Ever wondered good you'd be at flying a full scale aircraft given your RC experience? A couple of years ago I got the chance to see when I flew a Tiger Moth during a flying lesson at Duxford Aerodrome in Cambridge, England. If you've ever wondered how it compares to RC, or how you would do when taking up the controls of a 'real' aircraft, here's what it was like.
How Does Full Scale Compare?
As said in the video, there are certain skills you learn with RC that transition nicely to help you be a better full scale pilot from the start.
In the air just after take off. You can see me looking down from the front!
Initially getting used to it
At first, my instructor, Bob, flew the Tiger Moth up to around 2500 - 3000 feet, just underneath the cloud base. After that, I was in control for a great deal of the time, which was fab.
At first, it takes a bit of getting used to. Sometimes it was hard just to keep the aircraft heading in a straight line. On top of that, the visibility over the front wasn't that great, so you have to get accustomed to flying by looking left and right and trying to look at the horizon. When you've got that, it's fairly easy.
The instructor sits in the rear seat and the pupil sits in the front. You do feel like you're flying on your own at times with this format. Visibility isn't that great over the front, unlike modern aircraft.
Hand Eye Coordination
One vital skill you pick up from RC is the ability to not over control. You get a nice feel for how the plane will react. In a way, it is much easier to get a feel for a full scale plane as you're actually inside of it, meaning you can feel with your body what it's doing, rather than just watch from a distance and trying to judge it that way!
Ready for go!
When it came to actually being able to do some manoeuvers, such as turns, you have a good idea of how they work together. For example, coordinated turns with the rudder were pretty easy to get the hang of. The hard bit is getting familiar with the feeling of pressing the pedals with your feet. I found that the Tiger Moth's pedals were actually quite hard to press, and unlike the joystick, you needed to use a reliatively forceful push with your feet. At first I didn't want to push as hard as I needed to as I thought I needed to be gentle. This is different to using the rudder on an RC plane as all the axis on the transmitter move with the same ease.
Steep turns were great fun. Being taught to feed the rudder in when you pull back on the elevator to go round felt familiar.
Like the rudder turns, it was easy enough to be able to do other manoeuvers with both the joystick and the rudder. The only problem that I had with knife edges was with my goggles, as they decided to blow off when all the air came rushing into the cockpit. To be fair, I probably should have remembered to put them on when we took off.
The moment my goggles blew off embarrassingly during a knife edge. Thankfully they were attached to the back of my flying helmet, meaning they didn't hit my instructor in the face.
So How Much Does RC Experience Help?
You don't have to fly RC to get a head start though. Flying flight simulators, even combat flight simulators like 'War Thunder' with a joystick will help you get a grasp of the feel for an aircraft. It's like if you play racing games, you may find that when you try karting for the first time, you pick it up quite quickly. It's a good excuse to play games, to say you're 'training'!
Of course you won't be an expert, but when you do RC flying you're bound to have a basic knowledge of aerodynamics and aircraft behaviour that will give you something of a head start when you take up the controls of a 'real' plane.
I highly recommend having at least one flying lesson in your life. Even if it isn't even an hour long, you will still get a huge appreciation of full scale aviation and a taste of what it's like to power through the vast open sky with you at the helm. I have found that, for those who have a background of RC flying, you will already have a head start towards learning to fly full scale. Some may call it a natural affinity, yet I believe it's mostly practice that defines whether or not someone is good at something. RC gives you some of that practice.
So congratulations, you may have the potential to be a great pilot one day.
Thanks for reading!