First Flight Tips For A Successful Maiden Flight

There are a lot of things that beginners to RC Flight have to keep in mind when preparing for their first flight, commonly known as a "Maiden Flight". To help simplify that process, I have added some tips below to help lesson the steepness of the learning curve, which can be humbling.

Pre-Flight Considerations

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  • Be sure your battery is positioned for the best possible center of gravity (CG). If you have to error on the side of slightly nose heavy or tail heavy, choose slightly nose heavy. A properly tuned plane is half of the battle when it comes to a successful Maiden RC Flight.

  • Pick a day that has calm winds (Mornings and evenings are normally best for calmer air).

  • Always take off and land into the wind (Too many noobs make this mistake).

  • Plan to keep your maiden flight as simple as possible. Your goal should be to get it up safely, do some circles using mostly rudder, and get it back down as cleanly as possible. This is not the time for tricks or to show off.

  • Selection a flying location that is very wide open, low traffic place free of trees and other obstacles. That includes cars, foot traffic, and dogs (Dogs and planes don't mix). Preferably at an AMA Field where experienced RC Pilots will be able to assist you if something goes wrong.

Prepare For Take-Off! 

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  • Be sure you have set your timer per the plane's owners manual. If your plane is a RTF model without a timer built into the radio, set your cell phone time to the time stated in the manual.

  • Once you have completely your pre-flight noted above, make sure your your battery is fully charged with a battery checker.

  • Then taxi out to where the nose of the plane faces into the direction the wind in blowing from and make sure the wind in blowing less than 5MPH and that it is not variable. Wind is fine if it has consistency, but things can get hairy when it oscillates by large margins. That will cause your plane to do weird things making it harder to take-off & land cleanly.

  • Come to a complete stop and move your control surfaces to ensure all of them are moving properly and with fluidity (Familiarize yourself with the direction(s) the control surfaces should be moving per the manual for your RC Plane prior to leaving your home with the plane by doing bench tests). 

  • Gently, but firmly apply throttle while keeping the plane tracking straight down the runway. Be sure to error on the side of too much speed on take-off. Too little throttle will make it hard for most planes to get off of the ground and will cause crashes.

  • Once you are gaining speed down the runway near full throttle, gently pull back on the elevator stick while keeping the throttle applied for take-off!​

I Am Flying! What Now?

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  • After take-off, climb to three mistakes high, so about 30-40 feet in the air. It also depends on your vision, plane size, and landscape. Use your best/most conservative judgement.

  • Something that may catch many off-guard is that when you are flying towards yourself, the rudder and aileron control will feel backwards, so expect that.

  • Always keep your RC Plane in it close, but DO NOT over control the plane. That means make you’re your turns are not to sharp making the wing dip down. That is why most people do nice controlled circles, so they can be gentle in the turns. You will have plenty of time to explore the visual range you are comfortable with and patterns as your skills develop. Keep the maiden simple for the fastest possible chance to have a successful flight.

  • There is an old adage in RC Flight, and that is Air Speed Is Life. That means you want to be flying fast enough to keep your plane in the air and not turning too sharp. Both can cause you to fall out of the sky due to lack of enough lift. That is commonly known as a "Stall". It is not uncommon for folks to blame that lack of control on a “Brown Out” from their radio. More often than not, it is due to not enough air blowing over the control surfaces to maintain control of the plane. Do everything in your power to avoid stalling your RC Plane by keeping your plane flying away from the edge of stall for success in this hobby!

  • Take a deep breath and have fun letting all of your preparation pay off while you get a feel for how the plane responds to your stick inputs on the radio. 

I Need To Land! How?

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Learning how to land an RC Plane properly can often be the single most challenging aspect of the hobby. Success is dependent on several factors, but the setup for the landing approach is absolutely critical.

  • When you set up your approach to land, it may be beneficial to do a "Test Approach" to gauge how much air speed you need to bleed off to have a successful landing. Do this by going out a distance (but not too far) and easing off the throttle while you are approaching where you want to land. Be sure to not get too slow and stalling. Power back up and go around again for your final. When you come in to land be aware of the wind direction and land with the nose of your plane facing the wind the best you can. Wind will often shift direction and speed slightly while you are in the air.

  • One of the least applied techniques for success when landing is "flaring" just before touch down. The idea is to create a "stall" to kill the lift of the wings to smoothly transition from flying to the rolling along the ground.

  • Another significant consideration is throttle management when landing. You want to landing nearly every plane with at least 5-10% throttle to gently touch down at the point you flare and roll out. You DO NOT want to cut throttle & then force your plane down with a "Pancake" landing. Certainly cut throttle completely as you flare and roll-out, however. Using this approach from the start will increase your ability to land more advanced planes easier and far sooner than the average RC Pilot.

  • The final consideration is to power back on and try your approach again. There is no shame in doing that and the most experienced RC Pilots will tease you for not setting it up to try it again if the approach does not feel or look right when you are coming in to land.

Once you have become proficient with your Trainer Plane, visit the Second Plane List

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