New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 1 - Intro
These items are based on articles I have read, practices I have observed or simply my own experiences. Feel free to pass these on to your friends.
I have been flying radio control planes for a little over two years now, so I still remember some of my important early lessons. I have four planes in my hanger that I can fly: an Apprentice (135+ flights), a Pulse 25XT (150+ flights), Super Kaos (25+ flights), and a newly acquired Renny glider (15+ flights). These are all electric planes. I have an Uproar 40 that I have yet to convert from fuel to electric and an RV 4 kit still in the box. Many years ago I flew control line aerobatics, speed and combat.
I fly in two locations; mostly at home at my local club field in Crossville Tennessee and also at a club field in Fort Myers Florida where I vacation in the winter. I would like to thank the flyers in my local club for their help and encouragement in my radio control flying. They have been very helpful in both my flying and building progress.
This and subsequent posts are some topics organized in what I hope is a logical and useful progression.
Flying For Beginners
Find A Club And An Instructor
The first thing you need to do is find a local club and get in touch with their instructor. Flying is fun; repairing and rebuilding are not necessarily fun. So learn to fly with qualified help. Most clubs are chartered by the Academy of Model Aeronautics: http://www.modelaircraft.org/
You can search for local clubs on their web site: http://www.modelaircraft.org/clubsearch.aspx
Here is their “getting started” page.
Be A Sponge
As a new flyer you will discover there is much to learn. So when you are at the flying field, watch and listen; you will be surprised how much you will pick up that way. Don’t be afraid of asking questions; most flyers asked the same questions when they started. Do locate an instructor at your local flying field; this one thing is likely to get you flying more comfortably and keep you from learning repair techniques sooner than necessary.
Above all, read everything you can. There are many publications, on-line forums and club sponsored sites that have useful information. My personal approach is to learn from other peoples mistakes. Even older publications have good information; how and why planes fly has not changed much, even though kits and building techniques may have.
Here is a web site with some useful information:
Thanks for the correction.
"Be a sponge." I'll buy THAT for a dollar! Best single piece of advice in any set of instructions about anything.
Internet forums (like this one) is also a great source of help from other fliers and builders.
New RC Flyer Tidbits –Part 2 – First Plane
Your First Plane
Some clubs have trainer planes that are loaned to new flyers. If not, one of your first questions is what type of plane should I get. Is my opinion that as a brand new flyer it you should avoid getting a kit you need to build. Fly first and build later, though some people will disagree with this.
Generally, your choices are either a “Ready To Fly” or an “Almost Ready To Fly” plane. Most ARF planes require very little assembly and nothing very significant in terms of tools or building experience. Do purchase your RTF or ARF plane from a reputable supplier.
Consider a high wing foam type plane. These usually take abuse better than balsa and covering planes. Two planes to consider are the Apprentice and the NextStar. There are others that will work well, but in general you want a slow flying relatively dossal plane. Talk to your local club members for their specific recommendations.
I am an electric flyer, but there are those that have a passion for fuel type planes. Given today’s battery and motor technology improvements you can come close to fuel performance with an electric plane. Fuel planes will have a power and duration edge for some time yet, but for a new flyer neither of these differences is that significant. I have two observation regarding fuel vs. electric flying. In general, electric requires less stuff to get started flying. Second, my observation of fuel fliers, mostly at my winter flying field, is that there are some people who spend more time tweaking their engines then flying their plane.
There are some planes that really need to be fuel just because electric would be a disservice to the building effort. If you are building a scale WW-I or WW-II war-bird or an older bi-plane; then considering fuel is important as it will sound good as well as look good when flying.
Here is a link to a forum thread that will be helpful for anyone new to electric flying: http://www.wattflyer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31368 -- EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT ELECTRIC POWERED FLIGHT
But before you plan on flying you will need some simulator time. Simulator time represents a good way to learn much of what you need to know to make your first flights less stressful – on you and the plane.
