When you have made all your final preparation, and your instructor has carried out those final checks, the moment will arrive when you will discover whether all the meticulous care and attention you have put into your pride and joy has been worth it. Although you will not be flying the RC scale model aircraft yourself, seeing it take to the air for the very first time can the most exciting moment of the whole process of learning to fly.
Having eliminated any obvious problems, your instructor will be ready to fly the model. Just stand back and enjoy the sense of elation as your instructor puts the model through its paces. Do not worry if you see him making adjustments on the transmitter trims during this flight. Very few brand-new models will fly absolutely straight and level without some slight adjustments here and there. After a few circuits, the instructor will probably be ready to bring the model in for its first landing. This can be one of the most critical moments for an untried model, as no one can know exactly how it is going to handle on its first landing approach. Having said that, unless they are dramatically out of trim or overweight, most trainers are relatively simple to land and the event should pass without incident.
Once the scale model aircraft is back in the pits area, the motor stopped, receiver and transmitter switched off, you can stand back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Do not forget to think your instructor for his expert handling of your model. Now you know that it flies, there is nothing to stop you from becoming a successful model aircraft pilot. This is the point at which your instructor will go through a “postmortem” of the flight and will show you how to make any changes to the linkages that may be necessary to incorporate the trim changes made during the flight. This means that the next time the model takes to the air, all the trim levers (apart from the throttle trim) on your transmitter should be centralized, with the model flying “hands off” in the straight and level attitude. It should be possible to set your model flying straight and level into the wind, let go of the transmitter sticks and, providing the wind conditions are reasonably light and smooth, expect it to fly exactly as it has been set.
Your instructor may want to give the model several test flights before he is ready to hand over the transmitter to you. Be patient! There are very good reasons for this approach. Your instructor will want to be, absolutely certain that you have the best opportunity to control the model effectively once you take over. If he is struggling to control the model, then you more than likely will also struggle; that is the last thing you need when you are learning. If this is the sum total of achievement during this first visit to the flying field, you will have had a successful day. The model is proven, your instructor is satisfied with its flight characteristics and you go home with your airplane intact. Your patience will be rewarded with the opportunity of your first hands on experience the next time out. Also you will have had an opportunity to discuss the model’s handling traits with your instructor. If you take with you a note pad and pen you can write down any important points to remember.
Whether your first hand-on experience occurs on the same day as your test flights or not, it will certainly be a memorable event for you. Although you are likely to have control for only a few minutes during this first flight, savour it; it is a special occasion and you will feel a sense of pride and elation. You will probably be very nervous, too, and may give your instructor a few moments of trepidation. Try not to panic – your instructor is right there at your side, ready to take over if you get yourself into a situation from which you cannot recover. Try to remember that control inputs from the transmitter need not be excessive. Over-controlling will lead to problem situations, whereas gentle control movements will create wide, smoother manoeuvres that will give you time to think about your next control input. Your instructor will be talking to you all the time, giving you advice on how to get the model to fly in a controlled manner and to be where you want it to be.
Flying a scale model aircraft is all about making it do what you want it to do, and not simply reacting to the model going where it wants to go and then trying to get it back under control. Once the model is safely back on the ground after your first hands-on experience, it is time to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the sense of achievement. Discuss the event with your instructor and try to learn from any errors you made during your time in control. As with any acquired skill, the more practice you get, the quicker you will succeed and the more competent you will become.
This is a slightly updated version of an article originally published on “Flying RC Airplanes” – flyingrcairplanes.com