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Radio Ramblings

I have been flying Radio Control, on and off, for over 30 years. I have seen radios go from 27mhz to 72mhz to narrow banding, synthesized and now 2.4Ghz. It always has amazed me how fast the technology moves. It seem like only yesterday I sent my trusty radios off to be narrow banded. Now those radios are obsolete. Or are they? The 2.4 Ghz band is in full deployment mode. The majority of new  RTF kits come with them and the majority of new systems sold in Hobby shops and on line are 2.4Ghz. Although Tower and Horizon along with some smaller manufacturers are still making and selling 72mhz systems, Futaba and JR are now producing only 2.4ghz systems. Now after only 4 years in production 2.4 Ghz is taking over. Even some events like Joe Nall have announced that next year only 2.4ghz will be allowed. Those who have invested hundreds or even thousands in there high end 72mhz systems are being left out in the cold? I have been flying on 72mhz for almost 30 years and have never had an issue with my frequencies. Now that more and more flyers are using the 2.4Ghz I have even less problems getting my pin at the fields. Even on the busiest days my son and I can take our pins off the board and fly all day without someone asking for the pin.  And as far as interference I can count on one hand the amount of times i have had glitches I can not account for. By this I mean that the glitch came from unknown sources. The times I can account for once was a Schluter helicopter with the tail pitch rod running through the tail rotor shaft and I did not ground it. Static would build up and interfere with the radio, causing the servos to intermittently give a little glitch. Pretty scary, but easily solved. A small wire in the form of de-soldering braid, soldered to the pitch control shaft and screwed to the tail boom dissipated the static and eliminated the glitch. Another was a super sportster 40 I mounted a cheap switch to the side of the fuselage and the switch could not take the vibration of the 48 four-stroke I installed. The plane suddenly snapped and went in. Latter investigation revealed the inside mechanism of the switch had disintegrated. Again my fault for using a poor quality switch and poor choice of mounting location. I only use the high end JR switches now and give more thought to the mounting especially in my high performance planes. I also had one time at a uncontrolled county field in Florida where another flyer turned on his radio in the pits after taking my AMA card off the board, thew it in the garbage and replaced it with his. Later investigation found my card, by another flyer, in the garbage can by the frequency board. The rest of my many crashes can be directly attributed to dumb thumbs. I am the first to admit that most of my lost planes are due to my own brain lock! I have lost some beautiful planes because I forgot I was inverted for a second and pulled up while only a few feat off the ground, or was not paying attention to that tree or telephone line at the far end of the field. I would surmise that most crashes attributed in the past to radio interference actually could have been found to be pilot error. Not necessarily dumb thumbs but also poor installations causing binding or radio noise, questionable receiver batteries, or installing receivers and servos that may have been damaged from previous crashes. I have personally witnessed these scenarios but kept my mouth shut for the benefit of the pilot. Damage done, no reason to drag anyone through the mud.

Back to the frequency situation. For those like myself who have invested in transmitters and receivers, I do not see any reason to change. Especially for sport flying. For clubs and events who are considering banning the 72mhz frequency from use, I think you will alienate many long time flyers. If you have an upper end radio with a module you could purchase a 2.4ghz module and receivers to switch over, even if it is only on your competition planes (for those events that require it). this way you can still use your 72mhz module and receivers for everyday flying. Spectrum has a module for the JR and Futaba module based radios that comes with a AR7000 receiver for $110. This is a bargain as the receiver alone is $99. Hmmm! this will give you the flexibility to fly either frequency band on a radio you are familiar with.  Other manufacturers have similar deals on modules and receiver packages for many common radios. Me, I will stick with my 72mhz for now and see what happens.

One final note to club instructors. As most of the new students seem to be coming to the field with electric and some glow powered RTFs these days, and most come with 2.4ghz radios the importance of teaching the frequency board may be taking a lower stance. remember that some students will go on to larger planes and will most likely buy some used planes and equipment in their future. These used radios will probably be 72mhz. I have seen novice pilots who have been signed off to solo and purchased planes with radios at the club swap meet. Then fuel it up and turn on the radio to fly with no pin! Most have never been taught the frequency control board and how they work. Please do not overlook this very important step in the training process just because the student has a 2.4 system to start. Our club has kept the pin system even for 2.4Ghz, but does not require impound of the radios. This may be confusing for new comers also.  Instructors need to cover frequency control and explain in detail. this needs to be an important separate sign off on the student log more so today than in the past.

May all your landings be the right side down!!!!

Fly safe out there!

Signing Off

Doug Serrand