Wait for part 3.:D
New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 3 - Flight Simulator
Get A Flight Simulator
There are a number of flight simulators available; some are free and some are not. Typically the free ones will require you to be more tech-savvy then those that you pay for. For a beginner keep it simple, you do not need lots of bells-and-whistles. The important characteristic is flying fidelity, not having a hundred planes to choose from or airports with full realistic landing lights, etc. You will need a few different flying areas, some planes starting with simple high-wing trainers. To allow improvement and experimentation some mid or low wing sport-type plane and a 3D capable plane simulation would be good as well. These will take you a long way. My suggestion for a new flyer with a Windows-based computer is the Real-Flight Basic version. Make sure that your computer is compatible before you purchase anything. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RC_flight_simulator
Flying The Simulator
For someone new to flying please get in plenty of simulator time before you try to fly. Work with your instructor or another experienced flyer to get real comfortable at handling the controls. Remember that the repair procedure on the simulator is simply press the reset button – and you are back flying again.
Most likely the biggest problem you will have is getting use to turning left and right. The difficulty is caused by the difference when the plane is heading toward or away. When you are flying away, left-right is obvious; when flying toward you the stick movement is backwards relatively to your view of the plane. At first you may have to think about this, but with practice you will learn to move the rudder or aileron stick without thinking. Just remember that you no longer think about walking or catching something or turning your car or bike; these things have become engrained and you just do them. With practice flying will become the same; you will think about where you want the plane to go and your fingers will just move the sticks as needed.
The goal that you are shooting for is to think about or plan what you want your plane to do and then make it do that without thinking too much. I like to call this as flying ahead of the plane and not behind it. Just think about taking a corner when driving; you prep for and plan the turn before you get to it; but you don’t think too much about the actual turn as you are likely busy watching for other cars or people who might get in your way. Try to avoid constantly reacting to the plane’s minor jinks that might be caused by the wind.
Flying has three parts that you must master. The first is take-off, next is simply flying around and not hitting the ground. Lastly is landing, which is sort of like crashing, except you get to fly again ;-) Landing will likely be the most difficult because you are flying low and slow and have the least number of options to correct for an error or problem.
First Simulator Flights
Your first flights should be simple – take off and fly a simple race-track pattern. You need to fly both left-turn and right-turn patterns; don’t become a NASCAR flyer and only turn left. Don’t be too concerned with landing yet; remember that simulator reset button. Get comfortable with taking off and simply flying; and make your turns both going away and towards you.
Next try to make slow high passes over the runway to become comfortable with the plane stall conditions. Now do this lower and lower until you are just a couple of feet over the runway.
At this point you just need to back off on the throttle a little more and land.
In many cases the electric models can outperform the fuel powered models, but usually with shorter flight time.
The smaller models tend to be electric now because electric is outperforming glow power for most models below 2 lbs, sometimes even having longer flight times with electric than with glow.
Also "before you plan on flying you will need some simulator time" is patently false. Some simulator time would be nice. It is not something needed and the vast majority of successful learners do so without the aid of a simulator.
A presentation of things a simulator can and cannot teach you is in order. Calling attention to the short list of things simulators teach best is in order. Positing a simulator as necessary in learning to fly is out of order.
I applaud the idea behind this thread ...
But would say this and I think many others think similarly :
I'm 58yrs old and started model flying at about 7yrs old ....... that's ~51yrs.
I'm still learning.
I still make mistakes.
I still sometimes fail to go 3 mistakes high before trying something.
I still get it wrong when flying towards sometimes.
I still have moments of 'brain-fade' !
I've taught many to fly over the years and most have quickly become better than me ! (not hard !!)
There are three golden rules IMHO :
a) Suitable trainer model / radio set-up
b) Wide open clear flat space preferably with long grass
c) Club or Experienced flyer to teach.
Anything else is extra.
I would say long grass is great, as long as you have an area of short grass or no grass to attempt to land on, leaving the long grass for the landings you weren't attempting. I found that what took me the longest to learn was landing, simply because I didn't want to attempt landing on the street, and I had to suffer with essentially nosing over every landing, except for the Radian Pro. I still have much to learn, and for landing, I had to suck it up and learn to land on the street. Funny thing is, I had nothing you listed lol, although would likely have progressed further if I did. Simulators are highly overrated. They just are good to get used to the direction of the sticks, but give you no real feeling of the plane. When I first started, I would crash, but could fly no problem in a simulator. What Nigel states is all I think that is really needed, and flying will come together quickly with the guidelines. Being a sponge is a good concept too.
