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Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

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Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Old 02-09-2009, 06:00 PM
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apwachholz
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Default Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Let me preface this post first:

1) I'm not a physicist.
2) I'm an entry level radio control pilot.
3) This post is to primarily encourage discussion and is not meant to stir the pot, point fault, or place blame.

Having been involved in radio control airplanes for a relatively short period of time (as compared to most), one of the most common oversights I've seen when learning (or for that matter teaching someone) how to fly is understanding physics of flight. Now I'm not talking super details such as load, wing chords, thrust lines, etc. What I'm talking about are the basics of flight, like how an aircraft even stays in the air (lift) or what it takes to avoid, or for that matter recover from, a stall.

When I ventured into rc I did what most do and learned by trial and error. However, after having gone through my paces I began to investigate and found two major gaps in the learning process presented to anyone new: 1) lack of explaining why you should know these physics, and 2) lack of this information (geared towards rc'ers) existing in general.

Am I missing something here? Shouldn't understanding how a plane flies and how you should fly it (aside from the control sticks) be the most important bit of information presented to a beginner (or for that matter an experienced pilot) from the start? To me it's similar to learning how to drive a car...if you just jump right in and press the gas - odds are not in your favor you or your car will survive your first experience.

Just curious to see what others have to say...
Old 02-09-2009, 07:28 PM
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rmh
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

As long as the topic is geared to RC use - go for it
too often we see full scale design info concerning vortex and downwash and hogwash etc., which simply clouds the problems most often seen by modelers

All very nice but -
actually learning the construction techniques and power loadings which are proven to work in models - are of far more importance
In models it is sometimes difficult for the newcomer to grasp the simple facts that power and weight are what it's ALL about in all aircraft. all the rest of the tech stuff is simple how you wrestle with weight size n speed.

the various airfoils and centers of pressure /gravity - on and on are simply of no use whatsoever till you have a given power and weight and speed figured out
Why?
Easy
most models are heavier than air and HOW much heavier than the air makes all the difference in the world.
If the model is light enough -the rules can be relaxed somewhat.
If the model is too heavy- none of the rules will fix it.
Once you get thru understanding this - move on to the finer points.
Flying the models -is yet another subject.






Old 02-09-2009, 07:35 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

With enough power, physics matter less. Especially that part with Newton.
Old 02-09-2009, 08:09 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

I think it is a waste of time to teach someone how to fly before they understand what a stall is and what forces are involved with basic manuevering.
I don't know of any proficient pilots who ignor physics.....everytime a successful flight gets carried out, the laws of physics are being "heeded" to some degree subconsciously.
Old 02-09-2009, 08:15 PM
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richg99
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Some people want to know how their car's transmission works. Other just want to get in the car and drive.
Different strokes for different folks. I'll be interested to see how/where this discussion goes. Should be a fun topic.
Regards, Rich
Old 02-09-2009, 08:43 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

If you were to ask people on the street what they thought a stall was as applied to an aircraft their reply would be the motor quit.
Recently we had reporters covering the crash of an Angel Flight and I had to tell them a stall had nothing to do with the motor running, so sad...

I think that learning to fly they need to know the basic of flight physics before they touch the sticks but that is just my opinion.
Old 02-09-2009, 09:13 PM
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dolanosa
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?


ORIGINAL: apwachholz


Having been involved in radio control airplanes for a relatively short period of time (as compared to most), one of the most common oversights I've seen when learning (or for that matter teaching someone) how to fly is understanding physics of flight. Now I'm not talking super details such as load, wing chords, thrust lines, etc. What I'm talking about are the basics of flight, like how an aircraft even stays in the air (lift) or what it takes to avoid, or for that matter recover from, a stall.

When I ventured into rc I did what most do and learned by trial and error. However, after having gone through my paces I began to investigate and found two major gaps in the learning process presented to anyone new: 1) lack of explaining why you should know these physics, and 2) lack of this information (geared towards rc'ers) existing in general.

Am I missing something here? Shouldn't understanding how a plane flies and how you should fly it (aside from the control sticks) be the most important bit of information presented to a beginner (or for that matter an experienced pilot) from the start? To me it's similar to learning how to drive a car...if you just jump right in and press the gas - odds are not in your favor you or your car will survive your first experience.

