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Learning to Fly 3d - now were talking !!!

3D has done more for this hobby in the last few years than any other aspect. It is providing the new growth, the influx of young blood and 30 somethings that want to try something new and exciting - and what better than making a helicopter do the unexpected in a controlled and repeatable way.

The first article deals with learning which stick to push, and whether you'd rather be doing something more sensible like F3C.

The second part deals with advice on using the collective during aerobatics - much of this can be practised on a simulator.

3d or F3C - and learning which stick to push
Some beleive that 3d is the quick way to the max fun and the ultimate satisfaction as well as being the obvious way to show your skills or make an
impression, (and the only way, if you believe the majority of spectators think hovering is boring and 3d is what they want). The trouble is, it's the most expensive form of flying as you have the greatest chance of crashing and are placing the most stress on the helicopter. But, it can be learnt with the minimum of risk in terms of pushing the wrong stick, and that leaves your building skills or the models reliability as potential problems.

F3C can be a much safer easier way to learn to fly with the best of them. But for me it doesn't have the same fun factor of 3d. I should also mention that some kits have problems, some more than others, the time to find out about the problems is before you buy not after. Heli kits are only just becomming a well understood commodity and the designers/flyers are still finding things out which help them build more reliable and durable kits. Design is only one part though, the quality of manufacture is also very important. The Japanese and Germans seem to be the best at this.

Now, I should say even if you only want to do F3C, 3d still has a tremendous amount to teach you (even if only on the sim), both in helicopter setup (which can be directly equated to f3c) and flying. To me the very first goal is to be 99% in control of the model at all times. Now you probably rememeber when learning to hover you were initially in control 0%, then it went to 10% etc, and hopefully for tail in hovering its now up to 90 - 100%.

Well next is nose in, so maybe you start 10% in control, you must now get that up to 99%, by all means push the stick the wrong amount, but never push the stick in the wrong direction. Then you go to get side on hovering sussed, and that's in both directions. Etc etc, all the time building up on your skills. In effect 100% control means never pushing a wrong stick in ANY situation. Guilliame Hatory and Curtis Youngblood are probably closest to this.

Now the best way to learn all this is on a simulator, if I was teaching someone to learn to hover, then with the real model I would have them start off in the tail in position, telling them not to lift the model more than 1cm off the ground, once good at that, they lift it 5cm, then 10cm then 1foot, etc always building it up. BUT before they even try this with the real model they are best off having 100% mastered the hover on the simulator, and that is including: tail in, nose in, side on, 45 degrees on, piroetting left and piroetting right.

Another words for 3d you should always aim to be many steps ahead on the simulator compared to what your trying in real life. Then when you go for nose in for real, on the simulator you should be flying circles around yourself (nice slow controlled hovering circles). Before you try a stall turn for real, on the sim you should be doing loops and rolls, in all different directions, and also set up with different winds making many permutations, all of which you must be 100% proficient at on the simulator never pushing the wrong stick. The pirouetting loop took me about 2 hours to do one, but another 8 hours to do them without ever crashing (unless trying it in a new way).

Also plan an escape route and practise it on the sim before trying for real, try it on the sim with a more powerful quicker model and also with a slowler, heavier model. Also try with the gyro turned as low as you can. Now I had an XL 60 once, and it was the helicopter I first did a piroetting loop with back in May 1995. The piroetting loop is a very risky stunt, and you may think no use to an f3c pilot, well it was to me, because I had been practising it on the simulator long before I tried it for real, and all that practise came in to play before I did a real one. I won't go into background detail too much, but my xl wasn't a very good one, and ate lots of money and time. On the plus side it had over 50 hours flying before it first crashed and that was mostly 3d flying, but it did have several mechanical failures so had a tendency to fall out the sky. There I was one day doing a low level 540 stall turn (low level is traveling flips at 3-10ft and pullouts of loops or stall turns etc at 8ft), when just as the model was knife-edge doing the 540 the tail pitch control wire snapped, causing the tail to start spinning round at warp factor 9, against the main rotor torque. I often practised pirouettes (and piroetting flips) as fast and slow as possible on the simulator, and that practise came into play to get the heli down in one piece - in fact it came down so smooth no one knew there was a problem!!

