10 things every pylon pilot should know

So, you like fast models, do you? Perhaps you’re the speed freak in your club who constantly strives to have the fastest aeroplane? Can you fly smoothly and accurately? Do the pitfalls and failures of the hobby only inspire you to try harder? Is winning important to you? Does coming second feel like failure? Comfortable with a little noise? Hmm, if you’ve answered yes to all of these then it’s just possible that you’ve got what it takes to become a successful pylon pilot and compete with fellow like-minded modellers for the ultimate UK accolade, the RCM&E trophy and the title of British Pylon Race Champion. Want to know more, then here’s a few pointers to help you on your way:

1. Start with a visit to www.pylonracer.co.uk and see if pylon racing takes your fancy. As chairman of the British Miniature Pylon Racing Association I’d be delighted to talk to you about getting started, so feel free to email me at [email protected] All being well, I’ll be able to hook you up with someone who can come along and talk to you, or your club, about the excitement of pylon racing and all that it involves.

2. Once you’ve decided to have a go you’ll need too choose a race class that best suits you. There are many things to consider here, not to mention cost and noise, and in this respect you should make a point of attending a competition to see what goes on and to talk to the flyers involved. They’ll be very happy to help and, believe me, first-hand experience at this stage can save you a great deal of time and effort. Also, make sure you have a local flying field where it’s both practical and possible to fly the class of aeroplane you’re looking to campaign. Also, check where the races take place and make sure you’re comfortable with the travelling, particularly the cost!

3. F3D, regarded as the Formula 1 of model aircraft racing, is the ultimate class. Here, aeroplanes feature high revving two-stroke engines that use tuned pipes, swing carbon propellers and operate at 30,000 rpm. No throttle control exists on these models, other than a simple shut off. Airframes are now entirely moulded so although they’re relatively expensive (£700 on average), they don’t require a lot of building. Best of all, most models have a very similar performance so the skill is very much down to your flying and your engine set-up. Due to the speeds reached and the challenges involved, to be successful in this class you need experience. This, then, is definitely not the place to start.

4. Undeniably accessible to the newcomer is the Q500 and C2000 classes, models being defined by their ugly straight wings and balsa box fuselage. Simple to build, Q500 models are easy to fly and, in the UK, are raced with standard 46-size motors with a throttle control. Q500 produces good, close racing and, best of all, you can fly at your club field. C2000 airframes, on the other hand, use standard 25-size engines of the sort that many of us use in our sport models, allied to a Radio Active (no other allowed) 9 x 6” propeller. As a result C2000 is a superb starting point for someone wishing to participate in cheap ‘n’ cheerful close racing.

5. Those with a penchant for scale will warm to Sport 40 as these models are all based on full-size F1 racers like the Midget Mustang (That’s the one for me! - ed.), Cosmic Wind, Polecat and Rivetts. Foam wings and a glass fuselage are commonplace so build time is short and, again, you can use a standard .46 two-stroke. Whilst these models have a good turn of speed, it’s piloting ability that really counts here. Again, this is a good place to start.

6. If you’re a nut eating, sandal wearing, tree hugger, then you might like to consider electric pylon racing? F5D pilots represent the crème de la crème here, touting very fast 1m span all-moulded models, powered by 4 and 5s Li-Pos. In a move that’s a bit like gearing a car, the class is limited to using 1000 watts per 60 seconds of run time, so you have to match your prop to your motor and battery to get the best combination. In reality this is much easier than it sounds and, despite the prop noise, you can fly these models at most club fields.
E2K is the electric version of C2000, using a 3536 1480Kv motor and 4s 2200mAh Li-Po. It’s a simple class, fast, and an a ideal entry point. Once again, the set-up is simple, in all probability using gear that you already have in one or other of your sport models.

7. Once you’ve picked a class that suits you, collect all the components you need, then take your time fitting out your model. Only the greatest of care here will produce a racer with the reliability to see you through a season. Remember to use grommets on the servo lugs to dampen vibration and don’t have servos touching each other, or indeed the sides of the fuselage. Wrap the battery and receiver in foam, in fact, follow all the usual installation procedures but with a little more care and attention than you might otherwise administer. A pylon model will find all your building faults - usually at the first turn!
Don’t fit a fuel filter to the model, it’ll go wrong. Instead, filter the fuel at the pump before it enters the tank. C2000, Sport 40 and Q500 models all use a standard plastic tank, however F3D aircraft have a bladder type tank which needs a big syringe to fill and empty it. On the syringe I use one filter to empty the tank, then swap to another when filling.

8. For a day’s racing you’ll need a good fast charger that works off a 12V battery. If you go the electric route you’ll also need three sets of Li-Pos to cover three races in the morning and three in the afternoon, with a recharge in-between. Where chargers are concerned, the cheaper 50 watt units will suffice, but if you can afford it a 70 - 100 watt version will be better.
Before you set out on a day’s racing, check through your flight-box and make sure you have tools to cover every eventuality. If it can go wrong, you can guarantee it’ll happen during a day’s racing, and if you’ve travelled a distance you’ll not want to sit on the sidelines watching everyone else having fun.
9. As a simple safety measure, hard hats are required when you’re on the pylon course. Don’t be put off by this as there’s really no need. I use an open face motorcycle helmet which is both practical and comfortable. I also wear a knee pad for kneeling all day on the start line, especially where there’s a tarmac runway. Mind you, this might be age related!

10. Talk a mate into coming with you. It’ll make a much better day if two of you take part, better still if you race together! I’ve had some good laughs in the car on the way home, which can really help to make the journey all part of the fun. Mind you, on a bad day I’ve had some quiet trips too! Racing gets you like that, it’s exciting, competitive, fantastically rewarding when you win and great fun. Pylon racing has taught me much over the years and I’ve made life-long friends from all over the country and, indeed, the world