Pilot Training -- Assignment Descriptions by Tony van Roon, MAAC #48344

1. Radio - Engine - Muffler
This first assignment is one of the most important. Failing to properly check your aircraft before each flight may result in a crash.
Radio Range Check: Procedures for this check are usually supplied with your radio, if purchased new. If not, here is a simple procedure to use. With the transmitter antenna totally collapsed, start walking away from the model while constantly working one of the controls, like the rudder, as you go. Keep walking and moving the sticks until control is lost. You should be at least 30 or 40 feet away from the model, and often this is a lot more, when you loose control. The actual distance you get depends on many things, like how far the antenna collapses into your transmitter (radio), etc. The main thing is to note this distance and use it as a reference point for future range checks of that same radio system. It's a good idea to repeat this test each time you go out to fly. A drop in range is a good warning that something serious is wrong. Don't fly with significantly reduced range -- send the radio into an authorized service center for a checkup or retuning.

Engine: Check all engine nuts, screws and bolts. A radio/receiver that shows no problems on the bench may not run the same when subjected to vibrations by a running engine, especially with a bit of rpm. Have your instructor hold tightly onto your aircraft while you perform a simple test. Start the engine and let it run at full throttle while you stand back and work the controls. Observe the control surfaces carefully. If there is any indication that control is being disrupted by vibration, or if control movements seem to occur without being transmitted, FIX IT FIRST AND GO NO FURTHER! Problems like that are warnings of serious radio or wiring errors which MUST be corrected before flying. Be certain there's plenty of padding around the receiver.
Except for the range check, make a habbit of fully extending your antenna before switching on the radio and starting your engine.

Muffler: One of fastest ways for a club to loose their flying field, or privileges if an airport is used, is noise. And it is not necessary! A properly adjusted muffler should give no more than about 90db of noise at 100feet distance and at chest-level height. If it is more, you should not fly but correct or replace the muffler. That way you keep your flying area safe.

Homebuilt mufflers, by the way, are in many ways outperforming and are more quiet then the manufactured types and even the ones supplied with a new engine. In many cases it will also increase the rpm anywhere from 700 to 2000 rpm! I have two 60-size Kalt helicopters and both have homebuilt mufflers made from hairspray cans. Why? Simple, now I can hear the blades instead of the muffler!
Taxi-ing (Remove Wing)
New pilots need temporarily the wing removed from their aircraft while learning to taxi to prevent sudden takeoff in case of wind gusts or other wind flare-ups. Believe me, I have seen it happen!
Straight and Level FLight
The first task that every pilot must master is straight and level flight, and for novice pilots that is not as easy as it sounds! Even models that have been trimmed out to the hill, and rechecked by an instructor, occasionally like to wander off course due to air currents or thermals. Also, as the fuel tank in the nose of the model empties, it gets lighter, causing the model starting to climb as the flight goes on. The elevator trim needs to be readjusted during the flight to compensate for this. Learning to recognize an out-of-trim situation and being able to correct it while you are flying is one of the keys to being successful. Trying to fly an out-of-trim model airplane is a constant battle!
Making Turns
To start a good turn, begin by moving the right-hand control stick either to the left or the right, depending on which direction you want to turn. The right-hand control stick is associated with the ailerons on a four-channel radio, or the rudder on a three-channel system.
Either way, the model will bank to the left or right on command. When it reaches a gentle bank angle of about 15-20, release the stick, allowing it to return to neutral. You don't have to hold the stick over during the entire turn; if you did, the model would continue banking and execute a slow roll! If the model banks to steeply, past the 15-20 you want, apply opposite control to lift the low wing slightly.

