How To Fly RC Airplanes Well
It is my experience that most model plane flyers become set in their ways when it comes to their repertoire of manoeuvers. Once they have managed to reach a level of competence that enables them to fly solo, they tend to settle for a simple selection of basic skills.
Part of the pleasure to be obtained from your flying is learning how to fly rc airplanes well. This inevitably involves extending ones range of flying skills beyond the most basic ones required to take off, fly circuits and land again.
Above is a typical follow on model from your trainer type. This plane is capable of most aerobatic manoeuvers that the average club flyer will want to master. Most clubs will encourage newcomers to become solo proficient and to progress to a more advanced level so that they have confidence in the ability of that flyer.
In the UK the model aircraft governing body, the BMFA (British Model Flying Association) run such an achievement scheme that comprises two levels of competence.
The first level is known as the “A” certificate and the test can be performed with virtually any powered fixed wing model, glow/nitro or electric powered. It is aimed at proving to the club that you are safe to entrust a model to without supervision.
The candidate should also go through the pre-flying session checks, also laid out in the BMFA handbook. Particular attention should be given to airframe, control linkages and surfaces.
The pilot must stand in the designated pilot area for the entirety of the flying part of the test.
He/she must take off and complete a left (or right) hand circuit and overfly the take-off area.
Then fly a “figure of eight” course with the cross-over in front of the pilot at a constant height.
Fly a rectangular circuit and approach with appropriate use of the throttle and perform a landing on the designated landing area.
Take off again and complete a left (or right) hand circuit and overfly the take-off area.
Fly a rectangular circuit at a constant height in the opposite direction to the landing circuit above.
Perform a simulated deadstick landing with the engine at idle, beginning at a safe height (approx. 200 feet) heading into wind over the take-off area, the landing to be made in a safe manner on the designated landing area.
Remove model and equipment from the take-off/landing area.
Complete post-flight checks as required by the BMFA Safety Codes.
Question & Answer Section
The candidate then must answer correctly a minimum of five questions on safety matters, based on the BMFA Safety Codes for General Flying and local flying rules.
As you can see, this is a fairly strictly controlled process and demonstrates to the examiner the candidates ability to handle his/her model to a satisfactory standard and their understanding of the rules governing model flying.
Until this test is completed to the satisfaction of a BMFA appointed examiner from within the club, the pilot is not allowed to fly alone but must be accompanied by an approved competent pilot during every flight.
I’m sure other countries have similar schemes and I suggest it is in the best interest of every model pilot to take and pass such a test, where available, for both theirs and the public’s safety.
More Advanced Flying
As the rookie flyer progresses there will inevitably come a time when the desire to fly more sophisticated models will occur. If the pilot has not advanced further than the manoeuvers required for this “A” certificate then a sense of frustration will arise through not being able to take advantage of the new plane’s potential.
The BMFA’s “B” certificate is aimed at helping the pilot progress in exactly this manner.
This is a much more complex test involving a number of what can be called “Aerobatic” manoeuvers that need to be practiced well beforehand.
Let’s take a look at what this schedule involves:
a) Carry out pre-flight checks the same as for the “A” certificate.
b) Take-off and complete a left or right hand circuit and overfly the take-off area.
c) Fly a “figure of eight” course with the cross-over in front of the pilot.
d) Fly into wind and complete one “inside” loop.
e) Fly downwind and complete one “outside” loop (a Bunt) downwards from the top (See diagram right courtesy of Dundee Model Flying Club).
f) Complete two consecutive rolls starting into wind.
g) Complete two consecutive rolls downwind rotating in the opposite direction to those above.
h) Complete a “stall turn” either to the left or right.
i) Gain height and complete a three turn spin. The initial heading and recovery heading must be into wind. The model must fall into the spin (NO flick entry).
j) Fly a rectangular landing approach and perform an “overshoot” from below 10′ (3m). This must be recognisable as a baulked landing, not a low pass.
k) Fly a rectangular circuit in the opposite direction to that used in the “overshoot” at a constant height of not more than 40′ (12m).
l) Fly a rectangular landing approach and touch down within a pre designated 98′ (30m) boundary.
m) complete post-flight checks as required in the BMFA safety code manual.
Following this flying test the candidate must satisfactorily answer eight questions based on the BMFA safety codes.
Other Countries Schemes
I know that both Australia and New Zealand run similar schemes but so far as I know there is no such scheme in the USA or Canada.
If anyone knows differently I would be happy to amend this information.
Setting Your Own Standards
Just because you live in a country where there is no pilot achievement scheme doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set yourself the challenge of achieving an improved standard. You may be thinking that as there is no set programme to help you, where do you start and what do you practice?
How about adopting the above “B” certificate schedule as a guide for yourself! I can guarantee that if you practice the manoeuvers required for this schedule, your flying will improve beyond all recognition. There is, of course, no time limit and you can practice them in whatever order you prefer.
The implication is that you will improve your flying in a structured way and obtain much greater satisfaction than if you just fly aimlessly around all the time. It will open up the scope for you to include such models as the one shown here or even more aerobatic types. As a result your appreciation of your chosen model’s capabilities and your confidence in how to fly rc airplanes well will also be greatly enhanced.
I hope this post has given you inspiration to set yourself some structured challenges and become a more competent pilot. If you have enjoyed it please feel free to share it with others you think may find it useful.
If you are still in the early stages of learning to fly take a look at my website www.rookiercflyer.com for a comprehensive guide to starting the hobby.