How to Get Started in RC Helicopters Part 2

Now that you know about the different kinds of RC Helicopters, it’s time to learn to fly.  When you first start flying, you need to have a purpose in mind.  Start with the tail of the helicopter facing you about 10 feet in front of you.  The idea here is to learn the basic control principles.  This is accomplished by moving the helicopter to the left and then back to center.  Next, move the helicopter to the right and then back to center.  Repeat this maneuver several times until you are comfortable controlling the helicopter and are able to control how far the helicopter moves to the right and left.  Learn to stop the helicopter where you want it to stop.  Then practice moving the helicopter forwards and backwards.

When are you comfortable with the above mentioned maneuvers, repeat the same controls with the nose of the helicopter facing you.  This will be tricky because the controls will be reversed.  When you move the stick left, the tail will move right and vice versa.

Once you are comfortable with the basic hovering maneuvers, forward, backward and side to side, attempt to fly figure 8’s in both directions.  Since you are probably flying a coaxial helicopter, you will not have a tail rotor, but the transmitter controls will cause the helicopter to react in the same manner as a more advanced heli.  The major item that you want to concentrate on is always knowing where the tail of your helicopter is.  A good pilot has complete knowledge and control over the tail of his helicopter.

If you’ve made it this far, you are thinking about moving up to a more advanced helicopter and hopefully have invested in a flight simulator.  The simulator is for learning more advanced flying techniques without the risk of crashing the real RC heli. 

The next step in learning to fly RC helicopters is to invest in a fixed pitch helicopter.  The two major players in fixed pitch helicopters are E-Flight and Heli-Max. The fixed pitch helicopters fly very similar to a collective pitch model.  These helicopters are well designed and can maintain a steady hover pretty much on their own, so if you panic, release the cyclic stick and it should hover while you regain control of the helicopter.

Once you are flying your fixed pitch helicopter with certainty, it’s time to move up to a collective pitch helicopter.  You should be able to fly forwards, nose in, backwards, and be comfortable flying your helicopter before purchasing your first collective pitch helicopter.

One thing worth considering when purchasing a collective pitch helicopter is the size of the helicopter.  The larger the machine, the better it will handle windy conditions.  Look for something in the .50 size glow or a 550-600 size electric.

Invest in some training gear when you start flying your collective pitch helicopter.  Training gear typically consists of two dowels, crossed at the bottom of the skids with either waffle balls or ping-pong balls attached to the end of the dowels.  This gear is strictly for hover training; it will not save the helicopter in the event that you crash from more than a foot or two of altitude.  It is also recommended that you remove the training gear when you fly higher as the gear inhibits your ability to fly accurately and creates a false sense of security.

Keep in mind that collective pitch helicopters are very sensitive.  It takes very small movements of the control sticks to move the helicopter around in the air.  Remember not to over compensate while flying a collective pitch helicopter.

When you first start, slowly raise the collective stick until the helicopter is almost airborne, but not quite.  Get a feeling for the helicopter as it gets light on its skids and how the helicopter is going to lean as it gets so you can compensate correctly.

Next, raise the collective stick until the helicopter is airborne and then ease it back down to the ground.  Repeat this maneuver until you are comfortable taking off and landing.  Remember, you only want to get 2 or 3 inches off the ground at first.  Learning this procedure will be tricky at first, but taking your time to get comfortable landing the helicopter gently from a low hover will greatly reduce your chances of crashing.

Once you become very comfortable hovering, remove the training gear and start practicing the skills we discussed learning to fly the coaxial helicopter.  In a nutshell, you are learning all over again but on a more advanced helicopter.  This time your learning curve will be much quicker.  If you find yourself drifting off course, gently land and move the helicopter back to your starting point until you can keep the heli hovering in one place.

Keep practicing with the simulator, even after you have mastered the basic hovering maneuvers.  Use the simulator with a purpose – don’t treat it like a video game.  Always have a reason when you fly your real heli or the simulator.  Practicing the basics will make you a better RC helicopter pilot and learning more advanced techniques that much easier.

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