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Introduction to flying an RC Plane #7 - Your First Flight

Written by Thomas

The day has come! You have done the hard yards on the simulator (at least I hope you have) and you’re ready to take to the skies!

The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t fly if you’re not ready or if the weather is not favourable. It’s easy to get excited and just go for it! Most hobbyists will agree that at one point they have pushed the envelope to their demise!

Here is a checklist to do before flying:

  1. Have you spent enough time on a flight simulator?
  2. Is the weather right?
    • Low wind
    • No rain
  3. Are you flying at a large field or open space where you have plenty of room for mistakes?

Check the following on your plane

  • Control horns are connected properly
  • Servos are connected to the control rods correctly
  • The servo wires and motor wires are seated in the receiver correctly and not loose
  • The motor is mounted with no play
  • The prop is installed correctly and spinning in the right direction
  • Checking that the CG is right
  • The model battery is charged and secured properly
  • The transmitter battery is charged
  • When operating the transmitter, the control surfaces go in the right direction
  • The control surfaces are in-line with the wing, rudder or elevator when in the neutral position or; they're in the right position as per the manufacturers specifications (some aircraft require a slight upwards orientation for the elevator to fly level)

Taking Off

When taking off, ensure you take off in to the wind and you have plenty of space with no objects in the way.

If you have to hand launch your model, make sure you have someone to assist in hand launching the model for you. This will make it much easier and safer for you. Remember to give the model a good toss at about 45 degrees with the throttle on at 3 quarters or more.

If you're taking off from the ground, make sure the grass is not too long or your plane will nose over and potentially damage the prop or engine mount (if your motor is on the front).

Flying Around

You may find once you're in the air that your model might want to climb, ascend or turn without any commands from you. This is mainly due to trimming. This is where someone at the field with you will come in handy as they can adjust your radio as you fly. Otherwise, don't attempt to adjust the radio while you're in the air as you will most likely crash!

Land your plane and adjust the trim on the relevant control surface. Remember to only do this a little at a time to avoid over adjusting which may cause a crash.

Once you have your plane trimmed right, just relax and fly your plane in circles until you have a good feel for it. Try to gain some altitude so if you make a mistake, you have plenty of time to react and correct things.

Voluntary Stall

Once you have a feel for the plane, take it up reasonably high and try and put the plane in to a stall. This is simply done by flying level, backing off the throttle to zero and slightly pulling up on the elevator. The plane will go nose up and fall after stalling. It's good to know how the plane behaves in a stall. Some aircraft stall violently and others quite docile. If you have gone with one of the models we have outlined earlier in this series: Your First Plane, the stall will be docile with the nose dropping predictably.

However, depending on what plane you have chosen, you may go in to what is called a tip stall. This is where a wing falls in a stall which can be a little more scary as you need to know how to react. This is why you need to have plenty of room for error by gaining altitude.

To get out of a stall (where you have done the right thing and gained enough altitude), simply put the plane in a nose down position and throttle up! Also, provided you're flying on a low wind day, this will work. The only time it will not work if the wind is abnormally high and your model is under powered. If you don't fly in to the wind, you may not be able to recover from a stall in these instances because there is not enough lift being generated because you're flying with the wind...

Landing

Landing can be scary but if you have put in the time on the simulator you will be able to do this easily. Also, by understanding when and how your plane stalls, you have a good idea how fast you need to some in for a landing.

Just like taking off, you need to land in to the wind! This is very important because it can effectively lower your landing speed with enough wind and it creates stability too!

Make sure you have plenty of room to land and that there is no-one standing around you. You can do a quick check by flying your plane to where you would like to look on the field (don't look away from the plane, simply take it to where you want to see if someone is there).

Most beginner planes are designed with predictable flying characteristics. One characteristic is the ability to glide without any throttle. If this is the case for your model aircraft, try to land without any throttle. It may take a few attempts to learn what angle you need to come in for a landing without stalling too early.

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