Beginners New to e-power flying? Get the low down in here from experienced e-power RC pilots!

6 Keys to Success by Ed Anderson

Old 07-20-2005, 12:33 AM
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Default 6 Keys to Success by Ed Anderson

This is a repost of a great article by Ed Anderson, one of the smartest electric pilots I have ever read. Great beginner info:
Updated November 2014

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 two 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, not the plane that determines how much wind can be handled.

A Case Study - The wind was around 8 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 understand.

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 flying.

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.

An alternative is to try an RC car that has proportional steering using a stick. 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 to 150 feet as a minimum, so you have time to recover from
a mistake. At 150 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. As stated
above I consider 150 feet, about double tree height where I live, as a good flying
height and I usually fly much higher than this. 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
up around 100 to 150 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 (27 or 72 MHz) has been met before you turn on the radio
A 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 (27 or 72 MHz)
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.

November 2014 Edit: Note that frequency control may be unfamiliar to many new pilots as most modern RTFs are using 2.4 GHz where frequency control is handled by the radio system. If you are flying on 27, 49 or 72 MHz you MUST observe frequency control. If there are other pilots in your area and they are on the same channel you are using, if you are both have the radio on at the same time you will both lose control. Only one pilot to a frequency at a time. This is what is meant by frequency control.

Last edited by AEAJR; 11-17-2014 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Updates and revisions to keep the article current
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Old 07-24-2005, 03:11 AM
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This is great advice, delivered in a surprisingly relaxed style. Thanks to Ed for putting this together, and to NitroAddict for posting it.

I just started flying in February and am still struggling with many of the issues Ed raises -- orientation reversals, over-controlling, flying too fast and fear of flying too high, in particular. But I'm taming some of my worst tendencies. Each week I fly a little better than I did the week before. Reading this and thinking it through should add another minute or two to my flight times.

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Old 07-24-2005, 03:25 AM
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Glad to hear it - please feel free to post any questions you may have ! Good luck flying! What are you flying?
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Old 07-24-2005, 07:41 PM
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Default A wing & a prayer

What are you flying?

Currently flying a Combat Wing XE with a Mega ACn 16/15/5 brushless motor -- it's very much faster than I am, but it literally bounces back from crashing, allowing me to reflect on my errors, adjust and quickly get back into the air. I started with a GWS Slow Stick, which is far better geared to my experience level and reaction time, but it's a relatively fragile airplane and my inevitable crashes meant that I spent a disproportionate amount of time driving to and from the local park and repairing the tattered airplane, and very little time in the air.

I've achieved up to 4 minutes and 30 seconds of flight time with the flying wing, and I'm getting better in-the-air times every time out. Aside from its speed, it's also a challenge because it's just as happy flying inverted as right side up.

I've also worked on flying and landings with an instructor and a trainer airplane (a gas-powered and very forgiving Kadet Senior), but I'm finding that flying on my own on a different field is still difficult. Fortunately, I have access to a relatively uncrowded local flying area where I can debate gravity, stall speeds, winds and physics with the Combat Wing.
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Old 07-24-2005, 08:58 PM
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Thats fantastic - glad to see you are proceeding nicely. Something to consider - you can pick up the GWS E-Starter in a slope glider version for only 28.00 - It can use all the same gear that you have in your slow stick. This plane flies rather than floats like the SS, and has a decent top speed, but is still much more forgiving than the wing. Full four channels as well. Great 2nd plane. You should take a look at it.

Here is a link to the build on the one I did. It was a great performer - and I just sold it to someone at the field looking for a second plane.
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Old 07-24-2005, 11:06 PM
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Interesting idea... In looking up Himax motors, I suspect that you have a 2025-4200 (I can't find a 2015-4200, but maybe it's a discontinued model number). I have a Himax 2015-4100, which has a bit less power but just might work.