Now Nigel. Brain fade is the refined result of years and years of experience and is evidence of highest levels of achievement! It's like gray hair -- earned badge of honor... or honour if you please.:D
New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 4 - Flight Simulator
Practice With Different Plane Types
Try flying with different types of planes: high-wing trainers, sport planes, bi-planes, 3D planes or speedsters if they are available on your simulator. These will handle differently in both takeoff and landing. For some, the controls will be more responsive and you will need to learn to provide less control inputs.
Blow The Plane Down
Once you are getting comfortable with your simulator flying, add some wind. Start with wind that is along the runway, either left to right or right to left. You should always takeoff and land into the wind. Remember that your plane flies relative to the wind, so going down wind (with the wind) you will have a higher ground speed then when flying upwind (into the wind).
Practice with the wind blowing both ways so that you get to fly both left to right and right to left takeoffs and landings. Practice takeoff and landings with the wind, just so you can see the difference. You never know, there may come a day when you must land with the wind because you have no other option. You should always have the option of take off into the wind.
Round And Round
Once comfortable with simple flying on your simulator try some loops or rolls. Try not to make the loops to small as you will lose speed and control. You will most likely lose altitude during a roll, so start the roll with a little up attitude.
Practice these maneuvers before moving onto other things like stall-turns, Cuban Eights or other maneuvers. You will get to these soon enough.
Dead Stick Landings
This refers to landing a powered plane without power. This will eventually happen, so practice on the simulator with that magic reset button. Take off and fly to different altitudes and different distances away from the runway. Bring the throttle to zero and do your best to bring the plane back to the runway. Keep in mind that sailplanes and gliders land this way all of the time.
Gliding is all about energy management. You will be trading altitude for speed. Descending steeper will give you more speed, but you will not be able to fly as far. Trying to stretch the glide will have you on the edge of stalling. So there is a trade-off between speed and distance that you will be able to fly. Different planes have different glide characteristics. Light planes often do not glide as far as heavy planes.
Keep in mind that sometimes you will not make it back to the runway, so make the best controlled landing you can when you are running out of energy. You will need to learn the plane’s stall characteristics and how far you can stretch a glide. Do this both upwind and downwind of the runway to get a feel for the effects of the wind.
Up Is Down
Once you have gotten comfortable with your basic flying you can try inverted flight. Make sure that you do this very high. You can roll into inverted flight or do half of a loop, either works. Now you will need to get comfortable with the notion that moving the stick in the “down” direction now makes the plane go up. You may need to hold a little down elevator to hold level flight.
The thing you need to be careful of is that you have likely become used to pulling up when things go bad. But when inverted “up” on the stick is down for the plane; the knee-jerk “up” reaction is often a bad thing when inverted.
Good thread. Let me offer some links to help add to the resources in this thread.
Six Keys to Success for New Pilots
TRYING TO PICK YOUR FIRST PLANE?
THINGS TO CHECK ON AN ARF
> THINGS TO CHECK ON AN RTF
HOW TO FIX WARPS, DENTS, TWISTS OR UNCRUNCH FOAM PARTS
> Weather - knowing when to fly
> Plane Locators
> Getting planes out of trees
> Hat, Sunglasses, what else?
Thanks for the references. The last part has a set of links, no duplicates as far as I can see.
I'll include these as well. I have the whole set of topics as a single file that I intend to make available at the end after I have incorporated comments that I receive.
New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 5 - Flying Your Plane
You will most likely take a first flight with an instructor. He / she may takeoff and then let you fly. You will be nervous. You no longer have a “reset button” and must take things as they come. If you have had sufficient simulator time the jitters should settle down and you can enjoy the flight.:eek:
Depending on the conditions, your plane characteristics and your simulator experience the instructor may let you try take-offs and landings sooner or later. Keep your first flights simple race-track patterns to get used to the plane and its responses.
Move from simple race-track patterns to a lazy-eight flight path to get comfortable with your turns and judging the position and orientation of the plane. Practice flying straight down the runway and nice smooth turns.
Three Mistakes High
Once you are comfortable with takeoffs, landings and simple level flight move on up. Fly nice and high and try a loop or a roll. Stretch your legs and try inverted flight. But do watch out for recovery from inverted flight – “up” on the stick is “down” for the plane.
Fly high when you are learning any new maneuvers. Fly high enough to recover from the recovery from a mistake; and then a little higher.
There will be those times when you think to yourself – “can I just do one more flight” – at which point you should realize that asking that question implies you likely should not.
