Today, after a series of fits and starts, I finally got my little AeroScout into the air with the new RadioMaster TX16 transmitter. It was not a long session, for a few reasons, but it was productive.
What I really wanted to do was make sure the radio and the plane were aligned properly: did the radio transmitter even work properly? Did I need to reverse any of the controls? Did the throttle cut work? Was I able to control the plane in the air without having the flight modes set for beginners? Could I even control the plane well, without having flown in a month or so?
Did the transmitter work?
Simple answer: yes, yes it did. I had bound the transmitter to the receiver in a bench test at home, with the prop off of the engine, but I hadn’t actually been able to test whether the controls worked properly for flight.
I knew they moved the control surfaces I expected to move, but not how much or how well, or how responsive the plane would be in the air.
It’s safe to say that everything worked, but “properly” is still a bit of a reach. More on this later.
Did the throttle cut work?
Yes. I still want to invert it – the “down” position is “armed,” and as this is the default position for the switch, I really want the “up” position to be “armed” instead. This is a programming thing, and I’ll get to it. For now, there is a throttle cut, and it works as it should, which is the most important aspect of this.
Did I need to alter the controls?
Not the controls, no. The default settings worked: rudder, ailerons, flaps, throttle all were aligned properly and as I expected. Everything was set to default, and worked properly.
Could I control the plane in the air?
Well, here’s where things get a little weird.
The short answer is “yes.” I wanted to be able to take off, and land, and circle: nothing spectacular, but this is more or less the absolute minimum set of things you’d need to be able to do to say that you’re flying properly over the field.
I can say that I took off, and landed, and even circled successfully (i.e., take off, make a circle, land) multiple times, with no mishaps. I upended the plane gently on landing once, but that was because I steered the plane incorrectly after landing, and the plane wasn’t even scuffed as a result. (This was also my first “crash,” and as far as such things go, it was quite mild. The plane didn’t even get dirty!)
However, I was able to capture some important information, stuff I need to know about and correct.
First, I need to figure out how to set the flight modes, for real, and soon. The plane was in some weird mode where I needed rudder control (and thankfully, had it), but I still had some dampening on the flaps and ailerons; it was a weird flight mode.
Ordinarily, you have three flight modes with the Spektrum receivers:
Mode 1 is “basic mode,” where you control the ailerons and flaps, but not the rudder, and the plane only allows a 30′ range of travel, so all of your turns and elevations are fairly gentle. The plane will try to keep itself level for you. This is a “beginner mode.”
Mode 2 is “intermediate mode,” where you get control of the rudder, but you probably won’t need it. The range of control is greater – either 60′ or 45′, I’m not sure which offhand – so you’re definitely flying “for real,” but you’re still protected from the excesses of the transmitter. This was my preferred mode with my starter transmitter, and when I fly on intermediate, my plane looks like a drunken moth in the air.
Mode 3 is “expert mode,” or what my dad would have called “actually flying the plane.” There are no dampenings, and the plane won’t level itself off for you as you fly.
With the RadioMaster, I had control of the rudder, and the plane was trying to level itself off, but generally failing. It was sort of a cross between modes 1 and 2, because the dampening was pretty severe, but .. again, I had control of the rudder, and needed it to fight the wind and align the plane for landing.
I’m going to have to work out what’s going on there. This was the first time I’ve ever used the rudder, too, so it was an experience, even if it didn’t last very long.
So what did I think? Was I happy with the RadioMaster? Was I satisfied with the flight?
The answers to both of those questions are “yes.” I didn’t fly long – maybe a total of three minutes in the air – but I was really trying to see where I was with the RadioMaster and what I needed to do to bring it up to a performance level I was happy and comfortable with.
I was able to take off and land without messing up the plane – always a nice benefit – but the real takeaway is that I need to figure out the flight mode, and probably re-trim the plane.
And there’s no doubt that the new radio feels nicer than the starter radio I had; it’ll take some getting used to, in terms of how I hold it and what I am doing with it, but that comes with experience.