Getting Started with RC Helicopters


Collective Pitch RC Helis are intimidating!

It’s a fact, many people go out & buy a ready to fly helicopter thinking they can pull it out of the box & start hovering. We all know the outcome: THEY CRASH! Their Heli is often put away & forgotten. Flying an airplane won’t give you the required skills to fly a helicopter either.

Hopefully the following will help beginners deal with the long learning curve towards RC Helicopter flying.

Start small & allow your heli to grow with your comfort level. Be rational, think of your budget, the indoor and outdoor space that is available to you as well as the usual weather conditions in your area. Is it constantly calm, breezy or plain windy?

This was my cost conscious approach when starting out:

My first mistake was to go ahead & purchase a 250 size collective pitch ready to fly Heli without any prior experience, knowledge or available help. However it transformed itself into a blessing because I’ve stuck with the hobby. I quickly learned that I had to have a professional flight simulator to learn the sticks. While this did nothing for the intimidation factor of fast spinning blades in our small one car family garage, it gave me the sense of orientation I’ve unknowingly desperately needed. Luckily for me, the collective pitch, ready to fly model I had was the badly criticizedBlade SR. This Heli came with a Spektrum made transmitter. This allowed me to pair the transmitter up with my Phoenix Professional Flight Simulator.

It was just a matter of setting the transmitter’s DIP switches correctly (switches 2,7 & 8 up for the Blade SR & switches 2 & 7 up for Phoenix. Spooling-up my Blade SR with training gear attached made me realise that I had to learn why it always went left. As an engineer, I understood that there had to be an action that provoked this drifting to the left reaction. I’ve then learned that a clockwise spinning main rotor caused the rest of the Heli to torque turn in the counter clockwise direction. To eliminate this force, the tail blade keeps the heli from spinning out of control. However, with the tail blade pushing the tail in a clockwise direction to counter act the main blades the resulting force is a push towards the left.

Backtrack to gain confidence:

Okay, but understanding the physics didn’t give me the guts to take it up in the air so I’ve gone ahead & purchased a “Bind N Fly” Blade 120SR. I was able to bind the Blade SR’s transmitter to it (I’ve only had to set the transmitter’s DIP switch #4 up & bind them). This inexpensive bird made me get over my fear of taking off, hovering & slow forward, backward & sideways flight.

The Hovering Milestone:

The Blade 120SR could be flown all over the house without the fear of breaking anything. It gave me the opportunity to apply the orientation skills learned on the flight simulator. Once my fear was conquered, I took the Blade SR out for my first hover and a milestone was crossed: I’ve hovered, tail in, for a minute or so with my Blade SR unfortunately it ended in a crash landing!

Making your own repairs:

The crashed Heli had to be repaired so I’ve pulled out the manual, ordered the required parts & fixed it. It is important that you undertake your own repairs, it’s a hands on method of understanding the workings of your helicopter. I’ve decided to order the broken parts two at the time so that the next I crash I might not need to drive down to my local hobby shop.

Stay with it !

Once repaired, I’ve flown it again and again (without crashing). I’ve noticed that every time I felt overconfident and tried something new, I crashed. So I learned that if I want to try something new with my Heli, it had to be something that I’ve been practicing and mastering for a long time on my simulator. By doing so, I’ve eliminated any thought process while flying the real deal. Every situation & orientation must eventually become second nature. If I have to stop to think, I know I’ll crash!

These are the steps I’ve taken to learn how to fly steadily:

Fly very slowly !!! This way you won’t allow things won’t get out of hand.

Master your tail in hover, take as long as you need, it might take days, weeks or months. Then with the Heli in front of you, from a tail in hover, slowly move to the right while keeping the tail towards you. Stop at approximately 8 feet away from your center starting point. Keep your Heli hovering to your right for a few seconds. Then slowly move it to the left, back to your center starting point. Pause in the center point in a tail in hover then move slowly to the left while keeping the tail towards you. Pause & hover when the Heli is 8 feet to your left. Keep on repeating this until it’s the most monotonous & boring skill you’ve mastered.

Now let’s up the ante! Let’s get back to the side to side flying, stopping, hovering & repeating. This time after hovering to your right, gently turn the nose slightly counter clockwise & fly the Heli to your left & pause in a hover. Now gently turn the nose slightly clockwise & fly it back to your right. Keep on repeating this & gradually increasing the angle you rotate the nose. Eventually, you will fly right to left & left to right with the Heli completely on it’s side.

Congratulations! I hope that your confidence level if flying high.

Think your good, there’s more nerve racking to come. Bore yourself to death on your simulator doing the following: try the same side to side, pause, turn to the side & repeat… but add the following twist: when your Heli is to your right, rotate it clockwise to it’s side, fly it to the left, hover it to your left, hover & rotate counter clockwise before flying back to your right. When your ready, try it with your Heli.

The Nose In Hovering Milestone:

You’re getting close to bragging rights! Keep on practicing on your simulator for as long as it takes, from side to side & adding another twist: instead of flying side to side in front of you, fly (on your simulator!!!) towards you, slowly turning the Heli away from you as it approaches. Voilà! You’re beginning to fly half circles. Following half circles, fly in a “V” with it’s point being in front of you.

Gradually hold it steady in front of you with the nose facing you. There you go, a gateway to a new world is in sight.

The key to the gateway will be in your hands when the above is mastered with an actual helicopter. Nail it on your simulator before your head off to the real world.