So the first big gem of knowledge is to use a simulator, and not just for 10 minutes here and there, but as a structured learning tool. You should always be pushing your flying on to new levels as you achieve each goal with 100% success. Always try each trick in all different permutations. Intially anything new should be very frusting and seammingly impossible, but after and hour or ten, it should get better and better, you know your learning as you push the wrong stick less and less. This is all to get 100% confidence so when your flying your mind NEVER thinks what stick to push, it just happens, and you push the right one everytime - if you stop to think, you fluster, and you push the wrong one.

A big question is which simulator - I'd say the one you have first, but if buying today, get a second hand aerochopper, with ver2 of the software: a: its cheap now, b: its still the best - aerochopper is the only simulator that gives spacial awareness. Its no coincidence that Guilliaume Hastoy (a great piroetting 3d pilot) learnt his craft on aerochopper, it's the only one that really lets you learn and then relate that spacially to the real model. I know so many think the newer sims are the ones to have, but most of those people originally had aerochopper (learnt nothing with it, because they didn't use it), sold aerochopper for csm (learnt nothing with it, because they didn't use it), sold csm for realflight (won't learn nothing with it, because they will sell it before they use it . . . . . . .).

I would take their opinions, look at the most technically difficult flying you know and find out how they learnt to do it. Most of the f3c pilots in uk are in control perhaps 60% of the time during an aerobatic manouver, sure during a loop, they can use the tail and airleron during the bottm half, but once inverted they can't use them to correct for wind because they don't know what direction to push.

Well Curtis Youngblood etc know what way to push what stick at all times, once a pilot has this sussed, then its only how much to push the stick which needs to be learnt - but you won't crash by pushing too much in the right direction. Any way that sums up the mental preparation of flying, and that all heli's are a mind game. You have to train your mind to do well. Another good exercise is to use your weaker hand for everyday activites to wake up the sleepy side of your brain.

Next step, the safe recovery from a vertical dive (includes stall turn and loop recovery) . . . .

Collective - When and How to use it
Now lets talk about the collective and how best to use it for a flip or loop. There's only a couple of things to say, but they are very important as they may well save you from a few crashes. A smooth exit to a vertical manouver (e.g. last quarter of a loop) usually has a constant'ish amount of back elevator and then a gradual feed in of collective, with the model's blades/disk never getting horizantal as the model should finish the manouver straight into fast forward flight.

The trouble with feeding in collective early/or first is that it increases the momentum of the heli, and makes it more likely to dive into the ground - fine if you're a well practised pilot, confident in what your doing and have enough height. But if your trying something for the first time or are deliberately trying to get as low as possible in a controlled and adjustable manner, then collective is the last thing you should feed in. See as soon as you add full collective in a dive you loose all say over what height the model will recover at. By using rear elevator to start levelling the model and then feeding in collective you can judge the height to a foot off the ground - at the end of the loop, rather than at the beginning.

The trick works in reverse to let you do slow stall turns. Fly along, low (but try high first), and start easing back elevator to pull into a stall turn, then punch the collective to full, resetting it to zero when the heli is vertical, that punch will drag the heli up into a neat looking stall turn. Now, going back to the collective first f3c loop, the heli's blades/disk always seems to be slightly behind the path of flight e.g. when exciting the blades don't return to horizantal yet the heli is flying along horizantal.

With a 3d elevator first loop then the blades/disk always seem to be ahead of the path of flight, thus letting the collective give full control over the height of the model. It's worth practising those different ways of doing a loop/stall turn on the simulator and seeing the effect. You might also try 3d flips with the slowest roll rate possible so you have to put the collective in the perfect position to avoid losing height.

Death dives are recovered from on the cyclic first, then when 45 degrees off level the collective is entered.

To sum up the collective in 3d, if your close to ground whether deliberate or accidental, and you fear a confrontation with mother earch, then level with the cyclic first, before you feed in the collective.

More to follow soon . . . .


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