Top 10 things I learned [the hard way] flying CP helis.. - HeliFreak
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Newbies: Tips and Information Section of HF, specifically for Passing along info to newcomers to the hobby. Setup, tweaking, orientation practice, etc.


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Old 06-15-2015, 02:26 PM   #1
ryanha
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Default Top 10 things I learned [the hard way] flying CP helis..

I am not a pro or an expert, but I’ve been flying for about 18 months and have hit the hobby really hard. I consider myself an advanced-intermediate pilot. I have the basics nailed: all orientation hovers/circles/funnels, all orientation figure 8s (upright/inverted, backwards/forwards), all directions and orientations of loops, and I can do some good advanced maneuvers like piro flps, and 4 point tic-tocs. Along the way, I have learned a bunch of lessons, mostly the hard way, so I thought it might be fun to put together a top 10 list of things that I learned in the hobby so far, in the hopes that some of my lessons learned could be helpful to someone new.
Again, most of these I learned the hard way, by making mistakes, but as they say good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement…

Top 10 things I learned [the hard way] flying CP helis..

1. Flying collective pitch helicopters is hard
I really don’t think there are two ways about it. This is a hard hobby. It is like trying to play golf with one ball swinging left handed. Even to just consistently be able to take off, hover and land (gently on the skids) takes 20-40 hours of practice, not to mention learning how to do really basic stuff like going around in a circle, both ways, then inverted, then backwards. There are some really steep learning curves along the way, and almost everyone I know (including myself) ‘almost quit’ at some point. But I am glad I stuck through it because…

2. Flying collective pitch helicopters feels amazing
Partly because it is so hard, but mostly because it takes your whole brain to fly. Someone at my field said that it is like a brain enema, because you can’t think about anything else while flying. I 100% agree with this. It is a huge stress reliever for me because of this… all my worries fade away. In other words, all of the effort of learning to fly pays off once it all clicks.

3. Flying collective pitch helicopters costs more money than I thought
When I started, I never expected to be spending as much money on the hobby as I am now. I remember feeling horrible that I had to spend $10 for parts to fix my MCPX-BL. Recently I had a crash with my X5 that cost $200, and people regularly total full sized birds which can cost $1,000 for the airframe alone! Now that I have made peace with the cost, it is 100% worth it, but it was something that I had to learn to deal with over time (and budget for…).

4. There are 3 types of CP helis: “SIMs”, “Indestructibles”, and “Breakables”
This seems obvious to me now, but really these are very different classes of helis. Flying in a SIM is great because you can fly forever, don’t have to charge batteries, you never have to buy parts, and you never need to duck. But flying in a SIM is not the same as flying “in real life”. Flying a micro is great because it requires more skill than just flying in a SIM because you have to deal with wind, motor bog, and other factors. Arguably flying micros is harder than flying a full sized heli because they are so much less stable. But micros are great because you can crash a bunch without doing any damage (either to the heli or to yourself). Micros are great for learning the basics such as all orientation hovering & fig 8s, but beyond that and the motor bogs and the tail does not hold. Breakables, which is really 450+ but includes 250s, 180s, (and 130s?), are the most fun, but it is amazing how fragile they are. Sometimes even just landing funny can cause damage. This goes back to #1: flying CP helis is hard J

5. Saving money and time by cutting corners and getting cheap gear costs more and takes more time
My first 450 class heli I bought because it was about $200 cheaper than the other option I was considering. I ended up spending ~$500 and 10s of hours repairing it after it ‘self-crashed’ and trying to get it to fly right after re-builds. I finally gave up and bought the kit that I should have from the beginning and had none of the problems that I had with the cheaper bird.

6. It is worth the time to be meticulous with the build
I am not very patient. I like to do things quickly (hastily?) and efficiently. Unfortunately there is very little margin for error on a helicopter build, especially with the components in the drive train. I had a friend tell me to clean off every screw with isopropyl alcohol, clean out the screw holes with a tiny piece of paper towel, check and re-check your pitch, align everything to the most precise amount you can, check every screw before you fly. Forget that, I thought he was OCD and crazy! Well, after having a couple in-flight mechanical failures I have come to the conclusion that being meticulous about the build actually saves time. Nothing feels worse than having the heli come apart in flight. Even though it takes more time to be meticulous, it is well worth it.

7. Do a proper pre-flight check when you get to the field (5-10 minutes per heli)
Fortunately, most of the people in the group that I started flying with do this so I learned what a preflight check looks like from watching them. Check that each servo works, check that the FBL is compensating correctly for swash & tail: pick up the heli and move it around and watch the swash & tail. Check every screw in the drive train with a screw driver. Check the pinion, ball links, motor mount, tail hub, jesus bolt, tail boom pin, etc. My friends and I have found so many issues this way that would have been disastrous that I am convinced it is well worth the time, even though it is hard to be patient & diligent.

