Why and how use a model flight simulator?

Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
This is a collection of knowledge and hints in a question-and-answer style.
It’s intended for those who want to learn model flying and wonder what a
simulator would help. Most questions asked over and over again in the
Web forums are answered and some not asked as well. You have to read
sequentially at least for the first time.
Q: Does one really need a simulator?
A: No, but you will want one. It really helps you learning faster, avoiding
frustration, and saving money - assumed you want to learn model flying.
And it really helps you gathering lots of stick time for practise or just for
fun - assumed you just like model flying.
Q: Isn’t a simulator a computer game?
A: You might see it that way. But maybe you’d find a good simulator a
too expensive game for 200 bucks. And why should three or even more
top simulators worldwide compete for realistic flight behaviour if it were
just for a game?
Q: So why use a simulator?
A: The short answer is because we can do things in a simulator we can’t
do in reality. The long answer is a list of these things:
Fly in an environment perfectly suited to learning.
Think of a nice landscape, fine weather, no wind, sunshine from
your back, a huge area of mowed lawn or a big tarmac runway, and
no other people bothering you.
Fly a perfectly set-up model.
Is your real model built symmetrical, is the center of gravity in it’s
centerline and the right amount behind the wing’s leading edge? Are
all controls linked without slop and deflecting the right amount?
Crash a model without cost.
You’ll lose no money for spare parts and repair and no time for
going back home and repairing. You press a key or just wait for the
virtual model to come back intact. Learn from your mistakes.
Or the other way around:
Fly in an adverse environment.
Learn to land in gusty crosswinds. Find out how easy it’s to lose a
model in bad visibility, backlight, or distance. Trees can be so
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
attractive for your model, like a magnet! Why is the runway so short
and narrow, and wasn’t there a centerline? Why should you avoid to
fly over your buddies’ heads in the pits, and why should you stay in
the aerobatics box? Try it out!
Fly an unruly model.
Did you fill the tank or charge the battery before flight? Good, but
be aware of engine failure, especially with multi-engine models. Do
you know what flight behaviour you get from sloppy control
linkages? What does a rear center of gravity mean? How about a c/g
slightly left or right of the centerline? How to fly a heavy and/or
poorly powered model, or an overpowered one?
Avoid any crash.
Not flying is absolutely safe, flying is risky – more or less. Practise
risky situations you would never try in reality. Practise until you’re
safe also in reality.
Yet another aspect:
Fly virtually when you can’t really.
Rain, snow? Cold or dark? How long is the summer, and how often
the weather is fine? No gym to fly in?
Fly more.
No refuelling or battery charging, no driving to the field and back,
no model assembly and disassembly. No constructing, covering,
repairing, engine break-in. Just installing the simulator on your PC,
starting the program, and flying. Even if you are short of time.
Fly expensive.
How many different models can you afford? Ever owned a jet
powered model, or could borrow one? Where’s the nearest really
good airfield?
Very likely, you’ll have most of your flight time in the simulator. Just
that’s why the small rest in reality will be more (or most) satisfactory.
This rest isn’t smaller than without a simulator, virtual flight time is in
addition. (OK, only if you don’t get a simulator addict.)
Q: But why not simply get by with some fun flying in reality?
A: Good point. But maybe there is fun only if you are a proficient flyer,
and what do you think how many hundreds of hours stick time you will
need to become one? A simulator will get you to the fun stage soon.
Q: What are you talking about?
A: Model flying. A simulator won’t tell you what it is. Read about it, ask
people who know how to do it, search for help. Then come back and try
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Make up your mind!
Q: How shall I learn to fly a helicopter?
A: By visiting a helicopter flying school. Seriously! Though the following
information in general is valid also for helis, all special information applies
to airplanes only. I strongly recommend John Vugts' RC Helicopter Web
(unfortunately abandoned). Michael Pfenning's Heli School isn’t bad either.
Or you may also try Radd's School of Rotary Flight (might be gone as
well). Sorry to kick you out, so long!
Q: So where should I look for learning to fly airplanes?
A: Instead of reading books to learn the basics of model flying, you may
visit Ed Moorman's RC University. After that, let Ed Moorman teach you
how to fly aerobatics. Years ago, he was running a very good website
where he offered a wealth of information in a pragmatic manner. Thanks
to the Way Back Machine, we can still read his articles. He’s an experienced teacher, so read carefully and obey him!
Q: Should I really learn aerobatics as a beginner?
A: Sure. That doesn’t mean the so-called 3D aerobatics, which have little
in common with normal flying. Old-school aerobatics are just a high skill
level of normal flying, including landings. You’ll get to know the limits of
your model and your own limits as well. You’ll acquire reflexes which
might help you out of trouble. And you might even become a really good
pilot if you master low power aerobatics.
Q: Do I need an expensive simulator?
A: It depends. If you’re a rank beginner, a cheap or even free simulator
(FMS) will suffice, even though you might appreciate a better and more
expensive one. But before you go to reality you’ll just need one because
you won’t really learn landings without.
Especially for slope soaring and thermalling, there are very good free
simulators (sss and crrcsim). But if you want to fly also powered models
and fly realistically and precisely or to the limits, you’ll need one of the
expensive ones (Reflex XTR, AeroFly, Realflight, Phoenix, FS One, and
others). This may change some time, though.