At $28, it's worth a try. I'm not enthusiastic about trying to revive the Slow Stick and I'd love to get some relief from the speed of the wing. I'll order the kit and let you know how I do.

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Old 07-25-2005, 02:47 PM
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petej - the motor I had in the E-Starter was a himax 2015-4100 on D gearing turning a 10x7 APC SF prop. Plane flew great on a 3cell lipo. But it flies nice stock as well.

Feel free to use some of the building tips in my thread and let me know how it goes - it's a great plane!
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Old 08-07-2005, 02:47 AM
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This is pretty cool. My posts show up at the new site before I even get here.

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Old 08-07-2005, 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by AEAJR
This is pretty cool. My posts show up at the new site before I even get here.


that is when you know you aren't just "good" but you are "really good"!

Welcome to WattFlyer!
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Old 08-07-2005, 03:45 AM
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Ed - Welcome to!!!

Please - feel free to post your tips, comments, and recommendations here. I learned alot from your posts at other forums and you have been a great help to me.
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Old 08-07-2005, 06:10 AM
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Thanks for the kind words and the warm welcome. Glad to contribute to this great hobby, this great commuity and to help the new guys get off on the right foot.

Good luck with the new site Marc.
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Old 08-07-2005, 03:57 PM
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Thanks ed!
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Old 08-08-2005, 12:44 AM
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Default Following Ed's Advice

Thanks again for the advice, Ed. Since reading and re-reading your original article in this thread, I've hiked my flight times from about a minute tops to 20 minutes, ending in actual proper landings. The keys for me have been to climb to a good altitude, reduce throttle and keep the plane in front of me.

So a big thank you to you, and to Reformed Nitroaddict for starting this thread.
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Old 08-08-2005, 01:12 AM
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That is great news. Now, be sure YOU reach to the new guys and help them either based on your experience or by point them to resources, like this thread.

If we help each other, then a lot more people can be enjoying this great hobby.
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Old 09-03-2005, 09:23 AM
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Regarding wind...

I just learned to fly in July and am having a great time. I agree that if you are learning, try to fly in little to no wind. The best time for me is between 6:30-8:00 a.m. (in Southern California); the park where I fly is empty and everything is calm (and I can fly before work!).

One last word of advice: if you think it is too windy, then stay grounded or land; it's better to come back to fly another day than to go home and have to rebuild.
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Old 10-28-2005, 02:22 PM
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It's good to see you here Ed. You've come farther in this hobby in the time you've been involved in it than anyone I know.
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Old 10-28-2005, 03:18 PM
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Good to see you too Tom. I have you and others to thank for whatever strides I have made. A lot of people gave me, and still give me, a lot of help. I guess I have done OK.

I AM a bit of an obsessive/compulive when I get interested in something and I got real interested in this real fast. The experienced guys, like you, have been so generous with help and advice that it is easy to advance quickly if you are willing to apply what you learn.

I also find that every time I help a newbie, I help myself advance a bit. Whether it is on the forums or at the club, teaching is the best way to learn. And, in short order, those I have helped have taken a branch that I did not. Now they are teaching me. I think it is just great!

But if I had to put any one factor ahead of all others, it has been the fact that I joined a club. The forums are great but there is no substitute for a helping hand at the field from another flyer whom I have had the privledge to call friend. And the social element of this hobby is just wonderful. Those who are flying on their own just don't know what they are missing.

If not for the club, I might have burned hot for a year or two, then burned out and moved on to another hobby. Now I am in it for life.

It has all been good and the great thing is I have only scratched the surface. Man I love this hobby!
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Old 10-28-2005, 03:38 PM
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I AM a bit of an obsessive/compulive Me too!

Man I love this hobby! Me too!
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Old 01-05-2006, 01:14 AM
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Anyone have other key points to add to this thread.

