Do You Have a First Aid Kit?

Being the accident prone father of two that I am, I am more aware than most of the importance of having a First Aid Kit within easy reach at all times.

We had discussed the inclusion of a First Aid Kit at the field in the past and decided that, whilst too difficult to keep one safely on site, it is a good idea for pilots to ensure they have a suitable kit in their car or their flight kit.

Today I discovered in Bunnings Warehouse (Belmont being my local) that they are selling St John’s Ambulance kits at the front counter for $19.95. This seems to me to be an excellent price for a medium sized, 80 piece kit that will cover all the basics in an emergency.

The one I bought looks much like the one pictured so if you don’t already have a kit in the car, do yourself a favour and go get one.

PS – This post is in no way endorsed or sponsored by Bunnings; I just saw it and thought it was a good deal!

Video: The Shuttleworth Collection

Looking for a bit of inspiration for that next big scale project?  At 60 minutes long this is a bit of a viewing commitment but it shows a large proportion of the Shuttleworth Collection in the air, which is something rarely seen these days.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the best examples of vintage aircraft in the existence (then break out the balsa and get cutting!).



Preparing for the Gold Wings flying test

For the majority of R/C pilots, earning their Bronze Wings and being able to fly their aircraft solo is all that is required for many years of happy aeromodelling.  However, if you wish to fly in competition, at shows or be able to teach others to fly then you will be required to pass your Gold Wings.

The Gold Wings is purely a test of flying skills.  The manoeuvres required as part of the schedule are included to give the pilot an opportunity to demonstrate more precise control of their aircraft throughout the entire flight envelope.  The Gold Wings is not purely a test of aerobatics. For example, if you complete the three rolls by simply throwing in full aileron and completing all 3 rolls inside of 2 seconds then you will probably be asked to do them again – slower and with more control.

If you are thinking about taking your Bronze Wings then you should already know how to fly the required manoeuvres.  This guide is intended to give you some tips on how to arrange the schedule and some tips on what your examiner will be looking for:

The Manoeuvres:

  1. Outside Figure 8 – Flying along the runway heading perform the figure 8 with the first 90 degree turn away from you.  This must be flown with constant rate and altitude turns, balancing all control surfaces for a nice smooth turn.
  2. Inside Figure 8 – Start the manoeuvre on the outfield leg and make the first 90 degree turn in towards you.  Keep the circles smooth and constant for best results.
  3. 3 Aileron Rolls – Keep them slow and make them last the length of the field.  Practice using all controls to keep the rolls axial without losing altitude.
  4. 3 Loops – Remember to balance the power and use the ailerons to keep the loops tracking straight.
  5. Immelman Turn – Make sure that your Immelman finishes with the model flying straight and level and does not start descending.
  6. Inverted Flight 5 Seconds – Make sure to keep it straight and level.
  7. Cuban 8 – Both loops should be equal in size and track with the cross over and roll directly in front of the pilot’s box.
  8. Procedure Turn – Like the Figure 8, the turns should be constant and no altitude should be lost.
  9. 3 Turn Spin – Best performed into wind and make sure you do the full three turns.  Do not be afraid to pull out early if you do not have enough height.

All manoeuvres in the test (except the spin) must be flown twice with each manoeuvre flown both from left to right and right to left.  You also need to make a landing circuit in each direction.  To pass the Gold Wings you have up to four flights to complete all the required manoeuvres.  The ideal though is to complete the test in one or two flights.

Rather than throw your plane into the air and simply try to complete the manoeuvres in any old order.  Think of the test as a competition schedule and organise it that way.  There is nothing wrong with handing your examiner a bit of paper with the order you will be flying and getting him to act as your ‘caller’.  Here is an example of what I mean:

Use the principle of the Aerobatic Box (read this post for more details) the idea is to fly each manoeuvre once one into wind and one downwind.  Land after the first schedule is complete and then, if the wind is calm, take off in the opposite direction and perform the schedule again with each manoeuvre flown the other way.

