RC Wind Sock

April 20, 2017
Wind Sock

Let’s see a show of hands here. How many of you have become amateur meteorologists since you learned to fly model airplanes? Yeah; me too. It seems as if I always have my eye on the treetops looking for calm conditions that will allow me a quick flight here or there. I’ve gone as far as programming several weather websites into my cell phone for a quicker reference! It’s amazing just how much even light breezes affect the smaller and lighter models we commonly use for RC flight training. This month, I focus on understanding the effects of wind on our models, and I suggest techniques to handle breezes.

ESTIMATING WIND SPEED

We’ve all heard the local RC expert claiming he flew his stock Slow Stick in 20mph wind that gusted to 30. Well, unless he checked it with an anemometer, don’t believe him. ? Well, it’s strong enough to raise all our eyebrows on the flight line, even when I’m flying my 130, 000- pound Boeing jet. I think that most modelers dramatically overestimate wind speed, not so much in an attempt to impress, but more because they lack perspective.

This lack of perspective isn’t surprising because U.S. weather observations give wind speed in knots and miles per hour, and it isn’t easy to wrap our heads around those numbers. A wind of 39 to 54mph is a “gale, ” 12.65 to 18.4mph is a “moderate breeze, ” and 8 to 11.5mph is a “gentle breeze.” The upper limit of a “breeze” is 31mph. Any higher, and we’re flying in wind!

To help us estimate wind speed, let’s use simple math to convert miles per hour (mph) into feet per second (fps)—a unit we can more easily “see” and estimate.

ACTUAL ROUNED UP
MPH FPS
7.33 7.5
10 14.67 15
22
20 29.33 30
25 36.67 37
44

The numbers in this simple table will make it a lot easier for you to estimate wind speed. You can decide for yourself whether the degree of error caused by rounding off the actual fps number to the nearest 1/2 (.5) is important to you.

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