First flight success

Apr 16, 2014 1 Comment by

Earn your wings the pain-free way!

A 4-channel, aileron-equipped, molded foam trainer like the Multiplex Mini Mag is ideal for flight training.

So what’s all this excitement about small RC planes? Well, there are a lot of reasons why people choose to fly park flyers. They are very quiet and can be flown just about anywhere, they aren’t very labor-intensive when it comes to assembly and many come out of the box ready to fly. Also, they don’t cost as much as the larger glow engine planes do to get into the air. Another big plus is that should you hit the ground trying to land, they are much easier and less costly to repair. In fact, some are designed to come apart on impact so there’s almost no damage at all. So, with all that they have going for them, let’s take a closer look at how they fly.

GROUND SCHOOL

The first thing I would suggest is to hook up with an experienced RC pilot who can be your flight instructor. A lot can be learned with a flight simulator program, but nothing will increase your progress more than some quality one-on-one time with someone who can guide you during those first few flights. To be successful, you should try to develop a training plan. Each flight should have a goal and you should build on what you’ve learned from previous flights. Only after you have mastered the tasks at hand should you go on to the next step. If your plane has large enough wheels, a good way to start is to first taxi. You can then move on to takeoff, straight and level flight, turning left and right and flying at low airspeeds. As you gain experience, start flying at lower and lower altitudes and then, start setting up your first landing approaches. Throughout the whole process, try to keep your model under control and be aware of the wind conditions.

BUDDY SYSTEM

After “flying” an RC flight sim, hook up with a real flight instructor.

One of the best training aids is called a Buddy Box. This setup involves a cable connected between the student’s and instructor’s transmitters to allow the instructor to take over control with the flip of a switch should the student pilot get into trouble. Available from many radio manufacturers, Buddy Box training systems are also often available from organized RC airplane clubs.

In practice, the instructor uses his or her radio, controls the model during take-off and then flies it to a safe altitude. The instructor then simply activates and holds the trainer switch to transfer flight control to the student’s radio. If, for any reason, the student gets into trouble, the instructor simply releases the spring-loaded switch to instantly regain control. Compared to using a single radio where an instructor has to remove the radio from the student’s hands to regain control, the Buddy Box system is much easier and is considered by many to be the preferred training system.

TAXI TESTS

Most ready-to-fly trainers come with everything you need-including spare props and a radio.

Once you check to make sure all your control surfaces are moving properly and in the correct directions, slowly start taxiing your model back and forth. Your instructor should let you get the feel of the model on the ground before actually flying it. Notice that when you taxi with the wind, the rudder is slightly less effective than when you taxi directly into the wind. For tail-dragger planes, apply a little up-elevator to keep the tailwheel planted firmly on the ground or a little down-elevator to keep the nose wheel of a tricycle-geared model held down for maximum steering control. Taxiing is also a safe way to learn control reversal. When the model is going away from you, left is left and right is right. When the model is pointing toward you however, left and right feel reversed! When you push the stick to the right, the model turns to its right, but that’s perceived as your left. This can be very confusing at first but with practice, you’ll learn to automatically adjust when the model turns around and comes toward you.

This Cessna 182 from Parkflyers RC responds well even in windy conditions, which is an important trait when learning to bank and turn.

Also, practice advancing the throttle slowly to minimize the effects of motor and prop torque on the model. As you advance the throttle, notice that the model will tend to swerve to the left. This is corrected by applying a slight amount of right rudder. Always keep a light touch on the controls as a heavy-handed approach can lead to over controlling your model, which makes the task all the more difficult.

Once you’re comfortable taxiing your model and can guide it without losing control, you’ll be ready for the exciting part-takeoff!

FIRST FLIGHT

Generally, the first few flights of your model will be under the full control of the instructor and he will both take off and land your model for you. As you learn to anticipate your model’s needed corrections and show the required amount of control, your instructor will tell you, “Go ahead, take’er off this time!” Remember to always take off pointing into the wind, never downwind!

Most trainers and beginner sport planes are fairly stable and when you advance the throttle to full, will climb nicely almost by themselves

Taking off is actually quite easy. Most trainers and beginner sport planes are fairly stable and when you advance the throttle to full, will climb nicely almost by themselves. Concentrate on maintaining a straight heading, advance the throttle slowly and correct steer with rudder (add a little right to keep it going straight down the runway). As the model gets light on the wheels, pull back slightly on the elevator stick and the model’s nose will rise slightly. Keep the wings level and let the model climb out at about a shallow angle. If the model jumps off the ground and heads up at a steep angle, don’t panic. Ease off the elevator stick and if necessary, apply a slight amount of down-elevator (push the elevator stick forward slightly) to keep the model at the proper climb angle.

Once the model is at a safe altitude (75 to 100 feet) it’s time to turn it around.

HAND LAUNCHING

Small models like this ParkZone Micro Mustang are easy to hand launch.

Another way to get into the air is to hand launch your model. This works well for models with small wheels (or with no landing gear at all) at flying areas with tall, unmaintained grass. A certain amount of care is required and this technique works very well.

1 While you hold the transmitter, have a friend hold your model firmly just behind the center of gravity with one hand while the other hand supports the model’s front. The model should be held above head level with its nose raised slightly
. The more powerful the model, the higher the nose up angle can be.

