RC Flying, 2023 Apr 21: Night Flying?

Fun night of night flying with the RC club, but I had a slight encounter with a tree. All is well, or will be. I continue to learn, and that’s the goal.

The RC flight club had a rare-ish Friday night flight scheduled for April 21, where pilots were encouraged to show up with their lighted planes; there’d be food, formation flying in the dark, fun to be had by all, as usual, I suppose.

I have no planes with lights. I could have put lights on – and one pilot did actually get some lights for the evening – but I was pretty sure that flying at night, at my skill level, was a good way to end up down a plane. I ended up down a plane anyway, sort of, but not because of flying at night!

The other pilots did a great job. One lost control of his plane and we had to do a recovery to get it, but it was just system communication error, the best we can tell; he’s one of the better pilots in the club, and it happens to the best of us.

I flew four flights: three on my own battery, one with a borrowed battery.

The first flight was in moderately heavy winds; I kept the receiver on a fairly assistive mode, because there’s no way I had the skill level to fly in those winds. I had to keep the throttle really high to head into the wind, which made landing .. interesting. But it was a successful flight.

My second flight was in calmer winds (the winds were dying down as we went into the evening). That one, I put it into intermediate mode – which is some assistance but not as much – and stayed there for most of the flight. (I took off in basic mode, because I wasn’t sure what the winds were going to do, and switched to intermediate soon after.)

For the third flight, one of the other more experienced pilots had challenged me (very very gently) to fly in expert mode. The winds were calm, and I’d had a pretty good flight day so far, I was zeroed in and unafraid to fall back to assisted mode at need, so I figured… why not? Once I got it in the air, I switched it to expert mode, did a few rolls and loops (they’re fun!), and brought it in for the landing, all on expert mode. The landing was bouncy, but successful. For a relatively new pilot landing on hard mode, I was satisfied.

That was my last battery. The pilot said he’d spot me a charged battery for another flight while we still had light, and who am I to turn that down? Nobody, that’s who.

The last flight generally went the same way as the third flight did. Overall, it went pretty well, but I was making an approach for a landing, and lost distance on the plane; I flew behind the treeline and, well, straight into a tree. I ended up spending most of the rest of the evening trying to get the plane back on the ground.

We managed – as a group effort – and the plane’s tail is detached, but it was a clean break and should be really simple to fix. It’ll be back in the air tomorrow, with any luck at all.

Fun day of flying! The plane didn’t quite make it back in one piece, but as I understand it, I wasn’t even in the top three of the worst crashes of the week, and it really does look like a simple repair.

RC Flying, 2023 Apr 2

Sunday was mostly an administrative/setup day; not a lot of flying, but what flying I did went all right.

Sunday was mostly an administrative/setup day; not a lot of flying, but what flying I did went all right. Nothing spectacular, nothing really to write about, but here goes anyway.

April 2 was mostly a “field administration” day. The club had a meeting to go over activities for the next year, as well as field maintenance – we rent our field from a local farmer, and we take care of it because good will is important. Not only is it necessary for us to keep our field access (the farmer could always stop renting to us, after all) but because it’s kind to take care of the relationships you have with other people.

I actually repaired my AeroScout; a new fuselage and canopy showed up on Saturday, unexpected. I moved over the electronics and motor, and did a bench test of the plane; it worked, for some definition of “working,” in that all of the control surfaces responded when I expected them to.

It’ll need a full setup when I decide to fly it again.

I put in the Spektrum AR631 receiver, although I have some RadioMaster R88s lying around as well. The Spektrum receiver was chosen mostly because I have two transmitters – a Spektrum and the RadioMaster TX16S – and while the RadioMaster can connect to pretty much any receiver known to man (to which I would have access), the NX8 can only connect to Spektrum receivers.

So for me to fly with one radio means either choosing the TX16S – which is a better radio but with lesser integration with the Spektrum receivers for now, because I’m still learning the platform – and the R88 for the Aeroscout, or choosing the Spektrum receiver, to which I can bind both transmitters and switch between them as needed.

