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R/C Transmitter Tray Adventure: Thumbs versus Pinching

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When I fly I move the R/C Tx's controls with my thumbs on top of the sticks. Been doing that for a long time. Some pilots say that pinching the sticks is more precise. In addition to that, I've read comments from international pilots that claim that a R/C Tx tray is the most precise way to fly.

I have no complaints about my thumbs doing the work, but I decided it's time to taste the alternate stick holding methods. Killing two birds with one stone, I went on the hunt for a transmitter tray that my 9X would fit in. Given that this was just a trial exercise, I skipped the expensive machined metal models and purchased a $10 wooden transmitter tray kit instead. Building the kit required threaded rod, turnbuckles, and primer/paint, so the final cost was about $30 total.

My 9x R/C transmitter required some minor cuts to the wood parts to get it to fit correctly. The hardware store threaded rod and turnbuckles allows the neck strap to precisely balance the tray at about waist level (the most comfortable place for me). There's mounting locations on the Tx tray for a small FPV monitor and vRx; However I wear FPV goggles so those features haven't been needed yet. But if they are added later I made sure that there would be enough adjustment in the turnbuckles to re-balance the tray.

Here's what the painted / assembled tray looks like:



I have about three hours of flight time with the tray. At this point I must admit I miss my old thumb method. Pinching the sticks still feels unnatural to me and I have yet to detect any improvement to my flying precision. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm about the tray is because I'm just an old dog that is slow to learn a new trick. But I have a feeling that the real answer is this: The ideal stick holding method is the one that works best for the pilot. So for those R/C pilots that like to use thumbs, don't be ashamed to fly with them. :)

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Funny I had a similar conversation about racing rc cars with sticks or a wheel type transmitter. Being quite old I never had the option of a wheel transmitter but all the young guys say that they are much better. I tried it for a couple of meetings as stick transmitters are by far in the minority with rc cars now but guess what, I dont like it!

My lap times are as fast as anyone at the club so I think I will stick to the sticks :)

As for flying I use finger and thumb now. When I was first teaching myself to fly planes I used thumbs but as soon as I started helis I was told not to use dumb thumbs so I switched.

I think its just what you get used to, I would say dont switch if you dont have a problem!


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Long ago I was into R/C cars (nitro and electric). I tried a pistol grip with wheel. But being a aircraft guy I ended up using a traditional 2-Ch Futaba with sticks. When I joined a R/C heli club I noticed a mixture of thumber's and pincher's.

BTW, back when I was a member of a large R/C flying club I don't recall seeing anyone using a Tx tray. I saw them in hobby magazine photos that showed international events, but not on my USA flying field. It's been awhile since I have flown at a club but I doubt things have changed much. But Tx trays must be popular in Europe because Multiplex sells their PROFI tray type transmitter and I doubt they would create that expensive thing if there was no market for it.

I agree with you that we tend to control our models with what we are used to using. As they say, different strokes for different folks. :)

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In contrast to using neck straps and/or Tx trays, the latest generation of R/C'ers seem to like the crotch method of holding their Tx's. Those short 2.4GHz antennas make it practical.


BTW, the very end of this short video shows the thumbs-on-top-of-sticks method I use:

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