Saturday, May 06, 2006

Low-Wing, Mid-Wing, High-Wing, Bi-Wing

There are many different wing configurations for RC model airplanes. The placement of the wing can drastically change a model's flight characteristics. Low-wing aircraft have the wing attached underneath the fuselage and are best suited for more experienced pilots. Mid-wing aeroplane designs place the wing directly in the center giving the airplane a very symmetrical look. High-wing and biplane configurations place the wing on the top, which makes for very stable flights. Hence, these models are best suited for the intermediate to beginner pilots. Low-wing RC airplanes, such as WWII fighter model planes and many aerobatic models, can be very difficult to master. By having the weight of the entire plane located above the wing, the maneuverability of the plane is increased. Because of this characteristic, models in this category require more skill to fly than your basic trainer aircraft. Attempting very basic maneuvers can quickly put a low-wing plane out of control if the pilot does not have the necessary experience to complete them.

In RC airplane models of mid-wing design, the wings are placed in the center of the fuselage. Because the mass of the airplane is evenly distributed around the wing, there is no mass, either high or low, to pull the plane in any direction. This allows the aircraft to respond to input controls much faster. The symmetry of this design also increases the ability of your plane to stay in any given position; inverted flight, knife edge, or level flight. Increased control response and sustainable attitude are just two of the reasons you will find fighter jets and sport planes in this category. These particular RC airplanes are considered the most difficult to master and should not be flown by novices without supervision.

RC models that have wings attached to the top of the fuselage are considered to be of high-wing design. Having the majority of the weight distribution below the wing gives this design very gentle flight characteristics. Biplanes also fall into this category. This is why trainer type model aircraft will glide so predictably. Many high-wing RC models have what is called "dihedral" added to the wing. Dihedral wings are slightly bent upwards from the fuselage with the wing tips being higher than the center of the wing. The word dihedral means "open book" in Latin. A front view of a wing that has dihedral will resemble the shape of an open book lying flat. Aircraft with this design have "self righting" capabilities. This ability will allow a high-wing RC airplane model to correct its attitude by just letting go of the control sticks. The gliding and self righting characteristics of high-wing RC model airplanes are why it is so popular on trainers and gliders. Novice pilots will find them much easier to master.

Knowing how wing placement and weight distribution can affect an RC model airplane's flight performance is something every RC pilot should take into consideration when getting a new plane. A little knowledge can go a long way and can be the difference between having an enjoyable flight, or a trip to the field to pick up what's left of your airplane.

Bruce Bird spent a lifetime in professional aviation before returning to aeromodelling. Stunned by the choices of model airplanes on offer, he researched the subject for his own amusement before putting it into his ebook Model Airplane Secrets. His blog frequently contains hints and tips for model airplane enthusiasts.

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