I’m far from being a 3D aerobatic expert — 3D hacker would probably be a more apt description of my skill level. I enjoy flying all sorts of airplanes and regardless of their design, I usually try some sort of aerobatics with the model. I do this to fully explore the model’s performance potential and besides, it’s a lot of fun. From trainers and sport models, to scale planes and giants, all models can be flown aerobatically. Extreme aerobatics, that fully push a model’s performance especially at minimal airspeeds is often referred to as 3D flight. For this type of flying you need to have the right equipment and set it up properly. Regardless of your skill level there are a few things to consider when learning 3D aerobatics. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you develop your piloting prowess.
1 By far the most sensible avenue to take while first learning 3D is to use a good flight simulator. A simulator can potentially save thousands of dollars in broken planes so it should be considered a good investment. There are some simulators that enable you to fly and interact with a friend via the Internet. Here’s a hint — keep the volume down and your family won’t mind you practicing while they watch American Idol.
2 Whether in competition, or just having fun at the field, pair up and fly with someone better than you. This helps promote learning and getting little pointers from a more experienced pilot always help. If there aren’t any better pilots around, a good 3D video/DVD (Like the ones by John Glezellis, available from AirAgeStore.com), are an awesome way to become motivated and get your creativity juices flowing.
Flying inverted — notice some “spoiler” function mixed into the flaps for improved performance.
3 Probably most important tip is to never get yourself into a predicament that is over your head and could easily end up with a busted airplane. I realize that this a lot easier said than done, because I have found myself in this situation more than once. If this does happen to you and things are getting ugly, stop giving control inputs and evaluate the situation for a brief second. You can then make corrective actions and regain control. Get wings level and land. You can then tell all your buddies you had it the whole time!
4 A plane on a stick is also a great learning tool enabling you to visualize control inputs when trying to work out the inputs for a new maneuver.
5 The correct CG location is critical with 3D flying. A nose-heavy plane reduces elevator sensitivity, requires a lot of forward-elevator stick pressure while flying inverted, and will usually pitch towards the top side of the aircraft during knife-edge flight. A tail-heavy airplane is pretty much the opposite, being more pitch sensitive, requiring little to no forward-elevator stick pressure when inverted. In knife-edge flight the plane will usually pitch towards the landing gear. When balanced correctly, your plane will track straighter regardless of attitude and will exhibit less pitch/roll coupling, enabling you to more easily execute your chosen maneuvers.
6 Servo linkages. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a similar length servo arm to control horn. Servo linkages must be set up to maximize the “mechanical advantage” so you get the maximum strength and performance from the servo. Positive control surface deflection while holding power is a must for 3D.
7 When trying to learn the correct flight control inputs for a new maneuver, (like a rolling loop), I find it easier to experiment using a lighter, more forgiving airplane before trying it with a bigger, heavier, more powerful plane I’m accustomed to flying. Use a less expensive, foamie airplane and start out with a slow roll rate. As you master the elevator and rudder commands, you can then increase the roll rate.
8 Make your practice flights at least “two mistakes high” allowing recovery room for errors. Learn the way the plane transitions into hover as well as with various rudder and elevator inputs. Repeat your maneuver several times to learn how your plane behaves to various inputs before attempting a hover down on the deck. Experience builds confidence and is the only way to progress.
Carbon-fiber parts like this spinner helps save flying weight.
9 Wing loading makes the world go round. The lighter your airplane can be, the better it will perform 3D maneuvers. I’m a believer in keeping my plane’s operating system simple and lightweight. There are several places where you can shave ounces that can add to pounds when all added up. Weight savings can be made with a light weight fuel tank, wheels, carbon-fiber goods, spinners, and modern chemistry battery packs.
10 Control deflections for 3D should be upwards of 45 degrees (or more travel) depending on the application. I personally like to fly at full rate at all times and I adjust the control sensitivity at the stick centers with the used of expo. I fine-tune the expo values until each control has a nice balanced feel with respect of each other control responses. A quick check is to perform a “roller” (continuous high-alpha rolls), and note how much elevator verses rudder stick movement is needed. I’m looking for similar control authority with comparable stick movements.
These are just some of the things I think of and try to use to my advantage when flying 3D aerobatics. Good flights start on the workbench while you are setting up your model. And remember, plan your flight and fly your plan.
BY KEVIN SIEMONSEN