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Basic Flight

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Welcome to this month's installment of...

Basic Flight Instruction

By: Andrew S. Rosz

Part 12 - Advanced Maneuvers

In this final installment of our "Basic Flight Instruction" series we will discuss some of the more common advanced maneuvers in R/C flying. We will start by discussing the more simple maneuvers like loops and rolls, and then discuss the progressively more complex maneuvers such as stall turns, spins, and inverted flight.


The Loop - is perhaps the easiest of all advanced maneuvers. To perform the loop, get to a safe altitude with your plane in straight-and-level flight at least half throttle, then gently pull back on the stick while maintaining level wings with your ailerons. As you continue to hold up-elevator, the plane will fly in a complete vertical circle. As easy as the loop may seem, there are two potential dangers to be aware of… 1.) Not having enough air speed when entering the loop; in which case your plane will not complete the loop and you will find yourself recovering from a stall with your plane in a bad attitude. Not fun. 2.) Not maintaining perfectly level wings for the duration of the entire loop. If this occurs, the plane will do a sort of "cork-screw" maneuver as it wildly and forcefully heads toward the ground. Again, you will find yourself recovering from a less-than-desirable situation. To avoid this, just be sure that you keep your hand on the aileron stick and are prepared to use it to make slight corrections as necessary to keep your wings straight-and-level throughout the complete loop. In some loops, you may not even need to touch the ailerons at all. But be prepared to use aileron control if you have to in order to maintain straight-and-level wings. Also note that a properly executed loop has the plane fly through the exact same air space on exit as to where the plane entered the loop. A perfect circle. That’s cool, and they look cool too.


The Aileron Roll - is best suited for planes other than trainers. The maneuver involves adding extreme aileron to one side or the other until the plane does one complete rotation along the axis of its fuselage. Although some trainers are capable of performing an aileron roll, a bit of down-elevator is usually needed as the plane flies through its inverted position in order to maintain a linear flight path. Most low-wing planes with either semi-symmetrical or fully-symmetrical airfoils fly just as well inverted as they do right-side-up. As such, these planes usually need very little down-elevator (if any at all) to perform aileron rolls. To accomplish an aileron roll with a trainer, is advisable to first pitch the nose up a little with your elevator before adding aileron. This way, you are not as likely to lose as much altitude when your roll is complete. Also, most planes do not execute a left-handed (counterclockwise) aileron roll as well as they do a right-handed (clockwise) roll. This is because the spinning propeller (p-factor) causes the plane to naturally turn left during the roll; away from your straight line of flight. With a right-handed roll however, the plane tends to stay on course better and without the use of any rudder whatsoever. Conversely, left-handed aileron rolls often require the use of right-rudder to keep the plane on course and accordingly, the beginner should stick with only right-handed aileron rolls for awhile.


The Snap Roll - involves suddenly adding full up-elevator together with both full aileron and full rudder (either right or left) which will cause the plane to rapidly rotate through one complete revolution in a somewhat "out-out-control" manner. Some people love ‘em, some people hate ‘em. Nevertheless, it’s one of the simplest advanced maneuvers to fly. You’re in it and out of it; usually in less than a second. Beware however that snap rolls can be hard on a plane from a structural point of view. The violent rotating force can often place undue stress on poorly built planes, and planes such as trainers which were not typically designed for this type of maneuver. I’ve seen many a trainer come apart in the middle of a snap roll, but as long as your ship is well-built and structurally sound, executing snap rolls should not present a problem; even with a trainer.


The Immelman Turn - is a great way to change your heading by 180 degrees as well as to gain some altitude in the process. The Immelman turn begins from straight-and-level flight… the pilot begins an upward loop by pulling back on the elevator until the plane reaches the half-loop position. At this point, the plane is inverted but instead of completing the loop, the pilot applies aileron control at or near the top of the loop to get the plane right-side-up. The plane then continues to fly away in a direction exactly opposite from which it came. Important to note is that most beginners should use right aileron at the top of the loop for the same reasons that make right-handed (counterclockwise) aileron rolls easier to execute than left-handed ones. That is, most planes tends to stay on course better with right-handed rolls. Some planes also require that you begin your aileron roll just before the plane reaches the top of the loop so that by the time the plane reaches the top of the loop, it has already righted itself and flies away without losing any altitude whatsoever.


The Split-S Turn - is a more risky way to change your heading by 180 degrees. This type of turn will result in a minimum loss of altitude equal to the diameter of the tightest loop your plane can fly. Here’s what we mean… The Split-S turn is essentially the opposite of an Immelman turn. To fly the Split-S turn… begin from straight-and-level flight WITH PLENTY OF ALTITUDE, perform one-half of an aileron roll (which will place your plane in the inverted position), release the aileron control back to center, then pull back on the elevator (apply up-elevator). The plane will then complete the second-half of a typical loop heading the plane in a direction 180 degrees opposite from which it came (just like the Immelman turn). Be forewarned however that many-a-plane have been lost to a poorly executed Split-S turn. The ground seems to come up awful quick, especially if your wings are anything less than perfectly level throughout the half-loop portion of the maneuver. Accordingly, it’s best to save these turns for later until after you’ve mastered loops and aileron rolls first. Your plane will thank you for it.