Every airplane needs to have a bit of up elevator applied during the turn to help keep the nose up and to keep the model from losing altitude. The steeper the bank angle, the more up elevator that will be required. Concentrate on giving the model just enough up elevator to maintain altitude. When you want to come out of a turn, simply bank the model back to level flight with opposite aileron (or rudder). It will take a lot of practice doing circles and figure-eights in the sky to make really precise turns. Concentrate on making turns that hold a constant angle of bank and do not gain or lose any altitude.
Figure Eights
Instead of only flying circles, a new pilot needs to get used to turn both left and right and the Figure Eight is perfect for that. As before, a bit of nose-up needs to be applied during the turns. Flying no faster than quarter to half throttle until comfortable. If no 'buddy-box' system is used, increase the altitude of the model to account for the time it takes to hand back the transmitter.
Taxi to takeoff position
This excercise can be lots of fun. For the first couple of tries, the wing should be removed (new students only) to get a feel of how the model moves and what controls to use for a take-off position. Put the wing back on securily, and since usually a trainer model is used, use enough elastic bands to hold the wing in place. Of course you use the rudder-stick for steering, and the throttle to go faster or slower. You may also need to use up elevator to help keep the model from nosing over, depending upon the field and wind conditions. You can even simulate a take-off run by lining up on the runway and applying full throttle for a second or two. Return to idle and concentrate on steering the model straight down the center of the runway.
Always takeoff into the wind. You may find it easier to steer during your first few takeoffs if you stand directly behind the model. That way you can immediately see and react to any changes in heading that the model makes during the takeoff run. Advance the throttle smoothly to full power and steer the model gently to keep it going straight. When the model reaches flying speed (in about 50 to 70 feet for most R/C trainers), feed in a small amount of "up" elevator to make the model liftoff. If it fails to liftoff, feed in a little more "up". Be prepared to relax the up elevator slightly just as soon as the model lifts off to keep it from climbing too steeply. Allow the model to climb steadily, correcting as necessary to keep that climb angle from getting too steep or too shallow. If the model starts to bank to the left or right on its own, correct at once in the opposite direction to keep the wings level and climbing out straight ahead. Gain some altitude before attempting to turn, however don't let the model fly too far away and become hard to see. As soon as you are at a safe altitude, make a gentle 180 turn back towards you. Remember that during the climbout the model is flying with a relatively low airspeed (against the wind) and all turns should be kept gentle.

The most common mistake while learning to takeoff is over controlling with the steering during the takeoff roll. Often the model starts veering slightly to the left due to engine torque. The pilot then over reacts and puts in too much right to correct, making the model swerve hard to the right. Then another over reaction and the model is swerving back to the left. Soon the airplane is going back and forth from one side of the runway to the other and is out of control! If you get in this situation, quickly pull the throttle all the way back and get the model stopped. Then taxi back for a fresh start. Never try to hurry your model off the ground by pulling full up elevator just because it isn't going straight. This could lead to a premature snap roll (due to too low of an airspeed) which will damage your model much more severely than anything that could happen on the ground. Always try to make all your control inputs as smooth and gently a possible.
Setting up for Landing
When it's time to land your radio control model, it is important to remember, once again, to keep all of your control inputs smooth and gentle to avoid over-controlling. You don't want to do anything drastic when you get close to the ground! The most important thing to remember is to cancel a landing approach that is not going right, before the model gets too low. If it appears that your model is going to miss the runway, is in bad shape due to over-controlling, or is in any other less-than-ideal situation -- take a waveoff! Push the stick into maximum throttle and climb back up for another attempt.
Good landings start with a good approach! You should follow the same three-leg approach that full-scale pilots follow when landing their airplanes. Start with a downwind leg by flying parallel to the runway, but downwind and out away from the runway about 150 - 200 feet. When the model is directly across the runway from you, decrease the throttle a bit and start a shallow descent. Your want the model to descend gradually whithout gaining airspeed. Use the elevator to hold the model in a very slight nose-down altitude, and use the throttle to control the airspeed and rate of descent. The secret to a good landing approach is in balancing the throttle setting with the correct amount of up elevator to establish a gradual descent that will end with the model touching the ground directly out in front of you.
It is tricky -- landing is the hardest part of learning to fly R/C, or even full-scale airplanes for that matter. Your must pay close attention to how the model is responding at all times.

Follow the downwind leg with a 90 turn to the base leg, still descending gradually but not building up excess speed. If you are gaining too much speed, throttle back a little bit more and hold more up elevator. One more 90 turn will put you on the final approach. Try to remember, just before your last turn, your model should be positioned approximately (say coming from the left) before your left shoulder and then turn. When you roll out of the turn onto the final, the model should be directly aligned for the runway and still descending. Reduce power a little more and continue to feed in "up" elevator to slow the model further. When you are certain that the model will make it to the runway, bring the throttle all the way back and concentrate on keeping the wings level as the model descends towards the ground.

If your approach has followed the above description, the actual landing will be a cinch!. When the model is about one foot off the ground, start to flare the landing by carefully feeding in more up-elevator a little bit at a time. Watch the nose of the airplane and the ground carefully! Try to keep the model flying level, at one foot or less of the ground. If you keep adding up elevator gradually and smoothly as the airplane continues to slow down, it should not rise or descend. If you put in too much up elelvator and pull the nose up too high too soon for the amount of airpspeed you have, the model will rise back up. If you don't hold enough up elevator, the model will fly into the ground at too high a speed. Try to hold the model just inches off the ground until it finally slows down enough to settle onto the runway. The ideal situaton is for the model to touch down nose high, on the main wheels (of a trike gear model), with the elevator stick held all the way back.

