How to stay oriented with your RC plane for beginners

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There is no question that one of the hardest things about learning how to fly RC planes is being able to stay oriented with your plane no matter what position it is in the air related to you on the ground. Most new pilots get in trouble when it comes to bringing the plane back around towards them. Everything the brain naturally thinks or tells the hands and fingers to do usually is the opposite of what needs to be done with the control surfaces. Many people say that the controls feel “reversed.” Of course the plane/radio doesn’t get reprogrammed in the air as soon as you turn it back towards you. This is simply your brain and body struggling to stay oriented and coordinated with the plane.

Flight simulators are extremely powerful tools to use for beginners to learn this orientation which is critical to being able to stay in the air and in control of your RC plane no matter where it is in relation to you. There are a lot of great expensive simulators out there like RealFlight G6 and Aerofly just to name a couple, however, there are other economical less graphically pleasing simulators that can be bought and are relatively inexpensive. Many trainers that can be purchased a lot of times actually offer an add on PC simulator as an accessory to your purchase that are customized to actually be the real plane that you have just bought and control wise are very close to what you will actually experience when you get in the air.

There are a few little mental tidbits I would like to pass on to those beginners out there who may be struggling to stay oriented and just can’t figure out what to do when.  For the most part the aileron and rudder controls are what give beginners the most problems.

Let’s review these control surfaces:

aileron –  ailerons are used to control the aircraft by inducing a roll.  This changes the heading of the aircraft by changing lift variables.

rudder –  the rudder is the control surface that “slips” the tail of the airplane either right or left.

  • If the plane is moving away from you, everything is normal. On a 4 channel plane, move the right stick, right (aileron) and the right aileron moves up, the left aileron moves down, and the right wing tips down and the left wing tips up, causing the plane to move right.  Left is the exact opposite of this
  • If the plane is coming towards you, a good trick to remember is moving the right stick (aileron) left or right towards the low wing makes that wing level back out.  Let’s suppose the wings are level.  Pushing the right aileron stick towards either wing, makes that wing go up, or turn in the opposite direction to that wing.
  • Moving the left stick (rudder) left or right makes the plane tail “slip” to the left or right accordingly when the plane is moving away from you.  You will notice the nose will move the direction of the stick and the tail will move in the opposite direction.
  • Moving the left stick (rudder) right or left when the plane is coming towards you makes the tail move in the direction of the stick and the nose moves opposite the direction of the stick.

Hopefully, the above tips will help just a bit with staying oriented with your plane while you are learning.  Above all though, these movements need to be automatic to and you be able to make these moves without even thinking about it.  Oftentimes, if you have to think about it, it is too late by then.  While learning though, stay up 2-3 moves high so that if you make the wrong correction, you will be high enough that you can make the right move and not be in danger of hitting the ground.  Low and fast flying can come later as you gain confidence and get more comfortable with the control surfaces.

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