Given that the Apprentice Mini is my primary plane for now, that means the Spektrum ecosystem wins… for a little while. My goal is to get to the point where I don’t need the safety features the Spektrum ecosystem provides, then I’ll be able to use whichever radio I happen to want. (In other words, the TX16S, because it just feels like a better radio, physically. The ecosystem’s safeguards are the main thing holding me to Spektrum right now. They do that astonishingly well.)

On Sunday, we were basically going back over the Apprentice. I did some telemetry extraction on the NX8, which told me nothing particularly useful (which is all right, because I was mostly curious about what data was being recorded), and apparently the process of setting up the NX8 for a neutral model for the flight simulator mangled some settings for the receiver itself, because the plane was… configured poorly.

We (well… I say “we” but it was mostly some of the experienced pilots who took on the task) ended up spending most of the day fixing the plane, setting it up again for consistent flight. That was my “flying day,” watching two pilots with years’ more experience than I try to get the plane to fly as they expected it to, something I wouldn’t have known how to do, and I wouldn’t have even known how to judge the plane; I’d have thought, “man, I’m a terrible pilot” and left it at that.

In the end, though, I did get the plane up in the air and back down; I don’t think I flew especially well for that flight, but that’s okay. The main goal was to get the plane up and back down; that was successful, and I’m going to leave the radio alone now as it has a consistent setup for the simulator and the Apprentice, and it’s been backed up with the known-good configuration.

It was also a beautiful day for flying, and the club meeting went really well; we had four prospective new members introduce themselves to the club at large. I’d already met all four of them, so they weren’t introducing themselves to me, but to the club members who hadn’t been at the field with them yet; what was funny for me in all that is that all four of them were really eloquent and represented themselves very well.

I was laughing my way through their introductions, thinking of how happy I was that I didn’t have to introduce myself in the same way they were doing, because mine would have been something like: “Hi, I’m, uh, Joe, I’ve been, uh, flying pretty much not at all, uh, how ya doin’, next person, please.”

Flight Report, 2023/Mar/26

Today was a good day, after all was said and done – started off rainy and miserable and an unlikely day to get into the air, but it all worked out and turned out well.

Just a smooth, simple day of flying, with no drama – which was pretty much exactly what I needed.

Today was a good day, after all was said and done – started off rainy and miserable and an unlikely day to get into the air, but it all worked out and turned out well.

I took my new radio and plane out to the field, hoping the weather would clear up, as it was pretty rainy. Not a really hard rain, so much, but persistent; I figured even if I didn’t get to fly, it was okay, as the guys who go to the field are pretty chatty and informative and a decent set to be around.

So we spent a good hour and a half (while I was there) just shooting the breeze, gently picking on each other and recounting various war stories… nothing especially memorable apart from talking about the old days of having to pick frequencies, I think, and it was pretty interesting hearing some of it, because I remember going to airfields with my father and watching him do all that stuff himself.

At four in the afternoon, the weather finally turned. The rain dropped off, the sun actually found its way out, and we got to see some planes fly. I mostly watched for a while – it’s nice watching things do well in the air, after all, and that’s why I wanted to fly myself, and I finally asked one of the more experienced pilots to help me set up my plane and radio.

That took a while; we did a radio check and we thought everything worked, got the plane in the air, and sure enough, something wasn’t right. The Apprentice wouldn’t shift out of the “safe mode,” which was the same problem we’d been fighting with my AeroScout – even though we had completely different gear in play today. Like, literally nothing was the same except a battery, which would have had no effect on anything in the communications between transmitter and receiver.

This is where the shift in radio from RadioMaster to Spektrum paid off, though, because with the input of a few of the other experienced pilots, we worked out which setting was wrong, and changed it. (If I’d still been on the RadioMaster, I’d have been on my own still, and I think I have enough experience to say with confidence that this would not have worked out well.)

