As my instructor Chris starts to cut the umbilical cord… yes, that trainer cord hasn’t seen the light of day for a few weeks now… but I’m sure it will reappear again, I’m starting to think back about the whole process.
As most of you know now, T1 met an early death. Norman flew it, trimmed it in, checked it over in the sky and brought her back down to the ground. I had a good inline takeoff at which point the wind got under a wing, I got confused on my inputs and turned her into the ground in a spectacular explosion of balsa! You may still find some plastic and cub yellow coating at my namesake on the SARC field.
T2, my second Senior Telemaster wears a black band under its left wing. No, it’s just so I can tell left from right on it! But this plane has had maybe 30 flights now and has had little damage. Lets see, wing spars like to come loose, some covering came loose on the elevator after some speed runs, and I did break a prop and mess up one wheel on a bad takeoff… but all in all, T2 is doing fairly well and gaining some pretty good frequent flier points!
So I’ve started to reflect on my training, done using the Telemaster. Before each session, Chris would do a quick flight to get the STM trimmed to his radio. At the earliest point, he would hand it off to me in the air. I’d just circle and figure eight for a while staying up at the 4 mistake altitudes and Chris would then take it back and bring her in. After a few flights like this, each building a bit on the past including some fly bys, I decided I was ready for another takeoff. If I remember, I cut the throttle a little too much and it was trying to stall, I pushed the throttle back up some, gave her some correction aileron and away she went, but not exactly the way I was doing input…. it was at this point that I realized that Chris had taken the plane while it was still in a recoverable state and was not reacting to my input at all.
At the same time, Instructor Chris would talk about various things… like crashes from the past, planes in trees, how trees were closer than they looked, power systems and basically, all things rc planes. Meanwhile, Chris was always willing and available to sit on the trainer cord to help me with my saves and there were many. All at the same time, he was telling me he was working on this plane or working on that plane… but in retrospect, I don’t think he was working on anything, but this was just a front so that I wouldn’t feel bad that he had the boring job watching me fly. Yeah, he would bring down a foamy or a SkyFly to fly for a bit, but neither of these have a lot of battery, so his flight times were pretty short.
As my progress continued, the takeovers became more confusing. Now what this means… a takeover is when the instructor takes the plane from you. What became confusing, is my actions were so much identical to Chris’, that I had to ask many times if he had taken it. Sometimes this was even when I had done a perfect job of recovery, but better safe than sorry. My first landing is an example. Once the plane came to a halt, I turned to Chris and asked, “Did I do that?” to which he replied that was all you! Which was shortly thereafter followed by a loud whooot!
During this same time, we started cutting out a new landing strip which has taken some work and have been preparing that as quickly as possible. Mowing mowing and more mowing. Autumn Orange removal, groundhog network removal and all those sorts of things. At the same time, my instructor started showing up with some of his other planes, like the ShowTime and the UCandu. He would talk about new engines, breaking in and all of what sounded to me like good excuses to not fly them which I now realize was all just a part of my training and his devotion to my going home with a plane in one piece.
Then as time passed, my trainer moved into yet another mode. He started demonstrating solely for my gain in knowledge some of the things that can go wrong. He started out with showing me why an airstrip needs to be so smooth. With a live demo, and sacrificing his own plane, he showed how even a perfect three point landing could rip out the landing gear and punch holes in wings. I’m still very happy that he never did this using my equipment…. but I really don’t think he needed to go quite so far with the training. Then I was to learn, that this was just the beginning of my advanced training. The next time out, he shows up with the newly repaired plane and is showing how to do a repair like this, should I ever need to do one in the future. Show and tell and engineering to boot! This is one dedicated instructor!
So, up goes the plane again which was put through some really impressive maneuvers, which I have now come to understand had to be done, as it is difficult to get a wheel to be just loose enough to allow a good take off, but yet to fall off during flight. I was standing there thinking that my instructor was finally enjoying his plane, but yet he was still training me. An in air failure! He finally shook the wheel off and it was suddenly decision making time… What to do when this happens? Thinking out of the box and on your feet quickly as gas was not going to last forever.
This taught me to decide on a best solution for an odd situation. With some help from my instructor with the solution, I quickly began looking for tall grass in an area where there were no bushes, briers, small trees and those general plane destructing natural features. Unfortunately I was unable to select an area which had no ground. Chris brought in the ShowTime and sort of gently hovered it down into this area. He showed me how if there was one tiny area where the tall grass didn’t exist, a plane was naturally attracted to that location. This of course led to a slightly faster approach to that darned ground and yup, Chris was able to show me that my poor selection of ‘the spot’ would have led to me ripping the landing gear out of my plane. But fortunately it was Chris’ plane and since he had just done this repair, it was fresh on his mind so doing it again was I’m sure something he could do in his sleep now. At the time though, I really didn’t realize this was all being done as a part of my training… I was stupidly just watching, not realizing it was all just for me.