Q: So which one do you recommend?
A: Reflex XTR. This is no ad, I’m not paid by Reflex. It’s just that I’m an
expert in Reflex XTR and able to guarantee it’s very well suited to learning
and practising. (And it's still available in their web shop.)
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Q: Is Reflex XTR the best simulator?
A: I just don’t know. As much as I’m expert in Reflex XTR as little I know
about the other simulators. But that’s not the point. Reflex XTR is very
well suited – no doubt at all. You might take one of the other sims as well,
but in that case I couldn’t help you anymore.
Q: But why not use an even better simulator?
A: Because nobody knows what the best simulator is. No simulator is
completely true to reality, it’s only similar, hence the name. All great
simulators have their strengths and weaknesses, but you would notice
these only as an experienced pilot, if at all. On the other hand, Reflex is
very concerned in making the simulator a tool for learning and practising.
There are no gimmicks just for fun, but the learning environment is nearly
Q: What makes for a good learning environment?
A: It must make you believe it’s real. That actually says it all but still has
to be explained. Of course, the flight physics must render all aspects of a
model’s flight behaviour. You would wonder how much you are influenced
also by a model’s appearance, which therefore should be rendered nearly
photo-realistic. Even the model’s sound is important for your experience.
Last but not least, the scenery should show all objects on the ground and
in the sky with realistic lighting and other physical properties. All that does
not have to be perfect, just good enough to make you feel like in reality
and concentrate on your flying skills.
Q: What about people complaining of bad flight behaviour?
A: They might be even right. There are many bad models for Reflex XTR,
but that doesn’t mean the simulator is bad. It’s just very hard to correctly
render a model’s flight behaviour, and most people don’t want to do such
hard. Even some models coming with Reflex XTR are not perfect. Actually,
the really hard part is to avoid the self-delusion adjusting a flight behaviour you wish to be real. This, in general, will need measurements, aerodynamic calculations and/or the real model for comparison – and a clear
and unbiased mind.
Q: You mean the simulator is good but only the models are bad?
A: Not quite. On the one hand, no simulator is perfect and should get
better with every new version. Reflex XTR is by far good enough for
learning and practising purposes and has the potential for really good
models – there are just not that many. On the other hand, there are
several models by far good enough for learning and practising purposes –
you just have to find them.
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Q: And where can I find these good models for Reflex XTR?
A: You just found some – no kidding! What do you think why I wrote this
text? Obviously, because I have to offer something you should notice. It’s
the chance to learn and practise flying model airplanes in a simulator –
even if it’s just Reflex XTR and not another one. Look at my download
page for beginner and trainer models and for more advanced models.
Q: Why should I believe that?
A: You don’t have to believe – just try! It’s only an offer to use my
models. If you still wonder if you should buy Reflex XTR and have no
opportunity to try it before, well, then you have to believe. It may help
you knowing that even though I’m no professional, I professionally built
and adjusted my models. (In fact, I’m a full-scale pilot and flight instructor and an engineer and very critical.) And there are even some other
good models.
Q: But you don't have my model for the simulator, or do you?
A: Most likely not, but that doesn't matter at all. If you have one of the
common trainer models, you will find a close match for the simulator. If
you even have a more advanced model that you won't be able to fly yet,
you shouldn't think the simulator is just right to learn flying that model
without further ado. You have to generally learn flying in the first place,
and you will be glad to find very typical models for each learning step in
the simulator. It will help you immensely to master just different models
step by step, one after the other. In the end, flying your model in reality
will be a piece of cake for you. Only if you are a professional practicing for
contests you may need an exact copy of your real model in the simulator.
Q: There is even my model for the simulator, but why is it not realistic?
A: You mean it doesn't fly like your real model? Wait a minute! There are
several possible reasons: (1) It's a bad simulator model. (2) It's good but
set up differently, most likely intentionally. You might wonder at how different the same model can behave. (3) You only think it's not realistic because the impression of a model's flight behaviour is different in the simulator. (4) You expect the model to behave in a certain way, but you are
plain wrong. You are a beginner and just not yet able to criticize that. Find
out why models behave differently, and why maybe their owners might
even want that, then you can. Learn flying!
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Be prepared!
Q: What’s needed?
A: You need the Simulator and an R/C transmitter (TX). Of course, you
must have a PC with a good 3D video card and a fast display. Any PC
suited for computer games is OK. Avoid the very simple TXs and buy a
cheap “computer” TX like Multiplex Cockpit. It will do nearly all tricks
you’ll ever want to do. Simulator is Reflex XTR, just with a plug matching
your TX.
Q: Any more needed?
A: Indeed, additionally you’ll need some basic computer skills. Installing
Reflex XTR is easy. You have to check the prerequisites before and select
a suitable graphics mode after. Selecting one of the pre-installed models
and sceneries is easy, too. To select one of my models, though, you have
to download and install it before. Most of my models come in an installer
that you just have to run after download, as well as all models of the W3
Group. Learn these skills before trying the simulator.
Q: How should I begin?