PA_EXTRA_RdLgTry this schedule (<<< Wind Direction <<<):

  1. >>> Outside Figure 8 >>>
  2. <<< Inside Figure 8 <<<
  3. >>> Three Aileron Rolls >>>
  4. <<< Three Loops <<<
  5. >>> Inverted Flight 5 Seconds >>>
  6. <<< Cuban 8 <<<
  7. >>> Procedure Turn >>>
  8. <<< Immelman Turn <<<
  9. >>> Three Turn Spin >>>
  10. >>> Landing Circuit >>>

The arrows denote which direction to fly the manoeuvre.  Try to make sure there is no ‘messing about’ between manoeuvres – Fly one figure into wind through the ‘box’, turn around and fly the next coming back the other way.

And that’s it!  Practice each manoeuvre individually and into wind before putting them together in your routine.

Good luck – practice makes perfect…

Flying the 'Box' in Aerobatics

visualizing the box

Used in both full-size and model aerobatics, the ‘Box’ is the area in which a pilot performs the schedule.  Although compulsory in competition, the box is a useful way to practice your aerobatics in a safe and controlled environment.

Consider the box as a stage where you will perform your show.  Before you start to fly decide where you want the box to be and use visual clues on the ground to help orientate you.  In the interest of safety when practicing, your box should have it’s lower limit no closer than 100 feet above the ground.

The picture in this post is simply for illustration and the distances given are for full size flying.  If you were flying in competition, the box location and size would be decided for you.  If practicing you will have to decide for yourself.  For example, if I were flying at the LMMAC field I would use the electricity pylon as my centre point and the main east/west runway as the width of the box.  I would also use the runway as the front edge and extend to two or three time the pylon height as the upper limit.

When starting out practicing your aerobatics, begin each manoeuvre into wind as this will make the aircraft more responsive to control and the groundspeed slower as you enter the figure.   Try to be disciplined and turn around the circuit at the end of each manoeuvre before entering the box into wind again for the next.  Of course, if you start flying competition the schedule will require figures to be flown in both directions, but this is for later on!

Using the box to start practicing aerobatics will help to keep you safe and disciplined.  If you ever start flying competition it will be second nature to you and you will have a headstart over other newcomers who did not learn this way.

(Thanks to Garth Bingley Pullin for his ‘Park Pilot’ column in Airborne magazine, which made this post so much easier to write)

Introduction to Aerobatics

Once you have passed your bronze wings (and in a lot of cases before) the first thing you want to do is start throwing your model around the sky like a lunatic so that everyone will be impressed by your incredible skills on the sticks.

However, there is a safe way to go about it and a not so safe way – so I thought I should start writing a series of posts on how to improve your aerobatic skills…

Finding a suitable model

Not all models are aerobatic although most can be made to do some manoeuvres, and before you start mentioning Bill Hempel flying 3D freestyle with a 50% Cub on YouTube don’t get your hopes up – but it does prove that anything is aerobatic if you modify it enough.

We can show you ways to improve the performance of your trainer by increasing the throws on your control surfaces and changing the incidence on your wings.  This is probably the safest way to go as your trainer will still have some inherent stability that could save some expensive accidents.  Once you get more confident you can move on to a more advanced model.  I would recommend starting with an advanced low-wing trainer before you refinance the house and get that 2 meter 50cc TOC Extra 260!  Things to look for in an advanced trainer include…

  • Low or mid-mounted wings
  • Semi-symetrical or symetrical wing section
  • Larger control surfaces, possibly with a servo on each aileron
  • Rudder, elevator, aileron, and throttle control

Stick with something that still has a trainer type construction – box type fuselage, built up wings and solid tail feathers – this will make it easier to repair when you have those almost certain mishaps.

Moving onwards and upwards

Once you have the basics of aerobatics mastered and want to move onto something more advanced you need to decide where you want to focus your attention.  There are three main types of aerobatics (as defined by competition):

  1. Precision – Popular in Europe, this is highly specialised models flying extremely precise aerobatic figures to a predetermined schedule.  Precision aerobatics is not for the faint hearted and takes a lot of practice (and a lot of money) to master.
  2. 3D/Freestyle – All the rage at the moment, these are the models that hang around in the air for ever and perform manoeuvres with names like ‘Blender’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘Wall’ and ‘Harrier’.  Freestyle rounds in competition are often flown to music.
  3. IMAC – The International Miniature Aerobatics Club is the small version of the IAC.  Competition models must be scale in appearance and fly scale type aerobatic manoeuvres.  Planes are often large petrol engine powered models.