After that, the plane got in the air and was set up properly. I got the radio back in my hands and flew the plane around a bit – in some ways I’m back to square one in the air, but that’s okay. I need to get some successful flying time – a lot of it – and advance more slowly than I’d been trying to.

And that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t an exciting day in the air, mostly figure-eights and some other really simple patterns, some good takeoffs, some good landings (with no errors this time at all, although my landings could have been a little smoother, maybe?) — but the key is that there were no crashes, nothing done on my part that I could have or should have prevented, no miraculous rescues in the air, nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever.

Just a smooth, simple day of flying, with no drama – which was pretty much exactly what I needed.

Flight Report and a Set of Radical Changes

It’s been an inconsistent set of flying days for me. I made it out to the field on the weekend, but didn’t fly because I knew the wind was going to be too high for my AeroScout; I managed to catch a first flight for a new build for one of the other pilots, and that was really cool to watch.

I did make it to the field during the week, though, for a short bit – the winds were supposed to be pretty low, the weather was decent, and I wanted to fly to get more air time.

It did not go well.

It’s been an inconsistent set of flying days for me. I made it out to the field on the weekend, but didn’t fly because I knew the wind was going to be too high for my AeroScout; I managed to catch a first flight for a new build for one of the other pilots, and that was really cool to watch.

I did make it to the field during the week, though, for a short bit – the winds were supposed to be pretty low, the weather was decent, and I wanted to fly to get more air time.

It did not go well.

The flights themselves… the AeroScout just couldn’t get aligned in the air. I’d done some surgery on it with a new receiver, and done bench tests to make sure the radio and receiver were communicating well, and that went fine, I suppose. In the air, though, the ‘Scout was highly erratic, highly sensitive to every burst of wind, and could never establish level flight.

In the end I put it down three times, none of them very hard especially, but one apparently hit the plane in just the right place to split the front of the repaired fuselage down the middle, including separating the front wheel from the foam.

It’s repairable – again – and at the very worst, I could just get a new fuselage and replace the bits that are damaged wholesale. But the flight day was really informative.

For my skill level and experience, I’ve made a series of decisions regarding the flight that are understandable but probably wrong for me.

I’m a systems architect. My job is to look at processes and progress, and decide what the next best step should be based on results and new information. A lot of my job is literally to decide when to fish or cut bait, and while emotion and intent factors in sometimes, emotion is rarely a useful lever for making decisions.

The rough flying day gave me information I needed to decide that I needed to switch some things out.

My choice of radio is the RadioMaster TX16S II. I really like that radio. The feel is great, the approach of the operating system fits me and suits my approach to hardware and software. I have no qualms with the transmitter at all … but it’s the wrong radio for me right now.

The planes that I have ready access to use a protocol that my transmitter leverages poorly; there’s an integration mismatch. By that I mean that the receivers in the AeroScout and most other planes I’d end up with have features that the RadioMaster will either not support, or will support incompletely, because there’s a giant documentation gap.

I knew that when I got the radio and thought that would matter less over time. I think that’s still correct, but because I am a new pilot, the impact of the feature gap is magnified. My inexperience coupled with flying on “hard mode” all the time may teach me hard lessons about flying that I’ll need, but I can’t afford all of those hard lessons.

I have the transmitter that came with the AeroScout, the Spektrum DSX, which is a starter radio with full integration with the receiver, so I have access to all of the features that I’d need, except the DSX – while capable – feels like a toy to me, and for whatever reason I rebel at the thought of using it. It’s a psychology thing; since I feel like it’s a toy, I treat it like a toy, and I just can’t wrap my head around using it seriously, regardless of its actual capabilities.

It’d be like joining a band with a bunch of other guitarists, where they’re playing PRS, Gibson, Gretsch, high end Fenders… and you’re playing a First Act guitar. Sure, you can make the same notes they can, and there’s no indication simply based on equipment of what your skill level is compared to theirs, but the difference in gear would affect most players. It’d certainly affect me. I wouldn’t be in there with the high end guitars either, but I know my guitars and whatever I’d take would be sufficient.

