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Grass or paved surfaces are the two surfaces recommended for landing RC planes. Though these surfaces are distinct and come with their own challenges, landing RC planes on either of them follow mostly the same pattern.
RC planes are breathtaking innovations, and the excitement they provide while you are in charge and controlling them up in the air is very special. On the other hand, no matter how exhilarating guiding your RC plane in the air can be, failure to ease it down successfully and it can take away the moment, or if you’re unlucky, you can even damage the plane, messing up your entire day.
Grass runways are great as on them, your RC plane’s tires are sure to have a much smoother time sliding around; grass sort of cushions your plane’s landing. However when the surface is not perfect, probably because of the presence of rocks, tall grasses, etc., your RC plane’s body, wheels, or gears might get torn up.
This is why it is very important for you to make sure you not only know how to land the plane properly but also that you prepare the grass surface properly as well. If you are landing on grass in a park or field that isn’t yours then you can’t prep it at all which means you will just have to deal with any problems that come up.
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For instructions on how to land your RC plane in general you can check out the video below.
Tips when landing your RC plane on grass
If you are going to be landing your RC plane on grass there are a few different things that you should keep in mind that will help you make the landing as smooth and without incident as possible.
Get the right plane
First and foremost, all RC planes are not designed alike, and there are many distinctions between all of the different models. Showing up and trying to use a grass runway with a plane that is not meant for it will obviously be trouble. Yet a pilot should consider the runway available to them before deciding on a particular RC plane as while some planes might be perfect on paved runways, they might be problematic on grass runways.
For grass runways, most new pilots will need to make sure they are sold grass-designed planes as some sellers might frustratingly keep this information from new pilots. Such planes are equipped with larger, grass friendly wheels that will allow you to take off and land on the grass much easier.
If you are unsure on which planes are best for the grass when you are buying an RC plane you should ask around in your local hobby group or even take the time to do the research online. It’s better to take time before buying and get the right plane than it is to have to replace a plane that you bought that doesn’t work well on grass!
Keep the grass short
When landing an RC plane on grass, the rule of thumb is the grass should not be higher than 1/3 of the wheel’s height, landing on tall and rough grasses will bring plenty of resistance for your plane’s wheels and could end up flipping your plane if it slows too fast because of the tall grass. This might not only kill the fun, but it might damage your plane severely as well.
Keeping the grass short and mowing it regularly will ensure that the landing is free from resistance and the plane glides to a stop instead of jerking to one or flipping over.
Get your RC plane bigger wheels
It is smarter to get an RC plane with bigger wheels because no matter how short you keep the grass, RC planes with smaller wheels will always need the grass to be even shorter. Especially when flying electric planes, they will typically have undersized wheels, making getting them down on the grass runway a little more difficult.
It is best to buy an RC plane that comes with larger wheels but if you can’t do that then upgrading your tires to ones that are bigger can work as well. You should remember however that putting larger tires on your RC plane can affect the aerodynamics as well as the weight of the plane which may shorten the flight times as well.
After getting the right plane and tires for the grass and getting a smooth grass surface, the next step is getting to know the different landing approaches.
Your landing circuit and approach
While landing, the second to the last stage of your RC plane’s flight is the final approach. Getting the stage well set up is extremely important to a good landing. With practice, you will get this in no time. You just need to be smooth and steady on the final approach to achieve a seamless landing. It’s all the better that this final approach has two options when landing.
First Option: Here, you will need to achieve a proper and complete circuit with your plane. To do so, you fly a crosswind leg, turn on to a downwind leg, then a base leg before turning the plane back into the wind and on to the final approach.
Second Option: The second option requires ignoring the crosswind leg, commencing the circuit pattern on the downwind leg, or even on the base leg. This second option is typically the RC pilot’s favored option.
Choosing to fly all or a part of the downwind leg is preferable because it provides the pilot more time to settle into things and get ready to land your RC airplane. Should you advance to flying a plane with retractable undercarriage and flaps, the downwind leg is the time and place to put those features into operation.
This approach of flying the downwind leg involves flying your RC plane with the wind, that is, the same direction as the wind is blowing before turning the plane 180 degrees back into the wind for the final approach and landing.
These options are both great. You can either fly the right base leg — a straight leg with a 90 ° turn at each end, or you can keep a continuous gradual flight and turn all the way around from the downwind leg to final approach.
While the second option is largely preferable, learning and practicing both of them to see which one works best for you is worth it. Every pilot is a little bit different so practicing both will allow you to decide which you like or don’t like.
The landing process
You should ensure that your altitude is constant at around 10 meters (30ft.) before you begin the downwind leg. The type and size of your plane will determine this choice, and with practice and time, you’ll get the hang of flying with the downward leg. Just make sure you’re not flying too high, so landing doesn’t require you to go down too steeply.
The landing process: fly the plane downwind to pass around 50 meters (150ft) Then smoothly make 180 degree turns, so it turns back towards you. On your final approach, use the rudder to keep the plane in a straight line and use motor power to control its rate of descent. When you get close to the ground, reduce the motor’s power, apply the elevator, and reduce the rate of descent until the plane touches down.
The flare and timing is the final stage and very important for a good landing as you need to flare at the right time.
The Glide Approach
Many pilots would rather turn into the final approach and then cut the motor’s power back. While this is not the norm, gliding the plane into a landing is worth trying too.
The glide approach uses the motor’s power to have good control over both speed and descent. The drag just turns as air flows through it is created by the propeller that’s turning slowly under power. Drag can be used to great effect in slowing the plane down on the final approach, but this depends on your type of plane.
A missed approach should be settled for when you have set up your landing pattern, but it goes wrong, and therefore, you resort to opening up the motor to full power to climb out and try it all again. Obviously no one wants this to happen but it is better to climb back up and try again than it is to land wrong and risk damaging your plane.
I hope these tips for landing your plane on the grass have been helpful to you. For many people, grass landing is much easier than trying to do it on pavement but it really does depend on the plane, it’s tires, and how well maintained the grass is.