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Learning to Fly - Initial Flights for a Beginner

But first, here is a series of articles to get beginners into the air.

So your ready to start hovering your helicopter.

First thigs first, you followed the advice in our getting started section, and you have a well built, test flown and trimmed out model helicopter - let's begin.

Before your first flight it is good practise to set the model down in your living room, and practise (with the engine stopped) which transmitter control controls the helicopter. This really will accelerate your learning curve substantially.

First Flights
For your first flights a training under carriage is essential - I like the stick and balls approach. With these secured safely and the engine started (did you check your frequency was clear and the radio and receiver switched on?) you can now place you model at a safe distance, ready to start feeling the controls.

You should bring the collective/throttle up very very slowly, until the model is just getting light on the skids. As you raise it more, even before the model lifts off the ground it will start moving. This is the ideal position to be in. You are now trying to control the model, and if you don't feel confident then you can easily lower the collective and the model will place it's weight on the ground and stop moving without incident. Always keep the nose pointing away from you whilst learning, as even at 45 degrees off, you will find the cyclic control inputs consfusing without the model facing directly away from you.

If you try to lift the model into the air, then it will quickly move in a 'random' direction, and you will not know how to stop it - and unfortunately the ground will step in to help stop it where you could not. At this stage of learning altitude is your enemy. The safest, quickest and cheapest way to learn to hover is not to allow the model to lift more than an inch off the ground for the first half gallon. At this height you can learn all you need to hover a tank out ina controlled way with zero risk.

You will repeat this process of getting the model light on the skids, watching it start to move, attempting to put a control in to stop it moving and then lowering it back to ground, many times. The learning will be, that each time you get it light on the skids, it will stay still for longer and longer as you learn to operate more controls at the same time, and with less thinking before acting. After only a gallon, you may be able to hold the heli in a 3 x 3 meter area between 1 and 12 inches off the ground. At all times if the model feels out of control you can easily lower it back to ground before it starts to move too fast.

Most beginners suffer the first crash because the model got too high too soon. If your not comfortable hovering at one foot off the ground, you will be even less comfortable at 6 foot.

Once you can keep the model in a 1 x 1 meter square, for a minute at a time, then you can consider gaining more altitude.

First Sustained Hover
At this stage you still want to keep the model at low altitude, perhaps between 1 and 2 feet. You will quickly find you can hover it for a whole tank in this height range without it moving too far off a central spot. You will probably acheive this after only 2 gallons of flying. Those two gallons should only take 2 weeks.

The barriers to acheivng this are generally crashing - and the only way you are going to crash using the above method is if you go too high too soon. If you get confused on the controls with the model at 6 foot, it will pick up a lot of speed before you have lowered it back to ground.

At this point you might start thinking of hovering it at 12 foot and trying circuits. It is a good idea to very gradually build your height to a maximum of about 6-7 foot, just above eye level, but be aware the model will feel very different at this height so be carefull.

If you were to try your first circuit or hovering at higher altitude, then you would need to extend your pitch range to give -5 to +10. However I think your better off leaving it at 0 to 9, and trying the nose in hover . . . . .

Next step - Nose In - DON'T WAIT TILL LATER, DO IT NOW!!!
This is the easiest opportunity you will ever have to learn nose in. You are already a master of learning a new skill, with your safety net being low altidute and a softly set up model. When you got into trouble you just lowered it down. Well this is how you should learn nose-in, while these instincts are still fresh in your mind. Keeping the training undercarriage on, fuel up, start the engine, and this time place it on the ground, nose into wind at a safe distance, but facing you.

The secret to learning nose in is to push the cyclic where you don't want the model to go. Using this brain cheat, you will be hovering nose in, 3 foot off the ground for a whole tank in less than a gallon - I guarantee it!!!

If you decide to try the nose in, make sure you stick with it for at least a gallon - giving it just 5 minutes will be a waste of time - it needs continuous practise.

Once you have the model in control for nose in hovers, gently build the height up to 6-7 foot, and keep practising for another gallon.

Now when you go back to tail in, you will get a shock. You would be so used to nose in, you may have forgotton how to hover tail in. As long as you keep the two seperate you will be ok for the short term. I will discuss how to swap between the two (tail in and nose in) in the next step - coming soon.

Swapping between Tail In and Nose In.
Coming Soon . . .

More advice to follow soon, including;

Hovering Practise - gentle introduction to figures of eight
Time to extend you skills with side on, and simple hovering patterns.

First Circuits
The easy way, with the figure of eight.

Stall Turns - sometimes easier than banking it round a turn
Shallow turn's can be very disorientating, a gentle stall turn however is much easier.


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