I’m very fortunate to belong to a flying club with great facilities. We have two black topped runways as well as a Pitts areas for setting up your airplanes. Because of the close proximity to town our flying field attracts a great many onlookers. Many of these onlookers are new to the hobby or are thinking of getting into the hobby. I’m often asked what’s the best way to get started. My response is always the same. Start by acquiring a Rc plane simulator and practice every day if possible. This is the best way to hone the skills needed for safe and successful flying. It’s also much cheaper to hit the reset button on the simulator than it is to bag up the remains of you airplane. Remember; each pilot has a responsibility to the other pilots to make certain they are able to operate the aircraft in a safe manner. Something that’s all to often over-looked.
Those of us who have been in the hobby for a while have seen this before. Someone new to the hobby comes to the field for the first time. They are nervous and unsure of themselves. They have a new plane set up and ready to fly. But lack the confidence needed to maiden their aircraft. Typically they turn to someone at the field for assistance to maiden the plane for them. They may also set up a buddy box for the first few flights. While this may be the smarter choice it may still prove to be the demise of their airplane. Time and time again I’ve seen experienced pilots take the controls of a plane they know little or nothing about. Taxi out and attempt a take off . The aircraft does something unexpected and ends up in the ground. The pilot operating the plane might make some comment regarding the set-up or such and hand the controller to the owner with their regrets. The thing is, if there is a chance at all that the plane is going to crash. And by the way this is true for absolutely every flight. It might as well be the owner at the controls rather than someone without a vested interest in the safe completion of the maiden flight. I have heard it said that the average life expectancy of an RC plane is about four (4) flights. Not great odds if you think about it. The problem with someone else maidening the aircraft is what you don’t learn. As is often said “we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes”. Nothing could be more true in the Rc plane hobby. Now this is not to say that having an experienced pilot operate your new toy is a bad thing. The point I’m making is that some time should be set aside for a thorough inspection and systems check by the pilot who will be operating the aircraft. If the pilot selected doesn’t ask a lot of questions prior to trying to fly the plane. Find another pilot. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings by selecting someone else. They obviously aren’t worried about hurting your feelings when the plane crashes. I know many reading this who have been in this hobby for some time would like to believe that this doesn’t happen. I’m here to say that sadly it happens all to often. I have witnessed this almost every time an experienced pilot offers to do a maiden flight for someone new. Take this advise or don’t. It’s only worth what you paid for it. PLUS OR MINUS THE COST OF YOUR AIRPLANE. Enough said.
The biggest advantage in starting with a simulator will become obvious. You have the opportunity to find the style of airplane the suites you best without having to spend a lot of money buying different planes till you find the one you like. Most simulators available today have a great variety of aircraft to choose from. I recommend flying all the planes in the simulator. Although you may not like every one you try, it really gives you a feel for how different airframes handle and will sharpen your skills immensely. Once you can successfully take off and land any airplane in the simulator you are ready to fly the real thing. No kidding. think about it. Most seasoned pilots only fly a few different airframes a year and may not have the skill to fly your plane. You on the other hand have now flown many different airplanes and your skill lever may be higher than that of other pilots.
Hear are some words to live by in this hobby and you may have heard it said before:
“Take offs are optional, landings are mandatory.”
The more you practice in the simulator the more confident you will become. Confidence is the key to flying your plane successfully. Practice controlling each airplane in the simulator untill your take offs are smooth and easy. Practice landings untill you can approach from any direction and still stick your landing on the runway. Practice short take offs and landings untill nothing surprises you.
You are now ready to fly the real thing.
One thing further:
Once you have the skills and courage to take to the sky. It’s not a bad idea to have a wing man standing by to help keep you from getting rattled during your first few take offs and landing. This would be someone who could talk with you before, during and after the fight.
Hears how this might help.
