Learning the R/C Orientation Using a Free Simulator
The hardest thing about R/C planes is getting used to dealing with the controls being backwards when the plane is coming towards you. Experienced pilots or veterans of computer games involving airplanes think flying an R/C glider will be easy, and in most respects it is, but the orientation is a BIG problem until you get used to it. The most helpful hint I received was "when the plane is flying towards you, move the stick towards the lower wing to level the plane." That's easier to remember and more natural to deal with than thinking right is left and left is right.
One of the best things you can do is practice on a simulator until you learn the "R/C" orientation BEFORE you go fly your glider. When the plane is flying away from you, left is left and right is right. But when it is flying towards you, left is right and right is left. Even if you remember this 95% of the time, the 5% of the time you forget will lead to some really nasty crashes. I used Microsoft Flight Simulator, flying in "tower view" mode. Any version of MS Flight Simulator is fine, you do not need the latest and greatest. Any other simulator that will allow you to fly in a mode where your view is from a fixed point on the ground is fine, too. And don't bother using a glider if a powered plane is available -- on MS Flight Simulator I skipped the glider and used the Extra 300, thus I could stay up as long as I wanted (or until I crashed, which usually didn't take too long!). Basic flying of a glider is easy -- it is getting the "R/C" orientation down that is hard. I can't tell you how many times I slammed that poor Extra 300 into the ground before it became "natural" to fly from a fixed point on the ground. Again let me state one thing that helps: remember that when the plane is coming towards you, you move the stick towards the low wing to level the plane. This is much easier and more natural than trying to remember that right is left and left is right. Also, don't bother learning to land. It is much easier to land your glider in an open field than to land a powered plane on a runway, and involves entirely different skills. And though landing on some slopes may be tough, it is not even similar to landing on a runway. Same is true for taking off, so I saved a flight once I was already in the air and flying level, then always restarted that flight after a crash. You can download a FREE simulator from the internet that you can control with a mouse or joystick, and some even include instructions on how to build a cable to allow you to use your R/C transmitter to control the simulator. Below are some links to information on FREE and non-free simulators. I have tried FMS, and thought it was very easy to use and should suffice quite well for learning R/C orientation. Not sure how the others compare -- if you try more than one of them please send me an email and let me know how they compare.
General R/C simulators:
http://www.slewin.clara.net/rc/rclinks.htm#sims - details about free and non-free flight sims
http://www.tmac.asn.au/fms_free_flight_simulator.htm free r/c flight simulator FMS
http://modelscentrum.free.fr/uk/index.html more info on FMS
http://www.pivot.net/~acarr/ron/ron.htm free FlyRC sim
http://www.astro.ku.dk/~norup/vertigo/fly_links.html information on home-built flight simulators
Free simulators designed for R/C slope soaring and/or thermal soaring:
http://www.rowlhouse.freeserve.co.uk - SSS (Slope Soaring Simulator)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crrcsim/ - CRRCsim
http://twilmot.free.fr/ or http://glider3d.free.fr/ - Glider3D
http://www.sfspc.de/index_e.htm - Soaring Flight Simulator
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