How to go about that dreaded maiden flight!
Hey all, this question comes up every once in a while in various forums, the question being just what does one consider when flying a new plane for the 1st time? I posted the response below in Parkflyers, but one of the guys suggested (and I agree) that it would be appropriate for this forum as well, so here it is! I've modified it a little to make it more generic than what I posted on PF. Please note that this is not the "conclusive" procedure as individuals have slightly different approaches. I welcome anyone else to share their own thoughts on maiden flights too.
The best option is to locate an experienced R/C pilot. The hardest part of any first flight is trimming the plane. That is best left in expert hands. Even experts have trouble with it sometimes! One of the most seasoned pilots I've seen had a 2nd person trim while he was flying, he called out the trim changes and the 2nd person made them so he never had to remove his hands from the sticks. Granted this is pretty extreme, most planes (especially slowflyers) don't require that.
If you're going it alone, find a BIG field with no obstructions. Preferably with nice tall grass or weeds. 2' tall is perfect. Any shorter and a hard crash will do damage, any taller and you'll have a tough time finding your plane if it goes down! "No obstructions" means no trees, power lines, houses, signs, cars, people... you get the idea! Hopefully this field has either a paved area or hard packed area adjacent to it that you can use for takeoff.
I do not believe in test glides, but I know others do so take this as one possible option. I do my maiden flights under power. I ROG if at all possible, because if something is REALLY wrong (like a reversed servo) then I can cut power and land with no damage. Cutting power from a hand toss means the plane will fall at least 4' and can take damage that way. If you insist on hand tossing for your 1st flight, do it over that nice, tall grass.
Check everything at home! Then check it again! Then check it again at the field! Check to make sure nothing is loose including all gear, the battery pack, the wing, the tail, the prop, etc. Make sure your throws are correct. Triple check that the surfaces are moving the right way!
Collapse your antenna, move away and range check the plane at the field with and without power (you anchored the plane to something, right? ). Make sure there's no surface fluttering.
Ready to fly? Turn on everything and check those surfaces AGAIN! I check them every time I fly. It has saved me from a sure accident more than once. Control horns have a way of working loose over time. Also if you use a computer radio, verify control directions each flight. You might -think- you've got the right model selected on the memory, but it never hurts to check those surface movements anyway! Start up your timer or stopwatch.
Point it into the wind (fly with as little wind as possible that 1st time, shouldn't be more than a breeze), ease on the throttle and watch her go! Do not try to trim while you're low. Do what you need to do to get up 2 or 3 mistakes high, but don't take those thumbs off the sticks until you're up there. Throttle back for level flight and center the sticks. Click in whatever trim is needed to get it to fly straight and true.
Don't test duration on your 1st flight. Land with plenty of battery left. Land in the soft grass your first few flights. Make a low pass first, approach like you plan on landing, keep her 4 or 5' up, fly by, throttle up and circle around for the real landing. On the real landing, make sure you're pointed into the wind, ease the throttle down (but not off) into a uniform descent, add in a little throttle to slow your descent as you approach the ground, land and shut the power off. Turn off your stopwatch.
Pat yourself on the back
Run your pack all the way out to see how much time you had left. Subtract about two minutes and that is your target time to start your landing approach on future flights.
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