A: Hook up the TX to the PC using the USB dongle delivered with Reflex
XTR. Start the simulator and wait for a dialog box asking you to switch on
your transmitter. Follow the instructions to calibrate and assign controls.
It should work, but otherwise you have to read the Reflex XTR help and
your TX’s manual. Maybe you also have to adjust your TX’s mode.
Q: What the heck is MODE?
A: It’s the way the airplane's controls are assigned to the TX's two sticks.
There are standard modes numbered 1 to 4 (or even more). Basically, it’s
about ailerons, elevator, rudder and throttle (power) of the model and the
two sticks of the TX. You may look here in the Web for basic information.
Q: What mode should I choose?
A: Many people are happy with mode 2, which means the “primary” con-
trols (aileron and elevator) on the right stick and the “secondary” controls
(rudder and throttle) on the left one. That will allow flying with one hand
only. Presumably you’ll like that because it’s easier to coordinate the two
primary controls with only one hand and that should be your dominant
hand. Left-handers please read Ed Moorman's hints, but they are very
interesting for right-handers, too.
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Q: Isn’t mode 1 better?
A: Some people claim so. It means rudder and aileron exchanged. It’s
intended that the main controls are separated from each other so they
aren’t influenced by each other. This should make for more precise flying
and could pay if you’re an experienced and skilled pilot, maybe flying jet
models requiring precise control inputs. But I think in most cases these
are not required and it’s harder to learn in mode 1. You might nevertheless try it; it’s all up to you.
Q: How to hold the transmitter?
A: Good question, but how to hold the sticks? Some aficionados have a
TX with a big desk case. They rest their hands on it and hold the sticks
between thumb and index finger. Some do that even without a desk case
suspending their transmitter from a neckstrap. They are striving for precision, sometimes even using elongated sticks. I think that’s overkill at
least for a beginner. You should have a lightweight handheld TX with short
thumb sticks. Hold it relaxed and let your thumb tips rest easily on the
stick tops (which are toothed to this end).
Q: Do these decisions fix me forever?
A: No, they are only likely to stay unchanged. You won’t depend much on
these things with time and practise. You might switch to a different mode
later, and even though it may feel hard to re-learn, it will be easier than
the initial learning. You might switch to a long-stick desk-case TX without
any effort. But even world champions are using handheld thumb-stick TXs
in mode 2. World-known glider champion Joe Wurts is able to steer with
his big toe, and there’s a guy who is able to fly helicopter aerobatics while
riding a monocycle. There are many aims to strive for.
Q: What’s going on now?
A: Keep it simple (if you’re not stupid)! Forget all these complicated
things and, above all, try to stay relaxed. Watch yourself! If you are
making mistakes you are most likely not relaxed. If your hands are
clenched and your thumb tips become white, something is wrong. Of
course, in reality you just can't stay cool because there is some real risk.
The nice thing about a simulator is that there is just no risk and you really
can stay cool. Relax and notice you’re flying better and making fewer
mistakes. Now you’re ready to fly.
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Let’s go flying!
Q: Which model to begin?
A: You should know the basics, what the upper and lower side of an air-
plane is, what side is front and what side is rear. Take for granted that
there’s a propeller up front and avoid planes being different. There are still
plenty of nice models you could be tempted to try. Do yourself a favour,
control yourself, take the cheapest, simplest, and ugliest model we have
for Reflex XTR, as you should do in reality. Take the GWS Slow Stick!
Q: Ready now?
A: No! You forgot the environment. Familiarize yourself with the simu-
lator’s scenery and simulation settings. Select a scenery you like, but pay
attention to the lighting and the surroundings. Imagine what backlight or
fences and trees could do? Set wind and thermals to zero, what means
absolutely calm weather. Set camera zoom to zero and camera field-ofview to 90 degrees. Set full-screen mode and your display’s native resolution. Select a model position you like. Set the most easy conditions for
your first steps – ah, flights.
Q: But now?
A: Yes! The Slow Stick in front of you in your favourite scenery, nice and
calm weather – but wait!
First, pull the throttle stick back, then switch the TX on and hit F4 or
double-click in the window to start the simulation. The Slow Stick is an
electric model, but the propeller may turn despite the throttle stick being
on idle. In that case, trim the throttle back on your TX until the propeller
stops. You won't have to do that with REFLEX version 5.05 or newer.
Slow Stick is not only an electric model but also a so-called rudder-andelevator (R/E) one. It has no ailerons but is flown with rudder instead. We
want to have the main controls assigned to the right stick of the TX. Your
“computer” TX has a switch called “combi” or similarly. Now you have to
set it “on” so any aileron movement with the right stick will automagically
move the rudder. You may have to set this behaviour in the TX before.
Q: Anything else?
A: You’re so patient! Now simply set full power with the left stick and let
the model gain some height. Then take the power stick back to less than
50% and wait a few seconds. The model will establish on a straight and
level flight path. Let the left stick alone and use only the right stick. Any
control input will disturb the model, but you’ll want to fly some turns.
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Q: So how can I do it?
A: Try with rudder, but very carefully – that means start with very small
stick deflections and watch what will happen. The model will make only
big turns, but with bigger deflections it will go out of control. At least it
will drop its nose and get faster. Now you know what the elevator is for.
