I made it back out to the RC field today, a little concerned about the winds (which were from 6-10 miles per hour, which is a little gusty for my plane), but I was going to give it a shot, because a lot of the other pilots tend to be there on Sunday afternoons.
It went okay. The biggest problem I had was that my plane needed to be set up more completely with my radio, especially after the catastrophic crash from two weeks ago; I’ve been up since the crash, but that day was cut short due to weather, and I was up in the air such a short time that I really couldn’t collect any data about the plane, and I was also alone, so I couldn’t share from the communal knowledge.
Sam – one of the club trainers, and the guy who got me in the air when I first went to the field – took some time with me and the plane today. He said that there was a lot set up wrong – the plane’s trim was awful (not a surprise, considering all the changes it’s endured lately), but the radio was also set up really strangely.
That’s an experience thing. I don’t know what to look for, so I had no idea what I was setting up improperly. He does know what to look for, so we rolled up our sleeves and went to work on the plane, reversing the prop for full power (whoa! I didn’t even know you could install it incorrectly and still fly!), aligning everything (some of the servos were not quite set up right), setting up dampening on the controls (a big one, and why my plane flew so badly!), and trimming it out in flight as well.
Flying itself went… okay, I guess. No catastrophic crashes; I had two, but they were both really minor. One was caused by my use of a battery that was already dead: I lost throttle in mid-flight, and glided down to the field. The other was caused by taking too shallow an approach on a landing; I caught a wind gust and then lost the plane. No damage was taken in either event, thank goodness, and in the second crash I managed to warn the other pilots this time.
My last flight, with a good battery and in the most advanced flight mode the plane had (more on this in a few paragraphs), went pretty well, easily the best flight of the day for me. The plane had by this point been set up about as well as we could do it, and the same for the radio, and the dampening helped me fly immensely – no longer were little adjustments causing giant changes in the flight. I even made a really smooth landing, which got a lot of clapping from the other pilots – it was a good landing, but I think they were also clapping for me, since I finally had a respectable flight after so much trouble over the last few weeks.
Other pilots were there, of course, and one had a P-38 – I was in awe of that thing! (The P-38 is my dream plane, and there’s no way I have the skill to fly it – but I was so excited to see one at the field!) Sadly, the wind fought that thing, too, and despite the skill of the pilot, it cracked up on a landing approach. He said the plane was easily repairable, and would be back.
One of the pilots’ daughters was there, too, and she was flying a glider – which I think is really, really cool. She’s been flying a shorter time than I have, and I think she’s better than I am already. It’s really neat seeing some of these young people advance in skill.
So: what takeaways did I have today?
The biggest one was the setup of the plane and the radio. We changed a lot about the configuration, and it was really unusual for me to experience the plane working the way it was supposed to. From that standpoint, today was a smashing success, despite the issues. However, there were issues.
First, my plane is still in some kind of safe mode. I don’t know how to get the receiver to stop correcting the flight; I can’t get it to roll or loop. I can get it to 90% angle, flying sideways, but that’s as far as I can get it to go. That’s not how it’s supposed to be; I checked the manual, and I think I have the radio doing the right thing to set the flight modes, but it clearly isn’t, for whatever reason.
Sam suggested that I replace the receiver altogether; with the radio set up properly, the features the receiver offers me aren’t as necessary. I’m certainly giving that some thought, because my last (and best) flight was with as few safety guards as I could get, and it was probably one of my best flights ever. (It wasn’t that much fun to watch, I think, unless you count the landing, but by golly, everything I tried to do I accomplished, and it went well.)
We’ll see. I also need to continue repairs for the lane from a few weeks ago; it’s airworthy, but could still use some fixes. I have most of the stuff I need, but one of the glues I got was too thick, so I’ll have to fix that.
Lastly, I still need to change how I react when the plane gets in trouble. I find that I invert the controls in my head once I lose track of the plane in the air, which means I might make an error by turning right, for example, but when that happens, I have a tendency to lean into the error, magnifying it, instead of correcting it. This needs to be fixed, and it will be fixed, but it’ll take time and practice and dedication.
It was a good day at the field. It was windy, and that made for some rough flying (for many pilots, not just me, but I definitely had a rough time with the wind), but we got the plane set up much better than it had been, and that last flight gives me hope.