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Flying, Jan 28, 2023

I made it back to the airfield today, expecting everything to go more normally – I’d flown with my new transmitter, managed to replace a servo that I’d stripped in my plane, so everything was where I expected it to be. There are still a few wrinkles to work out with the transmitter and the receiver, but I thought I had everything set up properly.

Spoiler alert: I don’t. It’s nothing major, though.

The flying went fine; I am trying to force myself to land right-to-left, and the wind was going the wrong way to make that really “the right thing to do,” so after trying two flights with the wind, I finally gave up and on my last flight I landed left-to-right.

I’m trying to land right-to-left mostly because I’m used to landing left-to-right, and I know the markers where I can see the plane’s on the right approach; I like being comfortable, of course, but I also want to be able to be flexible, so I am trying to force myself out of my comfort zone.

I also tried out the modes; I was going to try to stay mostly in “intermediate mode” at the very least (I did not, and there are a few reasons why) with a bit of dabbling in “expert mode.”

My first flight, I got in the air, flew a pattern a bit (to try to get my “air legs,” which I never quite got to this Saturday), set the radio for “expert mode,” and then tried a loop.

The plane stalled out at vertical, and that was that: no loop.

The way you do a loop is pretty simple: you give the plane full throttle to build up speed, then pull the rudder back hard. As the plane crests at the top of the loop (upside down), you back off the throttle so you’re not accelerating towards the ground, and when you’re near level again, you give it whatever throttle you need to resume flight.

My plane didn’t even make it to be upside down at all. There were two problems, both fairly minor but one easily corrected at the field: I was not using the wind.

Ordinarily you’d fly a loop into the wind, so the wind helps push your plane into the loop. I was not doing that; I was flying a loop with the wind behind me so it was actually pushing my plane out of the loop. Chalk this one up to “this was my first real attempt at a loop,” and I failed.

The other problem was that the “expert mode” I was in… isn’t expert mode. I don’t know what it is, but it’s still some sort of safe mode for the plane; if it gets too far into vertical or sideways, the flaps autocorrect and you can’t continue where you are. That’s what you want in the safer modes, but I was purposefully trying to get out of those modes. (I figured this out with some help from one of the other pilots at the field, by the way. In the featured image for this post, that’s the pilot who was helping me figure this stuff out; the picture is not mine, it’s Sam’s. Sam is one of the trainers at the field, and is the one who got me in the air for the first time a few months ago.)

I couldn’t roll the plane; I tried. I did manage to do two more loops Saturday, both with the plane wheezing at the top of the loop (I was using the wind, finally, to push the plane over the top).

My first loop, I was so surprised to get over the top that I forgot to roll off the throttle, but I managed to recover.

The mantra at the field is to try things “three mistakes high.” It’s good advice. If I’d not been following it, I’d probably still be digging bits of my plane out of the ground. Being that high allowed me time to analyze and remember and recover; the plane was fine, it got out of the loop “one mistake high” and flight resumed.

It was kinda funny, though, because as I was recovering from the loop’s mistake I could hear the other pilots’ warning “uh oh,” thinking they were about to see my second crash. But nope – I survived, and so did my plane!

Other pilots with the same plane checked out the loop – they managed fairly easily, so it’s definitely my configuration. (This is one of the best aspects of this club: hardly anyone there knows me well, but I had a lot of pilots willing to help and observe and – probably – laugh good-naturedly at my struggles. And yes, I was laughing with them.)

The throttle cut also played in. At one point in one flight, I engaged the throttle cut by accident – as in, I was flying and then I disarmed the throttle. As expected, the prop stopped spinning while the plane was in flight… but I couldn’t get it to reengage. I have a feeling this is a receiver thing, too, but I am not sure; I landed on a glide (a fairly bumpy landing, like all my landings were but one) and took back off without a problem, but it’s something to watch for; I hit the disarm while trying to set the flight modes. I may have to move the flight mode switch to something a little farther from the disarm switch.

All in all, it was a frustrating day of flying, because I didn’t fly well at all, but … you know, everything survived to fly again, I have an idea about how to solve the problem with the flight modes, and I did get some valuable practice in.

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