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 How to use a Simulator

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PostSubject: How to use a Simulator   Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:38 pm


I found this today on Heli-Lessons.com.

Nigel's Guide to Using a Simulator
(Why you can do it on the simulator but not with the real helicopter)

I have noticed that many of the people I teach do not use simulators to their best advantage. Used correctly, a radio controlled model simulator can go a long way to teaching you how to fly your model. Used incorrectly, it can lead you to believe that flying the real thing is easy - or that you have got the hang of a particular manoeuvre when in fact you haven't. Here are a few tips to ensure that you get the most out of your simulator.

1. Get the setup right
I won't go into details here about how you should set up your simulator but try to make sure that it is as true to life as possible. If you aren't sure what 'true to life' feels like, get someone experienced to set up your simulator to be as life-like as possible.

2. Go for precision
If you are trying to learn to hover, don't allow the model to drift to a random spot and then try to keep it still. You are the person flying the machine so you should be the person who decides where you are going to hover. Pick a spot before you take off and then force yourself to hover over it. If you drift away, then make sure you get it back to where you started.

3. Complete the manoeuvre
One of the world's top pilots, Jason Krause, recommends that whatever manoeuvre you are trying to perform, make sure you complete it. If you get into trouble, get out of trouble again...you'll have to when you are flying the real thing so you may as well get used to it now.

4. Make it difficult for yourself
I cannot remember how many times I have heard people say "I can do it on the simulator, why can't I do it in real life?". This is usually because they aren't making things hard enough for themselves on the simulator. Let me give you an example. You may have heard of a popular free simulator called 'FMS'. This is quite a useful application but has the reputation of being a little too stable in the hover - this makes it a little unlike real life. However, I always advise beginners using FMS to move the model so that it is apparently very close to the screen and keep it hovering there. Anyone who thought FMS was too stable soon realises that it is very difficult to keep the helicopter in this position and therefore the pilot has to maintain a high degree of concentration to keep it in one place. Another example...let's say that you are practising 'Lazy 8's' and you think you've cracked them. Now try loading up a scenery file into the simulator that has a runway in it (or other suitable training area*) and try flying exactly along the edges of the marked area, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

Load a Scenery File with a Training Area*

*I have now provided a training area for the Reflex XTR simulator - see below

When you find out how difficult this is you will realise that actually up until now the model has been flying you rather than the other way around. You've got to get to the stage where it is you that decides where the model is going rather than allowing it to go where it likes. Getting this right will pay dividends when you get to the field.

If your simulator has the facility, change the wind direction every time you fly. Add in some turbulence.

Another tip, for micro fliers. If you're using Reflex XTR or other simulator that has indoor as well as outdoor scenery files, try practising flying mainly indoors. This is much more limiting and therefore harder.

5. Fly as you fly at the field
Don't get into bad habits. For example, always use the switches as you use them on the real model, e.g. the Idle-Up switches. Getting into the habit of flying with Idle-Up on all the time could be expensive!

6. Fly in relatively the right place
This especially applies to little trainers like the Hoverfly or Hirobo XRB - make sure that the helicopter appears to be in the same position in relation to you as it would be in the field, e.g. when you are learning circuits it will be a little higher than you so you should be looking up at it rather than down onto it. In the case of a Hoverfly, I recommend that novices sit on the floor.

7. Don't practise things that are beyond your level of competence
For example, it's a waste of time to practise doing loops if you can't hover.

8. Hold the transmitter as you would in the field
Get used to flying indoors with the same setup (e.g. neckstrap, etc.) as you use in the field.

9. Try making the tail/rudder control awkward
This one is especially for those of you with smaller (particularly micro electric) helicopters...try adjusting the trims on the rudder/yaw axis so that the heli wants to turn to the left or right. When you've tried it one way, try the other. Helis can be much less stable in this axis than simulators and it will pay you to learn to cope with a heli that wants to turn one way or the other.

10. Use the Throttle Hold Switch and Avoid the Funky Chicken Dance!
Especially for electrics, when you are practising on the simulator get into the habit of using the throttle hold switch as soon as you know you're going to crash. This can save you a lot of money when you start flying the real thing! (Don't know what the Funky Chicken Dance is? It's when the helicopter's motor/engine is still running after you've crashed and the helicopter dances around the ground smashing itself to pieces.)

11. Work hard but Take Breaks
Flying the simulator can be hard work, especially if you are putting in a lot of time. Keep at it, put in those hours but take regular breaks as well. It has been shown that a good period of rest between practise can speed up learning.

Don't give up...you'll get there in the end!

Some Exercises
(Don't say the simulator is too easy until you can do all the following with no problems at all while being watched by someone!)

1. Hover steadily over a fixed point using minimal stick movements.

2. Keeping the helicopter pointing on a fixed heading, hover it from side to side so that it travels directly over a particular line on the ground (most simulators have scenery files with lines on them). The helicopter should not wander off its course.

3. Travel up and down the same line keeping the nose in the direction of travel, i.e. go to the left with the nose pointing left, when you get about 10 metres away turn around and come back and go to the right for 10 metres. Turn around and come back again.

4. Find a scenery file which has lines on the ground in the form of a box (see below). Hover along the sides of the box. Be able to do this either pointing on a fixed heading or alternatively with the nose pointing in the direction of travel.

5. Fly a controlled circuit flying above eye level in both directions, i.e. left hand circuits and right hand circuits.

6. Hover nose-in confidently over a fixed point using minimal stick movements.

7. Hover nose-out and perform a forward flip, ending with the helicopter in the starting position. The helicopter should not move off its 'spot' during the manoeuvre. Develop this by practising doing this beginning pointing to the left, right and nose-in.

Advanced pilots (with the transmitter set up correctly) should practise all the above exercises a) backwards, b) inverted and c) backwards inverted.
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