I was at the field many months back. I noticed that one of our new members was having some difficulty setting up his landing approach. I stopped what I was doing and went out to ask if he was ok. As I approached it became obvious he was in trouble. His was sweating and his hands were shaking. I asked him if I might be able to help. He replied that he was having difficulty landing and asked if I could get his plane down for him. I said that it would be no problem but first suggested that he show me what was going on with his approach. He said he would and proceeded to make a final approach. As he made his down wind run I notice that he was coming in high and fast. I suggest that he reduce his speed and let the plane lose some altitude. Witch he did. As he made his turn I suggested again that he reduce his speed further and let the plane continue to drop. Again he complied. I notice he was cutting his turn to sharp so I recommended a wider turn on the approach. Again he complied. This guy was good at following directions. He just needed to settle down a little. As the plane approached the threshold I suggested he throttle all the was back and just do a gentle low pass. As he complied the airplane settle to a nice gentle glide slope and touched down very smooth. My point is this; sometimes a voice in your ear is better than the one in your head. Having a buddy talk you through what you already know can be very helpful. And you will learn a great deal more by doing than having it done for you.
The moral to all of this is simple: Get a good simulator, practice and enjoy this wonderful hobby. Avoid replacing broken airplanes.
Hope this is helpful.
Thank Romi Lucas for these advices this very helpful post for beginners thanks a lot for sharing.
I would like to add my 2 cents into this… I would like to thank you for having the foresight to create such a blog; the trick is, making it easy to find by the great majority of the new-comers to our hobby! I myself have been a modeler since my father bought me my first plastic C/L PT19; that was a few years ago and as I transitioned as a young man to RC designing with pencil and ruler on 18″ wide butcher paper, I was amazed at the different characteristics of certain designs and how they affected the flight of my models. I had twin tails and flying stabs even before MDC came out with the F-15 Eagle! I had pushers both deltas and traditional design; I even had an idea for a flying saucer that used variable ventral fins that adjusted for thrust and acceleration as I was learning what factors were important to maneuver it!
Over time I began to see that the butcher paper method had to go and that a computer was the way of the future for designing new and better things. In 1993 I bought my first 486-50 computer with Windows 3.1 and Corel Draw to attempt to fashion my designs; needless to say, I went through many different programs in order to learn computer design. Finally by 1995 I was starting to amass more than a few designs on computer, building a few of them while some stayed in transition in the mysterious world of electrons and light particle transmission known only as the computer monitor. Finally, after working 15 years at my day-job I decided to seriously take a look at my first love of my life, designing of aircraft on computer; at that point as I looked at what I had created over the years, old and new designs… I decided to give it a shot at learning what it would take to create an online business selling my ideas to other people out there willing to test their hand at flying.
Well, after much time I realized that teaching myself to create an online (html) website, map out all the particular details of what it takes to run a business that one can be proud of (teachings of my father coming through there!) and to present all of it online to all the world, and then to look back at the expense and the effort it took to do it right!… I decided just the other day that it’s time to jump into the fire and go for broke. So my website (listed below) will be on the active list very soon! Talk about jitters!!!
So what does all this history and explaining of where I come from have to do with first flight jitters; well now I have other fellows who amaze at my silly flying stories, my design prowess and my ability to explain to others just what you have shared with the world some 2 1/2 years ago! Romi, I still get first flight jitters every time I take a year-end break and come back to the line in the Spring to start my flying season each year; for some of us, it never gets easier!
I’ve come to the conclusion that even though we start anew each year, that even though we may look like we’re flying aces extraordinaire to the new guys and gals at the filightline… we’re all just human beings taking to the air because it’s where we feel can finally free and the heartfelt love of flying, much the same as Icarus must have felt, to slip the surely bonds of our Earthly abode. To once more see the world from a different perspective, to feel the weight of gravity slip away… to be free, truly free!
So in conclusion Romi, I thank you again for your wisdom and your willingness to share it with all the world; I think you have a very good point here. I also would like to add only one more suggestion to all newcomers who would dare to follow in Icarus foot steps… If you cannot muster the first flight on your own, or even feel comfortable to try it with the aid of someone standing nearby to coach you through it; know this, you are not alone!!!
No matter how expert we become, no matter how many times we have jumped off the cliff to unfold our wings, we all have the jitters first few times out! But if still you cannot bring yourself to take to the air for the first time, alone or otherwise… I recommend this option; seek out a reputable flying club who has seasoned veteran flyers out there whom will work with you to learn to fly on “their own aircraft” before you ever take to the air with your pride and joy. It’s how I learned to fly RC!
Best of luck to you all, Talley Ho!!! …and many years of fun and enjoyment building and flying your pride and joy…
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