Why we fly 5-2-2022

Flying an RC airplane is an amazing thing and it never gets old for me. Unlike any other experience with a hobby RC airplanes carry the largest risk of one’s money, nerve, and pride more than any other model hobby in this author’s humble opinion.

You send a good lot of money on a kit and all the equipment that goes with it. You spend time building the plane. Just the batteries alone to fly such a jet as I did yesterday cost 109 and it gets you a 4 minute flight. You do get to recharge them thankfully.

It all comes down to your nerve, guts, and most importantly, your skill. Because in a few seconds in a short moment all your hard work and money can be turned into a pile of garbage.

I have been doing this since my first build and flight with my instructor in 1986. Since then I have flown everything from the Bell X-1 to the SR-71. In all those years it’s still the same. You always have the jitters the night before you go to the field to fly that new never flown before aircraft you just bought and built. 

It’s called the dreaded maiden flight and whether it’s a J-3 Piper Cub or the SR-71 you have intrepidation, anxiety, a churning stomach, and usually a bit of a sleepless night.  

You know when you get to the field there will be all your friends and pilots there. And they will know your plane is new. They will all sit and watch the maiden. And they know everything I just told you in this story thus far. 

So to add to the pressure you know you can’t screw up or you’ll have to do “the walk of shame.” We’ve all done it before. No one, no matter how good they are, escapes it at least once. If you’re lucky.

So after a rather restless night you wake up. Try to eat your breakfast and load up that beautiful plane you hope is all sorted out correctly. You checked it over the day before going over everything. This is not a toy but a highly sophisticated bit of technology that can lift off a runway, climb to 400 ft or higher while traveling at speeds in excess of 140 mph. 

To make matters worse you’re not sitting in the cockpit, you are on the outside of this technological wonder  standing on the ground flying it. In fact this takes greater skill in this “earth bound pilot’s” opinion to fly than a full sized airplane. Sounds less like the thing the unknowing public always calls these models. Toy airplanes. Remember, “a toy airplane is something you wind up and it rolls across the ground.”

So I waited for the sky and the runway to clear at our field yesterday. It seemed like an eternity. There were a lot of people there flying. You just have to wait.

 The moment happened and I taxed this beautiful brand new F-16 to the runway. You could hear a pin drop. All the other pilots sat watching this moment. With a gulp I eased the throttle forward and the jet responded well and straight down the runway. She lifted off straight and true and climbed to about 100 ft and I turned her to the right and retracted the landing gear.

She flew perfectly and she was fast. I reduced the throttle to about 60 percent and she was still hauling the mail. After about 2 minutes of flying I thought it best to set up for a landing while I still had plenty of battery. Always a good thing for a first flight. I slowed the jet down, put down the landing gear and made my base turn onto final and lined up on the runway. I put the plane in about a 20 degree angle of attack to the runway. I used the throttle as my elevator to control descent. As she got over the runway I reduced the throttle bit by bit until the mains touched the runway. I further reduced throttle until the nose wheel touched the runway. I throttled back to zero throttle and she slowly rolled to a stop in the center of the runway. People clapped and some cheared. I didn’t disappoint them or myself.

I taxied back to the pits, shut her down and had a nice sit. I felt a big sigh of relief. It had all been rather uneventful. One always wonders no matter how many times we do this. Was it skill or luck or both?

This is why we keep coming back to this hobby. If it was easy everybody would be doing it. 

I’m hoping that this inside look from the RC pilots POV might help those non hobbyists better understand why we do this and why it’s so important to us who fly.

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