It’s Not Too Windy For One Last Flight
There are those times when the wind has picked up or shifted from a head wind to a cross wind. You are standing there and thinking - this is not too bad, I should be able to get in one last flight. Well at this point stop and evaluate things critically. Are the conditions unreasonable for your experience with your plane? If you are flying a light foamy trainer and you now have a strong cross wind; it could be that you should not take that last flight. During either takeoff or landing when the plane is flying very slow you will be in a situation where it will likely be necessary to crab and keep the windward wing low to keep control of the plane’s direction. Are you ready for this? At some point the answer to this question will be – I think so.
This is one of those situations that you can train for on the simulator. Dial in some cross wind, select a small high-wing trainer type plane and practice flying the length of the runway low and slow. This will give you many opportunities to practice using cross-coupled rudder and aileron to manage your direction while compensating for the wind. After a few passes try landing, remember that you need to straighten out just before you touch down. You need to do this flying in both directions and with the wind blowing both toward and away from you. So there are four different combinations of flight and wind direction.
Increase the wind some more and try again, do this until the wind is too much for the plane you have selected. Now select a bigger, more stable plane and try again. Notice the difference in capabilities of either you or the plane to handle the conditions.
Certainly there will be much more intimidation trying that one-more-flight with your real plane; there is no “reset button” and a mistake may result in an opportunity to do a repair.:p> But these are experiences that at some point you will need to have to build confidence in your abilities to either evaluate conditions or fly in them.
In support of your post about wind:
STAYING UP WIND
New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 6 – Flying Quick Points
Here are a number of short hints that you may find helpful.:rolleyes:
Close One Eye
There will come a time when you are flying and you will realize that you are just about to fly right through the sun, this is something you should avoid, but it will happen. If you do this you will discover that for a few seconds after you fly out of the sun you cannot see your plane or much of anything. Well here is what to do – when you recognize this situation is about to happen close one eye. Do the best you can to get through the sun and then open the closed eye. You can now see your plane; and you will say to yourself – let’s not do that again.
Stop Controlling the Plane
There are times when you should stop trying to provide control inputs to the plane and just let it fly by itself for a bit.
The most likely condition to occur is when you inadvertently let the plane fly right overhead. This typically results in you doing a very quick 360 turn watching the plane go by. Unless it is necessary for safety reasons to prevent damage or injury to people just let go of the sticks and wait for the plane to pass by and then retake control. It is likely that if you try to input control while doing the turn-around or trying to look straight up you will not get it right – it is better to do nothing in some cases.
So Go Around
You are trying to land and you are running out of runway – go around; don’t try to force the landing. A forced landing could result in a repair opportunity. Obviously, this does not apply to gliders or a dead-stick landing.
Up Elevator On Takeoff
If you have a tail dragger type plane it is most likely the case that you need up elevator while taxing or during takeoff to have good directional control. But do remember to back off the elevator as you pick up speed during takeoff so the plane does not jump into the air and stall.
If you fly both tail draggers and trike gear planes; remember not to use the up elevator as you would for a tail dragger when taking off with the trike gear plane as you have a greater chance of stalling the plane on takeoff. Stalling close to the ground is almost always a bad thing!
Do A Range Check
You should always do a range check before your first flight of the day. This will give you some level of assurance that you will not have problems communicating with your plane. Your default state set up when you bind should be throttle off and controls neutral. This way if you do lose communications with your plane it will not go too far.
New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 7 - Building You Plane
What Type Of Kit
There are basically two types of kits you can get; one where all of the parts are pre-cut and there are significant and clear assembly instructions. The other type is more of a box of balsa and a set of plans. This latter type requires much more experience to have a successful build.
Remember that you will need a flat surface to build on and appropriate tools.
The other question that you will need to consider is electric vs. a fuel type plane. This is another case of ask the local club members. Some people have a preference for one type of power over the other. Both can be used successfully. Some kits can be built either way, while others are specific to electric or fuel. Don’t try to modify your first build in any significant way, follow the instructions. Once you get hooked on flying you will have more opportunities to build and personalize your planes.
Purchase quality components. It is often the case that you get what you pay for. It would be a shame to lose a plane because of the failure of a cheap component.
Check the fit on all parts before you glue them. Make sure that you have any left / right and top / bottom orientations correct. Sand things smooth and by all means take your time. Get help when you need it, particularly when applying covering. Your local club members will be more than willing to help you build your first plane.
