Flying carrier models successfully in competition is not an easy task. The hardest part is probably doing a successful slow run, but the landing can also take time to master. I am going to describe how I approach each part of a carrier flight. The methods I use are fairly successful in competition (ego boost!).
The take off is not particularly tricky. The main problems seem to be with underpowered models and/or poorly trimmed models. Another common problem is applying too much up elevator. This not only hinders the acceleration of the model, but could also lead to the lines going slack, and a nasty connection with the green stuff! I apply a very slight amount of up elevator and full throttle, and correct if necessary. When the model is released, you should take a step back, as you should be standing on the edge of the centre circle at take off. Big, heavy carrier models, with big motors, pull hard, so you should be prepared to take the strain. That's about it really.
The fast run is the easiest part of the carrier flight. Pivot on a spot to minimise your flight circle and bring the handle close in to your body, if you are comfortable doing this. Keep the model at a sensible height, but not above 20 ft, and simply hold on. When I hear the horn after 7 laps, I reduce the throttle steadily to something like 60%. Then I just take a few moments, note what the wind is doing, and then start to get ready for the slow run.
There is no set way to approach the slow run. Basically you want to get close to the 30° attitude limit and try to keep the model from ballooning upwind. There is also a tendency for the model to be forced towards the ground downwind, which can be quite nerve racking, but a bit more power usually corrects this. I can't say how you get to the 30° limit, because this will vary with each model. It will simply take time to produce a good slow run, but it is a lot of fun getting to know your model and it's limits. My models seem to behave fairly consistently, even when we've made significant changes to the design. This is probably due to how I trim my models. I achieve the 30° limit by dropping the throttle right down, towards the end of the downwind leg. As soon as the model begins to slow and lose some height, I apply full up elevator, and then use the throttle to control the height and speed of the model, only making elevator changes if the model starts to balloon or there is a sudden gust of wind or something. When you are happy with your slow speed and know what the wind is doing around the circle, signal the contest director (raise your arm or summat). They will usually return your signal audibly and timing will begin from the start of the next lap. After the 7 laps, speed up to a steady cruise and prepare for the landing.
There are a variety of ways to approach the carrier landing. It is difficult to say which is best, because you will probably have to approach each landing differently depending on the wind conditions. I tend to bring the model down to a slow speed where there is just a slight angle of attack, but not flying as slow as on the slow run. I fly fairly low, perhaps 4 ft or so and then reduce power to virtually nothing to drop on to the deck. This will take time to master, as different models will have different glide paths and sink rates, so it's just a matter of practise! Some pilots set their models so that the lowest throttle will actually stop the engine. I don't do this, because I find it too easy to cut the engine when flying slow.
This article was first published: 13/05/2003
This article was last updated: 13/05/2007