The DXS is a better transmitter than a First Act guitar is as a musical instrument, but the impact remains. For me to enjoy flying, I have to have a sufficient transmitter. Maybe that’s a flaw in my character. It probably is. I don’t know.

So the AeroScout is not in airworthy condition and the radio is wrong. This is useful information, because it means that I need to either take a break and fix the AeroScout (something for which I’ve apparently proven I’m insufficient) or replace the fuselage (which I can probably do pretty easily); even if I did that, the winds would still push my AeroScout around.

Other pilots at the field fly it pretty well, but they’re better pilots than I am (I have no shame about this, and I’m going to get better) and the AeroScout is interfering with my progress. I need a heavier plane with better flight characteristics.

With the “better plane” I need to revisit my transmitter choice, because most of the planes have receivers that are designed to protect pilots like me – people who’re learning. The RadioMaster is a great radio, but it’s designed for people who know how to fly, a set in which I do not belong yet.

So after consideration and discussion with the other pilots – which were well-intentioned, even if accompanied by some slight ribbing over the choices I’ve made along the way – I decided to “give in” and get a Spektrum NX8 transmitter – the transmitter used by probably 90% of the club, and the brand used by an even higher percentage – and a HobbyZone Apprentice to take the place of the AeroScout.

My goal is to keep flying and learn enough such that I’m good enough to move back to the RadioMaster. The NX8 is, I believe, a less capable transmitter than the RadioMaster, although it does everything you need a radio to do.. the most important things about the NX8 are that the club has a wealth of experience with it (something they cannot say about the RadioMaster at all) and that it integrates extremely well with the Spektrum receivers (also something the RadioMaster cannot say).

It also came with a 200+ page manual, whereas the RadioMaster came with a single page, printed on both sides. The hardware may not be as good, but the documentation gap in Spektrum’s favor is incredible.

I haven’t even unboxed the Apprentice yet – that’ll probably come this weekend – but I’m looking forward to flying. And hopefully the changes I’ve made in approach and mentality yield better improvements.

RC Flying, 2023 Feb 26

It was a good day of flying for the RC plane, despite the wind; we got the radio and the plane set up much better than it had been, and despite some issues and hiccups, it was a good day.

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.

Flight Report, 2023 Feb 19

I got the RC plane back in the air Sunday; it was a short day of flying due to weather, but it was a successful day in that the plane suffered no more damage and I accomplished the goals I’d set for myself.

My AeroScout has been repaired, after the hard crash last week; I used a glue gun to repair the nose, and I have some CA tape and fixative to clean it up further; the prop has been replaced, and bench tests passed, so it’s “airworthy” even if it’s not in pristine condition.

On Sunday, it was drizzly and winds were on the cusp of being too much for the plane, but I figured I’d take a shot anyway, because last week I flew terribly and I wanted to get a successful day in the books if I could.

Goals for the day were really low: take off, fly a few patterns, and land. Given that the plane’s just been repaired, I figured this was pretty reasonable, plus it gives me a chance to literally focus on the basics that I applied so miserably last week.

When I got to the field, I was the only one there; that’s okay, too, because the weather was turning, and this gave me a chance to zero in on flying rather than on anything else. Plus, if the flight went bad like it did last week, I wouldn’t endanger anyone else.

I only got one flight in. I took my time bench testing the plane and letting the radio connection settle in, just in case there was a sync problem that caused the flight last week. Everything checked out, so I put the plane on the landing strip and gave it some power.

It pulls to the left on the landing gear. I’ll have to fix that. In the air, the wind made flying really difficult; I left the plane in beginner mode because I don’t trust myself to fight the wind enough with such a light plane, and the winds were definitely pushing it around a lot in the air.

I landed, took off again, and landed. None of the flying was what I’d term “spectacular,” and on both landings I bounced once – which isn’t that bad, but isn’t quite what I’d hoped. After the second landing, it was starting to rain, so I pulled everything back and left the field. As much as I like rain, I just didn’t think that was the right environment for me to fly in.