Pull it really carefully to hold the model’s nose up. If you’ve overdone just
release the elevator and wait for the model calming down. Even if not
flying turns you’ll need the elevator to maintain level flight. Practise!
Q: Is it really so easy?
A: So far, but remember landing. There’s enough flight time to prepare
for this highlight of each flight, but you should prepare. Try to line up the
model with the “runway”. Even if there’s no runway at all you should
imagine one in the scenery. In the simulator, it’s harder to keep orientation than in reality. If you don’t manage to line up the model, go around
and try again, as often as you need.
Q: And now?
A: The model is flying in the direction of your runway at some moderate
altitude and at some distance from the intended touch-down point. You
didn’t intend to touch down on a certain point? You’d better do, but for
now just cut power and watch what will happen. The model should
commence a glide and eventually settle on the ground on it’s own.
Q: Didn’t you say landing is hard?
A: Yes, that’s right, but didn’t you notice that Slow Stick did it for you?
Actually, it plopped down. You have to help it to make a smoother, which
is a better landing. Anyway, it’s your task now to practise what is called
traffic patterns – take-off, climb, departure leg, downwind, base leg,
approach, landing. And landing is the highlight of each flight because it
will turn out well only if the preceding steps succeed. So practise landings
as much as you can – and be demanding!
Q: Any hints?
A: Of course. Remember you’re the only reason for the model to behave
strangely. So try to curb your movements on the sticks, the model is still
better than you. On the other hand, many beginners only pull the
elevator. You might also use down elevator to correct a strange attitude of
the model. Whatever, pay attention to the model’s attitude, which means
it’s inclination, and it’s effects. You should notice that the elevator controls
the model’s attitude and thus altitude in level flight (with cruise power)
but speed in glide (idle) and climb (full power). Learn to only direct the
model’s movements by its attitude, not to move it directly yourself.
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Q: Slow Stick is boring, what next?
A: If you feel perfect try walking over water! Are you really able to fly a
precise traffic pattern and land smoothly? Every time without any error?
OK, you don’t have to be perfect, but be demanding and self-critical! You
may step forward and try another model, but be prepared to step back if
you couldn’t handle it. You want to learn model flying, but I can’t really
help you. You must help yourself and should not overstretch your abilities.
Find out your talent and behave accordingly. Have fun!
More flying!
Q: Couldn’t I fly in reality now?
A: If you have a Slow Stick and the weather is really calm, why not? But
for now you only learnt to fly a Slow Stick and not to fly generally. You
don’t know what even the lightest wind would do to your model, and you
are used only to your virtual flying field. You need to generalize your
Q: What do you mean?
A: Vary virtually every parameter of your flying situation. Take different
models, fly on different fields, even some with adverse lighting conditions
and obstacles, set wind and gusts, try crosswind of different strength, try
landing in thermals, try wrong center of gravity and sloppy control linkages of the model. By varying only one parameter at the same time, you’ll
soon master it’s effects. By combining two or more parameters you’ll
come closer to real situations.
Q: So should I be perfect before going to reality after all?
A: Remember a fact of life known as the Pareto law. In my words: You’d
need only 20% of the time required to become perfect to reach yet 80%
of perfection. You’d have to practise the other 80% of time to become a
perfect pilot and maybe world champion. But 80% of perfection will be
enough for most of all practical purposes. You might still wonder how long
the 20% of time really are.
Q: How do I recognize these 80%?
A: Just answer yourself some simple questions: Is my real model less
demanding than the models mastered in the simulator? Is the real flying
field better than the ones used in the simulator? Is the real weather better
than the simulated you tried successfully? Better should be really better
and not only equally good because you have to allow for an “adrenaline
factor”. You just can’t hit a “Del” key and have a new model after a crash
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
in reality. But if you are really able to answer these questions (not only
guessing) and all answers are “yes”, then go out flying! There’s nothing
better and more satisfactory. Learn to answer these questions and avoid
sitting in front of your PC when real flying conditions are good.
Q: What next model do you recommend?
A: Good question. Next step could be the Miss 2 parkflyer. It’s not as
lightweight and slow as a slow flyer but it will take some wind. Rudder and
elevator are so small that you may panic and the model will still stay calm
despite of full control deflection. The power-to-weight ratio is low for the
same reason. The same is true for Graupner Taxi, which is a glowpowered model but which is even faster due to its weight. If you can fly
and land these two, try Brummi parkflyer, which is essentially the same as
Miss 2 but has bigger control areas. You might appreciate the better
controllability when exploring thermals.
Q: What next, come on!
A: Did you practise all the new things mentioned in the previous paragraph? OK, now it’s time to try ailerons. It’s not about one more stick
function. Actually, rudder is now replaced by aileron, and you’ll feel how
real flying is at all. Steering with rudder was facilitation as far as the
model was sluggish. Steering, or more correctly controlling, with ailerons
makes the model twitchier. Compare the Super Miss to Miss 2 and even
Brummi and compare Calmato 40 Trainer to Taxi. You don’t have to apply
rudder because it should be actuated automatically by combi mixer (Super
Miss) or is replaced by aileron differential (Calmato 40 Trainer).
Q: What next models do you recommend?
A: The most well balanced model might be Taxi with ailerons and flaps.
