Old 02-23-2008, 04:33 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: NY, USA
Posts: 5,860

This is not totally unique to electric flight, but since many new electric pilots are trying to self train, it sorta fits.

by Ed Anderson
aeajr on the forums

Whether you have a coach or you are trying to learn to fly on your own, you
will need to be mindful of these six areas if you are going to become a
successful RC pilot. After years of working with new flyers at our club,
and coaching flyers on the forums, there are a few things I have seen as the
key areas to stress for new pilots. Some get it right away and some have to
work at it. They are in no particular order because they all have to be
learned to be successful.

Over Control
Preflight Check

1) Wind - The single biggest cause of crashes that I have observed has been
the insistence upon flying in too much wind. If you are under an instructor's
control or on a buddy box, then follow their advice, but if you are starting
out and tying to learn on your own, regardless of the model, I recommend
dead calm to 3 MPH for the slow stick and tiger moth type planes. Under 5
MPH for all others. That includes gusts. An experienced pilot can handle
more. It is the pilot, more than the plane, that determines how much wind
can be handled.

The wind was around 10 mph steady with gusts to 12. That was strong enough
that some of the experienced pilots flying three and four channel small
electric planes chose not to launch their electrics. This new flyer
insisted that he wanted to try his two and three channel parkflyers. Crash,
Crash, Crash - Three planes in pieces. He just would not listen. Sometimes
you just have to let them crash. There is no other way to get them to

Many parkflyers can be flown in higher winds by AN EXPERIENCED PILOT. I
have flown my Aerobird in 18 mph wind (clocked speed) but it is quite
exciting trying to land it.

Always keep the plane up wind from you. There is no reason for a new flyer
to have the plane downwind EVER!

2) Orientation - Knowing the orientation of your plane is a real challenge,
even for experienced pilots. You just have to work at it and some adults
have a real problem with left and right regardless of which way the plane is
going. Licensed pilots have a lot of trouble with this one as they are
accustomed to being in the plane.

Here are two suggestions on how to work on orientation when you are not

Use a flight simulator on your PC. Pick a slow flying model and fly it a
lot. Forget the jets and fast planes. Pick a slow one. Focus on left and
right coming at you. Keep the plane in front of you. Don't let it fly over
your head.

FMS is a free flight simulator. It is not the best flight sim, but the
price is right and it works. There are also other free and commercial

FMS Flight simulator Home Page
Free download

Parkflyers for FMS

Getting Started with FMS

The links below take you to sites that provide cables that work with FMS.
If your radio has a trainer port, these cables allow you to use the trainer
port on your radio to "fly" the simulator. This is an excellent training


An alternative is to try an RC car that has proportional steering. You
don't have to worry about lift, stall and wind. Get something with left and
right steering and speed control. Set up an easy course that goes toward
and away from you with lots of turns. Do it very slowly at first until you
can make the turns easily. Then build speed over time. You'll get it! If
it has sticks rather than a steering wheel even better, but not required.
Oh, and little cars are fun too.

3) Too much speed - Speed it the enemy of the new pilot but if you fly
too slowly the wings can't generate enough lift, so there is a compromise
here. The key message is that you don't have to fly at full throttle all the
time. Most small electrics fly very nicely at 2/3 throttle and some do quite
well at 1/2. That is a much better training speed than full power. Launch
at full power and climb to a good height, say 100 feet as a minimum, so you
have time to recover from a mistake. At 100 feet, about double the height
of the trees where I live, go to half throttle and see how the plane
handles. If it holds altitude on a straight line, this is a good speed.
Now work on slow
and easy turns, work on left and right, flying toward you and maintaining
altitude. Add a little throttle if the plane can't hold altitude.

4) Not enough altitude - New flyers are often afraid of altitude. They
feel safer close to the ground. Nothing could be more wrong.

Altitude is your friend. Altitude is your safety margin. It gives you a
chance to fix a mistake. If you are flying low and you make a mistake ....

As stated above I consider 100 feet, about double tree height where I live,
as a good flying height and I usually fly much higher than this. I advise
my new flyers that fifty feet, is minimum flying height. Below that you better
be lining up for landing.

5) Over control - Most of the time the plane does not need input from you.
Once you get to height, a properly trimmed plane flying in calm air will
maintain its height and direction with no help from you. In fact anything
you do will interfere with the plane.

When teaching new pilots I often do a demo flight of their plane. I get the
plane to 100 feet, then bring the throttle back to a nice cruising speed. I
get it going straight, with plenty of space in front of it, then take my
hand off the sticks and hold the radio out to the left with my arms spread
wide to emphasize that I am doing nothing. I let the plane go wherever it
wants to go, as long as it is holding altitude, staying upwind and has
enough room. If you are flying a high wing trainer and you can't do this,
your plane is out of trim.

Even in a mild breeze with some gusts, once you reach flying height, you
should be able to take your hand off the stick. Oh the plane will move
around and the breeze might push it into a turn, but it should continue to
fly with no help from you.

Along this same line of thinking, don't hold your turns for more than a
couple of seconds after the plane starts to turn. Understand that the plane
turns by banking or tilting its wings. If you hold a turn too long you will force
the plane to deepen this bank and it will eventually lose lift and go into a
spiral dive and crash. Give your inputs slowly and gently and watch the
plane. Start your turn then let off then turn some more and let off. Start
your turns long before you need to and you won't need to make sharp turns.

I just watch these guys hold the turn, hold the turn, hold the turn, crash.
Of course they are flying in 10 mph wind, near the ground, coming toward
themselves at full throttle.

6) Preflight check - Before every flight it is the pilot's responsibility to
confirm that the plane, the controls and the conditions are correct and
acceptable for flight.

Plane - Batteries at proper power
Surfaces properly aligned
No damage or breakage on the plane
Everything secure

Radio - Frequency control has been met before you turn on the radio
A full range check before the first flight of the day
All trims and switches in the proper position for this plane
Battery condition is good
Antenna fully extended
For computer radios - proper model is displayed
All surfaces move in the proper direction

Conditions - No one on the field or in any way at risk from your fight
You are launching into the wind
Wind strength is acceptable ( see wind above )
Sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes
All other area conditions are acceptable.

Then and only then can you consider yourself, your plane, radio and the
conditions right for flight. Based on your plane, your radio and local
conditions you may need to add or change something here, but this is the
bare minimum. It only takes a couple of minutes at the beginning of the
flying day and only a few seconds to perform before each flight.

If this all seems like too much to remember, do what professional pilots do,
take along a preflight check list. Before every flight they go down
the check list, perform the tests, in sequence, and confirm that all is right.
If you want your flying experience to be a positive one, you should do the
same. After a short time, it all becomes automatic and just a natural part
of a fun and rewarding day.

I hope some of this is useful in learning to fly your plane.

Other resources you may find useful:

Books on RC Planes and RC Flying



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