Building Skills as an RC Pilot

Advice for building skills as an RC Pilot

This might be my first true “advice column” here on my web site… blog… whatever this is.  Hope you find it useful.

I intend this as friendly advice to those who fit the following description:

  • Comfortable with basic flying skills on at least a basic trainer… maybe up to a mid-level flyer who flies some aerobats or warbirds but isn’t a competitor in IMAC or scale contests, etc…
  • Want to improve flying skills.  Either you’ve been flying for some months/years and feel like you’ve plateau’d  in skills and aren’t sure what to do next or you are just comfortable as mentioned above and want to build up skills before moving onward and upward to new and varied airplane types.

So the premise here is this.  The next time you are preparing to fly…. think about flying with a purpose.  By that, I don’t mean to imply that you must make your flying time into something that is pure drudgery, just give yourself a goal or two for that flight.  Spend just a minute or two out of your flight doing something with a purpose.

For instance, as I sat and watched some folks at the field recently I saw several pilots come in to land.  Lets just say some of those landings were less than perfect.  Landings are some of the first things I would encourage you to set as a goal… i.e. fly with the purpose of setting your plane down at a particular spot on the runway.   At our local flying field, we have a very wide/long runway.  Most of that is grass, but there is also a roughly 400’x40′ piece that is covered in geotex fabric to better accomodate smaller wheeled aircraft.  At a minimum, your purpose would be to try to land on the fabric part of the runway… not the grass.

I know folks already typically try to do that, but I don’t see folks really committing to that as evidenced by the fact that many grass landings happen without a single go-around occurring.  If you still have some battery left (assuming an electric powered aircraft) and the landing doesn’t look like it’s quite going to touch down “on the spot”… why not go around and try again?  This is another good lesson to learn, and a good habit to get into… don’t commit to a bad landing!

A further refinement is to try to have wheels touch down (for instance) directly in front of the pilot… not just anywhere on the runway.  If you really want to do this reliably, you may want to make more than one landing during your “flight”.  You can also do some touch and goes.  Keep in mind you don’t have to commit your entire time at the flight line to this, you can still just go out and bore some holes in the sky if that is what you enjoy!

There are many other examples I could use.  How about making sure you do 3 nice smooth loops?  Did the loop look round?  Did the loop track the same all 3 times with no side-to-side variance or “traveling” up or down the runway so that the exit point didn’t move?  Can you do it for a 20′ loop?  A 100′ loop?  Did the airplane appear to travel the same speed on the upline, across the top and on the downline?  Do a few of these during your next flight.

How about doing a lap or two (or even a figure eight) while maintaining inverted flight?

How about making a perfect 4 sided race track pattern around the field with no difference in altitude or change in speed?

Sometimes flying with a purpose is part of the setup of the airplane.  I will go out to fly with the only purpose being to test out 3 different rates on my elevator to discover what combination of throw and expo works best for me?  Once I know what I like, I will set that as my default rate and either turn the rate switch off, or if I need a different rate for another reason, work on getting that setting figured out as well.  This type of flying with a purpose can not only make you a better pilot as you strive to control the plane more decisively, but it can result in your plane being easier to control as well!  No one needs to know the reason you suddenly look like a seasoned pro is setup related, not necessarily your awesome piloting skills!

I hope this has you thinking about ways you can fly with a purpose and improve your skills.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, then, keep on boring those big holes in the sky and just enjoy!



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