Flying Flight Simulator

Sky-High Adventure with the Macintosh, Amiga, & Atari ST
by Charles Gulick

Chapter 17

Let's fly the real Cessna in the R/C trainer test mode to see what we can learn. Then, when we go back for another R/C session, we may be better radio-control flyers.

Recall R/C TRNR FREMNT. Position the mouse arrow at the top center of the scrunched down instrument panel, and drag the panel back up as far as it will go. The display screen will shrink accordingly. (In the Mac you'll have to first shrink the 3D window to make room.) Open SIM and PARTIAL PANEL, and click on only those instruments you'll need for this test: AIRSPEED, TURN COOR, ALTIMETER, and VERT VEL (the VSI). Close the window.

Take the view from the cockpit, be sure the zoom factor is set to 1.00, and save the situation as R/C TRNR TEST. The situation is now available at any time that you want to conduct a realistic check on R/C performance and techniques.

Everything is ready. Simply add power, steer to line up with the runway, and wait while the airplane rolls ahead, builds up speed, and takes off.

(Imagine—you're a Lilliputian, flying in the cockpit of a model airplane!)

Notice how quickly you're off the ground, even though you started beyond the midpoint of the runway. You might be able to use a takeoff like this when you're in a short field.

Look at your VSI. You're climbing at about 1000 fpm (1200 in the Mac).

And look at your airspeed—about 50 knots.

Take the spot follow view, and from that perspective, note the plane's attitude in the 1000 fpm climb.

Take the out-front view again, and reduce your power to 2000 rpm (1800 in Mac). The VSI will settle on a 500 fpm climb.

Start a standard-rate turn to the left (without elevator back pressure), and plan to roll out on a compass heading of 130 degrees. As you turn, back off your throttle so that your tachometer reads 1600 rpm (1400 in Mac). Notice that the VSI reads a little below the 0 mark and then returns to 0 as the plane picks up speed.

Roll out on a heading of 130 degrees. You are flying the downwind leg for Runway 31.

Reduce your throttle to idle. The VSI shows a descent a bit above 500 fpm.

When the runway is no longer visible on your screen, pause for a moment and take the control tower view. (This is your view from the ground when flying R/C, of course.) Press the Backspace key for the naked-eye view, and note that, even this close to your ground position, the plane is just a blob in the sky. Zoom to a factor of 8.00 and unpause. Start a left turn and head the plane toward your ground position, adjusting the zoom factor as you wish.

Let the plane land by itself and roll to a stop. Then, press the Backspace key for the naked-eye view, and note the plane's relationship (if any) to the runway.

Now, regardless of where you are or where the plane is pointing, add full power and take off again. (You haven't touched your elevator, so you're all ready.) As soon as your altimeter registers 500 feet, reduce your power to 1600 rpm (1400 in Mac). Note that the farther away the plane is, the closer it is to the horizon. Keep the naked-eye view until the plane is only a tiny dot in the sky (or, in the Mac, disappears), and then pause.

Take the rear view from the cockpit. You can probably see the runway back there. You are approximately a mile and a half from the center of the runway (your present ground, or control, position). Your altitude is probably about 600 feet because you climbed a bit after you made your power reduction.

You now have a rough boundary reference for the desired R/C flying range, which is a maximum of about two miles from your ground control position. This reference isn't exact, and it involves altitude as well as over-the-ground distance. But when the plane becomes a dot (or, in the Mac, disappears) as seen with the naked eye, it is approximately a mile and a half from your ground control position. In fact, at three monocular settings (1.00, or the naked-eye setting; 2.00; and 4.00), the model appears as a dot at the same distance (except in the Mac, where you'll see a representation, although small, of the model). So, the boundary reference rule is: When the plane appears as a dot (Amiga/Atari) as seen with the naked eye or when you zoom the monocular twice (to a power of 4.00) from the naked-eye setting, the plane is nearing the edge of the desired R/C range. In the Mac, use the aircraft's size to judge.

This rule does not mean that you cannot use magnifications higher than 4.00. Use whatever power suits your viewing. But, make regular checks to see that you're not flying too far out, using the reference rule I've described. Later you'll be able to fly as far as you desire. But for now, keep the model firmly in your control, and keep it close in.

Now, set the monocular zoom to 8.00. Each notch of zoom doubles or halves the prior magnification (although in the Mac version the reading stops at 4x), depending on whether you're zooming out or back, through a range from .25 to 511 (in the Mac, .5 to 1024). Your monocular is at least ten times as powerful as ordinary binoculars and is more like a high-power telescope.

Reset the zoom to 8.00 and you'll see the aircraft again, although it's small.

Unpause and apply some left aileron. Watch your turn-and-bank indicator to the left of the DG, and when the wing snaps to the edge of the box (indicating that the airplane is in a 30-degree bank), neutralize. Zoom to 64.00 and note the relationship of the turn-and-bank (as seen on your indicator) to the aircraft as viewed from the ground.

