So you’ve read our ‘Remote Control Helicopters, The Ultimate Guide’ and our ‘Find Your Perfect Helicopter’, you’ve bought your first helicopter (from RED5 of course), charged it up and read the instructions. OK you haven’t read the instructions, it’s not a Hadron Collider, and who reads instructions nowadays? You may have flown it a bit, though flown is probably a polite way of putting it. Perhaps now it might be worth grasping a few of the fundamentals of RC helicopter flight.
Rule 1: Know your surroundings
This may seem blindingly obvious, but flying in the right place is more important than remembering not to tweet your boss after a long Friday night drinking session. Don’t fly an indoor helicopter outside, or an outdoor helicopter inside, it’ll only end in tears, possible bloodshed, and you having to buy another helicopter. Ensure your flying area is clear of all obstacles, and that includes the cat. If you’re flying inside close the window, a good draft will send your precious toy hurtling into china ornaments in no time. No fans, no AC and no people who aren’t paying attention.
Rule 2: Read the manual
Yes it’s as boring as a committee meeting, but it’s a lot more productive. Not all helicopters are the same. They tend to be fairly short and to the point and may well tell you what that strange glowing button on the left does that’s been mystifying you.
Rule 3: Gently does it
You RC Helicopter is not a tank. It’s a very delicate and refined flying machine with quite a lot of small pieces that move alarmingly fast. To ensure they continue to move in all the right directions treat it as though it’s made of glass. It will of course take quite a few knocks, but imagine someone lent you a Ferrari and you have to drive it through London in the rush hour without scratching it. The motors are powerful, so use very small and gentle movements to control them. Whacking on the throttle and shooting off at high speed will have a very predictable and untimely end. Try to practice maintaining a fixed height at about eye level before you begin to dash around the room. Once you can keep the height steady then you’re ready to begin some controlled manoeuvres.
If you don’t have a Gyro helicopter then you’ll need to get the hang of adjusting the trim to stop your helicopter spinning about like a spaniel. This is often a small knob near the side of your controls (sometimes two buttons at the top), twisting it one way makes your helicopter spin clockwise, and the other anti-clockwise, find the central position where it stops spinning either way.
Ok so you can hover steady and your helicopter is pointing in one direction. Now gently try to fly in a square away from you, one leg at a time until you’re back where you started. If you’re not back where you started then try again, and again, until you are. Now get into a steady hover and very slowly ease off on the throttle and try to land it gently on the floor. The second you hit the floor, sorry, gently land on the floor, take the throttle right off. If you can do this first time then you’re a natural, go home and tell your father I can teach you nothing I can only learn from you. Normal people will have bumped the floor, rolled, the blades will have hit the carpet and your helicopter will have shot under the table clattering away like a beetle on heat.
Rule 4: Crashing your helicopter.
Crashing your helicopter is more or less unavoidable, don’t take it personally. Just remember one very important thing. The second you think you’re going to crash THE SECOND, take the throttle right off. Crashed helicopters and maniacally spinning blades are very unhappy partners. You can break the blades and possibly even your heart, so if you only remember one thing, make sure it’s this thing. Throttle off when you think you’re about to crash into anything.
Rule 5: Practice, Practice, Practice
No-one becomes an ace helicopter pilot overnight, unless they live north of the Arctic circle in winter. Keeping it in the air and doing what you want it to require patience and practice. Once you’ve mastered it, and it really doesn’t take that long, you can go wild with all the new RC helicopters that are coming out these days. Ones that blow bubbles, squirt water, fire missiles, winch people to safety, take pictures and video, and who knows what they’ll think of next. Once you can fly, the world’s your lobster and you will be worshiped by many.