Set your heli up right!

Set your heli up right!

One of the advantages of flying helicopters over other forms of RC is there is a nice mix of both procedures and techniques. By procedures I mean there is one correct way of doing something, such as assembling a rotor head or mounting an engine. But helicopters also allow us to use and develop our own techniques to make building, setup, and flying more personal. Techniques are your personal way of doing something, from setting up a helicopter to adjusting a needle valve. For those of you who are experienced fliers, you will have already developed your own techniques, but may still find some of the techniques I present here to be useful in the future. For those of you who are new to the hobby, you can use some of these as a basis from which you can develop your own techniques as you get more experience in the hobby.


Your helicopter instructions will give you the correct pushrod lengths from the servos to the swashplate, which should give you a level swashplate. Although there are many swashplate-leveling tools on the market to ensure the swashplate is completely level, most of them assume that the helicopter is completely level to begin with. I find this completely unnecessary because initial swashplate setup is just an approximation for initial flight testing. Also, it’s amazing how accurate our eyes are. The helicopter should look fairly level on your workbench, and the swashplate should look level as well. Actually, neither the helicopter nor the swashplate needs to the level. The only requirement is that the swashplate be parallel to the longitudinal axis of the helicopter, which is generally the top of the side frame or tail boom.


I recently began blogging on the to be more interactive with others flying RC helicopters. I intend to write about some of the projects I’m working on, or helicopters I’m flying, some of the techniques that I’m using, and other subjects that you find interesting. However, to make this work I would like to know about you, and what subjects are of interest to you. Experience is a great teacher, and sharing those experiences with others will keep new fliers from making the same mistakes we have all made in the past, and there is always more to learn. I look forward to your comments and ideas.

Be sure to check out Paul’s column in the September issue of Model Airplane News!

Updated: July 12, 2012 — 10:58 AM


  1. I would definitly appreciate more info about heli set up I am building an EXI 450 an am having problems with gyro amnd trimiong any info would be help[ful

  2. Jerry – for a comprehensive answer to your question on setting up a helicopter, please refer to my book on the Basics of RC Helis which is available from the Air Age bookstore.

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