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Learning to Fly a Radio Control Helicopter

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Regardless of the advertising by the manufactures of how easy and ready to fly there radio control helicopters are. There is no pill in the box that instantly gives the new flier the ability to fly a rc heli safely and in control. Taking the time to learn how to handle these machines will not only keep every one safe, but will also be much easier on the pocket book.

Radio Control Helicopters or helicopters of any size are very unstable flying platforms, they require constant input from the pilot to keep them in the air. Much like balancing a pencil on a finger,constant movement is required to keep it from falling over.

There are many ways to learn to fly Radio Control Helicopters. Hands down the best way is with some help and direction from a experienced rc heli flyer. Having a experienced flier help with the set up and initial orientation to how the helicopter flies and works is priceless.

Not all folks have this option available. If you are going it alone my suggestion is to start with one of the inexpensive small electric rc helicopters on the market today.Here is the one i am currently trying to fly.There is sure to be some damage to the heli in the learning curve, having the ability to replace parts easily and inexpensively will allow folks to actually learn without the added stress of if i upset this thing it will cost another $200.00.

If funds allow, purchase a good simulator such as Real Flight or similar. Here crashes result in having to push the reset button to try again.

Purchase or build training gear for your machine. Most suppliers and hobby shops have these available for a wide range of machines. These will minimize blade strikes and upsets in the beginning.

This training guide has been around for some time and has helped many heli pilots get started. Although written for the small electric types, by moving outdoors to a paved or similar smooth surface this system can also be used to learn on a larger machine. The basic principles to learn to fly a radio control helicopter remain the same regardless of size.

Here's another take on the subject from a friend and fellow flier.

