Being A Good Test Pilot: Part 3, On the Wheels

A continuing series on how to be a solid test flight, we continue……

Check the RX pack, that it’s state of charge is high. For an electric model. Verify with the owner that the pack is full. When was it last charged? Did you do any setup on the bench after the last charge? If everything is not fresh, freshen it up now.

Ok, we’ve been a second set of eyes and looked over the model, both mechanics and setup (throws etc..). Now it’s time to run the engine or the motor if it’s electric. For fuel engines, we are looking for a good transition from idle to wide open throttle. Also, a good prolonged idle with instant acceleration to wide open throttle is a sign of a well tuned engine. For an electric model, we are looking for the ESC to properly arm and for the motor to reliably start. Take the motor from off to full throttle several times with different rates of increase on the stick. Make sure it’s not going to have a timing issue and fail to increase from some point of the throttle.

It’s never a bad idea to hold a model and feel the wide open throttle power for just a few seconds. This can be a heads up if a model is under powered and will take a longer take-off distance and shallower climb angle or perhaps so overpowered that it wouldn’t be advisable to take off at full throttle. I have encountered many models at both ends of the spectrum.

Standing behind the model, ALWAYS one stick at a time, move the controls and make sure everything is moving in the right direction. Check it twice.

Do a taxi test to make sure the model tracks well with neutral rudder trim. If it needs more than a little adjustment, fix it before you fly. Avoid taxing so fast that you accidentally end up in the air. This test can be as simple as driving in a figure of 8 and a couple of straight lines to see if it rolls straight. When doing your figure 8’s, are you getting adequate right and left turns? How tight are they? My clubs paved strip is about 40′ wide. A good amount of steering for a tricycle gear ship on the ground will allow me to do a figure 8 just barely in the width of the runway (turns around a 10′ radius). If it’s much tighter than that, it’s going to become very sensitive as the ground speed increases. If it’s a tail dragger, it can as tight as 1.5 to 2 figure 8’s in a 40′ long area (turns around 5-7.5′ radius). Tail draggers usually lift the tail and the wheel becomes non-effectual around 10 or 15mph, so there is no wheel on the ground at higher speeds to be a problem.

Before we fly……………To be continued…

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