After you finish learning the basics of model airplane flight, you will probably want to progress to more advanced flying. Aerobatics are maneuvers which are performed outside the normal performance envelope of an aircraft. This means that the aircraft is subject to stress, speeds, and attitudes not encountered in straight and level flight. There are several relatively easy to perform maneuvers for a beginner to try. This article will show you the basic maneuvers such as loops and rolls, and later articles will detail more advanced maneuvers.
Although the stall isn’t exactly an aerobatic maneuver, you will need to know how to avoid and survive them before you try the basic aerobatic maneuvers which can sometimes cause stalls.
In order to produce lift and keep the RC model airplane flying, air must constantly move over the wings. If the angle of attack (how high the nose is pointed) is increased, then the aircraft will climb and slow down. A stall is a condition of flight where little to no lift is produced by the wings, causing the aircraft to free fall. All aircraft wings have a critical angle of attack, beyond which they cannot effectively generate lift. If this limit is exceeded, then the RC model aircraft will enter a stall.
After entering the stall, the RC model airplanes nose will drop. Most beginning pilot’s first instinct is to pull back on the elevator and attempt to slow the descent. This is actually the opposite of what should be done to recover from a stall. Remember, the lift produced by the wings is proportional to the amount of air moving over them. The only way to increase this airflow over the wings and thus end the stall is to increase the RC model airplanes speed through the air. This is accomplished by letting the nose drop, and then gently pulling back after sufficient airspeed has been gained.
You can safely practice stall recovery by letting the RC model airplane climb to a safe altitude, reducing throttle, and pulling back on the elevator. After inducing a stall, just let the nose drop, increase throttle, and then gradually pull back on the elevator. Once you are comfortable with stall recovery, you can start learning about the fun stuff – aerobatics!
The loop is one of the easiest (and most fun) aerobatic maneuvers to perform. Begin by flying the RC model airplane to a safe altitude (about 50 feet should be enough) and into the wind. Increase throttle to full, and gently pull back on the elevator to start climbing. Continue to use the elevator, and let the aircraft enter inverted flight. After the RC model aircraft’s nose starts to point downwards, gradually decrease the amount of up elevator until the RC model aircraft is level again. Take a look at this sketch, which shows what a loop looks like.
The loop described here is an inside loop, performed with the RC model airplanes bottom facing outwards. An inside loop is a much more challenging maneuver, and will be discussed in a later part of this article.
The roll is another easy to perform maneuver, consisting of rolling the airplane on its side 360 degrees. We recommend having a RC aircraft with ailerons to perform this maneuver, but some three channel aircraft are able to roll without problems. This sketch shows what a roll looks like. We have colored in one wingtip of the aircraft in the picture, so that you can see the
Start the roll with the RC model airplane facing into the wind. Then apply a small amount of up elevator (to compensate for the loss of lift from the wing) and apply full aileron in the direction that you want to roll. Don’t center the ailerons until the RC model airplane is level again.
Flying the RC model aircraft inverted is a fun and impressive aerobatic maneuver. You already have some experience with inverted flight after performing loops and rolls, the two major ways to enter inverted flight.
The loop is the simplest way to enter inverted flight. Enter the loop like before, but at the top, don’t use up elevator. Instead apply a slight amount of down elevator. Because the RC model airplane is inverted, every control input will be opposite to what it is when the plane is flying normally. For example: when flying inverted, use left aileron to turn right, and right aileron to turn left. Likewise: use up elevator to fly downwards, and down elevator to fly upwards. You can exit inverted flight by completing the loop, using up elevator, or rolling 180 degrees. This sketch illustrates the two main ways to enter inverted flight.
Part II of this article will discuss more advanced aerobatics, including snap rolls, stall turns, and
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