Just curious to see what others have to say...[/font]

Hmmm...who taught you? I have to agree that there should be a BASIC understanding as to how planes fly...or why they behave the way they do. Maybe your instructor (1) Thought that you already know the basics of flight or (2)didn't care. Then again, you said that you learned through trial and error...implying that you are learning by yourself which is not a good idea in the first place. Just my $.02

Old 02-09-2009, 09:30 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

I don't think that rc pilots ignore physics any more than full scale pilots do. Most of the physics taught to full scale pilots is wrong. Turns out that you don't really need to understand the physics of either in order to do it well.
Old 02-09-2009, 09:55 PM
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Tall Paul
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Many good fliers have no idea why airplanes fly!
Power makes most everything capable of flight.
Enough control deflection controls it.
They may dream up reasons for the why of flight, but mostly they're just fun to listen when talking about it.
And some of them are really good with the sticks!
But just amusing when trying to describe it.
Old 02-09-2009, 10:04 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Old 02-09-2009, 10:42 PM
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apwachholz
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Hansen -
I understand where you are coming from. However, I'm not following your point about how the two elements you are talking about (weight/speed) are solely the components that a new pilot to rc needs to know when starting out. How does this translate to a beginner who builds their trainer to manufactures specs, throttles it up to full, and still ends up crashing. Both weight and speed are covered in their entirety yet, they still end up picking balsa off the floor.

iron eagel -
i heard that buzz going around, and ur right, it is a common misconception by the public. So i can see how that can translate to rc from a new person.

dolanosa -
That was the problem, I did teach myself and had no available instructor. not the smartest move, but that's what drove me to investigate possible information about "why" things happened to me. And what I found is that there is hardly any information in terms that an rc pilot could translate, to help them understand the "why it flies" of flying. I'm not looking for a book, but rather any explanation, and even that didn't seem to be available nor recommended to investigate in many of the rc locations I was looking at. Most all said it was the plane or the weather causing accidents - never eluding to perhaps it could be the pilot and that they need a better understanding of just how things work "up there".

shoe -
"Most of the physics taught to full scale pilots is wrong. Turns out that you don't really need to understand the physics of either in order to do it well." - you'll have to explain that one in a little more detail to me. Unless you were kidding.

Tall Paul -
"Many good fliers have no idea why airplanes fly! " this is my point. It's not right or wrong to know the answer but, wouldn't understanding the physics give you a better understanding of how to improve your skills and for you to better understand what went wrong when things did go wrong?

-

I understand that a lot of emphasis is placed on weight and power in rc airplanes, but again, I've seen some nice aircraft with very overpowered engines come to a demise and the response was simply, "Something went wrong...". I guess I see a lot of fingers pointing at the plane and not the person behind the sticks and it surprises me. And I've had my share of doing the pointing the other direction but now, I'm realizing it should have been pointed at myself.
Old 02-09-2009, 11:03 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Most of the physics taught to full scale pilots is wrong.
You must have been in my ground school.[]
So much of the theory is way over the heads of most pilots. Many of the assumtions used in general practice are overly simplified, almost to the point of being useless. And as long as things are working in the normal parameters, that's fine.

While you don't need a glider certificate to fly commerical jets, it turns out that having one can help when the geese hit the fans.
Old 02-09-2009, 11:19 PM
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Villa
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Hi apwachholz
I have had over 100 crashes since I started R/C in 1972. I chuckle when others think I'm always crashing. At least 50 of those crashes were in my trainer, learning to fly. This was before trainer chords. In all of my crashes I believe only 2-3 were NOT pilot error. Most members I talk with have little knowledge of Aeronautics and seem to fly just as well without that knowledge. I now design, build and fly my own model planes, (they are all SPADS), using established ratios and guidelines, and enjoy test flying them and making changes as I deem needed to get them to handle right. Most members of our club purchase an ARF, fly it, have a ball, and are not concerned with the physics of flight.
Old 02-09-2009, 11:26 PM
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rmh
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Well-It IS all about weight, power and speed.

