Flying a radio controlled plane as a beginner isn’t as simple as you might think because there is a lot more involved than just buying a hot looking RC plane and wiggling a few sticks on your transmitter.
You require a suitable “trainer” type plane to begin with, good preparation, a safe place to fly and an instructor or a rc flight school. Learning to fly a RC plane safely also requires patience and a structured training over a period of time.
To try teaching yourself how to fly nearly always end in a bad crash soon after takeoff, a ruined plane, dented pride and possibly injury to others.
What is Involved in RC Airplane Training?
So you may be asking how to fly rc planes? There are many thing you need to do before you walk out to the edge of the runway for your first flight. Many of of these are covered in our section on beginner planes and include such things as;
- Choosing suitable RC trainer planes to learn on
- Assembling the airplane if required – Make sure an experienced RC pilot checks over your plane after assembly.
- Setting and checking the control throws for all control surfaces including ailerons, elevator, rudder and throttle.The control throws should be set as per the manufactures recommendations. Low and high rates should be programmed on your transmitter – usually your take offs should be on low rates.
- Checking and adjusting if required the airplane’s C of G (center of gravity) – See your airplane’s manual for the suggested C of G. An incorrectly C of G, especially one that is too far to the rear, can make an airplane almost impossible to fly properly.
- Checking all of the airplane components are tightened and working correctly.
- Charging the transmitter and airplane receiver batteries.
- “Binding” the transmitter to the receiver if using a 2.4GHz radio system.
- If not using a 2.4 GHz transmitter – ensure no one else is using your same frequency.
- Carrying out a ‘range check‘ to ensure there is enough battery power .
- Programming the transmitter – Specifically ensure you have dual rates programmed, have a small amount of exponential added (to decrease the stick sensitivity around the center point), ensure all servos and thus control surfaces are moving in the correct direction, ensure adequate servo travel is set and ensure you have checked that your throttle stick controls the motor correctly. For a glow fuel powered airplane, you need to ensure when the throttle stick is pulled right back toward you that the engine can maintain a slow idle. For an electric engine powered airplane, the throttle being pulled right back toward you should stop the motor completely.
- Decide on which of the common 2 methods to apply the transmitter control inputs you will use.
There are two common methods of operating the control sticks on a RC transmitter for RC Airplanes and RC helicopters.
Method 1 – Thumbs and index fingers
This method requires the user to place their thumb pads ( the bottom of the thumb) on top of each control stick. Then the tips of index fingers are placed on the front side of the control sticks. The thumbs and index fingers work together to control the transmitter sticks.
This method offers the most precise control and feel of the control sticks and is preferred by many advanced pilots.
Method 2 – Thumbs only
This method requires the user to place their thumb pads ( the bottom of the thumb) on top of each control stick. The thumbs on their own control the sticks.
This method offers less control and feel but is still used successfully by many sport and top RC pilots.
Which method should you use?
If you are a beginner RC pilot, it makes good sense to start off using method 1 using the thumbs and index fingers.
If you have been flying for a while, even for a long while, changing from thumbs only to thumbs and index fingers is not hard so why not give it a go.
I myself had used thumbs only for 17 years and only recently changed to thumbs and index fingers. I found the change easy enough and now much prefer the improved control and better feel that thumbs and index fingers offer. I suggest you try it on a rc flight simulator first if you have one. If you don’t have a flight sim, try it first at safe height to give yourself time to get used to it.
Adjusting RC Transmitter Stick Tension
It is suggested you firm up your transmitter control stick tension which will offer smoother stick movements. A weak stick tension will usually lead to episodes of inputting too much stick movement resulting in over controlling of the airplane or heli. It’s a bit of a trial and error process.
- Making sure an experienced RC pilot checks the plane and transmitter ensuring all stick movements results in the correct command on the airplane.
- Checking the wind strength & direction - For your first flights you want calm conditions if possible. Always take off and land with the front of the airplane facing the wind. Ensure the sun will not be in your eyes making it hard to see the airplane in the sky.
- Glow engine powered planes must have a the fuel tank. You should previously started the engine, ran it in and tuned it correctly.
If you have an electric engine, you should have ensured the ESC (electronic speed controller) has a suitable LVC (low voltage cut off) set. A low voltage cut off will mean that when flying, if the on board battery pack drops to the defined low voltage level, the engine will lose power and surge alerting the flier to land immediately.
The control surfaces and servos, gear servos etc will still be able to operate on the remaining voltage so that you are able to control the plane and land. Check the information regarding your ESC to ensure a LVC is already set. If not you need to set a LVC on your ESC.
- Reading the manual that came with your plane and transmitter etc and following the instructions and recommendations.
- You understand what both control sticks will do – If possible it is suggested you get some practice on a flight simulator as this will make your learning faster.
- You have decided and understand what “mode” you will be flying on.
- You have joined local rc flying clubs or an aero club and have found help from an instructor who will be helping you with a buddy box. A buddy box setup is where your instructor’s transmitter is joined to your transmitter via a special cable. When setup correctly, this will allow your instructor to give you full control of the aircraft via a spring-loaded switch (or button) on their transmitter. When the trainer switch is held on by the instructor, control of the aircraft is by your transmitter. Whenever you encounter difficulty in flight, your instructor can regain control of the plane immediately via their transmitter by simply releasing the trainer switch. We highly recommend this as an excellent way to learn to fly a RC airplane safely. It will save you money and tears from a crashed plane!
Here’s some links to our training tutorials to help you get stuck into getting your plane off the ground and back down in one piece! They are a work in progress so keep coming back.
Here are some training tutorials to help you learn to fly.