More on flying RC model airplanes

Yesterday, we were just beginning to practice the steps of getting your trainer in the air and how to control it.  This will help you learn all the functions of the radio controlled airplane and how the controls react to the movement of the sticks.  Let’s start where we left off yesterday.

    We completed a successful takeoff and reached a nice safe altitude and had completed a gentle left turn.  As you are learning to fly, a good exercise to practice is flying long rectangular patterns over the field.  Assuming the left turn that you completed was over the right hand end of the field and along the side of the field farthest in front of you, continue with straight and level flight until you are ready to perform another left turn.  Give the plane gentle left aileron and as the plane moves into the turn add a little up elevator and let the plane continue around the turn.  As your plane nears the end of the turn let the ailerons return to the neutral position and do the same with the elevator.  Continue to fly around the flying field in this manner for several repetitions until you are ready to land the plane. 

    Before you get to land the plane I need to explain some of the unexpected things that will confuse you and make you very glad that you have an instructor standing by your side ready to assist as needed.  I have been telling you that as you begin to bank to the left to feed in a little up elevator.  That is necessary because as the plane begins to bank, the lift or upward force changes and the model will begin to slide downward in the direction of the turn.  By gently adding up elevator it helps to keep the nose of the airplane from dropping.  If you wait too long and the airplane is banking steeper and steeper to the left and then you add up elevator, since the plane’s wings will be close to vertical, the elevator starts to act like the rudder and the plane will start turning faster and this will result in a spin and your nice new expensive radio controlled model airplane will rapidly spiral out of control into the ground.  This all happens very quickly and as an inexperienced pilot, you may have a tendency to “over control” and that makes the situation even worse.  I learned this lesson very quickly and it is permanently etched into the inside of my skull.  I had someone there that was helping me and talking to someone else at the same time and by the time he realized what was happening and regained control of my model, it was no more that 2 feet above the ground.  That was not the guy that ultimately helped me achieve real success with my flying, but I was sure glad he was there.

    Another thing that may confuse you while you are making the rectangular patterns around the field is the difference in how the controls appear to react when the airplane is flying away from you as opposed to when it is coming back toward you.  What happens is that when you are looking at the rear of the airplane, the right wing is on your right side and when the plane is coming towards you the right wing of the plane is on your left side.   So, what can happen as you are watching the airplane come back towards you is it may start drifting more towards your left and you make an adjustment to move it back to your right.  Therein lies the danger.  You would have compounded the error in the direction the plane was drifting by confusing your left with the model’s left.  Some pilots will turn their body and transmitter slightly in the direction that the plane is flying and look over their shoulder in order to keep track of the plane’s direction with respect to the controls.  Other people will tell you that the way they keep track of it is to watch the plane and as a wing tip starts to dip, they will move the lever in the direction towards the lower end of the wing.  I prefer the first method because in an instant of urgency to compensate for the changing direction of the RC model airplane, my short memory doesn’t seem to work right and I just get further confused.  

    As you become more proficient in taking off, flying and landing your model safely, you will inevitably want to learn some aerobatic maneuvers and then the issue of which way do I move the sticks requires even more attention.  Think about this one and work it out in your mind.  Let’s say you are flying the plane away from yourself and you want to do a loop upward and return back in the direction towards yourself with the plane flying inverted.  How would you move the controls when the aircraft is now flying inverted and coming toward you.  At this point that is sort of a rhetorical question and while you are still just thinking about getting that plane in the air, this is one more thing you need to get familiar with.  My point is that when you are out on the field with your plane heading itself into a dangerous attitude ( the orientation of the aircraft relative to its direction of flight) you will need to be able to react mostly on instinct to keep it going where you want it to.  Think about that little scenario and if you have the answer, click on the comment link below and let me know what you think. 

    After all this flying, we are getting close to running out of fuel and we will need to get that model plane back safely on the ground.  For your first few flights, I recommend that you leave that up the instructor and you watch as he completes the landing and he explains exactly what you need to do while landing.  When he feels that you have enough stick time, he will talk you through the landing.

    On the subject of your learning experience, I want to let you know that there are some flight simulator software packages available that you can purchase and install on your computer that will allow to select several types of airplanes and helicopters to practice with.  These sims are fairly expensive, but if you can buy one or get access to one, it will give you unlimited planes to practice with.  You can crash and just takeoff again over and over.  This really cuts down on the frustration and expense of learning.  Some people say they don’t get the feeling of the “set” of  the flying fields that you can select and actually have difficulty keeping the plane out of the trees and above the ground.  You may be able to check one of these simulators out at your local hobby shop.  It may be what you’ve been looking for.  

    Now, have a look at a fun day of flying.  See you next time.

    As mentioned before, things happen really fast with radio controlled model planes and sometimes you will run out of things to try and altitude all at the same time, all too quickly.