Lucky RC Pilots – How you can become one

crash pic

If you fly R/C with a group or in a club you may have noticed there are pilots that just are just plain lucky. They come out the field day after day and never seem to have a single mishap. While you on the other hand you feel perpetually unlucky, always heading home after a flying secession to do repairs or take usable parts off an airframe that no longer is.

Dumb thumbs have little to do with what I’m talking about. It’s those unexplained or out of nowhere failures that leave you scratching your head. The types of things hardly ever happen to those “other” guys.

So… Are those guys just truly more lucky RC pilots than you?

Luck really has very little to do with it and after a couple of decades of flying R/C planes, I’ve discovered the reality is those guys simply have a set of habits and practices that decreased incidents of fate or happenstance. Slowly and without much notice I’ve discovered that I, by accidental learning, have finally become one of the “lucky pilots”.

Let me just say the last few flying seasons have gone very well for me. I dare not say more because the R/C Gods are very finicky and will, without notice, take a sacrifice or two or more for being overconfident. So before going any further, I want to thank the aforementioned R/C Gods for allocating an abundance of good fortune in my direction.

Appease the R/C Gods in your own way, but the true answer to reducing occurrences that appear to be happenstance is taking care of the items that we can control. There are several elements, habits, routines, or behaviors that separate the lucky from the chronically unlucky. I’ve identified most of them and have provided an outline on each below. Much of what is presented was collected simply by observing others (sometimes what NOT to do). While some were instilled by my mentor during my training. Without further ado, let’s pass the keys to being a lucky modeler.

For years my only method of maintaining transmitter and receiver batteries was the simple wall chargers that came with the radio. It’s hardly a coincidence that the moment I invested in a high quality battery charger/cycler, my luck improved. Mind you, I was never a slacker on battery maintenance before; it’s just that a good system that automatically charges to peak and allows continual monitoring of mAh capacity is worth its weight in gold to a modeler. Let me put this another way. I don’t know a “lucky” modeler that doesn’t constantly utilize a good charger/cycling system.

I’ve found there is nothing like good ole information to keep adversity at bay. As an example a few years ago I purchased a Hangar 9 Showtime, however before I made that purchase I read a review of the plane in the now long gone R/C Report. The author saved me big time when he discovered, the hard way, that the recommended aileron throws were way too much for us simple mortals. Just about any plane, motor or what have you has been discussed ad nauseam on the net. Instead of guessing and leaving things to chance, the answer to any question is just a few key strokes away. The net has taken the “learn from the mistakes of others” to a whole new dimension. The lesson here is “don’t discount the experience of others and believe you know better”.

Doesn’t take rocket science to realize the probability of damaging a plane vastly increases as soon as the engine becomes deadstick. Often the culprit of a bad running glow engine is bad fuel. I frequently noticed the so-called “lucky pilots” were getting rid of partial gallons of fuel. Once I got it through my tightwad head, that half a gallon of fuel is much cheaper than an airplane, I too started “getting rid of old fuel” and as a result, greatly decreased my occurrence of deadsticks.

Now if you fly electric you don’t have to worry about bad fuel making your plane go deadstick although components working much harder than designed will bring a spinning prop to a standstill pretty darn quick. Although beyond the scope of this discussion is it is best to learn electric systems and know how to analyze the numbers. In other words get a watt meter and learn how to use it.

Here is one of those from which I learned what NOT to do by watching others. This conclusion was made after a lengthy study with mathematical probability thrown in. The scientific deduction is, needle tweakers have flights that end in a deadstick at a MUCH higher rate than anybody else. Those trying to squeeze every last bit of available power out of an engine often get the mixture too lean thus causing it quit at the most inopportune time. The performance of a plane with an engine running slightly rich and a few less max RPM, is barely noticeable to most pilots. If you want increase an airplane’s longevity, be concerned about keeping the engine running rather than running at absolute maximum performance.

That’s enough for now. In Part two we’ll look into more of what makes a lucky pilot lucky.

If you would like to make a comment regarding this part you can do so in the comment section below. Would love to hear your input.


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