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First Flight Success

First Flight Success

Learning to fly is always easier and more fun with the aid of an experienced instructor. He will help you avoid those first few beginner mistakes and will help your airplane live a lot longer.

The Sportsman S+ RTF with SAFE Technology from Hobby Zone is one of the new generation trainer/sport fliers that comes with onboard stabilization. It makes learning to fly very easy.

For the first-time RC modeler, today is a great time for getting started in the hobby. The newest generation of easy-to-assemble, almost-ready-to-fly planes come in a wide variety of types and sizes. From electric-powered park fliers and microscale designs to your basic engine-powered, nitro-burning sport and trainer planes, the amount of work on the bench is minimal. Compared to the good old days, our newest RC planes aren’t very labor-intensive to assemble. Many even come out of the box completely ready to fly without any assembly required. “Plug and play” is a big part the hobby today, and it very easy to be successful. Really, the hardest part is deciding which model plane and radio system you want. Whether it has an electric power system or has an engine bolted to the firewall, once you decide on the airplane you like, you’ll need a flight plan to earn your RC wings. Let’s take a look at some of the basic techniques that you’ll need to know to be a successful RC pilot.

GETTING STARTED

If you are the social type who enjoys talking about RC planes as much as learning how to fly them, joining a local club is the way to go. Meeting monthly affords you the opportunity to get together with other like-minded RC addicts; it’s a lot like group therapy for the aviation minded. Clubs usually have a permanent flying field, and membership costs are relatively inexpensive compared to all the benefits you receive. Being a club member, you’ll quickly find out where local instructors hang out. The hobby is a great way to make new friends and to find useful hobby resources. Reading Model Airplane News is also a great way to start.

RADIO GEAR

One of the first tricks to learn deals with control reversal. When the airplane is headed toward you instead of flying away, left and right turns feel reversed. To level your wings, simply move the control stick toward the lower wingtip. This will keep you flying straight and level.

For the beginner, it’s best to start with a RTF (ready-to-fly) airplane that comes in a complete package, which includes everything you’ll need to fly your plane, including the radio. This way, there are no decisions to make and you know everything will work the way it is suppose to. For the modeler who is looking to stay in the hobby for the long haul, the purchase of a radio system is a good investment.

A standard full-house aileron-equipped plane requires four channels to operate. The basic controls are the throttle, rudder, elevator, and the ailerons. Once past the basics, you’ll want to think about adding more functions, such as flaps and possibly retractable landing gear, so a 6-channel radio system gives you flexibility for future development. Programmable computer radios are very popular because of the amount of adjustments and control mixing that you can do with the various channels. The basic features include dual rates and exponential, servo reversing, servo-travel adjustment, and basic mixing. Computer radios today are very affordable, so consider them a good investment for your future needs. Also, most radios systems come without servos; when you buy your radio, purchase separately the size, number, and type of servo that you’ll need for your particular model.

GROUND SCHOOL

Yes, a lot can be learned with the use of a good flight-simulator program, but nothing speeds your progress more than some quality time one-on-one with an instructor. Having someone help you avoid those first few common mistakes will not only speed your flight training but also help prevent you from having to buy two (or possibly three) replacement trainer planes before you solo.

During those first few flights, a training plan can be developed, with each of your flights having a specific goal. Building on what you’ve learned from previous flights allows you to move on after you master the basics. Learn to taxi around first, then after you and your instructor are comfortable with you controlling your plane on the ground, you can move on to the takeoff, straight and level flight, turning left and right, and flying at slow airspeeds. While on the ground, you’ll learn how to steer with the rudder and how to work the throttle smoothly. After you get the hang of it, you can start flying at low altitudes so that you can get used to flying in the traffic pattern. Then, you’ll begin working on your first few landing approaches.

Throughout the process, remember that this is all about having fun! If you begin to feel stress, tell your instructor and let him take over. You have to take a lot of little steps before you can run. A good tip is to always be aware of the wind direction and how it affects your airplane.

Buddy System

Modern buddy-box training systems have cut the cable between the two transmitters and are now wireless.

By far, the best way to learn how to fly is with a system called a buddy box. A buddy box uses a cable connected between the instructor’s transmitter and that of the student, but newer radios do the same thing wirelessly. The buddy box allows the instructor to take control of your airplane simply by releasing a spring-loaded switch. Should you get into trouble, your instructor can quickly correct the plane and give control back to you. Available from many radio manufacturers, buddy-box training systems are often available from RC airplane clubs.

Until you are signed off for solo RC flight, the instructor will control the model during takeoff and then will fly it up to a safe altitude before transferring flight control to your radio. Compared to using a single radio (where an instructor has to take the radio from the student’s hands to regain control), the buddy-box system is much easier and safer.

This is a typical RC airplane training traffic pattern. Always take off and land into the wind, and use throttle to control your climb and descent rates.

It is always best to train when the wind is calm or at least straight down the runway. This way, the plane will go where you point it.

To fly a straight path when there is a crosswind, you need to crab the airplane (using rudder) so that it faces slightly into the wind. The stronger the wind, the more you have to angle the the plane’s nose into the wind. Practicing this will quickly increase your piloting skills. Remember to keep the wings level.

FIRST FLIGHT

As you gain experience and start to anticipate your model’s needed corrections, the instructor will give you more and more stick time until you’re ready to solo. There’s nothing more exciting that to hear your instructor say, “Go ahead. Take ‘er off this time!”

Takeoffs are actually quite easy. Most trainers and beginner sport planes are designed to be stable, and when you fully advance the throttle, they will want to climb almost by themselves. Concentrate on maintaining a straight path, and apply throttle slowly. If the plane veers off course, correct with a touch of rudder (a little right is usually needed to keep going straight down the runway). As the model gets light on the wheels, pull back a little on the elevator stick; the model’s nose will come up, and the plane will become airborne. Keep the wings level with small aileron inputs, and let the model climb out at a shallow angle. Don’t let the model jump off the ground at a steep angle. Don’t panic—just ease off the elevator stick, and if necessary, apply a little down (push the stick forward slightly) to keep the model at a steady climb angle.

Your instructor will teach you to fly the traffic pattern, and as you improve, he will have you fly at low altitudes until he’s comfortable with your command of the plane. Without you actually knowing what’s going to happen, a good instructor will talk you through the landing pattern and get you lined up for your first attempts. He will remind you to control the airspeed with your elevator (model nose high or low) and adjust your descent rate with the throttle. Once you nail that very first landing, it will be only a matter of time before you solo and can fly unassisted.

BOTTOM LINE
Like anything else, to get really good at flying, you’ll need to practice and stay with it. It is an investment of time and effort. In the end, however, the satisfaction you’ll feel when you take off and land by yourself will be well worth the effort. You’ll be a properly trained RC pilot with the entire hobby to enjoy. Whether you want to fly warbirds, racers, or aerobatic airplanes, it all requires training and mastering the skills needed to be successful.

Updated: January 26, 2017 — 2:17 PM
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