Learning to fly

Last time I wrote about my new hobby - RC Planes. After returning from Christmas holidays, with my new Electrafun plane in hand, I set about trying to learn to fly it properly.

I decided it might be a good idea to get some practice in using a simulator. There are a number of commercial RC flight simulators available, but after a bit of googling I found two pretty good free ones: FMS and CRRCSim. Both can theoretically be controlled with a mouse or the keyboard, but to learn properly you need a controller.

I found this USB RC controller at R2 Hobbies for the ridiculous price of only AUD$12.98 (the postage was actually more than the controller). It looks and feels like a real RC transmitter, with the same control layout, but instead of transmitting the position of the sticks, it sends them down the USB cable.

These controllers (and for that matter real RC Transmitters) come in 2 flavours: Mode 1 and Mode 2. The difference is related to which of the two little joysticks is used for what: Mode 1 has the throttle and ailerons on the right, with elevator and rudder on the right. Mode 2 is the other way around. If ordering a simulator controller you should order one with the same configuration as the real one you will use, otherwise it would get really confusing!

Another thing worth noting - if you read my previous post you would have seen that the Electrafun has no ailerons, so the only way to turn is via the rudder. It comes with a Mode 1 RC Transmitter, however, the rudder is bound to the right stick. This is actually a good thing because you learn to control the left/right direction using the same stick as you would in a plane that does have ailerons.
I was initially more impressed with CRRCSim, as it seemed to have a better flight model, taking into account wind gusts etc. I also liked the fact that it I'd an open source project. On the other hand FMS seems to have a much larger and more active user base, with more user contributed models and landscapes.

Then I tried the 2.0 beta 8 version of FMS. I am not sure why this version is marked as unstable/testing on their website - I did not have any problems with it. But it includes a much more advanced flight model, on a par with CRRCSim in my opinion.

I also found a huge collection of models, at Gunnerson's FMS Models site. Of special interest to me was the Toytronix THawk model, which appears to be very similar to the Electrafun. Having a stimulator model with similar characteristics to the plane you are trying to learn to fly makes obvious sense. I found that the THawk model handles quite similar to the EF.

Next Time: How to lose your plan on top of some building .....

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