2 After a few quick paces, the model should be tossed into the air javelin style. It’s important not to launch the model nose down as this will cause the model to hit the ground. Nor should the model be launched at an extreme nose-up angle as this slows the model down and can make it stall shortly after it’s released. Care should be taken not to have the tail of the model strike the launcher and the launcher should always keep his or her hands free of the propeller. Note: For lightweight, less powerful airplanes, you should launch the model level or even slightly nose down and pointed above the horizon.

3 Once you have sufficient experience, you can also try hand launching by yourself with the plane in your launching hand and the transmitter in the other. Hold the plane up and slightly out from your body, with wings level. Use your thumb to advance the throttle to full and give the plane a firm toss with nose slightly high. Once the plane is airborne and climbing, quickly and smoothly bring your launch hand to the transmitter and grasp the control stick.

4 Be ready to apply any corrections to keep the plane’s wings level. Allow the model to climb to a safe altitude before reducing power to cruise and trimming the controls for straight and level. Hand launching also allows you to fly out of areas that normally would not allow normal operation of a landing gear-equipped model. Before hand launching your plane from a smaller area, be sure to evaluate your landing approach. It takes more room to land than it does to hand launch a model. Have fun and fly safe!

BANKING AND TURNING

After taking off, the next thing to learn is how to turn the model left and right. Without this maneuver, we’d lose a lot of models over the horizon. The ailerons make the model roll and this is the first step in making a turn. Apply a little left or right aileron and bank the model to about 15 to 20 degrees. You can then add some up-elevator to bring the model around and begin the turn. To increase or decrease the radius of the turn, you add more or less elevator. Aileron input is used to maintain the angle of bank. At the same time as adding the aileron and elevator inputs, we must also increase throttle slightly to make up for the added drag that will make the model to slow down and descend. Once the model is on the new heading we want, stop the turn and bring the wings back to a level position by releasing up-elevator and applying a slight amount of opposite aileron. Finally, bring the throttle to the previous setting for straight and level flight.

From a straight flightline out away from yourself, an 180-degree turn will bring your model heading back toward yourself so remember the control reversal. Your left is not your model’s left, they’re opposite! A simple way of correcting your model’s flight path is to move the aileron stick toward the lower wing panel. As you look at the oncoming model, if the right wing is low, move the aileron stick slightly to the right and it will lift that wing to return the model to straight and level flight. Think of it as using the aileron stick to prop up that lower wing panel. This technique works really well and goes a long way in helping you master control of your model.

LANDINGS

Now available as a bind-n-fly version, the ParkZone Super Cub is very rugged and has an “anti-crash technology” auto stabilization system.

There is really only one way to become good at landings-practice! Start your landing practice at a safe altitude by learning how to fly your models at low throttle setting. Trim your model for the slower flight speeds then bring the throttle back. You’ll have to pull the model’s nose up slightly to keep it from descending. The higher angle of attack slows the model’s speed. The model’s descent rate is controlled with the throttle. You want to land at or slightly above your model’s stall speed, so you first have to learn what that speed is and then practice flying your model into and out of the stalled condition. Once you get a feel for where and when the model will stall (in the air), you can confidently land on the ground.

TRAFFIC PATTERN

Just before touchdown, you need to flare up the plane to slow it down. It should touch the ground just as the wing stalls and loses lift.

There are four basic parts of the landing pattern-the downwind leg, the base leg, final approach and the flare just before touchdown. To keep your airspeed as high as possible, relative to the model’s speed over the ground, always land into the wind. The two turns from downwind to the base leg and from the base leg to the final approach, should be 90 degrees and flown with a shallow 15 to 20 degrees of bank. For these turns in the pattern, the throttle should be reduced to allow the model to descend.

Start your landing practice at a safe altitude by learning how to fly your models at low throttle setting

While traveling downwind over the far side of the runway and directly in front of you, pull the throttle to about half and apply some back pressure on the elevator stick. As the model descends to about 50 feet altitude, turn 90 degrees to the base leg and then level the wings. Control your descent with the throttle and use the elevator to adjust your airspeed. Remember you don’t want to stall, but just fly above the stall speed. Make another 90-degree turn to establish the final approach heading and line up your model with the center of the runway. Your descent angle should bring your model to the end of the runway just as it begins to enter stall its speed. Pull your power back to idle then begin to flare (pull the nose up gradually) just as the model contacts the ground. Proper use of the throttle and controlling your airspeed will help prevent your model from bouncing back into the air.

Once your model is sitting nicely on the runway, all that’s left is to use the rudder and a bit of throttle to taxi back to your pit area. Phew! That wasn’t all that hard was it?

There’s really nothing so satisfying as properly making your first perfect landing. You’ll spend the rest of your hobby career perfecting and fine-tuning your landing skills. Crosswinds and gusty days always challenge you to improve. This is where shooting touch-and-gos come in handy. Just remember to always keep in front of the model mentally, know what you’re going to do next so the model does not get ahead of you. Above all, stay in control!

John Reid, Uncategorized

About the author

West Coast senior editor About me: I’ve been involved with RC aircraft since high school and have flown just about everything. I started my RC career with scratch-building, but now like many pilots I rely on ARFs to get me in the air. My main focus is on pylon racing, aerobats, combat and scale warbirds.

One Response to “First flight success”

  1. John McDonald says:

    A very good article. As a rookie I find the biggest challenge is to fly the plane rather than react to what the plane does. I have found the vets at the field to be extremely helpful in the learning process.

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