8. Find a friend at the field who is a better mechanic and better pilot than you
Ok, I might just have gotten lucky here, but I have a buddy that I fly with who is a great pilot and mechanic and it makes a huge difference. First off, it is great because he has a good eye and good experience so he has found mechanical issues on my heli that I missed. Second he is a great pilot so it motivates me to practice harder and push myself. Lastly, it is fun to have someone to geek out with talking about motors, tuning, FBLs, etc.

9. To progress, once you can do it on the SIM, make yourself try it in real life
This is really hard. I could hover inverted on the SIM for 2 months before I dared try it at the field. I was just too nervous. Finally I realized that I was not ever going to progress unless I really pushed myself off of that ledge and had the courage to try stuff in real life that I knew I could do 100% in the SIM. What I have realized is the more I pushed myself this way, the less apprehensive I was about trying more stuff IRL that I could do on the SIM. It is still hard for me, and I have a back-log of stuff I do on the SIM that I have never tried IRL. Part of that is I have a lot more time available for SIMming than I do at the field, but this is something I think I need to continue pushing myself on.

10. Use the SIM to practice the stuff that you suck at, the stuff that makes your brain hurt
I think Bert Kammerer said something similar to this which is that you get more benefit from the SIM practicing things you are weak at than practicing stuff you are good at. I have a love/hate relationship with this fact. What it means is that once I felt comfortable with piro flips I had to go and learn them reversed (e.g. pirouetting in the opposite direction), which I am still working on. It feels like the reward for learning something awesome was to learn it again, but left-handed. That said, taking this advice really has helped me progress faster than I would have otherwise. Learning to bail out and recover from all sorts of weird orientations and in the middle of all sorts of maneuvers means I am more confident when the heli does something that I didn’t expect.

So that is my top 10 list. I made many mistakes along the way, but have been fortunate to have a forum like helifreak and the friends I made at the field to guide me along the way.
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Old 06-15-2015, 03:12 PM   #2
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Awesome list!!
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Old 06-15-2015, 03:42 PM   #3
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Old 06-15-2015, 04:46 PM   #4
watho 46
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AEWSOME list
I have been guilty of many of these things
I glad I'm not the only one that has made these mastakes
Thanks for sharing
Cheers watho
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Old 06-18-2015, 10:36 PM   #5
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You are as right as a carne asada burrito and a cold beer! Perfect top 10
P.S. Mods, this should be a sticky!
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Last edited by RNMike; 06-19-2015 at 02:09 PM..
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Old 07-04-2015, 11:57 AM   #6
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Default you hit the nail on the head

you have described exactly what I have experienced
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Old 07-05-2015, 08:46 PM   #7
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cant get any better than that
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Old 07-07-2015, 02:51 PM   #8
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Very inspirational !! After crashing 3 times in the last week, (1 mechanical failure, 1 dumb dumb move, and 1 lost the heli in the next field) I was ready to pack it in. Been flying, albeit lightly, almost a year now, lately it has seemed more of a curse than a hobby. Even my main sponsor "VISA" has also had enough!! Very well put and written. Think I'll go sit down, regroup and rebuild. Thank you!
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Old 07-28-2015, 06:43 PM   #9
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Nice list.

I jumped straight from a Blade mCX co-axial to The Spawn (Nano nCPX)

Took me 4 weeks to learn how to hover in the garage without crashing.
Actually, most of that time was spent trying to get off the ground
without darting to the left and crashing into the trash can.

And, also figuring out how the thing managed to crash into spots
in the garage I never knew existed.

I did learn that a CP heli is very good at
cleaning out cobwebs behind toolboxes, benches, etc.
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Old 07-29-2015, 08:49 PM   #10
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as a newb in this fantastic past time... your spot on....
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Old 08-04-2015, 06:37 AM   #11
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Fantastic list, cannot fault it. One thing you could possibly add, but then it's not a top 10 anymore!

11. Make sure you have plenty of open space to fly in (relative to your model size). So many crashes are due simply to running out of space. "I lost control of the heli and crashed into the side of my house/tree/fence/car" When learning, the ground should be the only thing you are able to crash into! Also helps a lot if that ground is soft too.
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:38 AM   #12
ryanha
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peteski View Post
Fantastic list, cannot fault it. One thing you could possibly add, but then it's not a top 10 anymore!

11. Make sure you have plenty of open space to fly in (relative to your model size). So many crashes are due simply to running out of space. "I lost control of the heli and crashed into the side of my house/tree/fence/car" When learning, the ground should be the only thing you are able to crash into! Also helps a lot if that ground is soft too.
Glad you liked the list! 100% agree that when learning to fly, you want to take vertical spaces out of the equation.

Interestingly I have recently been experimenting with flying in smaller spaces. With the kids out of school for the summer, I am able to do some flying in the morning on my way to work (which is awesome, BTW). However the big field on the way to work was recently closed down, so I had to start flying in a much, much smaller field.

