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Xavier Xavier is offline
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First Name: Xavier
Last Name: Mouraux
MAAC Number: 57581
WIMAC WINGS: Solo Planes
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 859
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Recommendations for the first flight of a model airplane
by Xavier 2022-06-06, 07:19 PM

A few incidents during first flights of models at various clubs lead me to write these few recommendations based on my experience of hundreds of first flights of my planes or other members. I was thinking of writing a few sentences, but I realize that there is a lot to say :-)
1. Before leaving home, check the weather conditions and cancel if it's not good enough. It can be useful to have 'dual rate' or even 'triple rate' for the 3 axes on 3 separate switches. This allows you to test the 3 independently. If all 3 are on the same, you could be stuck with too much one or not enough another.
2. Ask another pilot, preferably more experienced, to check the plane before the first flight. A second pair of eyes can find something you forgot. Recheck the CG, the control directions, the battery charge, etc. In full-scale aviation, there is (almost) always an inspector checking the mechanic's work.
3. Do not feel obligated to fly that day. If all the right conditions are not met, we start again another time. If you don't have much experience flying in the wind, it's not a good idea to make a first flight with 30km/h of wind. Friends who make sarcastic comments to twist your arm won’t help you pay for the damages. It is better to choose a quiet moment at the field to have fewer distractions and questions.
4. Do not hesitate to ask an instructor or an experienced pilot to do the first flight. We are stressed from spending many hours building the plane or making it looks nice. Another pilot will not have these in the back of his mind and will be only focused on the flight. This is even more important if you don’t have experience with the type of airplane or it has very different performance from what you are used to.
5. Warm up your thumbs and brain with a few flights of another plane you're comfortable with. It is even more important if you haven't flown for several weeks. This allows to check the wind and light conditions, but also the pilot’s form.
6. Ask another pilot to stand beside you in case you need help on the transmitter or anything else. Advise the other pilots that it is a first flight and preferably ask them to fly alone.
7. Practice taxiing and high-speed taxiing without taking off. Do that as many times as you need to get a good feel for the plane. Do not punch the throttle but move it progressively. This is even more important with powerful planes and/or large propellers. By going gradually, you can control the rudder and keep the plane in a straight line to take off.
8. Make a short flight (2-3 min) and small circuits to see the plane well. Climb to a safe altitude before making trim adjustments. Always keep your eyes on the plane and never look at the radio. If necessary, ask your assistant to adjust the trims. Once the trims are adjusted, check the behavior at low speed and make a mental note of the elevator and the motor position. It is not during the first approach that you want to discover this. Check the sensitivity of the controls for the 3 axes. Use dual rates as needed. The assistant can take notes for later adjustments.
9. Make several approaches at altitude at reduced speed to check the behavior of the aircraft. On each approach you lower the altitude and reduce speed while maintaining control until you are found the speed that feel right. Do not hesitate to interrupt and start again, increasing the motor gradually, if the ‘feeling’ is not good. It's almost never too late to change your mind. Ten approach practices are better than one bad landing.
10. Once the plane has returned to the ground, check that nothing is loose.
11. Rest before next flight and adjust the plane as needed. The next few flights should be approached the same way, until the plane is fully trimmed, and the pilot is comfortable. You can be too careful many times but not careful enough only once.
Xavier Mouraux
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Old 2022-06-10
Michael O'Bree Michael O'Bree is online now
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First Name: Michael
Last Name: O'Bree
MAAC Number: 91274
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 1,029
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Thank you for sharing, once again, Xavier.

What stands out for me in this thread (and from many other articles written by Xavier and other experienced leaders in our hobby) is the extraordinary generosity of people such as Xavier. Having proved their excellence through international competition at the highest level, they still make the time to share their knowledge and experience by sitting down to plan, write and share comprehensive articles such as these. It is one thing to come up with additional suggestions to perfect such an article, but to develop it from scratch - much more time consuming and demanding.

Thank you Xavier, and I look forward to see your article again in the MAC magazine

Last edited by Michael O'Bree; 2022-06-10 at 09:33 AM.
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