It’s rock-steady and will teach you flap landings and basic aerobatics.
Calmato 40 Trainer is a good and common trainer but a bit twitchier.
Super Miss is a very capable but twitchy enhancement of Brummi. Now or
as your first aileron model you should try Das Ugly Stik in the mild
version. You’ll learn to fly a somewhat heavy and sluggish model and lowpower aerobatics including inverted maneuvers. The wild and especially
the hot rod version will show you complete classic aerobatics including
spins and snap rolls but still land like a trainer. Only after mastering this
you should try a low-wing model. Kwik-Fli Mark III and Mark IV will teach
you not only just aerobatics but also a decent flying style. It’s a long way
to a classic aerobatic sports model!
Q: Why do you recommend so many different models?
A: Well, if you like a change it’s always good to practise with different
models. You will learn the essence of flying by seeing what is specific to a
model and what is flying in general. If you like constancy you might as
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
well use one single model to learn all aspects of normal flying. I made the
WingMaster in a basic and acro version for this purpose. You will learn
with ailerons from the beginning and won’t have to get used to new conditions. WingMaster shows the essence of flying because it behaves so
typical. After mastering basic aerobatics, you may change directly to the
Ugly Stik and after that to the Kwik-Fli. That would be a classical way, the
WingMaster being your first model, Ugly Stik the second, and Kwik-Fli the
third and the first low-winger.
More model airplanes!
Here we stop the question-and-answer ploy and start looking at some
airplanes and what they can teach us. You might additionally go to the
AMA Flight School website and to the R/C Airplane World website for
more information and help.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Slow Stick
Miss 2
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Super Miss
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
This was a very well known beginner model by market-leading company
Graupner (at least in Germany) till the 1980s. As usual back then, it has
no ailerons. It’s very solid and sturdy and rock-stable in flight. It may be
over-loaded and will still fly well. This excellent REFLEX XTR model was
made by Bo (Jörgen) Strömberg.
The model glides well and will teach you a decent speed management on
approach for landing. It floats on landing and gives you time to observe
what’s going on and to practise a correct flare without ballooning. These
abilities are basic for all further flying.
Just for entertainment, you may come back later and try some crude
aerobatics. In the old days when R/C equipment was expensive, many
modelers had only rudder-and-elevator planes. Nevertheless they did rolls
and stall turns with them.
Bo Strömberg even made a small-dihedral version with ailerons and flaps.
It’s nice for learning to handle these things and even for real basic aerobatics.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Calmato 40 Trainer
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Actually, this is not a real model but only a virtual one. Originally a mere
rudder-and-throttle model built after a design sketch in the 1960s, the
full-fledged electric version is now an even excellent beginner model in
the simulator (and might be even in reality).
It may be the very first model to be used in the simulator and will teach
real flying with ailerons from the beginning. All aspects of normal flying
can be practised like take-off and landing, climb and descent, level flight
and turns. Standard manoeuvres like traffic patterns, holding patterns,
landing approaches, and touch-and-goes are easy to learn with this calm
and steady flying plane.
There are no bad habits at all. No rudder is needed against adverse yaw,
no top aileron in turns, though both still won’t hurt. There will be no tip
stall and even no stall at all. But the flaps may be deployed to make the
model fly as slow and land as short (nearly) as a parkflyer.
And the model is able to fly basic aerobatics, namely loops, rolls, and stall
turns, and even to fly inverted. Of course, spins and snap rolls are not
possible though some other stunts like sideslip or tailslide. And the model
will stay unswerving even in gusty wind. Therefore it’s easier to handle
than a slow or park flyer.
So this plane might be a dependable companion from the very beginning
to the point where you mastered all aspects of normal flying also in
adverse conditions. The model makes this as easy as possible. Now you
would look for a model capable to do real aerobatics but just as well
behaved. But be prepared there are also vicious models which would take
you by surprise with their behaviour.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
The well-known German designer Karl-Heinz Denzin designed this model
in the late 1960s. It was produced in three sizes of which the biggest,
Senior Telemaster, became popular especially due to its size. Whereas
most models had about 60” wingspan this one has even 95”. Still it’s quite
lightweight so its wing loading and flight speed are rather low. Besides,
it’s well balanced and its flight behaviour is just amazing. You may try this
model as a pleasant and interesting excursion from your learning career.
The model is well suited to beginners even if not to rank beginners. See it
as a WingMaster complement, not a replacement. The Telemaster has
high-lift airfoils even for the horizontal stabilizer. Weight and thus wing
loading are very low. So the model flies slowly, and besides very smooth
and steady. It glides quite well so you’ll appreciate flaps which produce
some drag to make the glide path steeper. But you’ll have to cope with
substantial adverse yaw, either by using the transmitter’s combi mixer or,
even better, by flying coordinated turns (aileron – rudder coordination).
Select the “Senior .45 glow flaps” (two-stroke engine) or the “Senior RCV
58-CD flaps” (four-stroke engine) for trying. The quite small engines are
well sufficient for just vivid flying. You’ll experience the slow-motion flying
the Senior Telemaster is known for, and its smooth flight behaviour. With
flaps down (30 degrees) the model is still completely under control and
even climbs at full power.
