My entry into the RC flying hobby has been quite slow. It started a year ago, but I took most of the summer off while I worked on the yard and other projects. And even when I’m not working on projects, I don’t have much time to actually get out and fly.
I started by building my own planes out of foam board with lots of help from the guys at FliteTest.com. That was a low-cost entry into the hobby. When I crashed (and I crashed A LOT), fixing the plane meant a short trip to the dollar store. But in the evenings I was always looking around to figure out what my first “real” plane would be.
I ended up setting my sights on the Bixler 2 (named after one of the hosts at FliteTest), and I was thrilled when Tyla got it for me for my birthday! I took quite a while to get it put together and along the way, I made some modifications to account for common problems that people have with the plane. The biggest one is adjusting the way that the wings are held together. I added some 3M hooks and a rubber band through the fuselage. That doesn’t look quite as pretty but it’s a lot easier to use and doesn’t affect the flight characteristics.
The other change was adding flaps to it. The plane comes with flaps but does not include the electronics for it. Wiring it up was easy, but because of the way they have the cutouts for the servos, it took a lot of fancy transmitter programming to get them to function right. (Basically you need to set up a mix between your Gear switch and your AUX1 switch so that they both operate together but opposite which moves both flaps down.)
Blah blah blah how does it FLY!? Honestly, part of the reason I took so long to fly it is because I was afraid of crashing it. Pretty much every plane I’ve built up to this point has had a first flight of about 5 seconds. It inevitably crashes into the ground in a spectacular manner. Thankfully, this one flew amazingly. Takeoff is a little bit tough as you have to hand launch, and, because of the way the pusher prop is mounted, the plane wants to dive a little under full power. But I succeeded on my first attempt and after about 30 seconds, the butt clenching disappeared and I was just having FUN.
Thinking back over the best flights I’ve had with my hand built planes over the last year, this one trumped them all. It was all trimmed out perfectly and I could take my hands off the transmitter and not lose control. Here are some of my favorite parts of that first flight:
- It glides like a dream. In fact, I had a lot of fun just climbing up to altitude and then shutting off the power.
- I put a 2200mah 3 cell in it and after 16 minutes of throttle time (plus more time gliding around), I still had 37% battery left. My little foam planes were lucky to get 7 minutes per flight. I think I’ll be able to comfortable set the timer at 20 minutes for this plane.
- The flaps were a great addition. There’s no landing gear on it. A belly landing without flaps would be possible, but the flaps slow it down to a crawl and it only slides for 3-4 feet before stopping. Engaging the flaps gives quite an abrupt elevation increase though so I might end up mixing in some down elevator with the flaps in my transmitter.
- It’s a little hard to explain but it was the closest thing I’ve felt to flying in the RC flight simulator program. In that program, everything is so smooth and controllable. My previous foam board planes were often a handful and I never got that relaxed feeling with them.
I feel so comfortable flying this plane that I’m already thinking about putting a GoPro on it. This is a very popular plane for aerial footage and people do a lot of FPV (First Person View) flying through video goggles with it too. I don’t have gear for that but it might be an option down the road.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m really happy with this plane. It’s definitely still in the trainer category, but it’s the fanciest and best thing I’ve flown yet. While the little foam board planes were frustrating at times, I think it’s good that I started with them instead of this “real” plane. My first flight with it would certainly not have gone as well.