In flight, one thing stood out: I had the volume up on my RadioMaster, and the radio kept telling me the connection with the plane was “low” and “critical.” I wasn’t losing connection, but the warnings were unnerving. It turns out this is part of the telemetry setting in the model; if the connection is 45%, it’s “low” and if it’s under 42%, it’s “critical.” This is adjustable; I’ll probably drop the settings a bit, because I think the warnings are a little early to be practical.

So it was a “successful day,” overall, and I’m satisfied with it even if I’m not thrilled with it; it could have been better, but I met all of my goals except for the number of flights I’d have liked to have had.

Flying, 2023 Feb 11

It was a rough day for flying for me – I crashed my plane, hard, and I *think* it’s through pilot error. This is how you learn sometimes, by making catastrophic mistakes; thankfully, nobody was injured although the plane needs repair.

Funny thing: I talked to an old friend, a pilot, and he said it was great to see me “excelling at RC.” My response was to laugh, and observe that I was learning, not excelling. Today was proof that I am, uh, seeing how much potential I still have to fulfill, because flying today was short and disastrous.

They say that a good flight is one where you can recover the plane; by that measure, well, good flight, I guess, but the plane’s back to not being airworthy. It will fly again, because thankfully the damage was fairly restricted, but I had a rough (and fairly dangerous) flight with a hard crash at the end.

So, the story: my goals for the day were pretty simple. I had reconfigured my radio and rebound to my plane, so I wanted to get back in the air and make sure that everything was working properly; my goals in flight were actually to fly simple patterns. I considered trying a loop, but I was going to get in the air first to see how things went.

My secondary goal was to get my oldest son to fly as well; he’d gone with me. If the plane managed to fly properly (see prior paragraph!) I figured I’d hand him and the radio off to one of the trainers, so they could get him up in the air and the plane back on the ground. (I figured I could land for myself, but the trainers would land for him.)

When we got to the field, the wind was a little high for my plane, but tolerable; I’ve flown in worse, I think, but if the wind had been any worse I think I’d have just not bothered. I set up pretty soon after I got there, and ran through a bench test to make sure the radio communication was working properly; all the control surfaces responded as I expected them to, the throttle cut was working, the flight modes seemed to be set correctly.

Everything passed the bench test. It was time to fly.

I set up to take off into the wind; I was actually rather happy about it, because I usually prefer to take off right-to-left (and land left-to-right), but the last few times I’ve flown I’ve purposefully reversed that, because I was getting too comfortable.

Taking off was… okay. The plane felt a little off, leaning a little to the left on takeoff, but once it got five feet off the ground, everything went sour.

It turned to the left, and I was trying to climb and compensate, getting it back to the right. Flying to the left on this particular takeoff meant I was flying off the field, and it kept turning, and started heading toward the other pilots on the bench, behind the flight line, which led to a number of warnings from them.

I was really struggling with control; my great fear was plowing into the other pilots. I managed to give it enough elevator to get it up over the flight shed, and it headed back to the actual flying field, but it was still stuck in that left turn, and I.. don’t know what happened for sure.

I think what happened is that I lost my reference for the alignment of the plane, and threw into the left bank even harder. There are alternative explanations, but without actual flight telemetry and records, I couldn’t tell you how valid they were. One way or the other, the result was the plane rolled over and hit the landing strip hard, upside down and nose first, and as the prop was still spinning – I was trying to get it up in the air so I could figure out some semblance of normal flight – the prop snapped off.

The nose broke, and the prop was snapped, and one of the wings got some road rash, but that was the extent of the damage; it’s not flyable, at present, until I replace the prop and fix the nose cone, but that’s the extent of the damage.

I took it back to the bench, and tried to check the controls; the radio was going crazy. None of the gimbals would respond, none of the switches would send the right signals to the plane; I had to reboot the radio twice to get it to do what was expected.

