Flying radio-controlled aircraft is a popular hobby and can be an exhilarating hobby for people of all ages. There is a level of difficulty and a fairly steep learning curve associated with learning to fly these miniature aircraft. RC helicopters are probably one of the more difficult RC aircraft to master and will take time and practice to become a competent flyer. Many new RC helicopter flyers experience the problem of their helicopter flying sideways. What causes this sideslip, and how can it be rectified?
If your RC helicopter veers off to one side during take-off and landing, you need to balance the main rotor and tail rotor better. Constant flying to one side could be an indication of a mechanical problem with the flybar on the rotor mount that is bent, damaged, or not working correctly.
Flying an RC helicopter requires precision on the controls, balancing the lift and the cyclic rotation to keep the aircraft ascending and descending in a straight line. Even in mid-flight, the rotors need to be balanced to prevent the rotor forces from pushing the aircraft to one side. There are, however, some other reasons that your helicopter may be flying sideways, so keep reading!
Why Your RC Helicopter Flies Sideways
There are a number of potential circumstances and situations where you may find that your RC helicopter seems somehow to have a mind of its own and wants to fly sideways. We will examine some scenarios where this can happen and the corrective measures you can try to stop this from happening.
The first aspect we need to establish is the type of pitch control you have on your helicopter. Fixed pitch rotors are easier to fly for beginners but have limited aerobatics capabilities. Collective pitch rotor helicopters have the capability to adjust the pitch of the rotors individually. These helicopters are harder to fly but have better aerobatic capabilities.
A fixed-pitch rotor assembly is recommended for beginner flyers, but it does come with some potential situations that could cause the helicopter to fly sideways. On a fixed pitch helicopter, there is a flybar that is rotated and controls the pitch (forward, back, left, and right) of the aircraft.
If you are a beginner to flying RC helicopters, my article: RC Helicopter Channels: A helpful Guide will help you determine the adecuate amount of channels that would suit your skill level when choosing your first RC helicopter.
Some beginner RC helicopters have two main rotors and no tail rotor. These helicopters are termed coaxial helicopters and are easier to fly, but if you are having similar problems with the helicopter flying off to one side, the problem may be similar to the situations we will cover, but you will need to adapt them to your model. We will mostly be concentrating on the traditional versions with a tail rotor and a single main rotor.
So, let’s cover some situations where you may be finding your RC helicopter veering off to one side and what you can do to change the situation.
Faulty Flybar On The RC Helicopter
In some instances, you may have installed the flybar incorrectly on the helicopter, which causes it to malfunction and pull the aircraft to one side.
If you have had a crash with the helicopter, the flybar may have been damaged to a minor degree, which affects its performance and pulls the helicopter to one side.
To fix this issue, you may need to remove and reinstall the flybar correctly, or if it has been bent or damaged, check to see if you can repair the part. If not, you may have to order a new part and replace it on the helicopter.
If you would like to know more about RC helicopter flybars, please check out my article: RC Helicopter Flybars Explained
RC Helicopter Flies To One Side During Takeoff And Landing
If your flybar is in good working order, then you are good to go to fly your helicopter. In the process of taking off with your RC helicopter, the main rotor rotation is increased at the same time as the tail rotor rotation.
The purpose of the tail rotor is to compensate for the force of the rotation of the main rotor, which makes the body of the helicopter want to spin around the main rotor. To counteract this spin, the tail rotor provides an opposing force to prevent this spin.
During take-off, if the tail rotor spins too fast before the main rotor is up to speed, it will push the helicopter sideways in the opposite direction of the tail rotor. The thrust of the tail rotor is towards the opposite side of the tail that the rotor is installed on. If the thrust of the tail rotor is too strong during take-off, it can push the helicopter to one side.
The way to compensate for this is to increase the speed of the main rotor and pitch the helicopter slightly in the opposite direction to the slip.
The same thing can occur as the helicopter comes in to land and the main rotors start to slow down their rotation. If the tail rotor is spinning too fast, the helicopter could slip to one side. You can compensate for this once again by adjusting the pitch of the main rotor to the opposite side to balance the thrust of the tail rotor.
As the helicopter comes down during a landing, the air becomes turbulent as the downwash from the main rotors hits the ground and causes swirling air currents. This makes the helicopter difficult to control as it comes in for a landing.
A helicopter is very different to fly compared to a fixed-wing aircraft, and you will have to make constant minor adjustments to the pitch and the power of the rotors to get the balance right.
Much of the balance to get the take-off and landings smooth only come with practice and with many crashes while you learn the finer controls.
RC Helicopter Flies To One Side During Flight
If your RC helicopter flies to one side during the flight in a dramatic fashion, it is more than likely an indication of a malfunction of some sort rather than operator error. If you managed to take off without the aircraft veering off to one side, you would have done well.
If it then starts to veer to one side rather than a slow drift, there is probably an imbalance with the flightbar or between the tail and main rotors that developed because of a mechanical problem.
To solve this dramatic veering sideway problem, it is best to shut the helicopter down and give it a good mechanical going over to try to establish the cause of the sudden extensive drift to one side.
If the helicopter is drifting slightly to one side, this is a different issue. All RC helicopters will drift to one side as a natural result of their own torque. This needs to be compensated for by the operator of the helicopter to maintain straight and level flight.
For more on this subject, please see my article: RC Helicopter Flying Sideways? Here’s What To Do
The problem of slight drift is one that will occur on all RC helicopters, and learning how to compensate for it is part of the learning experience, and you will get better with it the more you practice.
Flying RC helicopters is fun but generally much harder than many people realize, especially when they are first getting into the hobby.
It is especially difficult if you are starting out on a helicopter that is too advanced for your flying skill level, or you are a complete beginner who has never flown before. It is important to start on a helicopter that will give you an easier transition into the hobby and allow you to learn the controls by flying aircraft that are, in fact, easier to fly and have less complicated controls.
Even beginner RC helicopters can have some issues with drift or flying sideways, however, and it is important to establish if the reason for this on your RC model is because of operator inexperience or a mechanical malfunction.
A great way to learn is to join a group of other RC helicopter enthusiasts and learn from them and ask for their guidance, both on the setup of your aircraft and the art of controlling the helicopter in flight. The lessons learned during these sessions may make the difference between you getting frustrated and giving up or going on to experience a very satisfying hobby!