A good flying day can quickly turn sour when things go wrong. With a little bit of planning you can always ensure you get the most fun from your hobby…
I woke up yesterday to a near perfect flying day: The sun was shining, the winds were calm (finally), and the batteries were charged. I headed off to the local club field, an epic dubstep mix of Hanz Zimmer’s “Time” on the radio, daydreams of the FPV adventures to come floating through my coffee fueled brain.
An hour later I was heading home again, in a bad mood, with only 5 minutes of flying under my belt.
What went wrong?
I didn’t write this yesterday as it might have turned into a bit of a rant (it still might), but as I repaired the damage to my mini quad I starting thinking about what makes a good flying day…
I have found that sometimes the most important aspect of a flying session is the “Why”. Whilst “to have fun” is a totally valid reason, it sometimes helps to have a purpose for your outing. Do you want to push the range on your FPV flying just a bit further? Do you want to perfect a new aerobatic routine? Do you want to crack flying in rate mode?
Quite often these days I am heading out because I need to test a new frame or an upgrade. Having an idea of what you want to achieve will directly affect how you prepare for the trip.
When to go flying?
Don’t wait until you’ve had an argument with the wife or been shouted out at work. Yes, sometimes a flying session is the best antidote to a stressful day but if you are really stressing out then the chances are you won’t be able to focus on your flying.
If you are into aerial photography though, time of day does become important! There is this mythical time called “the Golden Hour” that happens just after sunrise and just before sunset. This is the time when the lighting conditions are perfect for some truly spectacular images and the winds are normally calm. Sadly, it is also the time my kids get up and just before they go to bed so I’ve never actually seen it!
Where to go flying?
Club fields tend to be out in the middle of nowhere. By definition they are large open spaces with mown or sealed runways. I like to fly FPV, both wings and mini quads, so flying in a featureless paddock with little or no obstacles or obstructions to overcome is getting a little tedious.
It all comes back to “Why are you going flying?”. If you want to perfect your IMAC style scale aerobatics or maiden your scale EDF fighter then the club field may be perfect. If you want to explore a new area from the sky through FPV it might not be so great.
Please note that this has nothing to do with the “should I join a club or not?” argument. It is more about finding the perfect location for your style of flying.
Oh, and please always remember the rules about flying in public or built up areas!
Who are you flying with?
Who you fly with is probably one of the most important aspects of a good flying session. Yesterday I arrived at the field to find it already busy with the regular club fliers. They are all nice blokes but they fly sport I.C. and electric aircraft through line-of-sight. So when I rock up with a collections of FPV multirotors and wings my flying is immediately restricted to when the other pilots are on the ground.
At its extreme, if not careful you may find yourself flying with others who are against multirotors or FPV and that can really spoil your day.
Use the forums, YouTube, Instragram, FaceBook (the list is nearly endless) and find yourself some local pilots who share your passion. You don’t need to join a club to find friends to fly with. Chances are by focussing on the “Why” once more you’ll find the “Who” pretty easily in this connected age.
What are you flying?
This is where I think I make my biggest mistake. Because I so rarely get to go flying I have a habit of throwing everything in the car. Yesterday for example I took the R220 mini quad, the PM300 miniquad, the R450 Spider quad and the TBS Caipirinha wing.
As a result I only flew two of these frames and then only for a few minutes each.
By trying to fly everything I found I flew nothing with any purpose. I didn’t enhnace my skills in any one area or on any one frame. I didn’t really even get time to enjoy myself because I was in the mindset that I had to fly EVERYTHING!
Once again it comes back to the “WHY”. If you want to perfect rate mode on your mini quads then don’t take the wing or the camera platform. It’s always worth having spares or a backup but focus on keeping one or two aircraft moving, not a whole fleet. Save the others for another day.
Also, by focussing on only one type of aircraft you can limit the gear you need to lug around as well. If you are practising your proximity flying close in do you really need to take the long-range ground station with pepperpot crosshairs and widescreen monitor? Surely the goggles and a decent Spironet antenna is enough?
It all comes back to the “WHY”
So one thing has become clear as I type. “WHY” appears to be the most important factor in a good day’s flying!
The “WHY” seems to affect every other element in this article. By planning out a flying session beforehand and having a purpose (even if that purpose is “to have fun”), we can make sure we get the most out of our prescious flying time.
Next time you go flying, run through the five “W’s” and see if it helps:
WHY, When, Where, Who, What?
What about crashes?
Let’s face it (and everybody should) – YOU ARE GOING TO CRASH!
I’m speaking now more to the multirotor community…
If you are a beginner, you are going to crash. If you are an expert, you are going to crash (or you’re not trying hard enough). The key to success is planning to crash. By thinking ahead and making sure you have plenty of spares you can ensure that a few broken props or screws don’t spoil your day. Also, make sure you take some tools with you as well. It’s really frustrating having all the spares and no way of actually carrying out the repair (don’t ask me how I know this)!
One last word about safety…
Someone will bring this up so I will first. If you do prefer to fly alone then I’m not going to stop you. Just make sure you have someone at home who knows where you are and when you should be back.
Make sure you have a mobile phone with you so that when you get lost, bitten by a snake, stuck up a tree etc. you can call for help. The numbers differ from country to country but in Australia if 000 or 911 don’t work you can dial 112 from any digital phone to access the emergency network, regardless of your provider’s coverage.