It was really hard at first and I had to dumb down my flying to feel comfortable. That said, it has really helped me focus on control and precision. After a couple months of that, I am back to doing most of what do at a big field at the smaller field. I think actually that learning to fly in a box has made me a better pilot overall.

Anyone else have this experience?


--Ryan
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Old 08-13-2015, 07:41 PM   #13
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Thumbs up

I need a #8.

I don't have a single pilot friend. All of my learning, on the bench, and in the air has been trial and error.

I know that I would have quit after the first couple of crashes if it hadn't been for Helifreak, Finless Bob videos, and people here helping me put it all back together and troubleshoot.
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Old 08-14-2015, 05:17 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MtnMan1 View Post
I need a #8.



I don't have a single pilot friend. All of my learning, on the bench, and in the air has been trial and error.



I know that I would have quit after the first couple of crashes if it hadn't been for Helifreak, Finless Bob videos, and people here helping me put it all back together and troubleshoot.

I'm in the same boat. Along with the local flying club has zero helicopter flyers.
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Old 08-15-2015, 10:19 AM   #15
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Thanks for the post, It will be my general orders now that I have time to fly.
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Old 08-15-2015, 12:00 PM   #16
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Excellent post! I'm brand new and this was good info.
What sim program do you recommend?
I bought a Double Horse 9053 and have been practicing on that (crashed it numerous times and have replaced about most everything you can at one point or another). I got a liPro battery but can still only get 2 or 3 minutes of flight time. Think it's just getting hot... Ordered heat sinks yesterday.
I'd like to advance. Looking at the Blade 200
What do you think?
Thanks
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Old 08-15-2015, 12:45 PM   #17
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Excellent post! Thank you
I'm new to this and already know what you're talking about.
What sim do you recommend?
I bought a Double Horse 9053 a couple years ago & just got around to flying it. I like it but it won't stay airborne for more than 3 minutes or so. I've upgraded the little L ion to a LiPro 2200 but still short flight time. Think it may be getting hot...I ordered some heat sinks for motor and chips yesterday. We'll see. I've replaced numerous parts due to crashes and it keeps on going.
I'd like to upgrade to something more sophisticated, more maneuverable that has longer fly time. Thinking about the Blade 200. It seems to have good reviews. Any recommendations?
Thanks.
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Old 08-16-2015, 04:32 PM   #18
ryanha
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Welcome to the hobby!

As far as SIM is concerned, I use RealFlight. I don't have experience with the other ones so I can't do a relative comparison. RealFlight has an orientation trainer mode which makes learning all of the hover orientations (upright & inverted) sort of like a game. That is helpful because while the SIM is the best training aide, it can get boring.

When I was starting I would use a timer to see how fast I could get through the levels. Also, there is another training mode in RealFlight where you have to stay inside a ring, and learning to do maneuvers in a small space (even just circles) was a good training aide. There is also an autorotation trainer mode of RealFlight.

As far as which heli to get, that really depends on your goals. If you just want to fly around and have fun, then the Blade 200 could be good. Since it is fixed pitch, it can't do inverted moves and the headspeed is lower so it won't be great in the wind, but it also will be much more tame than any of the CP helis.

The progression that I did (which is the same that a lot of people do) went as follows:

1.) SIM
2.) Blade Nano QX: This is a quad, but very hard to break and really good to learn orientations. I flew this for a month or two before getting a CP heli.
2b) Blade Nano CPX: Many people skip this one. I got one and did a few hundred flights on it before moving on. The spindle, canopy, and skids are pretty fragile, but you can fly it in the house (carefully).
3.) Blade MCPX-BL: collective pitch, flys ok in wind up to 8-10mph, very crash-resistant. Great to learn all orientation hovers, flips, fig-8s and ok for funnels.
4.) 450-class CP heli once you can fly the MCPX-BL without crashing it

Again, a lot of it depends on your goals, your wallet, and your learning style. For me, I think the path I did was good with a goal of getting to 3D as fast as possible with spending as little on crashes as possible.

Hope that helps!

--Ryan
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Old 08-17-2015, 10:08 AM   #19
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Ryan,
Excellent advice...Thank you...I don't have any real goals other than to just have fun. I've always loved these things and had no idea they have become so advanced. I'd like to be able to fly it around the house and outside in a large area to see how good i can get at following a course, landing, etc.
I like the progression you advised...I think that's a good plan for me...so the quad is good practice for flying an RC helicopter? Same skills?
I'm an active Delta Air Lines pilot so I'll probably have trouble getting the hang of it. I've heard pilots are a little slow...:..
Thanks for the great advice!
Where do you like to buy your stuff? Amazon? or do you have a particular Hobby Store you like?
Thanks
Scott
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Old 09-04-2015, 06:01 AM   #20
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X 10, great read mate, cheers Steve.
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