Even though you might think this is a perfect beginners plane it is not.
Yes, it’s slow, stable, steady, smooth, honest, but it’s well balanced and
neutral as well. The former makes it suited to beginners, but the latter
means not to rank beginners.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Such a plane is easy to handle for the seasoned pilot because it’s a utility
plane. The pilot wants to concentrate on the real task, which may be
glider or banner tow, dropping candies, or aerial photography and video.
He appreciates the slow and smooth flight and the fact that the model
maintains a certain flight path, may it be a turn or straight and level.
The rank beginner needs a model that flies on its own. Even when he has
upset the plane it should return to normal flight after leaving the transmitter sticks alone. As an advanced beginner, you are flying your plane,
not the plane is flying you. So you might well explore the flight behaviour
of a utility airplane.
Select the “Giant electric flaps”, the “Giant 26ccm gas flaps”, or the “Giant
FA 125A flaps” version to do this. The Giant has 12 ft wingspan whereas
the Senior has only 8 ft, but the Giant has still the same wing loading as
the Senior. So flight speed and landing distance are the same, but the
Giant seems to be even much slower.
In fact, it’s a real STOL airplane (Short Take-Off and Landing). The big
flaps make for much drag and a steep descent and approach. Add to this a
moderately powerful engine that makes for fast climb. Now you know how
to accomplish short turnaround times in airwork.
But you will as well notice that the plane doesn’t accomplish that on it’s
own. You have to fly it, and especially the Giant Telemaster is an excellent
plane to learn and practise STOL and airwork – and coordinated turns.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Das Ugly Stik
Designed 1965 by world-famous Phil Kraft, Das Ugly Stik soon became
world-famous as well. It may be ugly but it flies very well. It’s a simple
but effective design needing no special things like flaps or retracts. Still it
will teach you all main aspects of flying including classic aerobatics. It will
do that in at least two steps: basic and advanced. There’s a “mild” and
therefore safe version, and there’s a “wild” and therefore capable version.
Here it’s liveried as a mild and safe basic trainer. It will stall but very well
behaved. It won’t spin or snap because it lacks the control authority and
power needed for that. Even if you pull full elevator, the model will never
drop the nose or a wing. So you can push it to its limits, especially on
landings, without being afraid of bad consequences. This way you may
really learn landings and aerobatics.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Doing so, you may later even prefer the “wild” version. The higher engine
power may cause trouble if you are not used to fast flying. But if you are
you will instead find the power helpful to get out of trouble, for instance to
pull out of a maneuver started too low.
Here Ugly Stik is aptly liveried as a (sort of) wild and aggressive advanced
trainer. It simply has more power and control throws. Main advantage is
more powerful aerobatics, but still no stall maneuvers.
- 21 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
For that, there’s a “hot rod” version featuring an even more powerful
engine and a nearly “neutral” setup for all sorts of pattern. But this setup
makes it unsuitable for a beginner.
Spinning and snapping is achieved by a trick. The rectangular wing planform and the special wingtips make for the tame stall behaviour. Stall
starts in the middle of the wing and proceeds to the wingtips. But if full
rudder is applied shortly before stall, one wingtip is slowed down and will
stall first. A spin is initiated by applying full rudder when approaching
stall, a snap roll is initiated by applying full rudder and elevator at the
same time, with the rudder slightly leading the elevator. You can still be
unconcerned on landings as long as you avoid abrupt rudder.
- 22 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Phil Kraft designed the Kwik-Fli as his own competition model and won the
1967 aerobatic world championship with the Mark III version. But that
doesn’t mean it is out of question for you. The name doesn’t imply a fast
flying airplane but a model that is quickly built and thus flying soon. As a
matter of fact, Kwik-Fli is a slow flying plane with it’s thick airfoil, boxy
shape, and low weight. The simple design actually contributes to good and
honest flight characteristics.
After all, 1967 pattern competition wasn’t that spectacular. There were no
flick maneuvers, and the thick-airfoil square-planform wing makes them
hard to fly. But such a wing and a low weight make a good first low-wing
model. Additionally, Kwik-Fli is a remarkably smooth-flying airplane. While
the “hot-rod” Ugly Stik flies all manoeuvres simply by brute force, Kwik-Fli
may teach you a decent and graceful flying style.
This is the original world championship model, but you are allowed and
even encouraged to fly it in the simulator. It is very forgiving of flying
mistakes and easy to land. But as all these tricycle-landing-gear models, it
likes to fly from paved runways, so select an appropriate scenery.
There are two different setups of this model. The “Mark III original” setup
has the center-of-gravity and the wing incidence angle as recommended
in the plan, but like most plans and kits it’s over-stabilized. On the other
hand, the “Mark III crisp” version is set up like a world-champion model,
so just use this one to practise aerobatics. And there’s another choice…
- 23 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Phil Kraft designed and tried a tapered-wing version, the Mark IV, though
he never used it in competition. But others appreciated the flick ability and
maybe the slightly lower drag. I couldn’t resist making it a modern electric
sport model.
This “Mark IV electric” version flicks easily at nearly any flight speed using
only elevator and rudder (the old-school method), especially because it
has the suitable balance. It even flicks with elevator only, but one has to
really snap it to full deflection to accomplish that. And a stall immediately
stops when elevator is slightly released. Thus the model is still not vicious
and is actually the better version.
