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Lucky Pilots in R/C - Part Two

Lucky Pilots – Part Two

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In Part one of Lucky pilots we explained what a “lucky pilot” was and started to analyze what made them so darn lucky. This part continues that exploration so anybody can also become a lucky pilot themselves.

If there is one common link between all the pilots that keep planes for a long time, it’s that they all make sure their equipment is taken care of and well maintained. This is a no brainer and I doubt anyone would disagree that well maintained equipment will serve you better. In this case it all simply comes down to habit. Some modelers are in the habit and some are not. Those in the habit of taking the extra time to give their equipment additional care and attention reap the benefits.

Here’s a little known secret. “Lucky pilots” appear to fly the same kits and ARF’s as everybody else… But theirs are BETTER! It’s true but they don’t get these better planes by knowing somebody at the hobby shop or entering some secret code in their online orders. In fact they start with the same ARF or kits as everybody else; the secret is they have very high standards when building/assembling or even repairing damage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen planes come apart or be a complete handful to fly due to a shortcoming in the building/assembly process. Time is frequently a factor here. Those modelers taking extra hours to replace suspect parts, redoing aspects that are not as good as they could be and adjusting angles and balance so they are right on the money, are simply rewarded with much better planes than Joe Average modeler. The “lucky” ones don’t let even minor issues pass as good enough.

Even on the best built and maintained planes stuff does come loose, breaks from regular use or simply goes out of alignment. One thing I’ve learned over the years of modeling is the tiniest detail can have largest consequence. The way to find these tiny inaccuracies is with a preflight inspection. One recent example of such an inspection that, without doubt, saved my plane was finding a rudder control horn that had come loose. Had I flown it that way, it surely would have jammed or come off entirely. Keep in mind its not necessary to do a pre-flight to find such flaws as most can be found during post crash inspections (for some reason everybody does those). As a carryover from my full scale flying days, I often use a preflight check list so an inspection point will not be missed. Yep, I may look like a dork with my check list in hand but I prefer it to being some stud pilot and taking a plane home in a garbage bag

This next habit was instilled by my mentor and MANY years later is still an important element of my preflight routine; that is a radio range check. Over the years I’ve seen very few people take the time to do a proper range check prior to the first flight of the day. All I can say is on several occasions, a less than favorable range check has kept planes of mine grounded until the reason was diagnosed and fixed.

The previous leads us to this… “Lucky pilots” know when to just say NO! Although were not talking drugs here. I’ve seen many pilots discover a flaw like a servo that’s binding slightly, a receiver that is giving an occasional glitch or they just can’t quite get the engine running right, then decide to fly anyway as if the problem will remedy itself in the air. Their day of flying typically ends with them picking up airplane pieces scattered across a section of the flying field. As frustrating as it can be, “Lucky pilots” would much rather get skunked on flight time than risk taking the plane home in many more pieces than it arrived in.

This one took me awhile to pick up on, but “lucky pilots” are such because they hold themselves to high standards of flying. No don’t confuse this with skill level because even proficient pilots make mistakes, the difference is the “lucky ones” don’t let their mistakes compound to a crash. One prime example of this is take offs. “Unlucky pilots” are determined to get the plane airborne once it starts rolling, regardless of where it’s headed or what its doing. Lucky pilots on the other hand will abort a take- off as soon as the plane veers from the runway center line. Taxing back and starting a take off roll over is much better than making everybody in pits dive for cover or stalling into the brush. Nobody in the peanut gallery will think less of you if you take five tries to get a plane airborne. They will just think you’re doing high speed taxi test… Just like you thought those “lucky pilots” were doing (the secret is out).

The same can be said for landings. Too many pilots get what I call “get-it-on-the-ground-itus”. This is a common condition that happens when the plane is on short final. There seems to be this magic point where pilots decide to get the wheels on the ground, no matter what. I’ve seen MANY planes get busted up due to botched landings when the pilot simply should have aborted the landing and gone around for another approach.

As an example of this is during one flight the wind suddenly picked beyond my comfort level for the plane I was flying. When I brought the plane in for a landing it got close to the ground and all hell broke loose. At which point I throttled up and went around for another try. After having this happen a couple more times my nerves were starting to wear pretty thin. The wind seemed to be getting stronger and I just wanted that plane on the ground. I persevered and made half a dozen landing attempts that day before one went well and was able to get the plane on the ground in an acceptable manner. As soon as the plane was firmly on the ground cheers and applause erupted behind me. Didn’t realize I was not the only one holding my breath on each attempt. Had I given in and continued with any of the previous ill-fated attempts I surely would have been receiving sympathy rather than applause.

Lucky pilots are never satisfied with their basic flying skills. As an example, ever notice that some of the most advanced flyers at the field will often do touch and go’s over and over? For the most part it is a contest against oneself to grease that landing just a little better than last time or make the wheels touch at an exact point on the runway. It’s fun to learn new maneuvers but it’s the sharpness of the basic skills that saves your bacon and brings your plane home safe. So never give up on improving or staying proficient at the basics.

This last one took me a long time to adopt and is a good wrap to the article. The number one invaluable trait of a lucky pilots is PATIENCE! For years I couldn’t wait to get to the field and get a plane in the air. Now I realize a hefty price was paid for my haste. Once I started practicing more patience, many other elements that lead to airplane longevity fell into place. The paradox I discovered about slowing down, thinking things through and taking time to complete additional task or even redo some is that I get much more flying time.

Lets hear your thoughts. What have you learned about improving your luck at the flying field.

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