If you’ve never flown R/C before then you must learn to fly on something suitable to your status as a novice. You need a trainer, and I reckon the Cessna from Seagull Models fits the bill perfectly.
Over the years the high-wing configuration seen on the Cessna has proven to be the ideal platform for beginners, providing the stability and benign handling characteristics required. Such a model is, in essence, pretty straightforward, yet there’s more to a trainer than simply sticking the wing on top of the fuselage. As you progress through more advanced models you’ll appreciate the design points that help the novice, but at the beginning all you need to be concerned about is having a model that will take you through the thrills and spills of flight training… and hopefully you’ll both come out the other side reasonably intact!
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There are plenty of trainers on the market; model shop shelves are groaning under their collective weight! However, as with all commercial offerings some are better than others and it’s not always easy to make the right choice when faced with such a huge range; much better to make an informed decision on your star purchase. Seagull Models’ Cessna is one of the better examples you’ll find, it’s a model that will build quickly, fly well and (hopefully) outlast your training demands. At £80 it’s somewhere around the mid-range in terms of cost, reflected in the generally good build and covering qualities of the kit.
Personally, I prefer models that have a scale appearance and this Cessna does indeed offer more than a passing resemblance to the full-size, especially the colour scheme. In fact that’s what attracted me to the model in the first place. That said, if you prefer louder colour schemes there are plenty of other designs that will satisfy your want! Mind you, bright colours do serve a purpose, which you’ll appreciate as soon as your model takes to the air. Aircraft orientation (knowing its attitude and direction) is a key skill to master early on and an R/C model that’s a bit bright will be far easier to see.
The Seagull Cessna is an ARTF (Almost Ready To Fly) model, which means it’s pre-built, needing just a small amount of final assembly time before being ready for the air. ARTF models can vary in the levels of pre-build encountered; some are very close to completion (like this Cessna), whilst others still need a fair amount of time invested before they can be flown. It stands to reason that a trainer should have easy-to-follow instructions (check before purchase), and this one is top drawer in that department. Just follow the text, use the photos as a guide and you’ll be just fine.
Some tools are required to complete a typical trainer and, of course, you need a set of R/C gear and a suitable engine. This model is for i.c. (internal combustion) power, using a two-stroke engine of between .40 and .46 cu. in. capacity.
For the build you’ll need to have the following tools to hand:
Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t forget to make provision for buying these:
Finally, when you’re eventually ready to fly the thing, you’ll need to kit yourself out with some field support gear:
As mentioned above, the levels of pre-fabrication on this model are very high so construction should be completed within a few evenings work. There are no tricky moments to catch you out when building the Cessna, but there are a few points worth noting:
1. The fuel tank supplied is perhaps the most disappointing item in the box. It’s a cheap, leaky affair that shouldn’t take to the air. Do yourself a favour and replace it.
2. The wheel spats (pants) don’t fit particularly well (that’s why you can’t see them in the photos), which is a great pity.
3. Don’t forget to balance the model at the recommended centre of gravity (C of G). You’ll need to place some weight in the nose to achieve this. I added 160g using stick-on weights; an easy way to balance a model and available from all good model shops.
If you want to understand a complicated machine or system then the trick is to break it down into small parts, and so it is with an R/C model aircraft. You may get a migraine just looking at the internals of a model, but when broken down and examined individually the nature of all the bits and bobs becomes very apparent.
Installing the R/C gear and motor are tasks that should be completed carefully, so take your time and do a good job. If you’re ever in any doubt about a process or sequence my advice is to seek out an experienced modeller (model flying clubs are full of them!) and ask for help.
The Cessna has a pre-fitted engine mount and clamp plates that screw down to hold the bearers. Such clamps are often supplied with trainers and although some seasoned flyers will turn their noses up at this particular system, I can tell you that I’ve tested several trainers with engine clamps have and never encountered a problem. Add some threadlock to the motor clamp plate bolts for added security and the system will work well.
The servos fit nicely into the pre-cut holes, and there’s a good space behind the fuel tank for the receiver and battery. Incidentally, the servo arm connectors are another candidate for threadlock, to ensure they don’t vibrate loose, so be sure to add this when connecting up the servos to the control surfaces.
I mentioned earlier that the supplied fuel tank is a disappointment and if I were you I’d replace it. A robust fuel system is essential, as many a-days flying has been curtailed through fuel system faults. Make sure your plumbing’s in order from the word go to avoid disappointment at the flying field. It’s good practice to pressure test your fuel tank, by first immersing the bottle in water and blocking off all but one outlet tube. Blow down the remaining pipe and any leaks will be visible, highlighted by escaping air bubbles.
Do make sure that the model is checked and tested before the first field outing. Please don’t leave it to your instructor to find that the elevator is moving the wrong way! Pay special attention to the balance points and make sure that control surface movement is smooth and unimpeded. Running a few tanks of fuel through the engine is a good idea (a mandatory task if the engine is new). Talking of mandatory tasks, it’s essential that a ground-based range check is carried out prior to each flying session, to ensure that the model’s control surfaces behave impeccably before committing to flight. You’ll need an assistant to do this and your instructor will be only too pleased to offer his help. Right, with all the checks complete we’re ready to get her airborne.
As I expected the Cessna flew well and should provide a stable platform for training purposes. What I didn’t expect, though, was that it could complete some simple aerobatics with a fair degree of precision. The symmetrical wing section helps here, but perhaps I’m getting carried away… aerobatics are for later!
During take-off the model does what many tricycle undercarriage-equipped aircraft tend to do, in that it remains on the ground for longer than expected before finally ‘rotating’ and taking to the air. This means a good bit of runway is needed to allow the model to build up speed before applying elevator to rotate. The nose weight that I added probably didn’t help matters here but once airborne her inherent stability adds confidence. Having familiarised myself with the model I tried to stall her, which she steadfastly refused to do. Now this is great news for the novice!
I fitted an O.S. 46LA two-stroke to my Cessna, which provided sufficient power to fly the model comfortably. This being the case I’d advise against fitting a smaller engine, which would probably not give the power needed when later trying some basic aerobatics.
There are several aspects of flight to master in the early stages, model orientation and judging the response of the aeroplane to your inputs being perhaps the most important. The trick is to put the model in the exact bit of sky that you intend, i.e. you fly the model rather than have the model fly you. It’s easy to say when you can already do it, but with sufficient practice everyone can fly radio control model aircraft. The secret is to practice regularly. Those who are able to devote time on a weekly basis are the ones who’ll succeed in the shortest period.
The British Model Flying Association (BMFA) produces a series of booklets that help with all aspects of R/C flight. Make sure you get hold of ‘Up and Away’, which at just £2 is the best guide that’s ever been written for learning how to fly a radio control model.
The Seagull Models Cessna will teach anyone to fly (under tuition from an instructor of course), and even progress to some basic aerobatics. It does what it says on the box, which is all a beginner needs to know when starting out. In the months to come after you’ve gone solo you’ll appreciate the Cessna’s ability to pull rolls, loops, stall turns and hold inverted flight.
Having said all that, before buying a trainer, why not pop along to your local model flying club and have a chat? You can find your nearest group by contacting the BMFA. Take a look at their website.
A mistake many beginners make is to ditch their trainer for a new model just after they’ve gone solo. A trainer will still be teaching you long after the first solo flight, so don’t change too soon. Of course there’ll come a point when you’ll feel ready to progress to a low-wing trainer, and when you do it’s important to choose an appropriate model. Take a look at Steve Sales’ review of the Pilatus PC-9 (another offering from Seagull Models); it’s an ideal candidate for your first foray into low-wing flying.
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