Weight is only a bit higher with the strong electric drive, but speed and
aerobatic performance are very good. Landings are still quite easy. You
will like this model once you’ve mastered the Mark III.
- 24 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Ken Bonnema designed the Brushfire as an aerobatic competition model in
1978. This was the era of the "ballistic" pattern style and the models were
called "rocket" ships. They flew big patterns at high speed like full-scale
military jet aircraft, and the models looked a bit like those.
The engines had a tuned pipe (instead of a simple muffler) for more power
and a high-pitch propeller for more speed. The landing gear was retracted
in flight for less drag and smoother flying. The weight was more than 9 lb
compared to less than 6 lb of the Kwik-Fli. Sometimes air brakes or flaps
were used to enhance the landing behavior of the fast and heavy models.
- 25 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Now why a ballistic pattern model and especially the Brushfire in a flight
training course? You are quite far in your flight training now and have to
experience just what a "rocket ship" does best: flying fast! Brushfire does
it perfectly but is still able to do slow landings, all without any bad habits.
Brushfire is a typical example with its jet-like shape and its swept wing
and empennage. The latter is not that typical because many rocket ships
had unswept wings for some reason, while the swept-wing models aimed
for good roll characteristics. You will notice that with Brushfire, but maybe
you won't notice that it's harder to keep track in looping maneuvers. The
differences are subtle even for the expert and shouldn't bother you.
Really typical is a very "neutral" flight behavior with very few and little
"couplings". Take the Kwik-Fli and apply full rudder and you'll get not only
yaw but also much roll and pitch - yaw-roll coupling and yaw-pitch coupling. Brushfire has very little coupling, if any. Like Kwik-Fli or even more,
it will fly where you point it and fly smooth, just at low and high speed.
Aided by the flaps, but also without them, Brushfire may slow down to a
surprisingly low speed. Besides landing slowly, it may even fly low-speed
patterns. In any case, you can be unconcerned of unintentional stalls or
other bad habits - Brushfire is easy to fly. That's why it's suited to a kind
of flight training.
Let's assume you are able to fly consistently precise patterns, not only
aerobatic but also traffic patterns and landings. When you switch from
Kwik-Fli to Brushfire, likely the airplane will be ahead of you, just too fast
for you. At full throttle, it will accelerate to high speed and you won't get
worked out a traffic pattern. You have to throttle back and establish on a
deliberate flight path and speed.
You have to learn not only thinking faster - ahead of the airplane. You
have to learn also deliberately setting and maintaining flight modes. The
main means is power setting, and the main difficulty is to cope with different pitch attitude and control response. You can make good use of the
flaps for approaches and landings, even though it's another complication
in addition to the retractable landing gear. Such a rocket ship is a handful,
even if it's well mannered and not vicious.
On the other hand, flying a fast model is a learned skill like others. After a
bit practice you may find it very satisfying to put it through its paces, the
model faithfully following your control inputs. It may scream in fast and
big patterns, purr in slow and near patterns, do an amazingly slow traffic
pattern and landing approach, and a very slow and short landing.
By the way, a paved runway is absolutely needed.
- 26 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Landing gear
Do you wonder why all the vintage models have this “tricycle” landing
gear? Not quite true, the Calmato 40 Trainer has it as well. But aren't all
the modern models “taildraggers”? Again not quite true, the WingMaster is
one, too. So what is the reason?
In the old times, a “full-house ship” with all controls was quite heavy because the R/C equipment was heavy. It needed a powerful engine which
itself was heavy but not nearly gave a thrust/weight ratio of 1. Therefore
the models were fast (three to four times as fast as a parkflyer) and aerobatics had to be flown with an impetus instead of power.
At high landing speed, a taildragger tends to swerve out of line because
the center-of-gravity is behind the main wheels. And a small obstacle on
the runway might let the model go nose-over. A tricycle landing gear is
steady after touch-down and the nose gear prevents the model from going
That’s why the old pattern models had one; after all landing was rated in
competition as part of the maneuver schedule. And that’s why old beginner models had one, after all a beginner is tempted to simply push a too
fast model on the runway to force the touchdown (but a forced landing is
still something different). Really old or small beginner models from the
1960s were even lacking an elevator.
A taildragger has also advantages. The landing gear weighs less, has less
drag and is more robust. The propeller clearance on the ground is better.
And if the pilot is able to touch-down the model in a nose-high attitude,
there’s no swerve-out-of-line problem. If he is not able, it helps if the
model flies slowly anyway. WingMaster is a taildragger because it is slow,
but Calmato has a tricycle landing gear because it is faster.
Brushfire typically had a tricycle landing gear, but sometimes it was modified to a taildragger to have the nose landing gear out of the way of the
tuned pipe running inside the fuselage under the wing. There's no problem
because the model can do slow landings, anyway. So the choice between
tricycle or taildragger may be a matter of convenience or even taste.
Do you already know what the wing flaps really do? Many model flyers
dismiss them as unnecessary, and in some way they are even right. In
fact you may well do without flaps, but they may come in very handy and
convenient. Let's take Telemaster and Brushfire for typical examples.