Hold the bank at 30 degrees, and let the plane turn until it is heading toward you again. Then, take the naked-eye view, adjust your throttle if necessary to get to an altitude of 600 feet, and let the plane fly over your head. Even if it doesn't pass directly above you, it will appear suddenly to spin around and head in the opposite direction or it may appear to be diving or spiraling, but in reality you spun around while your attention was focused on the plane.

Reduce your power to idle, start a turn back toward your position, and again let the plane land itself. As it glides closer, adjust your zoom for the optimum view, and try to keep some horizon in the picture for reference.

After the landing, taxi the plane right up to your feet, zooming gradually to wider angles and taking the naked-eye view as it reaches you.


Now, before you fly the model again, we're going to install a little heading readout transmitter. This transmitter will compensate for the lack of ground references when the plane is flying.

Recall R/C TRNR FREMNT. Click at the top center of your nearly submerged instrument panel, and pull it up so that it's high enough to reveal the compass. Adjust the panel so that the compass numbers sit right atop the border of your screen. Then, expand the screen to fill any gaps you may have created.

I'll show you how to turn the model in place without appreciably changing its position. (You can use the same technique for turning the prototype.) First, press rudder in the direction you want to turn and hold it down for a slow count to 10. (This turns the nosewheel to the maximum, although you can't confirm it because you have no rudder/nosewheel position indicator when you fly R/C.) Then, release the rudder key, and put on a couple of notches of throttle. The aircraft will spin like a top and hardly move a foot. When it's pointed the way you want, neutralize the rudder, chop the throttle, and apply the brakes. (In the Mac, because you have no way to instantly neutralize rudder/nosewheel, your best bet is to slew to a desired heading.)

Use the above technique to turn the model to a compass heading of 310 degrees. Then, open NAV and POSITION SET, and put the plane at NORTH 17223.183 and EAST 5177.7176. Leave ALT alone and close the window.

The model takes a giant step, and you're now in position for a takeoff straight toward your ground position. The plane will still use Runway 31, but it's positioned at the threshold instead of halfway up the runway.

Save this situation as R/C TRNR RDY 31.

With the compass enabled, you'll know which direction you're headed at any moment, and you can get serious about R/C flying. Now you'll know which leg of the airport pattern you're on or parallel to. Mix that information with a few other tricks, and you may be able to land as well as take off on Runway 31.

You're ready to go. Using the naked-eye view for this first takeoff, simply apply full power, and watch the model sail over your head. After it passes your ground position, let it climb until it becomes quite small, and then—using whatever zoom you want—start a left turn to a heading of about 220 degrees, or the crosswind leg. Start to reduce throttle to get into level flight. Use rudder to make minor heading corrections.

After another few seconds, turn left again for the downwind leg, on a heading of 130 degrees. When the model is on that heading, is flying away from you, and (as well as you can judge) is beyond the end of Runway 31, cut your power to idle.

Now, you have two more left turns to make: to 40 degrees (base leg) and to 310 degrees (final approach). Do the best you can on this first time around, and land the airplane toward you.

Remember these few pointers when flying your R/C trainer model:

Make all turns with moderate banks and neutralize when you have the bank you want. Roll out with approximately the same amount of aileron you rolled in with—starting approximately 15 degrees ahead of the heading you want—and again neutralize when the wings appear level.

Make minor heading corrections with rudder as usual. Because you are standing in the center of the runway, the model will go away from you at an angle when it's on the crosswind leg. When it's downwind, at first it will fly in your general direction, but then it will appear to gradually turn toward the right. When you see the plane in profile (given that you are within a degree or so of the correct downwind heading—in this case, 130 degrees), it will be directly opposite you and thus directly opposite the center of the runway. Then, it will immediately fly away from you at an ever-increasing angle as it continues downwind.

After you turn the model for the base leg and level the wings, zoom to a wide-angle view that includes the horizon. Even if the plane is only a dot at that point, immediately start to judge its motion in respect to the horizon, and particularly its relationship to the end of the runway. As you start turning to final, keep the horizon and the runway in view, and you'll be able to judge whether you've turned too soon or too late to line up well with the runway. When you're lined up, the plane, or the dot, will be in line with the runway, and everything on the horizon will be relatively motionless.

It's better to see all this than to follow a description of it. So take off again, fly the pattern, and shoot a landing. Do it several times. When you think that your downwind configuration is close to ideal—flying level on a heading of 130 degrees and, ideally, opposite your control position—save the situation as R/C TRNR DWNWND. You can use it to perfect your subsequent turns to base and final.

At some point, get in straight and level configuration (based on your best judgment), on a heading of 310 degrees (your altitude doesn't matter for this purpose), cut your power to idle, and immediately pause the simulation. Open NAV and POSITION SET, and put the aircraft at NORTH 17219.296, EAST 5178.7488, and ALT 470.0000. Close the window.

Press the Backspace key, and you'll see the model as it should look on final approach to Runway 31. Save this situation as R/C TRNR FINAL, and use it to practice final approaches. No two approaches will be exactly alike; experiment with back pressure to flare, and try to execute a nose-high landing. Try a little power for leveling off too.

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