Electric Gliders and Airplanes

When many people think of radio controlled flying they think of “gas” airplanes, or airplanes that fly using motors that are powered by a liquid fuel. The smoke and the screaming engines are what comes to mind. While these can be lots of fun, over the past ten years there has been a strong movement to electric powered airplanes: including both airplanes and electric launched gliders. Some gliders have electric motors which are used as a means to get a glider up; then the motor is switched off, the propeller folds and the search for lift proceeds.

Electric powered airplanes are clean, reliable and often very quiet. There is no fuel smell and no fuel residue on the airplanes and pilots. Also, there is no need to store and transport flammable liquids.

Electric powered airplanes can often be flown in places where loud fuel-powered planes have been banned. The field we fly in at Stillwell Park is a good example. By Nassau County rules, there are no fuel powered planes allowed, except for our use in aerotow.

Many small electric airplanes make great trainers. Some of our new members come to us with small electric powered aircraft and the hope we will help them learn to fly with them. Within the constraints of our rules on planes permissible to fly at Stillwell Park, we do. We enjoy welcoming new members into our club and helping them get started.

Altitude Limited Electric Soaring

Altitude Limited Electric Soaring (ALES) is a relatively new type of sailplane flying. An electronic ALES device, containing an altimeter and a timer, is installed in a sailplane to limit the electric motor’s on-time and how high the sailplane may climb while the motor is on. The intent of ALES is to level the field, so that all sailplanes have an equal chance of winning in a ALES contest, making the contest a test of pilot skill and not how much a pilot is willing to invest in a sailplane. To a large extent ALES succeeds at this.

ALES devices may also be used to practice for ALES contests and for sport flying electric powered sailplanes. By imposing restrictions on using a sailplane’s motor to climb higher in search of thermals, or simply to stay up longer, we force ourselves to become better at finding and using thermals. Finding and using thermals effectively is what makes this sport both challenging and fun.

ALES Information

Altitude Limited Electric Soaring League – a great source of information plus videos and contest schedules

Altitude Limited Electric Soaring on RCGroups – post a question, get an answer

LISF ALES Builds on RCGroups – our club’s builds and modifications for our 2012 club ALES contests

Radian ALES Modifications and Setup – one person’s Radian modifications for 2014 ALES contests

Parkzone RADIAN Modification Clinic – This video shows how to modify a Standard Radian for better performance. The modifications are directed towards competition in ALES contests and change the prop, battery and CG. They also describe how to add flaperons to the sailplane. The video is a good example of the type of flying that LISF doesn’t condone at Stillwell Park.