These notes have been compiled to assist the trainee pilot in learning to fly under the guidance of any of the instructors of the Beelsby Model Flying Club.
In order to ensure a high level of safety at the field, and to cover all the necessary lessons, in pre and post flight tasks as well as during actual flying training, a number of objectives have been identified and encompassed within the Beelsby flying training scheme.
All of the instructors have agreed to adopt a common approach to the task of flying tuition and to teach to a common syllabus. The advantage for the pupil is that if their ‘preferred’ tutor is unavailable, another tutor will be able to ascertain what has already been covered and what the next steps should be.
The Beelsby flying training scheme consists of the following:
- Checking the model for airworthiness prior to flight
- Correct use of the frequency pegboard system
- Safe engine starting and adjustment
- Observation of field etiquette
- Assessment of wind and weather conditions
- Take off procedure
- Intelligent use of power during all phases of the flight
- Trimming of the aircraft
- Circuit flying, left and right hand circuits, controlling speed and height
- Preparations for landing, descending, controlling speed, attitude and heading,
- Landing and overshooting
- Post flight checks
The climax of the instruction scheme is for the pupil to be able to start his own engine, taxi, take off, fly a circuit and land as gently as possible, carrying out all the tasks safely and with due regard for other flyers. From there, the logical next step is for the pupil to practice for the ‘A’ certificate in the BMFA achievement scheme. In essence the test consists of all the above plus being able to fly a figure of eight at constant height and carry out a simulated dead stick landing (with the engine at idle). It is not the role of the instructor to teach aerobatics within the scheme, although at times the pupil may think that advanced low level manoeuvres are being carried out rather early!
In order for the instruction to progress at a satisfactory rate, it is obviously beneficial for the pupil to have an understanding of the tasks to be covered. Clearly it is better to attempt to learn the theory in advance of the practice rather than trying to listen to the instructor and trying to fly at the same time. During the early days the concentration and workload can appear daunting and there will be times when you’ll think you’ll never get the hang of it, but of course it can be done and if you are conscientious and persistent, the satisfactory results will speak for themselves.
During tuition the ‘buddy box’ system of instruction will be used if your own transmitter has this facility. To operate the buddy box system, two transmitters are linked together with a suitable cable, however only the master transmitter is turned on. It does not matter if there are no batteries or crystal in the pupils transmitter as the buddy system merely switches between the control sticks of the two transmitters. It is recommend that the pupils aerial be extended, but this is only because the transmitter has been designed to balance in the hands correctly with an extended aerial.The main advantages of the buddy system is that if the pupil is flying and a control error is made, the pupil can be allowed a longer time to recover from the situation before control has to be regained by the instructor. If the transmitter has to be handed from pupil to instructor, this takes a finite time and has to be allowed for if crashes are to be avoided.
If you are completely new to flying, even before your first flight you should ensure your transmitter to set for your own hands. The stick lengths are adjustable on most sets, the knurled knobs at the tip of each stick are threaded and incorporate a lock nut. Adjust the length so that the transmitter is comfortable with each thumb on top of the sticks.
Can the full range of movement of the sticks be easily accomplished?
Whilst the transmitter is in your hands can you easily locate the trims (without looking!)
Practice moving the sticks so that only horizontal, or vertical movement is achieved – a common mistake made by mode 1 pupils is to apply aileron (or rudder) control and not realise that the throttle has also been moved. It’s not uncommon to find that the pupil who has quite correctly set cruise power, whilst making aileron control inputs slowly advances the throttle until it is once again at full power.
The above list covers twelve main areas and whilst your instructor will cover each in fine detail, the following is a guide to what you should be aware of:
Checking the model for airworthiness
- Are all the control surfaces secure and capable of full and free movement?
- Are the servos firmly secured?
- Are the wings firmly attached?
- Are the control surfaces moving in the correct sense?
- Is the balance point correct?
- Is the engine secure, prop in good condition, tank and plumbing in order?
- Does the receiver crystal match that of the transmitter – and that of the pennant?
- Are the batteries fully charged?
Correct use of the frequency control system
- Have you checked if there are other flyers using the same frequency as you today?
- Is the frequency clear and peg on the board?
- Are there any flyers on adjacent frequencies?
- If you do not have a ‘dual conversion’ receiver, is there anyone flying on a frequency 23 spots below yours? (i.e. if you are on 83, is anyone on 60, anyone on 61 if you are on 84 etc)
- Have you checked with the scanner that your transmitter is transmitting a “clean” signal?
- Have you carried out a radio range check? -Especially important with an unflown model or one that has had any radio installation modifications made
Starting and adjusting the engine
- Is the model adequately restrained/helper holding the model?
- Does the engine turn over easily by hand BEFORE applying the starter?
