The Runway

11/9/2005 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2005 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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New Entry Back to the Mailbag

While I do read and respond to each and every piece of e-mail I receive, there are times when I start receiving the same basic questions.  Well, it’s time to share some of the feedback and questions I have received to see if we can help each other out.

As I was cruising around the net today, I came across your column and read all of your postings so far.  I can relate to your feelings of going from the world of RC cars to planes as I myself have a stadium truck that I have really enjoyed driving for the past few years. Some co-workers of mine are really into planes and copters and suggested that I give them a try.  I made the fatal mistake of purchasing a poorly made 3 channel plane from an offshoot company.  This plane has been an excellent source of frustration and aggravation for me over the last year, so much so that I had decided to give it up and stick to my truck, that is, until reading your column and seeing how much success you had with the Firebird Commander 2.  I can't wait to buy a Firebird Commander 2 and get it airborne!  Thank you for restoring my faith in easy to fly beginner planes.

Phil K.

Being a new RC flight enthusiast I have really enjoyed your Runway articles.  I ended up purchasing a Firebird Commander 2 and have found it a wonderful, and forgiving, electric trainer.  I look forward to your regular installments for the rest of us. 

Thanks again.

Hi Gary,
Love your Blog! I own an Aerobird Challenger, my first plane, and despite the fact it isn't a beginner plane, I can fly it seamlessly! Your Blog gave me more confidence in flying, and I've even learned a few techniques. Thanks for the confidence-boosting Blog!


Phil, Jerry, and Ethan, thanks a lot for writing in. I had many of the same apprehensions when I started this whole project. I still fly my Firebird Commander 2 often, but have also heard a lot of good things about the new HobbyZone Cub.  I think that’s one of the neat things about HobbyZone planes, as the progression from one to the other is so logical. Another thing I really like about the HobbyZone line is that, regardless of your skill level, you can always have a fun time flying these planes.

New Entry Into the Mailbag

It’s been a while and I’ve gotten quite a few e-mails from folks, so I figured it was time to dip back into the mailbag. I want to thank those of you who have written so far and invite anyone to e-mail me at with questions on learning to fly.

"I'm new to the air thing but it has bit me in a big way. Anyway, I need to get an AC charger that can do just about everything. I see you use a Dynamite Vision Peak Ultra. What about the MULTICharger LN-5014?, I'm new to the hobby, sport, lifestyle, obsession or whatever it is and would like some links and/or advice about chargers. By the way, now I want to look at the new E-flite Blade CX; it looks pretty cool. As for my next plane, the Firebird Freedom is the way I want to go. Thank you for your time."
Kent H

Kent, I haven’t personally used the LN-5014 but I did talk to some of our R&D folks. They said it worked very well in testing, but one thing to remember is that this unit is DC-only. That means you’ll need a separate power supply to make this charger work. By the time you end up purchasing a power supply, you are looking at a higher cost than the Vision Peak Ultra. The only performance difference between the two, besides the power input, is the fact that the LN-5014 will also charge lead acid batteries. Oh, and as far as the Blade CX goes, if you think airplanes are addictive, you haven’t seen anything yet.

"I have a Firebird Commander 2 and want to upgrade it as much as I can. I have wondered if it is possible to make it a 3-channel plane, giving me the flexibility of adding controlled up and down movement. Is it possible to install a different motor to achieve more power? I live in Sheffield, England, and if you know of any parts I can use I would appreciate it. Many thanks!"
Richard H.

Richard, you are the first person from overseas that has e-mailed in. I think that’s pretty cool myself, thanks for reading. There are quite a few hop-ups available for the Firebird Commander 2, from X-Port modules, different colored tails and wings, and even 7-cell battery packs. Unfortunately, the easiest way to “convert” your Firebird Commander 2 into a 3-channel aircraft would simply be to purchase a Firebird Freedom. I wish I had better news for you but the Firebird Commander 2 simply will not accommodate 3-channel operation. If you’d like to increase the speed and performance of your Firebird Commander 2, the easiest way is to install the optional 7-cell battery pack. The additional cell gives you about 15% more voltage and makes the Firebird Commander 2 even more fun. Just remember the faster you fly, you will need to give yourself more room for error.

New Entry Answering Your Letters and Emails

Since I started working on “The Runway” a little over two months ago, I must admit that I have learned quite a lot about RC flight. I have received a number of e-mails and questions from readers of “The Runway,” and I can’t believe that so many people have started flying because of this column. I’d like to thank everyone who has e-mailed me at and invite you to send me any questions or comments that you have. That being said, I think it’s time to pull some letters out of the old mailbag.

The biggest lesson that I have learned was to not panic and not make quick moves with the sticks on the controller. I just went slow and steady with the thumbs and both of my airplanes fly beautifully. Thanks for your blog and keep up the good work.

Carroll J.

This is something that I have also learned since I started. Smooth, fluid movements of the throttle and steering inputs will result in better control versus if you are jerky on the sticks. With 2 channel planes such as the Firebird Scout and the Firebird Commander 2, flying with the throttle positioned between ½ and ¾ on versus wide open will also make the plane easier to fly.

It was with great interest that I started following the progress of your flight training with the Firebird Commander back in July as I also took an interest in RC flight at about the same time. When I read an article about the Park Zone electric flyers I knew I had to have one and give it a try. I opted for the J3 Cub and I have mastered the basic elements of flight. My eight year old daughter is now fascinated with RC flight & I have even peaked my wife's interest. After seeing the J3 Cub fly for the first time my wife's response was " that is way too cool.!"

Mark D.

I just purchased a Firebird Commander 2 for my Grandson's 9th birthday. I was very encouraged by your "Runway" postings and we are looking forward to light winds, big grassy field (no tree) and charged battery. Keep up the postings! Grandpa Jim and Grandson David

Being involved with RC hobbies, whether it’s in the air, on the water, or at the track is a lot of fun. But the additional enjoyment of having a family member or a friend join you in the experience is even more fulfilling. The only way to keep growing the hobby is to get people interested in it, especially younger people. If you can capture people’s imagination early on, they are more likely to stay with it for the rest of their lives. After all, I started in my youth (I was 14) and I still love every minute of it. Speaking of loving it, I have a new addition to my hangar that I would love to share with you, but it will have to wait for my next post.