For almost forever, RC model clubs have cooked up all sorts of ideas to keep their members interested in attending flying-field events. These outings bring the members and their families together and promote the growth of the hobby—and the club—while offering some weekend summertime fun! Thus, the fun-fly was born.
In the beginning, these impromptu events were friendly off-the-cuff endeavors that required pilots to execute simple flight tasks between trips to the BBQ and picnic tables. Timed flights, touch-and-go challenges and even non-flying, taxiing events around balloon pylon courses were the norm. These early events gave tired old trainers and worn-out sport models a new lease on life, since they were considered more or less expendable. Competition, however, soon changed all of that. As pilots became more interested in improving their scores, their models evolved to give them an edge. Soon, fun-fly-specific models dominated the day! Performance went through the roof, and various levels of competition, typically Sportsman and Expert classes, had to be created to keep newcomers interested in all the action. Manufacturers noticed all the excitement, and now being successful in fun-fly events has never been easier. There are more fun-fly ARF models than ever before, and they make great noncompetitive sport flyers, too. Whether you want to bring home the gold or you just want to improve your 3D flight skills, fun-fly ARFs are the way to go. Let’s see what all the excitement is about!
WHERE TO START
Several type of the models fall into the fun-fly category. They range from standard-type models with full fuselage construction and landing gear design to lightweight specialized competition fun-fly machines. These feature minimal lightweight construction, carbon-fiber tail booms and single mono-type landing gear. It is best to start with the Sportsman class with a model you are comfortable with and that you can fly in all sorts of weather conditions. This takes practice. Fly as much as you can and shoot lots of touch-and-gos. With most contests, you have to end the task on the ground with the engine still running to earn the maximum amount of points. A tail-dragger plane is preferable over tri-cycle-gear models, as they are more rugged, weigh less and provide more ground clearance. As your skills improve, your model’s performance can be increased as well. And there a lot of great models to choose from.
GETTING THE EDGE
What makes a good fun-fly model? To get the most performance out of a model, you need a good power-to-weight ratio, so you can either increase your engine’s size, or you can lower the model’s overall flying weight!
At the higher end of the competition spectrum, it is a little of both. Competitors use the biggest powerhouses they can fit into their models and typically attach a power-increasing, tuned-exhaust system (often homemade); they lighten the model’s structure with judicious use of carbon-fiber reinforcement applied to lighter grades of wood. Some of these models have remained popular and unchanged for years, but others are built, crashed, redesigned and rebuilt year after year. That’s known as fine-tuning! In the pursuit of weight reduction, unnecessary elements were eliminated. Model design became simpler: servos and fuel tanks got smaller, wing ribs got fewer, and landing gear layouts were minimized.
Another important part of a fun-fly model is good slow-speed performance. That comes with weight reduction, but nice, thick airfoils add to the low end of the flight envelope, too. Increased lift and drag, produced by fat wings, help in landings and during cornering and looping maneuvers. Coupled with a powerful, lightweight engine, fun-fly airplanes can offer sparkling performance.