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Learning to Fly - Simulators

Simulators are an excellent training aid - read more about how to use them to accelerate your learning and reduce your crashes.

How can they help you learn - ever wondered how best to use your simulator, wonder no more.

Whilst I've only ever owned one RC simulator, I have had many an hour with most of the popular sellers. They can all help - some better than others - but the key to success is regular planned practice. Your first goal should be to get the simulator as close to your models flight characteristics as possible. You will find this to be a 'continuous' exercise. You may have the simulator 80% right in the first few hours, but it could take a year to improve it by another 10%. For the complete novice the simulator can only be known to match your models hovering. As your flying skills develop you will realise the simulator can match more and more of your models flight envelope. There should come a point where you feel 100% confident that what the simulator does the model does. Once you have reached this stage you know you can learn anything on the simulator before you risk trying it on the model.

I think many people have owned more than a few simulators, and believe the latest is the greatest - but has the latest taught them the most. Probably not, regular practice - say 10 minutes a day - in a structured way is the quickest way to progress. As an example of what to practice - if I want to do a clockwise rotating pirouette with the real model, then I practice clockwise and anti-clockwise on the simulator first. I'd try various exercises, such as pirouetting fast, slow and stopping at 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8's - anything that makes me more confident on the simulator. I will also practice escape plans should it not go as planned at the flying field. I will be aware of no fly areas, such as the pits or the 'big oak tree' and will fly appropriately. I'd set up realistic wind conditions on the simulator, both the ones I expect and those which are unexpected. I practice until I know I can do the pirouette on the simulator 100 times over without a single mistake. In RC simulator parlance a mistake is classed as pushing the stick in the wrong direction. Pushing the stick the wrong amount or over correcting is not a problem (that's what you learn on the real thing), its pushing the wrong stick, or the right stick in the wrong direction, that must be avoided. This is the real challenge of learning to fly model helicopters.

Confidence is the important factor when you try that pirouette for real, as any doubts will make the chance of pushing a wrong stick much greater - that's why you have to be 110% confident on the simulator, and this will only come with hours of practice. Once you've tried the process to learn one maneuver, you'll have the method 'wired' and can use it to progress as far as you wish. Whether it be a pirouette, circuit, loop, roll or pirouetting flip the learning method should be the same, always to go further on the simulator than you intend with the model. Your models setup and structural condition should not be discarded, these are very important considerations (particularly for an aerobatic maneuver) and should be right before you try a new maneuver.

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