Welcome to Jazzy's Flight Deck!

Are you a beginner RC airplane flier? If you are, I hope to provide valuable information to help you get off the ground! RC flying can be very frustrating, and this is quite normal, so don't let it stop you from enjoying this wonderful hobby! Once you get your plane up there, I promise you will be happy you did it! Please let me know if there's anything you'd like to see here or if you have any questions.

Aircraft listed in bold now have mini-reviews and/or videos.

Over and out!
jasmine2501 at "don'tspamme" netzero dot com

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Practicing with a flight simulator

Practicing with a flight simulator such as FMS or Realflight can make a big difference in your skills advancement. For beginners it can make the difference between crashing on your first flight and NOT crashing on your first flight. For experts, it can improve your precision and reactions with more advanced maneuvers and teach you how to "feel out" a new plane much faster.

These are not necessarily in order, but they do get harder as you go down the list. The first few should be done with 3-channels planes if you're new, and 4-channel planes as you get better... the last ones will require 4-channel planes.

1. Taking off in a straight line without stalling - practice this with an under-powered plane that stalls easily. Try it with different wind directions and try to do it with the plane out of trim.

2. Left turns and right turns - they are different. Try these coming toward you as much as possible. Learn to do it without losing altitude. Try big turns first and then make them sharper until you can do it in all 4 directions without losing altitude. Do this until it is second nature - until you don't have to think about it. Practice this with 3-channels first, then go up to 4-channel planes where you'll "bank and yank" - rolling and pulling up to make the turn. Return to straight and level flight after each turn. Then when you are good at that, practice linking your turns without flying level in between each turn.

3. Landings - same as take-offs - try it with different wind settings and try it with the plane out of trim. Try landing with an over-powered plane that glides well, and then try it with an under-powered plane that stalls easily and needs to be landed at a higher speed. The Pitts in FMS is good for this... you can't just cut the throttle and let it float down like a Slow Stick.

4. Practice flying a pre-determined flight path beginning with a take-off and ending with a landing. The take-off and landing should be in the same direction. Try it with different wind settings. Try figure-8 patterns and left-hand and right-hand circles. One of the mistakes I made when I was learning was to always fly left-hand patterns - this became a small problem at the club one day when the wind was blowing the other way... I had to fly a right-hand pattern, and it actually did mess up my thinking a bit. Practice both directions equally.

5. Practice simple loops - get some airspeed and pull full up elevator and stop when the plane recovers back to level flight. Gradually make your loops bigger and learn to reduce the throttle at the top of the loop to make a more perfect circle. Some planes can not do a big loop - learn to recognize this. Learn to recognize when your loop is not going to make it, and figure out how to "roll out" of a loop that is not going to end well. You will know what I mean when you practice it.

6. Practice recovering from trouble. Stall the plane and recover. Put it into a spin and recover. Get a 3-channel plane on its side and recover. Have someone move your trims to a weird spot and practice taking off and trimming the plane and then landing. If you have RealFlight, you can program it to simulate problems with the plane - this is very helpful, since problems during flight do occur and this feature can help you learn to save a plane that is not functioning correctly.

(Those are the basics - for the rest of these you will want a 4-channel plane)

7. Try simple rolls using ailerons only - point the nose slightly up and roll the plane all the way over and back to upright and level flight - then get back into the pre-determined flight pattern. Your rolls will make an arcing path (gaining and losing altitude), but this is ok at this point.

8. Fly inverted in a straight line for short periods. Roll the plane upside-down and use up-stick to hold it level. Then roll back to upright straight and level flight.

9. Practice perfectly straight and level flight. This is harder than it sounds. Learn what a plane looks like when it's flying level. If you are seeing the wing edge-on, you are not level. A plane that is higher than your head and flying level will show you a little bit of the bottom of the wing. Learn what this looks like. At this point, you will be practicing more precision flight, where before, you were just noodling around getting your reactions straight. Try this inverted as well, and in various wind conditions. Learn to use the rudder to keep your plane tracking straight.

10. Practice rolls using the rudder to keep the plane tracking level during the portion of the roll when it's on its side. For a left-hand roll, the sequence is this: holding left aileron through the whole roll, first apply right rudder as the plane gets on its side, then apply a bit of down elevator when the plane is inverted, then a little left rudder as the plane is on the other side, then return to level flight. You may want to break this up into a 4-point roll to slow things down, but eventually you should be able to do a smooth roll without stopping and without gaining or losing altitude.

11. Practice flying the pattern inverted. Learn to make turns when you are inverted, using the rudder and ailerons to bank and turn. Learn to control the throttle and use down elevator to keep the plane from losing altitude.

12. Practice knife-edge flight. Use the rudder to hold altitude and the elevator to make turns. Try to fly figure-8 patterns and try rolling from side to side. Practice entering the knife-edge from upright and inverted positions. When entering the knife-edge from upright flight, you will "cross the sticks" with the rudder and ailerons, but when you enter from inverted, your aileron and rudder direction will be the same. Do this until it becomes instinct. Learn the exact right moment to apply the rudder... too soon and your plane will not track straight... too late and you'll lose altitude. Try to slow down the knife-edge flight until you enter a knife-edge "harrier" maneuver. This is one of the easiest of the "3D" moves to do. Learn to control the throttle to hold the plane in the knife-edge at about a 45-degree angle, still moving to the side, but very slowly. This will help you to learn to hover later.

13. Try precision "pattern flying" - this involves doing loops and rolls and combinations of those while making very precise straight lines. You will be drawing patterns in the air, with smooth radii and straight lines. This is a competitive style of flying, and it is difficult, but it allows you to judge your progress because it is very easy to see when you've gone off line. The basic pattern maneuvers for the Beginner (or Sportsman) level of competition are listed here. Learn to do these moves perfectly. If you have Realflight, you can record your flight and play it back later. I find this very helpful in judging how well I did. As you progress, look up the advanced pattern sequences and practice some of the more advanced moves. Pattern flying is a never-ending challenge - you can never be perfect.

14. Practice harriers and other "3D" moves. There are entire articles about this. When you get to this point, you will know what to do. Learn to hover and harrier, and learn the flat spins and other fun moves. In my opinion, this is the pinnacle of precision flying. If you can do this stuff, get the hell off the simulator and go out and fly already. Or if you have Realflight, go online and find me and show me your stuff!

This by no means is a set order of learning. You can practice the advanced stuff in any order you want. This list is not intended to be a step-by-step lesson plan, but is more intended to help you identify specific areas where the simulator practice can help you improve your skills for real-life flying. Most of all, have fun!

Over and out!


Electric Flier said...

Good post! A lot of folks don’t realise how useful a simulator is. (Though I guess, if you don’t have a sim you learn to build real well, so there are pros and cons….)

If you want more brainwashing about using a sim, try my blog The Radio Controlled Airplane You will find that Jazzy and I are in agreement about how useful they are! (Even if we slightly disagree about which sim to use!)

Dilip said...

I have a Blade CX2. Will someone lead me to which is the best sim to use, and where I can get a cable to connect my tx to the computer?

Jasmine said...

You could try FMS (link on the right), but the coaxial helicopter is hard to find for it. Realflight G3.5 is the simulator I recommend for people who want to eventually advance to better stuff. It comes with a simulated radio. There are many ways to connect an actual radio to the simulator, and the CX2 radio can be used, but it is not very good. Try posting a question in the RCGroups.com, Wattflyer.com, or Crackroll.com forums.