I made it to the RC airfield today, and man, the weather was absolutely perfect. I wish I could say the same about my flying. It was a day curtailed by hardware problems, but overall, it was a successful day.
Here’s the thing: my goal for the day was really to flight test my radio settings: could I change flight modes? Did the throttle cut work properly and predictably? Bench tests – done at home with the prop taken off of the plane – suggested the answers were “yes,” but bench tests aren’t flight tests.
When we (my oldest son and I) got to the airfield, there were a lot of other pilots – that always makes for a great day, because we can rib each other, admire each others’ planes, learn from those more experienced than we are, and so forth and so on – it really is a community.
I took my plane up early, because my goal was to flight test the radio, and sure enough, it worked. The throttle engage switch was restrictive when I wanted it to be (and I’ll write up how it works to go along with a video that someone else made soon), and the mode switches worked; I would set the plane in “expert mode” and tilt it to the side, and set the switch for “safe mode” and the plane would level off as desired.
So now the plane was safe in terms of the throttle – I can leave the throttle disengaged until I’m actually ready to fly, and have confidence that it won’t accidentally reengage trivially – and it was safe in terms of flight mode, such that if I got myself in trouble in the air, I could engage “safe mode” and have the plane level itself off.
I decided I was going to try to land in “expert mode” because I’d never done it before. My approach to the landing strip was… weird, because I couldn’t get it to get low enough to the ground, so I decided I was going to make another pass over the landing strip, but apparently it descended just enough that my plane lost all lift and it went to ground almost immediately. I applied power to try to get it back in the air to make a “good landing” but failed, and thus:
My first real crash! It was free of damage; the cockpit hood of the plane came off, but that’s not a problem at all; it’s designed to be free, as that’s where you install the battery. There was no physical damage to the plane that I could see or detect.
I put the plane back in a harness, and noticed that the front wheel was angled to the right; I’d been struggling with taking off in a straight line, so I gently twisted the wheel to straighten it.
If any readers are flinching, thinking, “oh, no, um, did you really?” … that’s the right reaction.
The real right reaction is a little more detailed: “Oh, no. Did you really? That’s gonna strip the servo!”
Spoiler alert: that’s exactly what happened.
I asked one of the trainer pilots (Dr. Joey, who has helped teach me how to fly too) to help get my oldest son to fly a plane, just for the new experience. We went through the radio settings and basic safety, and we finally connected the battery on the plane, and… the plane was making a lot of noise. It’s a noisy plane in safe mode anyway, so I thought nothing of it, until we were testing the rudder in the pre-flight tests.
It wouldn’t move.
In my plane, the rudder is connected to the same servo as the front wheel. When I adjusted my front wheel, I blew out the servo, so my plane had no rudder.
It’s probably flyable in that condition, if the pilot’s experienced enough, but for a maiden flight – or even a new pilot like me – it’s grounded. We tried to find a compatible servo at the field, but my plane’s servo is apparently fairly weird – a Spektrum A390 – and we were unsuccessful at finding a compatible replacement.
I found some online, and ordered them – they’re only $12-14 or so – but until they get here and I replace that servo, my AeroScout is grounded.
With that said, though: remember how I said that my goal was to flight test the radio, first and foremost? Despite the hardware problems with the plane, I did take it up and flight test the radio settings, and they worked like a charm. I may not have flown a lot today, and I might not have flown well even by my own low standards, but the radio test worked, and my plane was flight worthy even after my rough landing.
Successful day. I enjoyed it, and I’ll love it when I can get back into the air once the replacement parts come in.