New flyers, do you have questions about these points? We are here to help!
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Old 01-16-2006, 04:35 AM
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I have lots of questions! Mostly I'm finding answers searching around various areas here. I'm also posting where I think the questions belong. Thanks all for being very helpful.
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Old 01-16-2006, 07:07 AM
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Glad to help. Ask anything you wish.
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Old 03-15-2006, 07:19 PM
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Default wind gusts

Hi, I'm a begginer with a slo-v. A lot has been said about the hazzards of flying in high winds but I have read nothing about gusts, which are really hazzardous. I have never experienced steady winds where I fly but I think a steady 5 mph wind would be perfect. Slow take offs and nice slow landings.
according to my antenna ribbon the wind was gusting to a little over 5 mph. When it went to 0 mph I hurried up and launched it. Big mistake. The next gust turned the fuse completely vertical. Through more luck than skill I went home with no worse than a badly nicked prop. The cost of a new prop was a real cheap lesson. I'll wait for low wind, no gusts next time.
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Old 03-15-2006, 08:36 PM
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Two ways to make the Slo-V more wind tollerant:

1) add weight - usually the best way is to use a larger battery pack as you will get longer flights as well. The higher wing loading will help the plane penetrate the wind. Try it! Hang your spare battery pack on the plane. Put the extra weight directly on the CG so it does not upset the balance. The plane will handle better in the wind.

2) Move the CG slightly forward. Not a lot, but a more forward CG handles the wind better. Again, I said a LITTLE. 1/8" Maybe `1/4.

Tape a quarter behind the motor and see how she does.
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Old 04-22-2006, 04:31 AM
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by Ed Anderson
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Learning to fly in wind is one of the hardest things a new flyer has to
learn. You are trying to fly smoothly and under control, but the fluid you
are flying in, the air, is moving around.

On a windy day it is moving very fast and you can't see the motion. Boy,
is that hard to manage especially when you turn and fly with the wind.
You make the down wind turn and the plane can take off like a rocket and
you can end up down wind without ever planning to do so. Many pilots,
especially two channel pilots have been known to lose planes when trying
to fly in too much wind.

How much is too much?

Too much is when you can't keep the plane in front of you. If the wind is
pushing the plane behind you, then it is time to land, you are in too much
wind. It is not the plane's job to handle the wind, it is yours and it is
your responsibility to exercise good judgment about how much wind you can

If you have a three channel plane, and if you are not flying in too much
you should be able to manage the situation at least well enough keep your
plane in front of you and land it safely. At worst, if the plane gets away
from you and you can't come back far enough against the wind, the advice I
am going to give you may let you pick where to set your plane down so you
have a better chance of finding it. But, if you can't make progress into
wind then you really are flying in too much wind and should land as soon as

Since you ALWAYS launch into the wind, you should be flying with the wind in
your face. Likewise if you can't feel it but you know there is wind up high
because the tops of the trees are being blown around you should consider
whether you should launch at all. If you do launch, always work to keep
the plane in front of you and up wind over the open field.

Here is what you do! It is simple! Remember this phrase:

Push into the wind!

If you feel the wind starting to get the better of you, push the stick
forward enough to start to dive the plane INTO the wind. This will help you
pick up speed and make progress against the wind. You don't have to dive
for the ground. You are not trying to crash or land, just take a somewhat
downward angle. With the nose down, you can apply full power to gain speed
as well, but don't let the nose come up or the plane will start to climb and
the wind will push you backwards. Between the motor and the dive you can
usually make progress.

Push into the wind!

Under windy conditions, the 3 and 4 channel planes have a big advantage
over the two channel planes. With elevator control you have control the
pitch of the plane so you can push that nose down to pick up some speed and
work your way up wind.

If you start to get too low, bring the nose up, just a little and try to fly
level or with a slight climb so you can gain some working altitude. But
don't let the wind pop the nose up or you will lose speed and the wind will
push you downwind.

Push to Level! Push to Level!