- Are the glow and starter leads clear of the prop arc?
- Once the engine has started, go behind it to make any adjustments
- Point the engine away from others before advancing to full throttle
- At idle, does the engine note drop when the glow-lead is disconnected? – Usually points to idle mixture set incorrectly
- Only adjust the main needle when the throttle is fully open and never with the glow attached
- On full throttle, raise the nose to at least 60 degrees and wait for ten seconds – if the engine falters the mixture is too lean
- When operating the transmitter, does the throttle move over the full range of movement?
- Does the engine stop at full idle and full idle trim?
- A maximum of four aircraft in the air at any one time
- Takeoff into wind and upwind from the last parked car
- Are there any cars, cyclists or pedestrians on the road?
- Is any other flyer about to land?
- Is anyone standing out on the strip?
- Have you called ‘Taking off’?
- Remember to call “Landing” if others are flying or about to take off
- Do not circle or fly through the approach area if others are landing
- It is acceptable to stand behind the model for takeoff, but walk to the side of the strip as soon as possible afterwards.
- If others are flying, stand reasonably close to them (but not so close as to obstruct their view or spear them with your aerial!) 6 feet apart is about right.
- If you have to retrieve your model from the field do not take your transmitter with you
Assessment of wind and weather conditions
- I would always recommend that a ribbon be attached to the aerial. It is an excellent way of continually checking the wind direction. The convention for 35MHz is a white or orange ribbon (its coloured ribbons for 27MHZ but this frequency has largely died out now)
- No matter how keen you are do not fly if the wind is above ’moderate’ or across the strip
- Check also the visibility and cloud base – can you see the pylons towards Hatcliffe?
- If it starts to rain you’d probably want to stop flying, but even drizzle will rapidly penetrate transmitters and cause a loss of signal, don’t risk it.
- Once in the air, keep a check on the aerial ribbon for a shift in wind direction – it happens more often than you think!
- Avoid, like the plague, flying into the sun, even with sunglasses there is a loss of vision for a few vital seconds after you’ve followed the model into the sun.
- The best view of the model (highest contrast) will occur when you are placed between the model and the sun. Conversely the poorest view (lowest contrast) will be when the model is between you and the sun. Unfortunately there is no colour scheme which can help here, what is good for one type of conditions will be bad for another, and remember they all turn black with distance!
Take off procedure, power and trimming
- Get into the habit of taxiing with full up elevator applied, it helps prevent the model from nosing over – this is relevant to a tricycle undercarriage too – the thrust of the engine is trying to overcome the drag of the nose wheel, pulling the prop into the ground.
- Are you directly into wind?
- Are you ahead of the parked cars/pits?
- Is the road clear?
- Is anyone in the circuit for landing?
- Have you called ‘Takeoff’?
- If all is clear, apply full power, a little up elevator to stop from nosing over, steer a straight line with rudder and once the estimated flying speed for flight has been achieved, a little more up elevator to lift off.
Get into these golden habits, they will serve you well throughout your model flying life:
- Use full power for take off, do not freeze on the throttle just because the model has started to accelerate
- Keep climbing straight into wind until circuit height has been achieved (about 100 – 150’). In your early days of flying resist all attempts by the model to turn out of the wind until it’s at a safe height.
- Do not allow the climb to get too steep (the speed will fall off and if it gets too low a stall is inevitable) a 15 degree climb out is about right for most models
- Once circuit height has been achieved, level off and throttle back to cruise power. Levelling off and continuing with full power is the classic mistake made by most pupils and immediately leads to an excessively fast and agile aeroplane which invariably is too difficult for the novice to handle.
- Trim the elevator at cruise power to maintain level flight; the trims are there to be used and are every bit as essential as the main sticks – there hasn’t been an aeroplane yet which hasn’t required re-trimming whenever a substantial change of power is applied
- Once you’ve got the power reduced (and trimmed for level flight) check the lateral trim. Does the model want to keep turning in the same direction? If so use aileron trim (or rudder trim if rudder is the primary control) to adjust for straight flight.
- Early understanding and use of the trims will speed the learning process considerably – failure to use the trims means that you the pilot have to apply a steady pressure to both sticks simultaneously just to maintain straight and level flight. This is almost an impossible skill to develop in the early stages. The results of an untrimmed model are one that either climbs or dives all the time, or turns – most probably both!
- Flying around all over the sky, if not intentional, is probably a result of not following the power adjustment and trimming procedure described above. It’s forgivable for the model to cavort across the sky until it’s under control (which means cruise power and trimmed!) This should not however take many seconds to achieve, then you can concentrate on flying circuits.
