occasion, I will take aspiring RC pilots under my wing and pass
along the skills I have learned in flying radio controlled aircraft.
you are just learning to fly, take a look at these helpful tips
and instructions from the Rocket City Radio Controllers of Huntsville,
Learning to Fly
are the steps I take in teaching others to fly radio controlled
airplanes. There is no way to approximate the amount of time or
the number of lessons a person will take before they are able to
solo. When a person "solos", it means that they are able
to take the airplane off, fly it and land it successfully without
help of an instructor. When a person solos, it is an exciting but
VERY nervous time and it does not mean that person is an accomplised
pilot. Soloing is just one of the beginning step in a pilot's progression
in the sport of flying radio controlled airplanes.
Buddy Cords and Flight Simulators
cords were designed to make training new RC pilots easier and less
risky. I have never trained anyone with a buddy cord and I have
had high success rates training without them. Buddy cords are not
foolproof. All new students must realize that there are inherent
risks involved in flying RC aircraft. The fact that anyone can crash,
makes the sport even more exciting and challenging. The hardest
thing to master in flying an RC aircraft is landing. Takeoff is
a far off second. In each case a buddy cord is not much use since
the airplane is so low to the ground. If the student gets into trouble,
there just simply is not enough time for the instructor to release
his training button and correct the aircraft. The method I use to
train new students is a tried and true method that has taught literally
thousands of RC students to fly.
flight simulators have been around for a decade or longer now. As
computer systems get more powerful, RC flight simulators will increase
in reality. I was introduced to RealFlight's G2 simulator at the
end of 2004 and I was amazed at how real the flight physics were.
Even though there will always be a bit of difference between a simulator
and real world experience, I cannot recommend highly enough the
importance of a new RC student either having access to or owning
a simulator. The costs for a new RC simulator may seem high but it
will save the beginner enough money in crashed airplanes to pay
for it. Even experienced RC pilots will gain from the ability to
practice risky aerobatic maneuvers without the chance of damaging
Help Me Help You!
of the reasons that I do not charge to train people to fly is that
I am usually already going to be at the flying field when they meet
me there. The Utah Modelport is approximately twenty miles from
my house. My pickup gets about 14 miles per gallon, at it's best,
so it is very costly for me to drive back and forth to the field.
If I had to make special trips to train people, I would certainly
have to charge.
I am at the field, I enjoy flying my airplanes as much as I enjoy
training. If I have to wait around for a student to get their plane
ready to fly, it cuts into my flying time. So, please,
have your airplane ready to go,,,wings on, fueled up, radio charged.
Let me know when you are ready to go. It is your responsibility
to be motivated and ready to get your airplane in the air. If you
do this, then I will have time to fly my airplanes too. If your
airplane needs to be worked on, please work on it before we get
to the field. After each flight, immediately fuel your airplane
and have it ready to go for the next flight unless it is time to
go home. I like to see a student get three or more flights at each
training session. I would like to see each student getting their
plane ready to go after each flight without me having to tell them
what to do. If you want me to train you, please help me in this
area and we'll make some good progress in your training.
thing, I am a shift worker and it is extremely hard for me to be
at the field before noon. I don't know why I am this way but my
body just doesn't like to do mornings, so please realize that if
I'm going to be at the field, it is usually going to be sometime
after noon. Please do not expect me to schedule my life around yours.
Can Anyone Learn to Fly RC Airplanes?
has always been my belief that if you can drive a car, you can fly
an RC airplane. Of course, you need a good trainer airplane and
a good instructor. These are essential! I have found that everyone
is different in how much instruction it takes to get them to the
point that they can solo. If you are learning to fly RC, LISTEN
to your instructor and do what he says! I have yet to find someone
who could not learn to fly RC. I have found a couple of people that
really had a hard time picking it up more than others. Some of their
problems were caused by a couple of factors. One is not listening
to what I tell them. Perhaps they think they know better, or they
were told something different by someone else or they read an article
that they believe more than the instructor. If you are a student,
you must listen to your instructor and do what he says. If you don't
want to do what your instructor says, don't waste your time or his.
Find someone that you trust and LISTEN to them. Another reason I
have seen in people that have a hard time learning to fly RC is
overconfidence. This usually entails stepping into an airplane that
is way too much for their skill level even though I've told them
they were not ready for that plane. That is a sure recipe for a
crash and for disappointment.
My Method of Instruction
1. As an instructor, I will first explain to the student pilot
that I cannot guarantee that I will be able to teach them to fly
and that their airplane will not be damaged or destroyed while trying
to teach the student to fly. It is my job, as an instructor, to
fully examine the student's aircraft to make sure it is safe to
fly and that it is not a hazard to me, the pilot or observers. After
a detailed examination of the airplane, I will begin by explaining
field rules to the prospective pilot and I will explain how an airplane
Next, I will show the student how to fill his fuel tank and start
his engine. I will show him how to tune his engine for peak performance.