Keep that nose from popping up. Too often new flyers just push the throttle
forward to try and gain speed. Under these circumstances, the plane will
tend to climb, and if you get the climb too steep, the wind will push it
back unless it is very powerful and flies very fast. If you feel you are
losing the plane against the wind you probably are! Push that nose down.

Even against a 15 MPH wind you can make progress with an Aerobird or a
T-hawk or similar plane. Something like a Slow stick can even make progress
against a 10 mph wind if you push the nose down and hope the battery doesn't

If you lose the motor because the battery has gotten to low you are probably
going to have to land. Try to pick a spot you can find easily and fly the
plane down using this nose down attitude.

And, since I mentioned the battery, you should leave yourself some extra
margin of safety and power reserve on a windy day. Even if you are able to
keep the plane over the field, if the motor cuts out you may not be able to
get the plane down fast enough to avoid it being blown off the field, so
plan to land earlier than usual.

If you doubt that this will work, just realize that sailplane pilots have no
motor yet they can fly their planes against the wind to get back to their
flying field. How do they do it? They put the nose down and let gravity
help them pick up speed. They call it penetrating the wind.

My favorite windy day story is about an aerotow event at our glider club.
That is where powerful gas planes tow beautiful scale sailplanes up to about
1000 feet and then release them so they can go looking for thermals. It is
a beautiful site.

Anyway, the wind picked up that morning and was being clocked at 15-18 mph.
No one was flying. Here were these powerful gas and glow planes and no one
wants to launch. I was getting frustrated.

So I go to the car and pull out my little RTF Aerobird Challenger. As I was
setting up the "real pilots" were telling me that "that toy ain't got enough
power to fly in this wind! You'll lose it son."

Oh really? Let's see!

I power up and launch into the wind. Now it was really blowing and the
Aerobird was a handful, I got it up to about 150 feet and let it drift
about 100 feet down wind.

"That's it boys, he lost it!"

So I get it level and cut the motor completely. Then I fly it the 100 feet
up wind and land it at my feet.

Jaws drop! Looks are exchanged and then .... the sound of 2 cylinder gas
motors breaks the windy silence. The aerotow began.

I just used gravity to give me the push to get the plane back. Of course
the fact that I had been learning to fly unpowered sailplanes didn't hurt
either. Push that nose down and gain some speed and you can fly upwind.

You can do the same thing with your parkflyer. Once you get good at it, it
can be a lot of fun. You can practically hover the plane as you balance its
speed against the wind's speed so that the plane seems motionless.

Give it time and start working at very low wind speeds. Build up over time
and you may be amazed at how much wind your plane can actually handle with a
pilot at the controls.

New Electric Flyer FAQs

Here are some other tips you might find helpful: Six Keys to Success
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Old 07-01-2006, 12:13 PM
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Practice, Practice, Practice!
by Ed Anderson
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When you are learning, repetition is your best friend. And focusing on one,
or just a few skills in a procedure will help you master that procedure.
When you learned to play baseball, you had batting drills. Stand in the box
and take 100 pitches and try to hit them. Don't run! Don't do anything
but hit. Now let's work on catching. Play catch for hours. Great fun and
a huge confidence builder. So it is with flying. Practice till it is fun,
with no pressure and no nerves.

Launch and Land

Launch, or take-off, and landing are the hardest skills you need to learn.
If you can't master these, none of the others matter. I used to do launch
and land drills for hours. Some times I still do, especially if I have a
new plane. Here is how to break this process down.

If you are flying a glider or small electric in an open grass field this
works. If you fly from a runway, this doesn't work. - Launch, fly straight
out 100 feet, then power down and land. Take the long walk. No turns, no
loops, nothing fancy. Just get to know how the plane lands. Do it 5 times
or do it 50 times, but do it till you feel confident you can do this 3 part
drill right every time.

