SlowStick R/C Airplane - Parts

Last week I mentioned that I crashed the remote control (R/C) airplane I built (from a kit) and DB wanted to know what parts I bought, so here goes.

All the parts except the SlowStick airplane kit came from Hobby King (a discount R/C shop in Hong Kong). I bought the SlowStick from a local hobby store because I wanted to start building right away. You only need the slope glider kit (no motor or propeller) since you can buy a better, more powerful, brushless motor for cheap. The best price I found online for the SlowStick kit is $22 at ALL e RC.

This is what I would consider the absolute minimal parts list:

$29.991$29.99Radio set, 4 Channel (Mode 1 or Mode 2)
$5.991$5.99Brushless Motor
$8.991$8.99Electronic Speed Controller (ESC, 25-30Amps)
$7.182$3.59Micro Servo (HXT900)
$8.291$8.29Battery Pack, Lithium Polymer, 1000mAh
$4.491$4.49Battery Charger
$1.20Propeller, 11x4.7
$66.13 TOTAL

Here is a parts list with a few inexpensive extras that are well worth the money:

$32.951$32.95Radio set, 6 Channel (Mode 1 or Mode 2)
$2.891$2.89USB Programming Cable (for 6 channel radio only)
$5.991$5.99Brushless Motor
$8.991$8.99Electronic Speed Controller (ESC, 25-30Amps)
$7.182$3.59Micro Servo (HXT900)
$16.582$8.29Battery Pack, Lithium Polymer, 1000mAh
$4.491$4.49Battery Charger
$9.991$9.99AC Power Supply, 12 VDC @ 5Amps
$4.804$1.20Propeller, 11x4.7
$1.991$1.99Prop Saver
$2.201$2.20Pushrod Snap Connectors, (5 pack)
$98.05 TOTAL

Notes about the parts:

Radio set - Includes the transmitter (the controller you hold) and the receiver (mounted on the plane to receive signals from the transmitter and control the servos and ESC). 2.4 GHz radios use spread spectrum technology to avoid interference. It is powered by 8 AA batteries (you can buy NiMH AA batteries for cheap at Hobby King). A Mode 1 transmitter has the throttle (no spring return) on the right stick, Mode 2 on the left (more info). Only 3 channels are needed for the SlowStick so the 4 channel radio is good. I got the 6 channel radio because it was only $3 more (actually $6 because I had to buy the USB programming cable), but I have no idea what I'll use the other 2 channels for. The 4 channel radio has reversing switches on the front panel so if a servo is moving the wrong way it's easy to change without having to connect to a PC, run software and reprogram the transmitter like the 6 channel radio.

Brushless motor - Ordinary DC motors have brushes (contacts) that wear out eventually, but brushless doesn't so they last longer. But the main reason you want this motor is for the greater power over the stock motors. The holes in the included plastic mount didn't line up with those of the motor so I had to drill a hole or two - not a difficult modification, but weird that it didn't match up.

Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) - Translates throttle signals from the receiver to control the amount of electricity to the motor. Includes a safety feature that prevents the motor from running when you power up the plane (that could otherwise be a nasty surprise). It will also shut down the motor when the battery gets low so you still have power for the controls to (hopefully) glide the plane down and land it.

Micro Servo - Translates signals from the receiver into a rotational position for moving the control surfaces (rudder and elevator). There are various sizes of servos, the micro size mounts on the SlowStick OK. Servos are pretty durable, but you may want to pick up a spare just in case.

Battery Pack - Lithium Ion batteries are light and hold a big charge. The 1000 mAh battery is a good value and will last around 20 minutes in the SlowStick. Buy 2 so you can swap in a fresh battery and put the dead one on the charger. And/or buy batteries with more capacity (mAh) for longer flights (if the battery pack is not a 2S or 3S you will need to select a different charger).

Battery Charger - You need a charger specifically for Lithium batteries and the number of cells in the battery pack (this one works with 2S and 3S packs). It clips to a car battery so you can charge in the field. Get the AC Power Supply if you also want to charge at home.

Propeller - The 11x4.7 was recommended to me and seems to work well, but since I haven't really flown the plane I can't be certain. Propellers take a lot of abuse and often break so get some spares - they're cheap.

Prop Saver - Mounts to the motor shaft and attaches to the propeller with some strong rubber o-rings. This adds some "give" to the system and will often prevent breaking a prop. For $2 it seems like cheap insurance.

Pushrod Snap Connectors - Instead of making a Z bend in the pushrods for the rubber and elevator you attach these connectors to the servo horn (arm). A screw holds the pushrod. Makes mounting and adjusting the pushrods much easier. Worth the money. I had to drill out a hole in the servo horn to make them fit.

A few notes about ordering: Hobby King has member discounts on some parts so create an account first before you start adding parts to your shopping cart. The cheap shipping will take about 2 weeks. I selected the faster shipping and it took 5 days.

The kit comes with an instruction booklet, but it's pretty bad (not very descriptive, bad english, typos, etc.). This guide helped. The kit is a bit different now - for one it comes with a clear plastic stiffener that goes between the two halves of the wing.

The guide suggests a number of changes, and most of them are good, but I only used a few. I will agree that the included tape strips didn't stick well and I covered them over with good quality clear packing tape. (The guide suggests using Scotch brand #8959 Extreme Application Packing Tape, but it's not clear so it makes the plane look ugly. I think packing tape works well enough, but if you want to trade some looks for durability then go with the Extreme tape.)

I didn't fasten any of the parts that slide onto the fuselage boom and that was a mistake. When the plane crashed they all slide forward and unbalanced the plane. The instructions say to use glue, but I'd rather use screws or tape so I can make adjustments, if needed.

That's all the major build tips I can recall.

Now I need to repair the crash damage so I can try again.

But before I attempt to fly again I'm going to do some simulated flight to get more familiar with the controls. I just bought from eBay a DYNAM controller that looks just like a R/C transmitter and plugs into a computer (USB). It comes with the open source flight simulator FMS. You can also use FMS with a keyboard, joystick or other controllers (even the 6 channel transmitter with the USB cable can be adapted to work, but it's a bit messy and uses the batteries). As a bonus, I think the kids will have fun using the simulator too.


Ski Bike Junkie said...

If I did this I would want to crash. Is that bad?

bikemike said...

if i did this i would crash

DB said...

Thanks for this post. It will be VERY useful, so I'm grateful you took the time to put it together.

I am glad that you came across the FMS simulator. I was going to suggest it if you weren't aware of it. I have never owned a real RC plane, but I have dinked around with FMS a bit. The helicopters are especially fun to fly.

Once you've mastered fixed wing flight, maybe you'll want to give a heli a try. This website ( has some fun looking stuff. If you do get a heli, your 6-channel radio may come in handy.

Joshua said...

You crashed it?! I hope it's not irreparably damaged. Better work on that simulator.