- Circuits can be rectangular or oval, but the intention should always be to fly with reference to the centreline of the strip i.e. fly directly over the strip along the extended centreline at about 150’ height. At the upwind end of the strip (your instructor will tell you the point this should be) make a gentle turn and fly downwind parallel to the centreline, and maintaining the same height. At the downwind end (again your instructor will point this out) turn once more and level out so as to fly once more directly over the strip.
- Turns too steep
- Adopting tunnel vision and losing the reference of the centreline
- Failing to make incremental adjustments to power to maintain correct height
- Not making allowances for the wind strength and direction ( being blown out of line)
- Disorientation with the model flying toward you (applying left when its already banking left!)
I’ve just mentioned turning too steeply, during the early days, all your turns should be carried out as gently as possible and with an absolute maximum bank angle of 45 degrees. Any greater than this and the model is going to get out of control. Think about it, the model is trimmed for level flight, if the wings are banked there is less lift, which means that the nose will go down unless elevator is used to compensate. The greater the bank angle, the greater the loss of lift, the tighter the turn and the more elevator control that must be applied to prevent the aircraft from losing height. All this is great fun once you have mastered the basics, but in the early days you should concentrate on keeping the bank angles as small as possible so that the aircraft does not lose height with every turn.
Preparation for landing
Flying circuits is excellent fun but there comes a point in all flights, usually dictated by the dwindling contents of the fuel tank, when you must prepare to land! (Remember – take-offs are optional, but landings are compulsory!)
- Reduce power to ‘descent power’, this will vary from model to model but can be judged by the aircraft slowing down from the cruise power setting, adopting a slight nose down attitude and the aircraft descending. In any event the throttle stick will be down to about ¼ open.
- Re-trim the elevator to arrest most of the descent, the aircraft will slow down further and because of the reduced speed, start descending again
- Observe the rate of descent and make small power changes to maintain a descent rate which will follow a line right to the threshold
- At the same time, make turn corrections to keep the aircraft flying along the extended centre line
- If you are happy with the descent and position, as the altitude reduces to a height of about 4 feet, reduce power to minimum and feed in up elevator to flare – sounds easy I know but is frustratingly difficult to get right!
- Of course, no one can learn to fly by reading instructions, there is no substitute for practice, practice and more practice but by reading and remembering all that is written here, you will have assimilated the basics, and be prepared for the lessons that your instructor will cover.
Your instructor will show you how to fly the aircraft into the correct position to commence the approach, however the technique that will be adopted is as follows:
Common mistakes during landing
- Joining the approach too close to the strip so that there is insufficient time to make corrections Joining the approach well out of line with the centreline – at Beelsby this often results in landing in the crop rather than on the strip Allowing the model to ‘dive’ at the threshold, the speed will be too great, any aircraft will only land correctly when it’s speed is reduced to the point where it can no longer sustain lift. ‘Flying’ the model onto the strip will inevitably leads to bounces and perhaps damage
- Not re-trimming once the throttle has been reduced – usually results in the model diving as above
- Note: when the power is reduced, the model will slow down and drop the nose to some degree, this can be corrected by either retrimming the elevator, or if you would rather, by holding in a slight amount of ‘up’ elevator to compensate. Failure to do either will always result in the nose dropping and the speed increasing and making a dive for the ground – exactly what you do not want on the approach. Try to remember, ‘power’ controls the rate of descent (or ascent) and ‘elevator’ controls the pitch attitude. We want the attitude to remain the same during the approach as in normal flight, so if the power is reduced and the nose is not to drop, a little ‘up’ elevator must be introduced to maintain the same pitch attitude. I’m labouring this point because most students initially fail to maintain the correct pitch attitude and just accept the nose-down, speed increasing, situation that occurs when the power is reduced for landing. The result is usually ‘landing’ well short of the strip and very fast, ouch!
- Tunnel vision – concentrating on what the model is doing but not where it is in relation to the centreline
- Failing to flare – the descent is going to be in a slight nose down attitude but must be converted to a slight nose up attitude just before touch down, this means reducing to minimum power and applying some up elevator to lift the nose, but not so much as to cause the model to climb.
Post flight checks
- Assuming that the model is safely back on the ground, what next?
- If you can taxi back to the pits, fine, it’s good practice even on the ground for sorting your left from right – remember to apply up elevator to keep the tail on the ground and don’t let the speed build up, you don’t want an unexpected takeoff!
- Stop the engine by full idle plus full idle trim
- Switch off the model before the transmitter; again remember, it’s transmitter on first and off last.
- If any of the trims are anywhere near maximum, now is a good time to adjust the control surface clevises and reset the trims.
- Finally, and especially if the landing was a touch hard, check there are no cracks anywhere, the control surfaces are still firmly attached and the wings have not been jolted into misalignment.
All OK? Have a cup of coffee, relax and savour the moment!