Being Prepared For Flight Training
After several years as a flight instructor with our club, I have observed numerous
occasions when a student shows up at the field, confident that "this is the day" he or she will make the perfect
take-off or landing with their shiny new trainer, only to find their radio is dead, the engine won’t run, or some other equipment
problem keeps them stuck on the ground.
In an effort to save the student pilot a lot of frustrating down time at the field, I have prepared the following list for the trainee to perform on his/her plane before bringing it to the field. This checklist is most applicable to the typical high wing trainer planes with tricycle landing gear. If you follow these simple instructions, I can assure you, your time spent in your flight training course will be far more beneficial and pleasurable to you.
Propeller: All propellers should be balanced before mounting. Inspect the prop for cracks or dings. Don't use damaged props. KM Use fine wet-or-dry sandpaper to lightly sand away the "razor edge" (leading and trailing) found on typical new "plastic" props. Once the sharp edge has been removed, use a good quality balancer. Use pieces of clear packing tape to add weight on the backside of the prop near the tip of the lighter prop blade. KM Mount the prop and use a safety spinner (four-pronged is best) or rounded safety nut KM as recommended by the AMA. Be sure the prop is securely attached with the prop nut. KM
Engine/Motor: If you can KM, tune your engine prior to bringing your plane to the field by following the engine manufacturer's instructions. The high end is more important with a new engine. You can make slight adjustments to both high and low ends as the engine is broken in. Help in getting your new motor running and broken in is available at the field, but will take away from your flying time on that first day. KM
Tighten muffler bolts and use a good thread dressing to keep bolts tight. Even the best flight instructor sometimes forgets to check the muffler bolt tightness. It's a real pain to have to replace a "lost" muffler. Flying is NEVER permitted without a muffler. KM
Inspect for loose or cracked engine mounts, loose mounting bolts, and loose engine bolts. Check for loose throttle cable and test the movement of the cable with the radio on. Look for restricted movement of cable and/or carburetor barrel and correct it.
Check for the correct rotation of the prop on an electric motor and that the batteries and electronic speed control (ESC) are working properly. KM
Fuselage: Remove the wing and inspect the general installation of the rudder, elevator and throttle servos as
well as the fuel tank, battery pack, and receiver pack. The last three items should be insulated from all rigid material with foam rubber, in a glow powered plane. Double check to see that all of the servo mounting screws are secure and that the servo arm screw is in and securing the arm to the servo! KM
With the radio on, and prop removed on an electric KM, inspect for unrestricted movement of all servos and pushrods or cables. Inspect the wing saddle to see that saddle tape or silicone is installed to prevent fuel from entering the fuselage area of a glow powered model. KM
Landing Gear: The front landing gear should be tightly mounted to the firewall and the movement of the front wheel should be very slight, about three or four degrees. Be sure the cable is connected properly and there is no restriction of movement; check the nose-wheel movement with radio on. The main landing gear should be mounted to the fuselage using nylon bolts. The wheels should move freely and wheel collars should be tight. Flat spots should be created, using a file or appropriate Dremel bit, on all axles for the wheelcollar grub screws to seat on. Loosing a wheel can end your flight training day. KM
Stabilizers: Inspect the control surfaces (rudder/elevator) by grasping and pulling on them to see if there is any movement. Inspect the pushrod clevis connections to see that they are tightly installed. Use a small piece of fuel line tubing to slide over the clevises (or other hooking device) to be certain they stay closed. Nylon clevises are recommended for these types of planes. Grit can get into a metal clevis and "sand" the threads on the control rod down so that the clevis just slips off the pushrod. Also, the pin on a metal clevis will sometimes "unweld" leaving no control. KM
Wings: Be certain to use fiberglass and epoxy glue to join the wing halves. Since these are covered and concealed, they can't be properly inspected at the field. Check to see that there is no movement of the ailerons when pulled. Inspect for proper movement of the ailerons (radio on). When the stick is moved to the right and the wing is being viewed from the rear, the right aileron should go up and left aileron go down and visa versa. KM Again, be certain the clevises are locked by fuel line tubing or a similar method. Inspect the mounting device for proper fit, wood dowel and rubber bands are recommended for trainers. Be sure the wing fits snugly with no air gaps between it and the fuselage.
Radio: Each and every night before you bring your plane to the field, be certain to fully charge the batteries of your transmitter and receiver pack in the manner suggested by the manufacturer. Be sure the radio is turned off when you load it into your car. Remember to check with someone at the field about radio impound or frequency board policies.
Center of Gravity: When you assemble your plane, check the center of gravity marked on your plan sheet. Trainers should be slightly nose heavy for best results.
Now, your time at the field can be spent learning to fly your plane, not rebuilding it! Good Luck!
There are a few things that a student pilot should keep in mind when preparing for each flight. These will help in getting the feel for the model in flight.
Be very gentle with the controls. It takes very little movement to get the model to execute a maneuver. Remember that the farther the stick is moved, the more the control surface moves and the more the model will respond. As long as the stick is held in a control position, the maneuver will continue. This is most important when using the ailerons. When the stick is moved to roll the model, it will continue to roll as long as the stick is held in that position.
Fly it in...fly it out. When a maneuver is executed, it takes equal and opposite controls to overcome it and return to normal flight. A turn requires the movement of the ailerons in the desired direction of the turn. To recover from the turn, opposite aileron input is required.
Keep the model high. A Certified Flight Instructor once said, "The two most useless things to a pilot are air above you and runway behind you." By this he meant that if a pilot gets into trouble, he must have plenty of air below him to recover. When landing, the runway that is behind the airplane after touchdown is wasted because there is a reduction in length of runway to take off again in case of trouble.
Keep the model in sight. Do not fly too high nor too far away. Although the trainer may seem fairly large, it is easy to get it far enough away so that it is difficult to see its orientation. Do not fly into the sun. A moment of blindness caused by the sun can be long enough to lose a model.
Do not become discouraged. There will be times when nothing seems to go right. Each maneuver results in a near catastrophe. Everyone who flies RC models today has been through this in learning to fly. Do not give up. The next session will be better.
DO NOT PANIC. When a maneuver goes wrong, take all the time necessary to recover from the mistake. Panic will cause a you to overcontrol in an attempt to recover and cause the condition to worsen in the opposite direction. Although your instructor may seem to be a casual observer standing at your side, he will be watching in case the you get the model in a dangerous situation.