Always remember, if the final landing approach isn't working out right, it's best to add power and go around for another try! If the final aproach is properly lined up with the runway and you have the rate of descent under control, the actual landing will be easy. Like anything else, it takes practice, PracTice, LOTS of PRACtice!
Solo (3 times)
Your first Solo flight, take-off, flying for 5 minutes, landing the model, can be a bit nerve wrecking. But just hold your cool and try to remember the hints, tips and good guidance of your instructor(s). Don't over-do-it! Keep moderate throttle and gentle and smooth turns. When it is time to land take your time and GO SLOW and you will be fine. Make sure your nicads are all charged up, fresh fuel, and above all, make sure your radio antenna is fully extended! Good Luck! Menu

What to do in Emergency Situations
The most common situation that a beginner will face is disorientation. Sometimes the model just doesn't seem to react correctly, or you may give a wrong command, or simply fall one step behind the airplane. If you have enough altitude , you should have enough time to stop the panic, let go of the controls briefly, sort things out and then get your bird back under control.

A common error by many new pilots is flying facing the sun. Everything goes well until the model flies directly into the sun, panick sets in, and the model could be lost by over controlling to get it back. Try to fly always with the sun at your back!

Another common emergency situation is an engine failure during flight (yell "DEAD STICK!"). Remember, you still have a wing and the radio still works. Most of the time you will be able to glide the model in for a normal landing. Don't over react and dive for the runway -- you will probably overshoot and land in the weeds, cornfield, or whatever anyway. If you are too low to make it back to the runway, concentrate on landing as slowly as possible in the rough. If you keep the model under control (touch down right side up) and put her down at slow speed, chances are the damage will be minimal, if any. Don't panic and pull full up elevator in a desperate attempt to keep the model from hitting the ground! If you do, it will most likely stall and hit the ground hard, nose first, causing more damage than if you flew it all the way down to the ground.

An engine stall just after takeoff is a special situation that requires immediate attention and action from the pilot. In almost every case, the best thing to do is to lower the nose to keep the model from stalling and land the model straight ahead.
DON'T MAKE THE FATAL MISTAKE OF TRYING A QUICK TURN BACK TO THE RUNWAY! It almost always leads to a crash. Just after takeoff, the model usually doesn't have enough airpseed or altitude to make the turn. Even if it does, you'll be landing downwind at high speed, probably resulting in damage that could have been avoided by landing straight ahead into the wind (you did takeoff INTO the wind, didn't you?).

Once in a great while, an airplane may develop "flutter" (a rapid, uncontrolled back and forth flexing) in one of the control surfaces, usually an aileron or elevator. Flutter is almost always caused by a sloppy-fitting or overly flexible linage that allows excessive movement of the control surface. At high speed, the surface is subjected to high aerodymic loads that can cause it to flutter. Sometimes flutter can become so violent that the control surface will tear free from the model, usually resulting in a crash. Flutter can normally be heard as a loud "buzzing" as the model passes by. If you hear it, throttle back and fly the model gently to a normal landing. Check all of the control surfaces for looseness and do whatever is necessary to correct any excessive play.

Radio failure or interference during a flight almost always results in a crash. However, you should never give up trying to gain control of your model as long as it is still flying. Even though it may not respond, bring the throttle all the way back and leave it there! Hold the transmitter high into the air, crawl onto a picknick table, or whatever, get as high as you can to make sure you are sending the best signal possible. I have seen a loose antenna causing intermitted interference during model helicopter aerobatics. The pilot got the heli back under control by holding the radio as high as he could. Good for him!
If you are at a busy field, yell "INTERFERENCE!" to get the attention of other pilots and spectators. Someone may have accidently turned on their transmitter on the same frequency as yours, realize the mistake and turn it off. If you have enough altitude, you can regain control (and save your face) and bring the model in for a landing. Another form of radio interference is a "glitch", or momentary loss of radio contact. The model will be flying normally, then suddenly jolt or bounce a couple times, and then continue on normally as if nothing happened. Most of the time a glitch is a definite warning that a radio problem exists. Don't ignore it! Throttle back and bring the model in for a landing as quickly as possible. Check the radio, receiver and wires, all servo connectors and check everything thoroughly before trying to fly again. If you like to know more about interference, I recommend the Radio Interference Primer by Max Feil.
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Safety First!
Flying R/C model aircraft is an enjoyable way to spend your spare time, however, things don't always go according to their plans, as I've just described. The safety of spectators and other pilots is of utmost importance whenever you are flying. Always keep your model away from people, pets, and buildings so that if an emergency does arise and the model crashes, and believe me it happens to everyone, no one will be hurt.
Make sure you do your flying by yourself or at least instruct, whomever is looking over your shoulders, not to talk to you while you're flying. A good tip to see your propellor when it is spinning, to paint the tips of your props white, yellow or orange. Use a minimal amount of paint or it may cause an unbalance in the propellor. Paint the back of the prop-tips also. This way, when the prop is spinning, you will see a whatever-color propeller radius. Good Luck and Happy Landings!  --Tony van Roon

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