Simply taking a "built to specs" model teaches you NOTHING.
theory means nada when teaching someone o fly
there are intuitive people who ,when demonstrated the relationship of those three things, simply FLY the model
I have tought people to fly -for many years and have seen this proven over and over.
Those born without good , natural, deductive skills , are sometimes frustrated till the logic kicks in just like lerning to ride a bicycle.
The more advanced points of aerodynamics make sense later on -when you can see how they are applied.
My brother once related to me the theories of flight he received in ground school.
which cleared up -for me the reason so many private pilots get into trouble

You CAN fly by following the book
this has been demonstrated over n over.
.It is a lifesaver tho - knowing what can be done if things happen,which are not in the book.
EDIT- this is when figuring out the relationship of weight , speed and power becomes relevant.
Even cg requirements can be ignored -if you understand the above.
I have -as have others - flown a model which had the engine depart the airframe - moving the cg , aft the wing .




Old 02-10-2009, 12:33 AM
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dolanosa
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Even though I know HOW and WHY planes fly, I still crash. Knowing the physics behind flight dynamics does not make one a better pilot. BUT, it does give you a different insight as to why you crashed. Most importantly, it gives you an insight if you are building something new.

I'm not talking about a kit, or from plans. I'm talking about things that have not been tried before. For example, a tailless aircraft. If you haven't seen a B2 or some of the new RCAS, how would you control it? How about a VERY small airplane, or an ornithopter. THIS is why people learn flight dynamics. "Designing" and building your own plane, following known criteria is not designing anything new. It's just another plane like the rest of them. Learning the physics of flight will help you if you are delving into the unknown.

Now, if you're learning to fly, that's a little bit of a different story. I half-agree with Dick about theory means nothing when teaching someone to fly. Dick goes by the tried and true method of having so much experience, he's probably forgotten more that I know. Our models are severely overpowered so as long as the throttle stick is somewhere above high idle, the engine is pulling with authority . Flight theories play a role when the ENVIRONMENT starts taking over. Fly just above stall speed for a while, if you don't know at least some of the HOW airplanes fly, you won't know WHY your airplane is behaving the way it is.

The brain is a most amazing thing. You see people pushing sticks around, making planes dance on command. They may not know how airplanes fly but how did they get there? Two big parts are experience, (muscle memory) and eye-hand coordination. The third part is subconscious when the mind is doing thousands of calculation per second looking at the plane angles, velocity, etc. Aero-engineers make these subconscious calculations into something visual on the chalkboard and these formulas and others make up the theories behind the physics of flight.

Knowing this, they "why" of flight becomes difficult to answer because of the number of variables involved within that snapshot of time. There are generalizations that are accepted. A plane stalls because it loses lift abruptly in both slow and high speeds, leaving you with a re-kitted airplane. Sure, people will tell you your plane stalled. How do they know this? Oh yeah, you don't need to know any flight theory. The plane stalled because it wants to.

Old 02-10-2009, 12:44 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

When I used to teach the odd person to fly models I'd talk a little about what a stall is but not how it happens. And even then only enough to recognize it and recover from it or better yet avoid it in the first place. The only other aspect I'd tell them about is how in a turn the model is actually "climbing" around the sides of a bowl to stay level and THAT is why they need to apply some up elevator in the turns (you'd be amazed at the blank looks of bewilderment I got when telling this one the first time around). Other than that no explanations about how airfoils work or stability margins or any other aspects unless the wing was warped and then I'd explain about aileron effect and how it's the same as warping the wing on demand.

After all do you need to know how your refrigerator's compressor works to keep the food cold? And just how many drivers out there actually know how to check bearing sizes on the crankshaft journals or what the amount of spark advance is at various RPM and throttle amounts? The machine will fly, cool or drive just fine with a technically ignorant soul at the helm provided they makes the right moves at the controls. Why confuse them with a bunch of facts that won't help?

Now later on when they are wondering why this or why that, well.... that's a whole other situation where they now have enough experience to really appreciate the ins and outs of adverse yaw and how to avoid it and other mysteries.
Old 02-10-2009, 02:10 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

I've got a reasonable understanding of aeronautical principles but that doesn't stop me crashing occasionally. DO you really need to know about lift/drag coefficients, wing tip vortices, or even the way platinum acts as a catalyst when in the presence of alcohol under pressure acts to be an R/C pilot, or is it enough to know that you need to be going at least x fast, and that if you pull up too hard the plane will fall out of the sky? Lots of people enjoy flying R/C without knowing a thing about the science behind it, and isn't that why we fly... for fun?

