Practice, Practice, Practice!
by Ed Anderson
aeajr on the forums
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.
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
Good job pilot!