At the moment the most popular models are those that are either total 3D/Freestyle models or IMAC style scale models.  If I was to recommend a model type then it would be a scale IMAC model such as the Extra 260, Yak54, SU26, Extra 330 or Edge 540 as these models are light and strong and can be flown with precision on low rates or 3D with high rates.

A note about size…

There are lots of good models out there and sometimes it can be hard to choose what you want to fly.  A lot of people are doing very well flying small foam models such as ‘Shockflyer’ style models or the Multiplex Acromaster.  These are fine electric models with good performance in light winds which help build confidence without putting a huge dent in your wallet.

Larger models around the .46 to .60 size are the most popular.  They will return a good performance for a pretty good price, and will still fit in the car easily.

More and more people now are turning to larger models with petrol engines.  1/4 scale models with 25cc engines are the smallest seen in competition these days with 50 – 100cc being popular with the experts.  The truth of the matter is that – when it comes to advanced aerobatics – bigger models fly better and are easier to lock into the hover.  They do however cost a lot of money and you have to ask yourself how confident you would be practicing rolling harriers 6 inches off the deck with the kids college money?!?!

Well that’s it for this post.  Next time we’ll start looking at some aerobatic theory so we can begin to practice safely…

Flying lessons are now online!

I have now put all of my flying lessons for Bronze Wings students onto the site.

These lessons should form a good basis for any model pilot wanting to learn the skills required to be able to pass the bronze wings test.  I should be noted however that these lessons are intended as a framework for learning to fly and DO NOT replace the instruction given by one of the clubs qualified instructors.

I have left the comments sections open on the lessons so that anybody who wants to add tips or tricks they have learnt along the way can add them to the bottom.

Lesson Nine – Bronze Wings Rehersal

Learning Objectives

  • To be confident in taking and passing the Bronze Wings Test



Bronze Wings Rehearsal

In this lesson your instructor will take you through the full Bronze Wings test to prepare you for the real thing!
The following is reproduced from the test schedule issued by the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia:

Pilot must be able to locate all the transmitter controls quickly without fumbling.

Pilot must be able to name all major components of the aircraft and define functions including effect of controls and have a thorough knowledge of safety rules and regulations.

Check engine mounting, plumbing, centre of gravity location, throttle setting, under-carriage secure, and signs of structural or covering problems that could affect flight e.g. Controls neutral and control throws correct, presence of warps which could affect trim, state of battery and range check.

Use gradual application of power while keeping the aircraft straight, and using a little elevator to lift off, then making a gentle climb out with wings level until safe altitude is reached.

Pilot to show ability to trim aircraft in flight. Displacement and re-trimming both the primary roll control and elevator should be demonstrated.

6. PROCEDURE TURNS – One in each direction.
The pilot’s ability to perform the following steps in the procedure turn will be monitored.
a. Level flight segments should be straight and level.
b. Aircraft should pass directly over the landing area.
c. Turns should be at a constant altitude.
d. Turns should be completed in order that upwind and downwind tracks are superimposed.

In both directions, as shown in the diagram in the M.A.A.A. Pilot Log Book, with all turns of 90 degrees. With high performance aircraft the power needs to be reduced much sooner than at the turn onto base leg. The upwind and downwind legs are parallel to the landing strip. The first three legs are maintained at a constant height and a gradual approach angle is started at the beginning of the base leg.

With engine assisted landings (approximately 1/4 power or suitable power setting depending on the model set-up allowing the model to descend under power) control nose attitude and therefore airspeed with elevators and use the throttle to place the aircraft where you want it to be. The aircraft should be flown over the threshold at an altitude of about 1.5 metres, the throttle closed, and as the aircraft settles towards the ground the round-out or flare is initiated. The “hold-off” period is then commenced where the aircraft is gradually allowed to sink and settle on the ground in a slightly nose high attitude.