Thankfully, it did resume normal behavior, and bench testing the controls showed that everything was working properly subsequently; the plane wasn’t able to fly, but at least the mechanics seemed to be working.

I got a lot of good advice on how to fix the plane, which I’ll be applying soon, but I’m going to need to get a new propeller in before it’s able to get back in the air.

Honestly, I think I just wasn’t in the right mindset to fly. When it started going wrong, I freaked out and I don’t think I did anything to make it better, and probably made it worse. The radio inconsistencies might have shown up mid-flight, but honestly, I don’t think I had the presence of mind I needed to be flying today.

I did learn a lot, though: I thought I was prepared, and I did all the right steps, I just didn’t have my mind right, as the Marines say, and I failed to warn the field when I lost control of the plane. I also failed to kill the throttle when things started to go south; that would have been my only chance to rescue the flight but may have saved the prop and made the crash much more gentle, as well as being far safer for the other pilots.

It was a day to show me how much I still have to learn. A costly day, because I won’t be able to fly for at least a week (I need to get the new prop, as well as fix the nose of the plane), but.. at least I saw how far I have yet to go.

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. I didn’t, but I have an idea what is wrong.

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.

Flying Report: 2023/Jan/21

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.

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.

EdgeTX and Safe Mode with the AeroScout

I think I’ve configured the flight modes for my AeroScout with the RadioMaster TX16S, running EdgeTX as the OS. I have not yet tested this at the field, but bench tests indicate success so far. I’m recording it here mostly so people can either validate it or, you know, use the information themselves.

I bound switch SE to channel 6, and left everything at defaults after that. With this receiver, that proves to set the modes properly in bench tests.

I think I’ve configured the flight modes for my AeroScout with the RadioMaster TX16S, running EdgeTX as the OS. I have not yet tested this at the field, but bench tests indicate success so far. I’m recording it here mostly so people can either validate it or, you know, use the information themselves.

I’m connecting the RadioMaster to a Spektrum AR631 receiver, which came with my ready-to-fly AeroScout. Other receivers may be configured slightly differently, but I imagine the process mostly involves figuring out the right channel for the information.

The Flight Modes

As I’ve written elsewhere, there are three “flight modes” available on the Spektrum receivers: safe mode, intermediate mode, and expert mode.

Safe mode keeps the plane level as much as it can, and dampens the control responses pretty severely. It means the plane is “generally safe” and protected from inexperienced pilots like, well, yours truly. You can still crash the plane, but it’s unlikely that you’ll do a 90′ nosedive into the dirt; the controls simply don’t allow you to fly straight down.

Intermediate mode is a lot like safe mode, but the dampening of the control surfaces is turned down. You have more control than in “safe mode” but the plane will generally keep itself upright with regard to the ground.

Expert mode – what I’ve said my dad would call “flying the plane” – has no dampening. This is where you can do full acrobatics, if you know how to do them (I do not), and where you have full control. This is flying for real, and you can definitely aim the plane straight into the ground.

Ordinarily, on the Spektrum transmitters, there’s a three-way switch by which you can control what flight mode the plane is in at any given time; I started off in safe mode, and eventually switched over to taking off in safe mode and then switching to intermediate mode for flying, and back to safe mode for landing. When I was using the DSX starter radio that came with the plane, I had started challenging myself to flying only intermediate mode (“or better,” is what I told myself, but honestly: intermediate mode only, as I’m not quite good enough to trust myself in expert mode yet.)

The Configuration

I went to the EdgeTX “mix page” on the model, and added a new control; I bound it to switch SE, a three-way switch above the throttle control (and in front of the two-way switch which I set up as a throttle cut).

I bound it to channel 6; fully forward (away from me) it’s set to send -100% (all down), in the middle position it’s off (0%), and in the back position (closest to me) it’s set to 100% (all up). With this receiver, that proves to set the modes properly in bench tests.

I know this is underwhelming, but it’s information I couldn’t trivially find; I found the information, but not bundled in a “just do this” fashion.

Good luck out there!