PETE’S UNORTHODOX HELICOPTER LEARNING METHOD

Hi guys, I thought a note on how I learnt to fly helicopters might be useful to some. I am assuming here that we are dealing with a RTF, ready to fly, electric helicopter, and someone that has never had a hand on a helicopter before.
One word of warning there is no such thing as a ready to fly helicopter in the hands of a novice. If you think that you are going to give it gas and fly off into the wild blue yonder, forget it, and go back to watching television. If you have seen the experts lift a helicopter out of the grass into a perfectly steady hover without a twitch or a shake just remember that is a long way down the road. You are going to need all of your patience, determination and lots of time to get to that stage.
So for those that are not already watching television here is how I started.
This is intended for a small electric powered heli, NOT a 90 size gas job. My first heli was an Eflite Blade CP. There are two trains of thought on what type of heli should be the first. Those that say you start with a FP, fixed pitch, and graduate to a CP, collective pitch, heli, and those that say “forget it” start with a CP, heli. I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of these types here but I just didn’t want to spend the money on a FP heli that would not grow with me.
So how do we learn to fly a CP heli without a major pain in the wallet? Here is my unorthodox method.
First lesson, spend the money on training gear. Don’t attempt any of this without training gear otherwise the pain in the wallet will become very apparent very fast. Set up the training gear with the center boss centered under the rotor drive shaft.
Find a pencil, paper clip and a piece of string. Hopefully you have a dinning room table with a centre extension. If not a patio table with an umbrella hole in the middle will also work. Tie the pencil to one end of the string. Pull the string up under the table through the gap between the extension, with the pencil underneath. The purpose of the pencil is of course to stop the string pulling up, and something else could be used for this purpose. [At this point in time you will probably encounter protests from your partner. I can’t offer any advice on this, you are on your own here.] Now tie the paper clip to the top end of the string and make a hook that will clip onto the centre of the training gear. The object of the exercise here is to have the length of the string long enough to allow the heli to rise off the table about 6-10 inches without being able to tip over and hit the rotor blades on the table. The whole set-up also has to be strong enough to prevent the heli from flying off.
OK, now your ready to begin. The first exercise is to learn orientation, which way is right and which way is left. Surly, you say, right is right and left is left, well sometimes. Place the heli on the table with the nose facing away from you and the string contraption firmly attached. Looking at the transmitter, the right stick will make the heli go right and left, forward and backward, and the left stick will make the heli rotate right and left and rise up. This is a RTF heli and all of this should be correctly set up out of the box.
With the left stick slowly push forward increasing the rotor speed and at some point the heli will move in one direction or the other. Try to maintain the heli in the centre position without it twisting one way or the other. DO NOT lift the heli off the table at this point. Practice keeping the heli in this orientation, nose away, with as much rotor speed as possible without lifting off the table. Try not to come to the end of the string, but this will be difficult. If the heli consistently moves to one side or the other use the transmitter trims to try and stabilize the heli. It won’t be possible for the heli to stay in the centre by its self. YOU have to control it all the time to achieve this.
Once you have a feel for how the sticks operate try turning the nose of the heli to the left or right about 30 to 45 degrees, and holding it in that position. You may find it is easier to hold it to the left or right. DON’T concentrate on the easy side. You want to be able to fly in both directions don’t you? Or do you want to be a NASCAR driver and only fly left hand circles? As you progress turn the heli more and more until the nose starts to face you. You will now start to find that right is not always right and left is not always left. With the nose facing you the left/right control will be reversed. This is what you are trying to learn here, orientation. A tip here is to watch the nose of the heli and which direction it is going, right from the helis point of view will always be right. DON’T watch which way the tail is going. The tail is moving much more than the nose and it easy to concentrate on that rather than the nose. DON’T DO IT.
There is one more thing to learn before you move away from the table. A heli has to have power applied all the time for it to fly. There is an exception to that rule but I won’t deal with that here. So now, with the nose away from you, increase the rotor speed and let the heli lift up. Too much and the heli will come to the end of the string and stay there, probably tipped over at about 45 degrees to the table. DON’T let this happen this is NOT flying. The object is to keep the string loose and just do small hops without the string becoming tight. This will teach you how to let the heli down gently. Chop the power suddenly and the heli will crash to the table. That’s what you don’t want to happen. Let it down gently with finesse of the collective, left stick.
OK, so I am a slow leaner I did this for about ten battery charges. Now you should be ready to go to stage two.
Now is the time to remember baby steps, giant leaps will lead to that pain in the wallet. You need a flat surface at least ten feet square, the bigger the better. Ideally a wooden or tiled floor which allows the heli to move around freely is best. A smooth concrete garage floor also works great. Indoors is better than out as there is no chance of wind upsets. DO NOT do your first attempts on the grass. On grass the heli can not move sideways and the first hint of which way it’s going will be when it is in the air, and then you will be fighting to gain control.
Set the heli in your space with the nose facing away from you, stand well back and start increasing rotor speed. Don’t forget there is no safety net now. Remember baby steps and no giant leaps. This is not NASCAR racing where you can bump and grind the wall, this is Formula One where one touch and you may as well go home. DO NOT forget that the heli has inertia; once it gets going it will keep going in that direction until YOU stop it. If you feel it is getting out of control finesse that collective and gently bring it back on the deck.
OK, with table time behind you, you should have no trouble being able to hold the heli on the floor within a 3 or 4 foot circle. Now is the time to try and hover. Start with little hops. People will tell you that it is easier to hover a few feet in the air than it is close to the ground in the rotor wash. This is true, but right now height costs money. Save the height for when you get outside. Slowly increase the time in the air, and as you get used to it nose out, start trying turn the heli in a hovering position. This is a long process so do not get discouraged. Do a little at a time. This requires a lot of concentration and is mentally fatiguing. Start slowly and work up until you can hover a complete battery charge without landing. This will take many battery charges to accomplish do not get discouraged. I’m not going to tell you how long it took me to get that far, but it was a lot of battery charges.
Once you can hover a complete battery without landing it’s time to find more space and start maneuvering. Hopefully at this point the damage will be minimal and the wallet pain not too great. Just remember crashes are inevitable. If you’re not crashing you’re probably not flying.

Happy landings. Pete
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