Just because I understand (and enjoy learning about) what's going on with planes, I'm not about to demand that someone else learn a bunch of (what might seem to them) dry boring science before they take the sticks of their own plane. Not everyone wants to be "Maverick"... some of us just want to have fun tootling around the sky.
Old 02-10-2009, 03:10 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

I have to agree completely apwachholz. I learned the hard way also. After several unsuccessful efforts, I went to the books! I learned that weight and balance are every bit as relevant to r/c as it is to full size. Same for wing loading and everything else. Whatever will fly, the rules apply. I read an article by a pilot who was discussing touch and goes in his airplane. He stated, "Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.". Anyone who desires to continue with his sport beyond their first unfortunate incident owes it to themselves to pursue their education. It's not as dry and boring as one might think.
Old 02-10-2009, 03:41 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

When I learnt to fly (PPL) there was a simple set of 'physics of flight' backed up with practical exercises (turning, stalling etc) which gave the embryo aviator a pretty good idea of how it worked. That, backed up with some simple repetitive exercises, walk around, controls 'full, free and correct sense', has allowed my hangar to grow to the point where storage of serviceable aeroplanes has become a problem looking for a solution. Perhaps students of the art, and their teachers, could do worse than going off to the nearest flight school and picking up a copy of the curriculum and use it as a basis for their own flight training.
Evan, WB #12.
Old 02-10-2009, 09:37 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

We ALWAYS did a basic ground school- which included something I almost never see done by others
The student had to do an assigned "task" from the moment of the first takeoff.
I NEVER permited the student to just follow the plane and correct as they see fit
All flying had to be kept in fairly close and this started with a simple oval race course - -setup for prevailing winds so that the turns never moved the model IN toward the flyer.
Confidence is paramount and this procedure helpd the novice learn confidence -also NO buddy boxes!!
turns were not "scary" and also that the model was moving with the wind - no matter which way it was pointed or turned..
Next came the figure 8 etc..
then runway flyby's etc.,
NEVER- EVER- wasf full speed "follow the model flying" permitted . That is counterproductive as the student has to unlearn this technique.
When I larnt to fly models I watched the locals (a real revelation.)
everone flew a "look over the right shoulder, left hand turn for landing
- I asked why. "well that's how it's done." was the answer.
Techniques consisted of "pick up the low wing and look over your shoulder to keep oriented."
The worst possible learning tools. The had to be UNlearned .

Landings - "cut power and follow the plane down" why? simply because we had miles of clear flat salt to land on.
It was obvious that there were no techniques taught by anyone there.
Everyone learned to fly by guess and by God. You crashed your way into learning.
My first exposure to ful scale was in an ERCOUPE.
I swapped teaching a full scale flyer, lessons on control line line flying ( I was 14.)
First full scale lesson test for me was to keep the speed under control. never do anything which exceeded max or permitted unintended speed loss. First application of this was when my instructor simply reduced the throttle setting to see what I would do - I pushed the wheel forward . Same technique applied to control line flying - when power quit - keep the speed up by lowering the nose as much as required.. Or whip the sucker if possible!
On control line, the line drag quickly reduces speed .
The concept of "flying models is pretty basic . Also, It really helps to get exposure to basic techniques. not just "get up there and foller er ."
That only works in "mutton bustin".


Old 02-10-2009, 01:48 PM
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apwachholz
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Another point that I'd like to clarify is this:

I'm not implying if you don't know about the basic principles of flight physic that you will crash more often. Nor am I saying that knowing them will make you the next national champion of the skies. What I'm getting at is more of the point that pimmnz made where having a baseline knowledge not only gave him the skills to improve rapidly but has made his hobby more enjoyable 10-fold because there has been less frustration during the initial stages of the hobby.

Within my club my goal has, and is to expand on our memberships and to share the joy that this hobby brings to me and those around me. But all to often frustration sets in so fast because individuals assume getting to the level of being able to confidently fly solo has to be easy. And for my part, it was good that I had an extreme level of tolerance or I too would have thrown in the towel and walked away. But now after understanding some of the basic principles of flying, I fly much more confidently and have even been approached at the field and had numerous great conversations with members about "how" I've learned. And in my experience at the field, no one has looked at me and asserted that I was 'better then them' or belittled their skills. As a matter of fact most were thankful that I had passed the information on to them. And some have mentioned that it would have been nice if they'd have know that a long time ago. Very positive interactions, all of them.