At a safe and high position the student will reduce the throttle to idle and perform a descending circuit to show his/her ability to safely glide the model without engine power to a position where a landing approach can be executed.

Your instructor will give you tips on how to approach each of these tasks and the best way to fly the manoeuvres to impress your examiner.

And that is it! You should now be ready to take your Bronze Wings and enjoy the freedom of flying your model whenever you like without having to ask an instructor to accompany you!

After you pass

Do not throw that trainer away too quickly. A trainer aircraft can be made to be more responsive, fly faster and perform aerobatics whilst still being forgiving of errors. Take some time to go over these lessons once again and practice the manoeuvres until you can do them perfectly.
Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask advice! Your instructor is an instructor because he has been flying for many years and has flown a lot of different models and knows a lot of advanced flying skills. He can go on to teach you to fly aerobatic manoeuvres and even prepare you for your GOLD WINGS!
Finally – please do not be tempted by that 2 meter wingspan pure-scale spitfire for your second model! You will not be able to fly it just yet!!!

Lesson Eight – Engine Failure

Learning Objectives

  • Land safely and in control following an engine failure
  • Respond to other emergencies
didn’t pay attention to his instructor


Engine Failure

Otherwise known as the deadstick landing this lesson will teach you how to react when things go wrong.

If your engine fails in flight call out ‘deadstick’ to your fellow pilots so that you are given priority use of the runway

There is only one really important thing to remember if your engine fails and is taught to both model and full-size pilots alike:


So many people think that just because the engine has stopped the aircraft is going to drop out of the sky.  This just is not true!  You still have wings and your trainer will glide better than most other models in the sky.  As part of the Bronze Wings you will be asked to simulate an engine failure and get the aircraft safely back to the runway.

  1. Usually part-way along the downwind leg of a normal circuit you will be told to cut the throttle
  2. Reduce throttle to idle and let the aircraft settle into a glide
  3. Do not try to hold the aircraft in the air, use your skills in the landing circuit and approach to judge when to make your turns to bring the aircraft around to the runway
  4. Land as normal
  5. That’s it!

All that is really different in an engine failure is you do not have the luxury of a go-around if you get the approach wrong.  It is always better to be a little higher than normal on your approach so you can carry the speed into finals and have plenty of time to land rather than falling short of the runway.  If you are a little too high simply hold the aircraft straight and let it settle into the long grass at the end of the runway.  Better that than pushing in down elevator and smashing into the hard runway!

If your engine cuts and you do not have enough time to complete the circuit first and foremost, fly the aircraft!  Get the model under control and then decide which is the nearest runway to land on that you can reach.  Judge your turn and altitude to bring the model down safely as soon as possible.  It may not be your best landing ever but if the model survives no one will argue!

Engine Failure after Take-Off

If you have just left the ground and your engine fails DO NOT TRY TO TURN.  Turning at such a low speed and altitude will almost certainly cause a tip-stall and you will crash.  Fly the model straight ahead and let it settle back into the long grass.  This way you will get to fly again that day.

Other Emergencies

Most other emergencies in R/C aircraft usually place the model out of our control.  This is often as a result of radio failure and is the reason why adequate pre-flight checks are so important.

The only situation we may be able to react to would be a partial airframe failure such as an aileron or wing detaching, or the fin or horizontal tail breaking – but again this is why we check these items before flight.  In these situations we can only hope to avoid injuring other people rather than saving the model.

  1. If it is safe and possible to continue flying – land the model as soon as possible
  2. In the event of a major failure (i.e. flying surface detachment), cut the throttle and pull in up elevator to stall the model

Pulling in up elevator to stall the model sounds like an extreme solution and it is.  In this case the model is uncontrollable so by cutting the throttle and stalling the model we are ensuring it slows down and falls to the ground vertically.  Unless you were flying over the pits at the time (which you never would be) there is minimal risk to others this way.