R/C Flight Instruction Tips

PREFLIGHT

Every single new airplane brought to the field should be checked for the following:
  1. Solid nyrods (or dowels) to each control surface. You should be able to move the servo by moving the control surface.
  2. Perform a radio range check and check ALL controls for "reversed" servos. Be sure the transmitter has it's frequency pin before you start!
  3. Verify that balance is in the ballpark.
  4. Two out of three prop nuts will not be tight enough - this usually shows up when the electric starter is used. In the meantime, stay clear of the propeller arc.
Also, take time to explain what you expect of the student during the flight. Some examples are:
  1. Tell him to pass you the transmitter IMMEDIATELY, if you ask for it.
  2. Explain "flat figure-eights" and the control inputs he will use.
  3. Explain frequency pin procedures.
  4. Clearly explain the your instructions (left or right) refer to the STICK - not the airplane. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
  5. A little encouragement usually helps right about now.

TRAINING FLIGHTS

Trainers will probably develop their own training sequence. The following progression seems to work pretty well, however:

A. Flat Figure-eights

The trainer performs the take-off and flies the model only long enough to get it trimmed to fly hands-off. The model may have to be landed and mechanically adjusted before trim can be achieved. He then shows the trainee how the sticks are moved (only that much?) to perform a Flat figure-eight - a left turn followed by a right turn. The trainee then takes the transmitter and reacts to verbal instructions from the trainer, like:
- "A little more LEFT (on the stick)"
- "MORE LEFT!"
- "Keep your nose up, pull back"
- "A little RIGHT, to straighten it out"
- "LET ME HAVE THE TRANSMITTER!"
- " lookin' good!"

B. TAKE-OFF

The trainee takes-off by himself. The trainer should explain the importance of throttle and rudder control, safety (kill the engine if it's headed for the crowd) and tell him to be ready to "fly it" as soon as it breaks ground. If the trainee has a lot of trouble with ground control, suggest he remove the wing and just taxi the fuselage at high speeds. Once he gets it up, it's back to flying more flat figure-eights. This may sound boring, but trust me - there will be plenty of things to keep the trainer occupied! Things like flamed out engines, wings folding, radios going dead, wheels coming off, "Left" instead of "Right" inputs, etc., etc. After the turns stay on the same altitude and the trainee consistently gets his wings level as he comes out of each turn, it's time to move on to the final phase.

C. LANDING

Have the trainee start to fly a left hand turn landing pattern - I called it the "Race Track Pattern" because it resembles it. Have him fly above the runway, make a left turn, fly out straight, make another left turn, straighten out and fly over the runway again. Have him do this 50' to 75' high to begin with. After he manages to fly over the runway on nearly every approach, he's ready to try land. Before he does, take the time to review this with him:

  1. That when he "looks good", coming out of this final turn, you will be asking him to throttle back to idle. Assure him that the model will not drop out of the sky.
  2. How to flare so that the nose won't land first.
  3. That you will probably ask him to reapply power in case of:
    1. Too much lost in altitude.
    2. Having to go around.
  4. That you will not have time to take control of the airplane once he gets close to the ground.
  5. That he probably will NOT hurt the plane if he just keeps the wings level and the nose up a little - it'll land anywhere!
  6. That he can do it!

Finally, try to remember how nervous, apprehensive and inept you were when you first learned to control a flying model. Encouragement and praise for small successes will ease the tension your student is experiencing. Never hesitate to pat him on the back and be sure he gets his AMA Pilot Patch when he has soloed.
Good Luck,

Dick LaPorte