model aircraft, which can be gliders, rubber powered or engine powered models, are flyable reproductions of free flight model aircraft designs that generally originated from anywhere in the world, any time before the US involvement in World War II began in 1941-42. Scaling of the size (enlargement or reduction) of these designs are permitted for most of the event types in SAM competition, with a few specialized categories existing for reproduction models that mandate the models be built in their original size only.
Low-pressure, enjoyable competitions for these models generally follow the modern competition formats, with special categories for these early-design models that re-create the model aircraft events actually held before WW II, and even the "old-timer" movement has seriously begin to embrace electric powered versions of designs originally built for the two-stroke gasoline fueled engines of pre-WW II free flight aeromodelling. Actual pre-WW II vintage gasoline fueled model engines, or authentically operational reproductions of them, are even used on some of the engine-powered designs, and a substantial interest exists in so-called "RC Assist" old timer free flight models within the SAM organization, which takes the engine powered designs of that era, powers them with more modern two and four stroke glow engines or electric motors instead, and adds rudder, elevator and engine control from a radio control transmitter, just as would be done in the regular RC
Radio-controlled aircraft
A radio-controlled aircraft is controlled remotely by a hand-held transmitter and a receiver within the craft...

hobby.

Old Timer free flight aircraft specifications, competition rules and guidelines are available from the SAM organization online. http://www.antiquemodeler.org/2006%20Rule%20Book/Rule_Book.htm

"Scale Rubber"

Rubber scale models replicate full-scale aircraft. Scale documentation is used at contests to check the accuracy and compliance of the model to the full-scale aircraft modeled.

Most rubber scale models are in the 20” to 30” wingspan range. Exceptions are for "Peanut Scale" class models, with a maximum 13” wingspan and "Jumbo Scale" class models, with 36” or greater wingspan. The models are powered with loops of rubber matched to the weight of the model and the diameter and pitch of the propeller. The length of the loops often exceed twice the length of the fuselage of the model. The flying duration of the scale model is greatly increased because of the number of windings that can be made on such a long loop of rubber with multiple strands. A mechanical winder is used and the rubber is stretched up to fives times original length to pack in maximum winds on the motor. In flight, these models look just like the real thing. All that is missing is the noise of the engine in the original airplane. Experts can achieve spectacular flights from obscure designs such as the Wright brothers original and Bleriot’s channel crosser, to one-of-a-kind Depression era homebuilts and modern day experimental aircraft.

External links

1. Easy to build rubber powered free flight plane

2. Article on building model planes - from 1934 and scanned vintage plans

3. Instructions on building a rubber powered scale model

4. Information about Free Flight competitions

5. Model Flying Forum
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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