How to find the right deal
This article was originally published in RC Heli Pilot December/January 2016 issue.
Words And Photos James Masula
Buying used radio control helicopters online is something I have always been a little hesitant about. Everyone loves to buy new stuff for sure; I mean who can resist tearing open such a nicely wrapped package and having zero issues with the contents inside? Given the choice, even I tend to lean towards new, but we all know the reality is that most of us will probably end up bankrupt with the number of new releases that seem to be flooding the market these days. That being said, there are some amazing deals out there to be had if you do not mind spending the extra time to look for them.
With the advent of the World Wide Web, everyone and everything is literally at your fingertips. There are several really great websites that I watch for deals almost daily. Usually I start my search a few weeks to months in advance. Sites I regularly visit the classifieds on are RCGroups, Helifreaks, Craigslist and RC helis buy and sell (Facebook). The advantage is you can see what equipment is available and if there are any crazy price fluctuations. Remember, you don’t always need to buy the first thing you see. Just wait long enough and another deal will pop up.
So where do you start when looking for used helicopters? Well my suggestion from previous experiences has been to find people who know what they are doing. There are a lot of really knowledgeable pilots out there and I have yet to meet anyone who is not willing to answer questions. Know what kit or electronics you are looking into and if parts and support are still available. Sure, you found a great deal for 100 dollars, but if you only get a handful of flights out of it before you stuff it in and you can’t readily get parts, was it really worth it? Another great way to see what’s out there is to head to a fun fly. Runrider or RC Flight Deck have great information that can point you to a local event or if you prefer the human experience, visit your local hobby shop and make some inquiries. At fun flys you see a lot of guys flying new and old kits and may even find that someone is letting a kit or two go.
Then make a list of questions so you don’t forget when inquiring about a used helicopter you think is a great deal. I know you think the first question is, “Has it been crashed?” Well I hate to say it, but 90% of them have been. So then; why am I not so concerned about this? Well when you buy used, it is used and you need to take the time to thor- oughly inspect every part anyway. It is your responsibility to maintain a safely operating piece of machinery. My first question is usually how many flights are on the machine? Followed by the list below, which can be added to or modified at any time:
1. When was the last time it was flown?
2. When was the last time the blade grip bearings were lubricated and motor bearings if electric?
3. Where is the helicopter usually stored?
4. If it was crashed, what was replaced and has it flown since then?
5. Where do they buy their parts from? Chances are they have crashed and found the best place or a new place that you have not thought of to purchase parts.
6. Are the servos digital or analog? When buying older machines this can make a difference on how much you will need to upgrade later.
After you have asked
So now what? You have selected a helicopter, asked a million questions and it is firmly planted on your workbench. Well, if you were lucky enough to find someone selling a NIB (New in box) kit, then build it! If not, then it is time to break out your tools and start checking items off your list. The first thing I do is find the manual! If it was not supplied from the buyer, look online. Next, inspect all bearings, shafts and linkages. Look at the servo and wires. Are there any cuts or abrasions on the leads and are the plastic servo ends OK? Check all the screws that are holding the frames or other critical parts together. Are they tight? Do the blades look OK? Check for cracks and balance. Check the drivetrain. Do the belts look OK or are the gears worn excessively? Replace any parts that are suspect or worn-out immediately. You will thank yourself for making sure the helicopter is air worthy before any maiden attempt. Hope this helps and happy flying!