The Stall Turn - routinely requires the use of the rudder to execute. Here’s how it’s done… from straight-and-level flight under full power (or something close to full power), pull back on the elevator to put your plane into a vertical climb. Decrease throttle gradually and your plane will come to a stop (while pointing directly upward). After it comes to a complete stop, apply full rudder (either full right or full left is OK) and watch your plane slip to one side as the nose falls toward the earth. Decrease throttle back to idle (if you haven’t done so already) and pull back on the elevator to recover from your dive. You are now heading 180 degrees from the direction in which you came. Stall turns can safely be performed heading both into the wind as well as down-wind. However, down-wind stall turns seem to be somewhat safer since when your plane is recovering from the dive, you will now be heading into the wind with more lift available to help your plane recover back to straight and level flight. Executing Stall turns perpendicular to prevailing wind direction is usually not advised. Proper recovery requires a considerable amount of cross control and the turn simply doesn’t look as nice compared to one in which the wind is parallel to your direction of flight.


The Spin - is not advised for all but the most accomplished pilots. In the opinion of the author, the spin is a maneuver that requires virtually no skill whatsoever to execute. To RECOVER from a spin however is where your skills we be challenged. Fail at recovery and kiss your plane good-bye. To execute a spin, get PLENTY HIGH UP, cut the throttle back to idle and apply full rudder and full up elevator. That’s all there is to it. Now watch as your plane tumbles out of the sky. To recover from a spin, just release all controls back to center and (hopefully) your plane will stop spinning naturally. When it does, simply pull back on the elevator and guide your plane back to straight-and-level flight. To skillfully recover from a spin that heads your plane in the direction which you want it to go (after the spin is complete) takes a considerable amount of practice, and the utmost in timing. After you have seen about a dozen or so planes lost to unrecoverable spins, then decide if you really want to do this maneuver. Rarely do I ever do a spin anymore. They’re too risky and a lousy reason to crash a plane. Further, many planes have a nasty tendency not to recover from a spin, regardless of what the pilot tries to do to recover; and there goes the plane. So will your plane be able to recover from a spin? The only way to find out is to take the risk and try one. If you’re not comfortable with the idea that you just may lose your plane, then forget it. You won’t be missing a thing.


Inverted Flight - is a really cool way to fly an R/C airplane. It simply involves using ailerons to get the plane inverted, and flying it around the sky. Inverted flight is truly the most advanced of all maneuvers presented in this article, and indeed, when you learn to fly inverted (well) you will be able to do most anything with your plane. To control a plane in the inverted position, aileron control remains the same as in "three-channel flying;" that is, to turn left, use left ailerons. However, both rudder and elevator controls are reversed. That is, to gain altitude, you will need to push forward on the stick. Think about it; when the plane is upside down, raising the elevator upward toward the sky requires a reverse of control. Rudder is backwards too. You may also find that you have to hold some constant down-elevator in order to maintain altitude while your plane is flying in the inverted position. This is because most planes will not trim out equally for both right-side-up and inverted flying. When you first learn to fly inverted, it’s best to stick with "three-channel flying" and forget about the use of your rudder for a while. That is, when you are just beginning to learn to fly inverted, just use your elevator and ailerons, and no rudder. Get the feel of what you have to do to keep your plane in the air with just these two controls. The ability to fly coordinated and or cross-control inverted turns will come later and well after you have logged several hours of flight in the inverted position. Once you learn to routinely use rudder in the inverted position, then you can learn to do it all; flat inverted figure-eight’s, knife-edge flight, and inverted flat spins are among the other expert maneuvers that you will be capable of learning. These more-advanced maneuvers will also require a more-aerobatic plane as well. And by now, you have probably set your sights on your next plane. With the right plane and the continued help of your instructor, you can learn to master all the advanced maneuvers as presented in this article as well as many other advanced maneuvers not presented in this "Basic Flight Instruction" series. So practice the maneuvers as presented in this article one at a time; and in the order they appear in this article. Master one maneuver before going on to the next one. By the time you get to inverted flight, you will probably be ready for inverted flight (but check with your instructor to be sure). Learn to fly well… Really well. Keep practicing and may all your R/C flight experiences add to your continued enjoyment of the hobby.


As we conclude this "Basic Flight Instruction" series with this article, I hope you have enjoyed these articles and have used them diligently with your instructor as an integral part of your R/C flight instruction program. These articles have been developed over many years and represent the fundamental wisdom necessary to help the beginning R/C pilot in learning to fly radio controlled model aircraft through a structured program of skills development. As more and more R/C flight instructors now routinely use the information in these articles to train their students, the entire set of twelve articles is available for purchase as a book publication, in one easy reference. As author and publisher, I hope you will purchase the book and support my commitment to the hobby as well as my commitment in helping to make you the best R/C pilot you can possibly be. The book also contains several useful articles and additional information not published elsewhere. Please refer to the "Publisher’s Note" immediately following this article for ordering information, and may all your R/C flights be safe and enjoyable.

Andrew S. Rosz, Author and Publisher

Publisher’s Note: This article is but one of a series of articles written to help the beginning R/C pilot in learning to fly radio controlled model aircraft through a structured program of skills development. The entire set of "Basic Flight Instruction" articles is available as a bound book publication for $20 each (plus $5 shipping and handling).  The book publication also contains other useful tips for both student pilots and flight instructors alike.

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Each month, a new "Basic Flight Instruction" article is featured on this website as a public service to the members of B.C.R.C.A., and to the R/C modeling aircraft community as a whole.  To that end, it is my deepest hope that you will find the information in these articles both useful and informative.

As author and publisher, I sincerely hope you enjoy these articles on "Basic Flight Instruction" and hope you will return to read each monthly installment and consider purchasing my book.  Many people have already told me that it's the best $20 that they have ever spent on R/C.

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