After this, it will be the job of the student to start and tune
his own engine before each flight. After the engine is started,
all radio control functions are checked to make sure they operate
I will taxi the airplane to the flight line. Then I will take the
plane off and trim it out for straight, level flight. After the
plane is "in trim", I will line the plane up with the
runway (in our case, North or South) and have the student stand
directly to my left. I will take the plane very high and then hand
the transmitter to the student. I will expect the student to continue
flying the airplane straight and level, then when instructed, to
make a sweeping left hand turn, using ailerons and elevator, keeping
the plane level in the turn. The pilot should practice keeping altitude
through the turn, not losing or gaining altitude. This will take
a fair amount of practice since a flat bottom wing (which is what
most trainers have) will want to gain altitude when turning into
the wind and it will want to lose altitude when turning with the
wind. During this phase of training there are some things that I
• Keep the airplane straight and level in the straightaways.
• Do not let the airplane
lose or gain altitude in the turns.
• When the plane is coming
at the pilot, the ailerons will seem backward to the pilot. Two
ways to deal with this is 1. To level the wings, point the aileron
stick on the transmitter
to the wing that is pointing toward the ground. 2. When the plane
at the pilot, he should look over his shoulder. This will make the
normal to the student.
1. When the student is just beginning, I will take
the airplane very high and then let him fly, making long passes
parallel to the runway and wide sweeping left turns without
losing or gaining altitude. I stand to the right side of the
student so I can help if he loses control of his airplane.
whole time the student is flying, I will stand immediately to his
right. If the student gets disorented and loses control of the aircraft,
I will reach over and take control of the aileron/elevator stick
and correct the flight of the aircraft. If the aircraft is too far
out of control, I will take the transmitter from the student and
correct the flight path.
fuel is low, I will land the airplane.
Once the student is proficient at his left turns and level flight,
I will let him begin to make figure eight turns so he can get practice
turning each direction. I will also let him taxi his airplane to
and from the flight line.
the student is comfortable making left turns, I will let him
begin to make figure 8 turns so he can get used to turning
When the student is comfortable making turns, I will begin to let
the pilot experience flight at different speeds. I will throttle
the plane up to full throttle or take it just above idle so the
student can see how his plane reacts at different speeds. Remember
that the plane will be much more responsive at higher speeds than
at lower speeds.
When the pilot is comfortable with his plane at different speeds
and can "catch" the airplane when it gets out of control,
he will be ready to take his plane off. Taking off is not as hard
as it seems. The hardest part is keeping the airplane straight down
the center of the runway on takeoff. The engine's torque will tend
to make the airplane steer to the left. A small bit of right rudder
will need to be added as the airplane speeds up down the runway.
It is very important that the student practice keeping his airplane
straight down the runway on takeoff. Many airplanes are crashed
on takeoff because the pilot does not properly control his airplane
in takeoff roll.
Once the student is comfortable with his airplane at this stage,
it will be time for him to make turns to line up with the runway
and cut the throttle so the airplane is on landing approach. As
the airplane comes low over the runway, the student will throttle
up and go around again. Once the student is making his approaches
well, I will tell him to go ahead and land the airplane.
the student is proficient at turning his aircraft and is able
to control it well, I will let him make practice landing approaches,
cutting the throttle and lining up with the runway, into the
wind. When the plane is about ten to twenty feet above the
runway, I will have him throttle up and go around again and
again, until he is able to actually land the plane. There
is no way to say how long a student will take to get to this
point. Each student is different.
this stage, I will explain the landing approach and landing to the
student. On landing approach, the pilot keeps the nose down to maintain
proper airspeed. As the airplane gets approximately two feet off
of the ground, the student will pull up (back) on the elevator stick
and continue flying the airplane six inches to one foot off the
runway. As the airspeed bleeds off and the student continues to
try and keep the plane about six inches off the ground, the airplane
will stall and land on the main gear. The student must maintain
control of the airplane down to taxi speed and taxi back to the
pit area. This will complete the student's solo flight!
all the hype you have read in the advertisements for your airplane.
Trainers are designed to land slowly and to be very forgiving in
flight but they will NOT fly themselves. Your airplane
will NOT track straight on takeoff; you must keep
it straight down the runway on takeoff. If you do not, you will
probably crash. I do the best to trim your plane so that it will
fly straight and level when you let go of the controls but it will
not stay that way, you must fly your airplane! No matter how good
your trainer is, it will NOT land itself. You must
land your airplane! The only way I know to make a student understand
this is to compare it to driving a car. When you are driving down
the freeway at 65 mph, you must give slight, small inputs to keep
your car in it's lane. If you come around the corner and their is
a person in the road, you must make more than small, slight adjustments,
you MUST swerve! It's the same with a model airplane. Most of the
time, you want to give small, slight movements but there will be
times it takes more!
will give you the instruction you need to learn to fly your airplane.
