Giving non-modelers a chance to control a live R/C airplane is arguably the most popular thing we do at the annual Open House. It’s also fun and rewarding to be a part of the process as an instructor pilot or co-instructor pilot.
Unfortunately we’ve had years in the past where this program did not go very well. There were reports of some guest that wanted to get on the buddy box but did not, and guys getting burned out doing a lot of flying as an insturctor.
Several factors come in to play for what caused this breakdown to happen. Most generally it was in the process of getting people on and off the buddy box in a timely manner to keep the line moving. As proven, it’s not necessary to have a regimented system in place to make this whole process run smooth, just some general guidelines for those involved to follow.
First key point to always keep in mind is these are introductory flights, NOT LESSONS!
The majority of the problem in the past was that members spending WAY too much time with each guest. With a lot of guest wanting to try their hand at flying an R/C plane, this is how the process should work:
For each plane available for introductory flights there should be an instructor pilot (obviously) and a co-instructor pilot. The pilot’s job is to keep the plane safely in the air and provide pointers to the guest on the buddy box during the flight.
Copilots have the most important job and that is instruction and keeping things rolling. This person does not necessarily have to be a “skilled” pilot, they just need to be able to provided basic instruction of what stick does what; “This is up, this is down, this is left, this is right.” And an give a brief overview of how the buddy box system works and what the guest will be doing.
An extremely helpful tool for the copilots basic instruction is the use of a “dummy box”. This is any transmitter, functional or not, that is used for demonstration purposes only. The idea is to provide the basic instruction with the dummy box while a guest is on deck waiting for their turn on the buddy box with the instructor.
When the guest has taken the buddy box the copilot should provide just enough help to get them started and locate the plane they will be flying in the air. At that point the instructor pilot will take over and provided all the cues such as; “ It’s all you, pull up, add some left…. A little bit more left….I got it, etc.”
Once a guest is with the instructor pilot, the co-pilot should be gone retrieving the next person in line and providing the basic instruction. Yes, the people you put on the buddy box are not going to know diddly squat and will make a lot of mistakes and your kind soul wants to help them but must-fight-urge-to-give-lesson. Instructor pilots it’s OK to tell your copilot to go locate another guest if you see them getting TOO involved and providing a lesson to the guest.
Each guest should be on the buddy box two minutes TOPS! There should always be someone briefed and ready to take the buddy box, when the previous guest two minutes have expired.
This process should repeat faithfully until everybody has had chance to fly and no repeaters unless it turns out that interest to do introductory flights is freakishly low for some reason.
Additional notes: In the past I noticed the younger the guest the more guys were willing to provide instruction. This is counterintuitive. The reality is first time flyers (including adults) have no clue when you take your finger off the switch and are no longer controlling the plane. [wink, wink].
Just keep in mind that the idea for the buddy box flights is to let people experience R/C flight first hand and it only takes a minute for them to realize this is much harder than we make it look. NEXT!