Your plane needs to be balanced before you even think about flying it. Follow the instructions regarding where the center of gravity should be. You can check the balance before you cover it and if necessary sand off excess material to help balance properly. The covering will not affect the weight that much. The last thing you want to do is to add weight to the plane to get it to balance, it is better to take away rather than add.
Check Control Surfaces
Make sure that all of your control surfaces are centered when the servos are centered.
Set all transmitter trims to zero. Make sure that all control surfaces move in the proper direction.
Take The Prop Off
If you have an electric plane and are working on the plane with the battery plugged in then consider removing the prop. If you are testing or working on any component where it is not necessary to be running the motor with the prop on, remove it. Accidently starting the motor with an installed prop will likely lead to a bad situation or injury if you are not lucky.
New RC Flyer Tidbits – Part 8 - Servos – Hook Up and Set Up
Servo Mounting and Running Extensions
When building your plane from scratch, as opposed to assembling an ARF, you need to think about the servos from two perspectives. First is the mounting locations and how to run the wires back to the receiver. Second is testing the servos to ensure that the pushrod from the servo arm / wheel is adjusted correctly and does not bind at the extremes of travel.
Regarding location, if you have freedom to choose where to mount servos in the fuselage; then choose a location that will help balance the plane without the need to add extra weight to balance. So if the plane is likely to end up nose heavy, locate the rudder and elevator servos aft to minimize the need to add weight to the nose. Keep in mind that mounting the servos further from the control surfaces will change the length and type of push-rod arrangement that will be required.
When mounting servos aft in the fuselage or typically for aileron servos in the wing it is likely that extensions will be required for the servo wires to reach the receiver location. For any extension connections that will be inside the fuselage or wing, securely tie or in some way ensure that the connector cannot come apart due to vibrations while flying. The last thing you ever want to have happen is to have a connection come apart while flying; and hopefully that will be for many years.
If you have mounted rudder and elevator servos near the receiver location, label the servos appropriately so that you will know easily how to plug the wires in the receiver. If the servos are mounted away from the receiver, then label the wires so that you know where the wires will be plugged into the receiver.
For planes with a detachable wing it will be necessary to have an extension for the ailerons and / or flaps to allow them to be connected when assembling the plane. As these will be connected each time that you assemble the plane it is important to label both the wing-end and the fuselage-end of the wires to ensure that the appropriate wing wire is connected to the appropriate wire in the fuselage and that they are not connected backward. The easy way to do this is to color code the connectors themselves. Use a different color for each servo wire. Apply a dab of paint on both parts of the connector on the same side when properly mated. Thus, when assembling your aircraft for flight, simply match up the colors and you will know that the proper wing wire will be connected to the proper receiver channel. You should always mark the receiver ends of these extension wires to ensure proper connections at the receiver as well.
Labeling servo wires at the receiver end is important because if you ever have to unplug wires from the receiver it will be a simple matter to get everything back correctly. Remember, that if you use the pre-numbered wire labels; keep the cheat-sheet in your flying box. Having it back home on your bench is of little value if you have to unplug and reconnect the wires at the flying field.
You should have a servo tester that will allow you to set the “center” position to properly set the pushrod length. A servo tester will also allow you to check for any binding associated with the full travel positions or the throw of the control surfaces. Here is a picture of a typical tester.
This one provides for auto-centering, manual positioning and an automatic full range cycling. There are others available with similar features.
You will need a separate 5 volt power source for the servo tester. This could be as simple as a battery holder with 4 D cells or a plug-in power supply that provides 5 volts DC. Cut off the male end of an extension wire and connect the two power wires to the power source. Make sure that there is a switch so you can shut off the power without the need to unplug the wire from the tester.
Now you can plug this power wire into the servo tester input and the servo wire into the tester and you can setup each servo without needing to use your receiver or transmitter. With some testers you can drive multiple servos at once; this is useful for aileron or split elevator setup.
For an electric plane, you can use this same power source to power your receiver and test all of the servos using your transmitter. To do this, you would disconnect the throttle wire coming from the ESC / BEC from the receiver and plug in the external power supply into the throttle position of the receiver. Now you can bind and configure your transmitter without any possibility of accidently starting your motor and causing injury or havoc associated with an unexpected spinning propeller.
Nice post. Like it!
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