It is your job to use the information I give you and then to practice,
a new pilot, you are going to make errors. Even old pilots like
me make errors. As a beginner you will make mistakes that you don't
even notice. As an instructor, I will be honest with you about your
flying skills and the mistakes you make. I will try to empasize
the positive but I will also let you know about the negative. Model
aircraft can be extremely dangerous. I do not want you to endanger
yourself or anyone else. I am very familiar with how many model
aircraft fly. If you mess up, just admit it and go on. If you make
a bad takeoff or landing or if you crash, you may think you were
doing everything correctly but I can usually tell you what you did
or didn't do that got you in the predicament. 99% of crashes are
caused by pilot error. They may be errors that we don't want to
a look sometime at the NTSB's accident investigations for aircraft.
Probably one out of a thousand are not attributed to pilot error.
There was a pilot and his adult son that crashed in the mountains
above Logan, Utah a few years ago. The pilot was a doctor and they
were in a Cessna 210. The engine lost oil pressure and the pilot
was going to try to turn and get back to Logan. He was flying in
snow with very little visibility. He was able to turn his plane
while it was deadstick but ended up catching the top of a peak,
killing himself and his son. The accident was ruled as pilot error.
Why? you might ask. Well, when the pilot left his home base, the
FBO, field based operator noticed there was an oil leak under the
plane. The FBO asked the pilot if he wanted him to look for the
cause of the leak and pilot decided not to.
had a Sig Kadet that I had built with the intent of teaching my
son to fly RC aircraft. I put a Magnum .40 engine on the airplane.
I probably had 300 flights on that plane and EVERY time I flew it,
the engine would die after a few minutes. Every landing was deadstick.
So, if I would have crashed that plane on landing, whose fault would
it have been? Would it have been the fault of the engine? No, it
would have been my fault for flying with an engine that I KNEW was
going to die while the plane was in the air. My point is, if you
make a mistake, just suck it up and admit you messed up. We all
do it sometimes.
your flying progresses, I may ask you to do something you don't
feel like you are capable of doing. Realize that I will not ask
you to do something that you cannot do. You may be afraid to try
what I ask you to do but it will help build your confidence which
is at least 75% of what it takes to fly RC aircraft. There are times
that your airplane will be at risk. Usually at takeoff and landing,
especially while you are learning, you stand the chance of destroying
your plane. If it was easy, everyone could do it! The risk is one
of the things that makes flying RC so enjoyable. Everyone gets very
nervous when they first are learning. If you can't handle the risk,
go buy an RC car.
After You Solo
the student has soloed, I will stay with him until he is able to
land successfully several times. Other things that we can work together
Learning to use the rudder for turns and crosswind landings.
Touch and goes. Shooting touch and goes (When the pilot lands and
takes off, land and takes off, repeatedly) is the best practice
a new pilot can do. It is even excellent practice for experienced
RC pilots. When I first began to fly RC, Don Piatt told me, "If
you learn to land, you can fly anything out there." In the
30+ years of my involvment in RC, I have seen many pilots that have
the hottest, newest planes available and they can take them off
and fly them but can't land worth a darn. Nothing takes the place
Important Things to Know
If You Are Flying with a Radio on 72 mhz:
make sure no one else is flying on your channel before you turn
on your transmitter!!! The reason for this is, if two transmitters are on at the same time, on the same frequency, the airplane with the receiver on that channel will "get confused" by the signals coming from both radios. More than likely the airplane will crash if it is in the air. We call this "getting shot down." <<<
turn your transmitter on first and off last. Outside interference can cause your servos to do crazy things. <<<
you turn on your transmitter when someone else is flying on that
channel and shoot down their airplane when they have put their tag up on the frequency board, you
owe them for the damages!<<<
If You Are Flying with a Radio on 2.4 ghz:
2.4 ghz is one of the best things to ever happen to radio control vehicles! With 2.4 ghz radios, there is no need to worry about other people being on the same channel as you are. Also, much of the outside radio interference is eliminated.
your airplane damages property or injures someone, you are liable
for the damage---That is why it is so important to be a member of
the AMA so you have some liability insurance<<<
fly an RC plane if the radio is glitching<<<
let little children near the pit area or the flight line at model
follow all club and field rules<<<
responsible, pick up your garbage and try to keep your airplane's
as quiet as possible, especially in urban areas --- Always try to
be a good neighbor<<<