The next trip out, the LG had yet an even better LG repair. I’m thinking if this goes the plane will be totaled. Chris again starts out with a very nice flight. And then yet again he starts rolling, whipping and generally trying to make the plane hit G-forces that would kill a human… but Louie rode on…. It was during this that Chris was able to shake loose the throttle servo tray. This could have been residual damage, but I’m now convinced that Chris spent a great deal of time weakening that structure so that it would be just good enough to get the plane off the ground, but yet weak enough that he could manage to shake it loose in flight. When this happened, it left the plane at a good flying speed so that he could show me about dead stick. Naturally there was plenty of time for us to discuss options for when things like this happen. As this is a 3d plane, it wouldn’t glide a long ways, so running it out of gas at a moment that might be beneficial but wasn’t such a good option as certainly Murphy would insure this happened at least 50 feet further from the runway than the glide ability of the plane. I guess I failed my test that day to some extent, as the instructor pointed out the old field and that it hadn’t been mowed in a week or more. I was however quick to hop onto that boat and pointed out an area at the end of the old field which had not been mowed for three or four weeks, so it was just nice clean soft foot tall grass.
I must admit, I missed a lot of this lesson… I still have no idea how you force a plane down at this speed nor how you keep it on the ground at this speed but I do have a pretty good understanding of how you steer it on the ground at those speeds… still I know I have a long ways to go before being able to accomplish such amazing feats. This did in fact show me that a plane could be put down at flight speed, that it could be controlled on the ground and with my last minute help of saying ‘go to the left’, that in fact 12″ tall grass will wrap between wheels and landing gear, acting as brakes and eventually reducing momentum to zero. This of course led me to learn to quickly pounce on a plane in that state, as it is still rather instable and one should never totally trust grass to hold a plane in place. It also showed that a really well built and repaired landing gear subframe will in fact take a lot of abuse. Now, as I realize this was just a lesson for me, I’m really glad that this did not include any damage, except regluing a servo tray… as I never really wanted Chris to go this far with my training. I would never want to put anyone out and this was certainly above and beyond anything that I had imagined. Such sacrifice.
The next outing, my training continued. This session was about distractions. Chris carefully placed his ShowTime on our flight table and came out onto the airstrip to join me in looking to see if our new grass was coming up. It had been almost a week since we sowed it…. and then the wind came up a bit and we heard a crash. We turned to see the ShowTime laying upside down on the ground beside the bench. I now realize that I was extremely rude, as instead of showing concern and instead of realizing that this was in fact another lesson just for me, I immediately broke out into uncontrollable laughter! This was just too much for me…. four outings, four bad endings. Closer inspection however showed zero damage due to this antic and I was relieved non-the-less.
Chris then began to show off his skills, but I think Louie feared for his life and ejected from the plane. Or maybe he just saw the nut from that wheel incident and dove out to grab it? Louie was retrieved and placed back into the plane at which point he promptly ejected again. I really do think that this ‘training’ just scared him out of the plane.
Apparently though, my laughter was a graduation point, or my instructor took exception to it or something, as the umbilical cord to the Telemaster has been cut and Chris is now just flying his plane and not showing me anymore about things that can go wrong. Or maybe I just don’t get it and maybe he’s showing what things I might be able to do if I fly often enough and bust up enough planes to get there. Somehow, I’m not too sure I’ll ever get to that level. There are things about being young and those quick reactions…. and the time it takes to get that good… so I add about 10 to 15 years to learning to fly and that puts me as pretty old… darn! I guess I’ll have to start busting stuff up faster trying to do some of these things.
At the same time however, I have started as an instructor myself. My background as a cabinetmaker has led to a lot of challenges with design and engineering, what materials to use and understanding things like the strength of triangles and so forth. Providing only some help with Chris’ throttle servo tray repair, I made some suggestions for stronger engineering. I however had not read until recently about the various qualities of balsa. I had bought a ‘bag-o-balsa’ which sounded like a great way to have a lot of sizes. I have not yet done any density testing to determine the quality of this balsa, but it does seem to be particularly light. I didn’t provide any guidance in the selection of the balsa to be used for this repair. But instead, I’m allowing for mistakes by the student…. My style is just slightly different, letting the student make the mistakes on his equipement, instead of making all the mistakes for my student. I guess I’ll have to rethink this method, as I had not until just a few days ago fully understood just what sacrifices my instructor was making to help me with learning to fly.