learn to fly first rc airplane

Okay I know. I should advice anyone to start flying with an instructor… But what if you can’t find an instructor? This is how I started… on my own.

First of all get familiar with the basic flight manoeuvres: pitch, yaw and roll. How does a plane stay up in the air? How does it turn, land, … and so on. You should know how the control surfaces of your plane should move to make it go where you want to. This will require you to study. Do this on those bad weather days.

Then make yourself a cheap an easy to build trainer. Go for an over powered high wing, RET (rudder, elevator, throttle) trainer model that will basically fly itself. The high wing and dihedral make it fly stable and recover to level flight as soon as you let go of the sticks. It will require your input only for the turns (yaw using rudder) and take off/landing (pitch+throttle). A good model to start with is the blu baby primary trainer.  Also something to do on bad weathers days.

Once you know how an airplane flies and you made yourself a nice, cheap, easy repairable foamie and weather cleared up you can go off to your safe flying field. Start with taxiing your plane around on the ground. If it takes off slow down (back on throttle) so it touches the ground again. Get a feel of the rudder. At low speeds it won’t react that good but at least you’ll get familiar with it. You’ll need it to correct from the motor pulling your plane into one direction. Don’t start throwing your plane into the air. You’ll need time to get to the right controls and when the model isn’t launched properly you just won’t be in time to save it from crashing into the ground.

Once you can control it over te ground hopping around and you feel comfortable prepare for take off. Always check your batteries, range, control surfaces… everything that needs your attention before taking off. Check the web for preflight checklists. To take off you must always run it into the wind, go full power and it should take off. If not you have a design failure, it’s probably to heavy, or the wings don’t generate enough lift. You need to go into the wind because then the wind creates airflow over the wings generating lift. This way you already have lift at lower ground speeds.

Now go towards a safe hight first. On take off that should always be your first concern. Get some altitude so you can make errors and still have time to recover. A 3 mistake hight is perfect. Remember that you gain altitude using your motor. The elevator alone won’t make your plane go up. It only changes the angle of attack. It’s the propeller that pushes the airplane forward generating airflow over the wings resulting in lift. And that is what makes your airplane gain altitude.

At some point you’ll have to make your first turn. That is if you want to see your model back. On turning your plane you’ll notice that it will loose altitude just to make a turn. This is due to the enlarged drag of the deflecting control surfaces and the change in direction of the airplane itself. To compensate for this you can put in some up elevator (and throttle when not already at full speed). Practice your turns an keep up your height.

Now what we really want is to reduce the power and get to a comfortable level flight. For this the model will require some trimming. In fact every model (and every modification to your model) will require trim. Even the weather is involved but for the beginning I would advice to only fly at low winds, bright skies. Practice to slow down your model without losing altitude. You might have to put in some up elevator. Just be careful not to stall it yet. That is the next step!

Stalling your plane, or better to avoid it, is an important step to master your plane. Especially on landings you’ll need to fly it at a high angle of attack and low speed, just above your planes stall speed. To do this you need to know at which speed it stalls. Practice stalling your model at a proper height. Once you master it’s speed you can try landing and focus on keeping your wings level and the right landing spot.

And if you can land your plane properly you can take off again and again. Have lots of fun doing so!

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