I guess I'm of the opinion that taking a bit more time to learn basic flight principles (that at the time may seem boring) will make any new fledgling pilot that much better, that much faster, and that much more happier in the short run. And it also may spur them to pursue more after the fact, and lead them in a whole new direction!
Old 02-10-2009, 11:16 PM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

I'm sure that students don't ignore the physics, they often don't know it's there. Most clubs don't have a proper training curriculum, and rely on more experienced modellers passing on what works for them, hence the proliferation of myth and fallacy in the modelling world. Seems you have grasped that fact, and would like to make a small difference. As implied by Dick, a structured 'flight briefing and practical' before each flight lesson, with one lesson following the other results in quicker uptake of the skills, and, providing you follow a recognised training scheme per full sized aviation, the bad habits too are not learned. After the initial solo and circuit stuff, then the basics of aerobatics should be taught, ie deliberately putting the model in unusual situations, and the proper recovery action. Your students will soon outstrip your abilities, but the satisfaction will be yours.
Evan, WB #12.
Old 02-11-2009, 12:58 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

I used to teach recreational scuba diving... originally there was more than a week of dive theory before you even got your feet wet, students had to buy a bunch of books, take exams, know how the maths of a dive table worked and so on, then in the practical training physical fitness requirements were close to navy requirements, and skills were taught that had little practical application for someone who simply wanted to swim around in relatively shallow water enjoying the view. There was a huge drop-out rate, people who would have made great recreational divers weren't able to cope with the huge demands that were more suited to commercial deep divers. Why? Because scuba as we know it today was (in a large part) developed by the US Navy and the recreational market had more or less absorbed it whole. After a while recreational courses were developed that involved only two days, with half of each day in the class room and the other half in the pool. The qualifications you receive today are fairly restricted compared to the old days (when once you were qualified you could do pretty much anything you liked) but the limitations are fine for normal recreational diving, and more advanced courses are there for people who want to go further.

Now RC as a hobby came about from the other end, people designed planes & radio gear in their homes with no qualifications and in the early days planes didn't get much over a walking pace and the controls were simple (eg: single channel, rudder only). This ad-hoc approach has led to where we are today, with a fairly loose bunch of skills taught in more or less whatever method suits the instructor, and no set curriculum or texts to work from. The technology is only just starting to mature to the point where reliability is almost acceptable (eg: 2.4ghz radios providing drop-out free service, electric motors & batteries becoming more powerful and affordable) so perhaps now it is time to start looking at standardising training methods and providing a more theoretical background, especially as today's planes can easily top 100mph and fly as far as you can see them.

What I would NOT like to see however is the simple adoption of something approaching full scale pilot licence requirements. At the end of the day our planes are toys and the intent of most new fliers is simple enjoyment. In creating a theoretical curriculum for RC pilots we need to be mindful of keeping it "easy & fun to use". I don't know how flight instruction works in the other countries, but when I did mine here in Australia it was very informal, with the instructor explaining a few basics on the plane & radio, handing me the slaved radio and telling me to use the elevator stick to keep the plane level, then slowly handing over controls as I became more proficient. Perhaps an "information session" could be developed where once a week, twice a month or whatever the club spends an hour or three teaching basic flight principles to prospective students, and that this needs to be passed before basic qualifications (Bronze Wings in Australia) are handed over. It's something that would have to be overseen by the relevant authority eg: the AMA in America, MAAA in Australia etc. As usual, if it was done and accepted in the US it would gradually be adopted by the rest of the world, as long as it wasn't so overwhelming that it would scare people off and was simple enough that a twelve year old could follow it (remembering we often have kids getting into RC planes, not just adults).
Old 02-11-2009, 02:06 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Now RC as a hobby came about from the other end, people designed planes & radio gear in their homes with no qualifications
I would say just the opposite is true. The knowledge of the pioneers far exceeds the typical level of knowledge today. To say that the Good brothers were lacking in any required knowledge may be true, since they developed so much of what we use as a foundation today. If you read any magazines from the 50's, the level of technical discourse far exceeds anything published today.
Old 02-11-2009, 02:49 AM
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Default RE: Loaded Question: Why is it that rc pilots ignore flight physics?

Good point (no pun intended )... I was referring more to the individual pioneer who - while they may have had intimate knowledge of full scale aircraft - often had little practical experience with the smaller variety... the "back yard hobbyist" who was (and to a lesser degree still is) a major part of the on-going development of this hobby.

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