Both models have big wings and don't really need more lift. On the contrary, they both glide well and you may find it hard to get them down and
on the ground. That's why some fast models have air brakes to slow down
and others even deflect their ailerons a bit up to reduce lift. So the most
desired effect of flaps is their drag, but obviously in conjunction with other
desirable effects.
- 27 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Think of flaps as a means to increase the wing airfoil camber and the wing
angle-of-incidence at the same time, in effect giving more drag, lift, and
decalage. Deflections of up to 25 degrees will mainly give more lift and
decalage but not much drag, while more than 30 degrees will give nearly
only more drag. So even a rather small deflection of flaps will make for a
new balance of the model.
That's why both Telemaster and Brushfire manage on rather small flaps.
Their additional lift may be just big enough to compensate the down force
of the horizontal stabilizer. They are just big enough to give the desired
"more stable" and "slower" balance and some drag. And that's why both
models behave similar even though they are very different, Telemaster
being a stable high-wing floater and Brushfire a neutral mid-wing rocket.
Flap deflection shifts the lift rearward making the airplane nose-heavy, but
the wing downwash hitting the horizontal stabilizer makes it tail-heavy.
The thrust line above the flaps with their drag makes nose-heavy, thrust
line below flaps makes tail-heavy. Which effect prevails? It depends, but
not that much on airplane configuration.
Just consider the big decalage, making the airplane very stable in the
pitch axis, that is very sensitive to flight speed. So with flaps deployed it is
balanced for much less speed than normal, which is why it will pitch up if
flaps are deployed at high speed. After speed is dissipated, the airplane
will lower its nose and settle on a low, stable speed. Full throttle will let it
pitch up and climb, idle power will let it pitch down and settle on a steep
glide path. A certain low power setting will give slow level flight. All is conveniently stable and dampened due to the big drag.
Flaps make Telemaster a real STOL airplane, even needing a short stroke
of throttle/power to touch-down in three-point attitude. Brushfire almost
needs flaps because it can pitch up only about 5 degrees before the protective tail skid hitting the ground, and it benefits from flaps by the more
stable and dampened flight behavior at low speed.
Right and down thrust
Down thrust is easy. Remember the effect of decalage? If the airplane
pitching up and climbing at full power is not desired, or not that much,
simply tilt the engine's thrust line down a few degrees.
Right thrust is a bit obscure, however. It's said to counteract the effects of
the engine's or propeller's torque, respectively. But how at all can a yaw
effect relate to a roll effect? This mystery is usually unraveled by introducing the "corkscrew effect". It means
that the slipstream of a propeller turning clockwise is rotating clockwise as
well. It hits the vertical tail on the left
side, pushing it to the right side, and
that's what turns the airplane left. Even
though this effect undoubtedly exists,
it's by far not the only one.
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Why and how use a model flight simulator?
The "corkscrew" explanation even fails as soon as you look at a twinengine airplane with a single vertical tail. Even though it's not hit by any
slipstream, there is still a very noticeable yawing effect of the slipstreams
or propeller torques. A good explanation is obtained by considering the
rotating slipstream to be a gyro. When it streams across the wing, it is
deflected downward
like any air flow that is
streaming across the
wing. After all, the
wing produces lift by
pushing the air
downward. But deflecting a gyro has a side
If a slipstream turning
clockwise, seen from behind, is bent downward, some gyroscopic forces
will bend it clockwise also seen from top. Like pushing air downward
(action) produces lift (re-action), turning the slipstream clockwise (action)
makes for turning the airplane counterclockwise (re-action).
That explains why some pattern models don't have any right thrust. In
fast level flight, the slipstream isn't blowing and turning that fast, and the
wing is deflecting the air only a small amount (small angle-of-attack AOA).
When the airplane enters a loop, however, the prop has to pull hard and
the AOA has to be big. The resulting left-turning tendency has to be cancelled by substantial right rudder. On top of a big loop, though, the airplane flies inverted and may even need substantial left rudder to keep on
track. Since you have to apply alternating rudder, anyway, why bother
with a fixed right thrust.
But why all stable non-pattern airplanes do have substantial right thrust,
as well as down thrust? Their weaker drive has to pull harder, producing
more slipstream twist, and they fly slow so the wing has a bigger AOA.
Their power and speed range is not that big so a fixed right thrust may
well cure any left-yawing tendency.
Besides, there is a propeller torque to be cancelled on any airplane. On
the Telemaster, for instance, the right thrust makes for some yaw to the
right, giving a roll tendency to the right, which cancels the left-turning
propeller torque. That's a desired effect of yaw-roll coupling, also called
proverse roll, and that's why "normal" airplanes have that coupling by
means of wing dihedral.
Pattern airplanes, on the other hand, should not have any coupling and
have next to no dihedral. Right thrust would be useless for counteracting
the torque and the pilot has to apply varying aileron deflection, anyway.
Several pattern competition models still have right thrust, but the reason
why is a secret of their owners.
- 29 -
Why and how use a model flight simulator?
Burkhard Erdlenbruch
mailto:[email protected]
My REFLEX XTR models in the latest versions are on my web page
July 2006 – April 2010
- 30 -
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