Table of Contents
History of lap times
Engines for F3D pylon racing models
Propellers for F3D pylon racing models
Fixed or retractable landing gear ?
Challenging the wind
Flaps in pylon racing models ?
Landscape or portrait?
How it all works together
A Comparison of Pylon Racing Airfoils

Aspects of
Pylon Racing

Landscape or Portrait ?

Vertical tail in "landscape mode" vertical tail in "portrait mode".

Usually, the size of the vertical tailplane is based on previous experiences and the tailplane volume V. This value is defined as the product of tailplane area times the distance from its aerodynamic center to the center of gravity of the plane. After the area of the vertical tailplane has been defined, it is possible to select different aspect ratios AR for it, making the tail long and flat (low AR) or short and high (large AR).

Similar to a wing, the drag of the vertical tailplane is composed of friction drag and induced drag. While the friction drag component is always present, the induced drag is created only, when the model is in yaw. On the one hand, the low AR tail has a large chord, which results in large Reynolds numbers and thus low friction drag coefficients. On the other hand, the vertical tail must develop a force, whenever the plane is in yaw - this will usually happen during takeoff and when the plane enters or leaves a turn or has to be controlled in knifes edge flight. Under these conditions, the low AR tail shows higher induced drag than the high AR tail. Also, a tail with a high aspect ratio is more effective, i.e. it creates the required force at a lower yaw angle.

For a pylon racing model the question is: which aspect ratio is the best, in terms of drag?

The following results are assuming, that the area of the vertical tail is held constant, whereas the aspect ratio is yet unknown. Using the NACA 0006 airfoil, the friction drag has been calculated by Eppler´s integral boundary layer analysis method, with natural transition.

The induced drag coefficient has been approximately calculated by the simple formula

Cdi = Cl^2/(pi*AR)

assuming, that the span-efficiency factor k cancels out with the increase of the aspect ratio due to the presence of fuselage and horizontal tail.

Numerical results for a typical F3D model are shown below. When the vertical tail is in a "no yaw" condition, the lowest aspect ratio yields the largest chord and the lowest drag coefficients. But, during the operation of a pylon racing model, small yaw angles, in the order of 0.5 to 1 degrees, will occur frequently. Under these conditions, the increased aspect ratio tails perform better, but it is clearly visible, that it is not necessary to increase the aspect ration to very high values. A good compromise might be an AR of 2 to 3 for the vertical tailplane.

Optimum aspect ratio versus yaw angle.
The optimum aspect ratio versus the angle of attack (yaw angle) for two flight speeds.
Schemes of 3 different tails.
Vertical tails, having the same area, but different aspect ratios.

It should be noted, that the thin tail planes of pylon racing models operate at supercritical Reynolds numbers, which means, that there is no catastrophic drag increase, when the aspect ratio is increased. The AR = 1 tail sees Reynolds numbers around 1'000'000, whereas for the AR = 4 tail these numbers are more like 500'000. When the flight speed is reduced, say to velocities below 25 m/s, the Reynolds numbers will fall into the critical region. Here, the results may look different, eventually favoring tailplanes of aspect ratios below 2.

Flaps in pylon racing models ?
Landscape or portrait?
How it all works together

Last modification of this page: 08.09.03

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