Ten Blindingly Obvious Tips
for Successful Slope Soaring
by Gary Parker
You’ve made your beautiful scale creation, so why smash it when you fly it? I see some scale flyers making the same basic mistakes while flying at the slope, so I reckon giving some slope soaring tips can’t hurt. Sorry if I offend anyone by stating the obvious!
Don’t programme your transmitter at the slope, that’s too late!
You need to arrive feeling totally confident that you have programmed everything right. That means spending the time at home getting it right. It’s amazing how often last minute slopeside alterations result in disaster.
Launch above the stall speed
The launch speed needs to be above the stall speed. Preferably well above. How often have you seen wimpy launches with the plane wallowing around right on the stall point? Give it some welly! Also, don’t throw the plane upwards! Our scale planes have lifty wing sections, they will go up by themselves. Launch them straight forward. (Experienced flyers even launch them slightly downwards when the lift is strong.) How often have you seen a plane thrown upwards, only to balloon up into a stall? Don’t do it!
Stay above the stall speed
If you’re feeling unconfident when flying for any reason, it’s tempting to slow down. Don’t. Keeping a bit of momentum in hand will save your bacon in all sorts of situations. Some flyers are skilled at flying very close to the stall speed, but think of this: the slightest wind lull could put your plane below the stall point. Nature has a random element: allow for that by flying not 1% above the stall point but at least 10% above it
If in trouble, a bit of down is often the best reaction
Beginners, when they get into trouble, almost always give the plane up elevator. Fair enough: they know they want the plane to go up. But in reality all too often this stalls the plane into a crash. If you’re getting into trouble, a touch of down elevator will give you a bit more speed and keep you in the air. Yes, it’s hard to believe that “down” can keep you up better than “up” can, but every experienced flyer knows it’s true.
The last turn is the worst
The last turn before landing is often the one where the plane crashes. Why? We’re trying to do it slowly, to achieve a nice gentle landing. The trouble is, we forget that when the plane banks, the stall speed rises. Angled wings just don’t generate as much lift as level ones. So the plane tip-stalls and … you know the rest. Repeat this three times before every flight: “I will make absolutely, positively sure I don’t go too slow on that last turn, and I won’t bank the wings vertical, I’ll keep them working.
Don’t make your maiden flights your final flights
Two mistakes that make maiden flights hazardous: huge throws and tail heaviness. Why are so many maiden flights carried out with a tail heavy plane? Probably because we hate to add weight, so we can’t bear to add the shockingly high amount of lead to the nose that our short-nosed scale gliders often require. Don’t skimp on the lead! Start with a safe balance point and subsequently remove lead if required after the maiden flight. Also, don’t set huge control throws “just to be sure”. It’s very rare to find you have inadequate throws to fly the plane.
Isn’t it amazing how often people get into “almost flat battery while flying” panics! Charge your glider battery. Charge your transmitter battery. It’s that simple.
The wind wants to blow your plane backwards
The stronger the wind, the more assertively you need to fly forwards into the wind. This can mean diving into it. Remember, diving into the wind will make your plane go forwards. Rising into the wind will allow your plane to be blown backwards. It sounds too obvious to even say, but flying assertively into the wind – rather than letting the wind be the boss – saves planes.
Don’t go too far back when landing
All too often flyers let the plane get too far back when landing, and the plane ends up in the weird turbulence that often lurks behind the landing area. The wind will be blowing your plane backwards more than you realize, so you need to make that final turn closer than you think. If you turn too close, you can just go around again, but if you end up too far back, you’re in trouble. So stay just that little bit more forward than seems right.
Your glider is not a helicopter, so don’t hover it to land
It is tempting to try to land almost stationary to protect that marvelous paint finish, but it’s usually a mistake. Planes don’t get damaged by landing a fraction too fast, they get damaged by cart-wheeling across the landing area after tip-stalling a few feet off the ground.
It’s not rocket science is it? (It’s…er…glider science.) Sorry if these tips sound almost a bit patronizing – I certainly don’t mean them that way. It’s just that I keep seeing planes broken for these same simple reasons, and I’d much rather see scale masterpieces survive. May your slope soaring be exciting but not too exciting!
Gary Parker Feb 2012