Launch, Circuit, Landing Pattern and Land - This works for runway or open

Launch, climb to 50 feet, make one circuit around the field and land.
This way you are working on your landing pattern and nothing else. Don't
climb high and don't focus on anything else. For this drill don't get above
50 feet. Just launch, go around and land.

If you are flying in an open field, land 50 feet in front of
yourself. Don't try to put it at your feet, not for this drill. In fact, if
you put the wind to your left, you can turn to the left to launch, fly the
circuit and land from your right. This is how it would be if you had a
runway. In this way you never fly directly toward yourself and you never
fly directly away from yourself.

If you have a runway and wheels, then do touch and gos. This also helps you
work on throttle control as you climb out at full power, then power back so
you don't climb too much, cruising speed for the circuit then power down for
landing. Know your plane and repeat the process over and over till it is

OK, we have landing down pretty well. Maybe we have spent 2 sessions of two
hours each and all we did was launch and land. Hey, landing is no biggie
any more. You can do it your sleep.

Staying Upwind - Little or No Wind

If staying up wind is a problem, or if you tend to fly over your head, or
even worse, if you let the plane get behind you, focus on that. So, launch
and get at least 100 feet of altitude and do nothing but focus on keeping
that plane at least 100 feet up wind of you. Fly circles, fly square
patterns, whatever, but hold 100 feet in altitude, no more no less, and keep
it up wind.
After a couple of hours of this, it will be a non-issue.

If you pick one skill and focus on that and work it till you can do it
reliably, you take the complicated process of flying and break it down to
simpler parts and work on each part by itself. As you learn to keep the
plane in front of you in calm conditions, then try it in a bit more wind,
perhaps 5 mph, then 7 mph, then 9. Just launch, 100 feet, stay up wind, set
up landing pattern, and land.

What else

Flying Toward Yourself

Launch, climb to 150 feet and get the plane up wind from you a good
distance. You want to have the time to turn directly toward yourself and
hold altitude and turn well before the plane gets within 50 feet of you.
The plane should not get closer than 50 feet. Mark it on the ground for

Fly up and out, turn toward yourself and fly. Plan where you will turn,
then make the turn to your left, the plane's right, and do this in a
pattern, a circuit, over and over. Now do it to the plane's left, over and
over. Now alternate so you can project yourself into the plane. You are
the pilot the seat! If you wanted to go "that way" which way would you move
the stick, if you were sitting in the pilot's seat. Do it till it becomes
boring, then do it some more.

Then finish off with a circuit, staying up wind, align and land. So

Don't do loops! Don't do rolls!

If you master these, then I have one more for you. GLIDE!

How well does your plane glide? You need to know. If you have a motor
failure, if you run the battery down, if that glow engine stalls, you will
have to "dead stick" land the plane. This is called gliding. Get to know
how your plane glides!

Climb out to 150 feet+, get it as high as you are comfortable to fly. Now,
slowly power back. Fly a circuit at 1/2 throttle. Fly a circuit at 1/4
throttle. Now fly a circuit with the motor off and glide. Can you fly a
whole circuit with the motor off? How about half? One leg? 50 feet?
Practice till you can control the plane as it comes down from your peak
height to about 50 feet with the motor off the whole time.

How long can you stretch this? 10 seconds? 20 seconds? A full minute?
Longer? It all depends on your plane and your skills.

We have a climb and glide contest at our club. Climb for 2 minutes. Get it
as high as you like, but once you power off you can not reapply the throttle
or you are disqualified. Now you must glide for 4 minutes and land, exactly
on the 6 minute mark and land so you come to rest in a 3 foot circle. Can
you do it?

To fly this long power off, you probably have to find some thermal lift, but
that is not the point of the drill for today. The point is how long can you
glide and can you set up for landing and land successfully with no power at
all. Do this and you will never panic if you lose the motor. Its is just
that glide drill. I have done that 100 times. No biggie.

Master these skills and you can go play with loops and rolls and all kinds
of stuff.

Good job pilot!
AEAJR is offline  

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