3D Flight Plan
After a little over a year of rc heli flying, It time to share some of what I've learned on the actual 'flying' side of things. For any new pilots, with dreams of doing 3D someday, this might be helpfull.
As a teacher, i'm always analizing ways to explain things to people better and easy to understand. I found that, now that i'm the 'go to' heli guy at the field, i'm also teaching other heli pilots how to do things.
I've been takeing mental notes of what i've done, and in what order, to get to where my flight skills are at. Also planing what i need to practice now, to get closer to where i want my skills to be. I think its time to share this plan here. It will help the newbies, and also to remind myself, and keep me on track.
(these are 'real life' along with 'sim' excercies)
First step - Get a SIM. Before i even got my first 6ch cp heli, i managed to find and download a free sim (fms) on a hp mini, and used the keys on the keyboard to get an idea of what i was getting myself into. By the time i took my first v400 out of the box, i was comfortable with what the stick controls would do.
Basic Hover - My first 11 flights with a real cp heli was spent in a low hover. Most of which were in my livingroom, so they were low. Never more than 5 - 6 feet up, always at eye level or below, and always tail in. Once comfortable with getting off the ground, holding position, and landing safely, I started the side to side and forward backward tail in patterns. (on the sim, now with a proper sim controler, FMS has a scene with boxes of different hights that i would practise 'tail in' landing on. Also alot of getting used to just flying around and using rudder in turns.)
Side to Side w/some rudder - Now when doing the side to side tail in, i would add some rudder, almost getting into a full side on orientation and always keeping the tail turn in towards me. If the nose started getting to far around my thumbs would start to shake too much for me to control heli. (on the sim my thumbs never shake, so i was practicing forward circles in both directions, figure 8's and nose in hover. My box landing excercises now included side on landings and nose in landings. I would do a routine where i had to land on every box once, in every orientation. If i crashed, i would have to start all over again.)
Long Ovals - fighting my shakey thumbs, i could get the nose in for short periods without flying the heli into the ground. I started doing long side to side ovals, left turns only. I was more comfortable with left turns for some reason. Then i started flying out and turning nose in to fly back. They were'nt perfect ovals, it was closer to the shape a tail belt would look like if you laid it layed it out on the table. I suffered my first crash doing these as i corrected with the wrong direction when coming around to nose in once. I was still only flying eye level and below, and did not have time to react. So once you get turning, take it up a mistake or two. (on the sim, i was doing alot of flying around. Trying different skills like stall turns, flips, rolls, and even inverted forward flight. It is easier to fly around inverted than it is to hover.)
Flying Around - by my 30th flight, i started forward flight circuts. This is also around the time i started videoing my flights. You can see them on my bahamaheli youtube channel. No real patterns, just take it up and fly around. Looking back i can see that i was 'rudder shy', not bringing the tail around enough in a banked turn and 'sliding' off the flight line. I loved trying to make the v400 do flat turns like a coaxial heli. (i'm always 10 steps ahead on the sim. Still working with inverted flight, and also experimenting with backward flight. The controls are similar with inverted forward and normal backward flight. Same goes with inverted backward and normal forward. You just have to get used to the collective and it looks funny. It takes a while for your brain to understand what orientation the heli is in, and what inputs would be the right ones to keep it in the air.)
Small Circles and Piros - when flying big circles and ovals becomes easy, its time to tighten them up. Small controlled circles is not easy, and a piro can get tricky if the heli starts tilting and your not sure what input will correct it. You might make things worse and end up in an off orientation knife edge falling to the ground. This is a good time to work on basic funnels. The set up of the heli, and quality of its parts, will now be put to the test. I'm not sure if its the cg, or the low budget gyro, but the v400 and the m120 have the tendency to lean way back after a quick piro. I dare not do more than one rotation cause it goes from piro to piro flip if not corrected. (after finding some great instructional videos on youtube, my sim could not get any rest. Piro flips and piro travel. Backward flying is very important for piro traveling, which helps alot with orientation in standing piros and later in piro flips. I just wanted to piro everything.)
Repetition - I clocked some serious sim hours, and tried to get flights in as much as I could. With my hectic work and family schedual, I commited my Sunday afternoon/evenings to going to the field and flying as many packs as possible before the sun went down. I got to a point where the sim was to easy, even after switching the the more realistic HelisimRC, and grew tired of practicing on it. I wanted the real thing and my skills grew to the point where I did not have to think about what inputs to use for basic flight. Hovering in all orientations with out wandering is a true test to mastering the basic controls. If the heli got into a weird situation, I could correct in time to save it from doom, and this lead me to wanting to start practicing the advanced skills (that I already somewhat mastered on the sim) on the real thing. But, as we all know, the real thing is alot more intimidating than the sim. So I started breaking down the different skills that I would need to learn in order to make advanced skills more comfortable for me. Small steps that would get me where I wanted to go. For example, transitions. If you want to hover inverted, you must first be comfortable getting the heli upsidedown. So, lets continue.....
Loops - You know you want to do it, so you just go for it. They will be sloppy at first, but once you learn how to properly use the collective pitch, and start makeing the transitions from positive to negitive smoother, you will be looping like crazy. I found that loops that started tail in were doing great, but could not bring myself to try a loop from nose in, or even side on in front of me. I would always fly away from me to do a loop. Once I noticed my fear, I started thingking of ways to solve my problem. I will come back to this later.
Rolls - Some guys may start doing rolls before they try loops. I had a bad experience while trying a roll for the second time, and from then on had a fear of doing it again. A tail in half roll will also put the heli in a tail in inverted position, and I am more comfortable in a nose in inverted position. Once again, there is a problem related to fear and being uncomfortable in an orientation. So, I came to the conclusion that, just like learning to hover upright in all orientations was the challange for basic flight, being able to hover inverted in all orientations would be my advanced challange.
Transitions - At first, you might only learn one way to get the heli inverted, usually a half back flip or half aile roll. For me the half back flip was easiest because thats how I started learning to do loops, and a half rolls put me in a tail in inverted hover that I'm not as comfortable with. So for many flights I would do half backs and even half front flips as they both put me in nose in inverted hover. I would practice big transitions, using alot of collective, and small quick flip backs, using more elevator. A key setup issue when getting inverted is the pitch curve. Now your negitive curve has to be as smooth as the positive side, and most importantly make sure you have enough negitive pitch to punch back over to positive. If not, it will be hard to keep a stable inverted hover, or impossible to recover and get back to upright position. I had this happen when I first started flight testing my 600. I went for a half back to inverted hover a little lower than I should have been, and full negitive was not giveing me enough pitch to even hold a hover. I did a quick (more elevator, less collective) flip back in the nick of time. So double check with a pitch guage, and always do the first one high up, just in case. You might have also forgotten to flip the switch into stunt mode......
Here is a list of all the basic transitions to get the heli inverted and back:
TAIL IN - Half Back to nose in inverted
- Half Front to nose in inverted
- Half Roll Right to tail in inverted
- Half Roll Left to tail in inverted
NOSE IN - Half Roll Right to nose in inverted
- Half Roll Left to nose in inverted
- Half Back to tail in inverted
- Half Front to tail in inverted
LEFT SIDE (tail east) - Half Back to tail west inverted
- Half Front to tail west inverted
- Half Roll Right to tail east inverted
- Half Roll Left to tail east inverted
RIGHT SIDE (tail west) - Half Back to tail east inverted
- Half Front to tail east inverted
- Half Roll Left to tail west inverted
- Half Roll Right to tail west inverted
Alot more work than just learning the basic upright hovering, right. And I'm not including the diagonals (the brain should just round the diagonal angle off to the closest orientation).
Its important to practice smooth, controled transitions. Dont just throw the heli over and then correct to stay level. Big collective heavy transitions become 'rainbows' and quick cyclic transitions will become 'tic tocs'. Once you can effortless do all of these, and add some inverted forward/backward flight circles, and do it with style, you are a 3D pilot. The next step is to get the tail involved by piroing while in transition. I started trying half piro flips, but found that I was not comfortable enough with the tail in inverted orientation, so I went back to basics. These are the things I practice, inbetween just haveing fun and flying around, which I can now do inverted (right turn only). There are alot of vids on youtube that inspire me to get back on the sim, but until I get a good sim i'll rather practice the basics on the real thing. 'Skid walking' is something I wanna try soon, but need to stock up on more 325mm blades first.
I hope this helps someone, and saves them the frustration of trail and error.
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