Friday, February 11, 2005

Claude (again) on aerobatics

Complex maneuvers don't look so intimidating when broken down into the elements that comprise them. Practice each of those elements and then combine them into whole maneuvers to avoid mistakes and get those high scores.

RC AEROBATICS BY RICK ALLISON………..Re-typed by Claude MacKrill
Change it is said, is the only true constant The universe is inconstant Flux at every level of observation; nothing is fixed, nothing is immu­table and whatever isn't busy advancing is busy declining Generally, pattern pilots would much rather advance than decline. It’s built into the breed.
There are many reasons for participating in this sport (RC modeling is a hobby, but pattern is a sport!). If asked, most of us would probably say for the fun, for the competition, or for the camaraderie but nearly all of us would say to learn to fly better, to advance our level of skill. In this country, the rules system is set up to ac­tively encourage advancement. In fact, all the way up to Masters class, we even man­date it
Our system of tiered advancement is purposely designed to teach aerobatic fly­ing. From Pre-Novice through Novice Advanced, Expert and finally Masters, each pattern class exists to teach the skills neces­sary to advance to the next level. You might think of it as a correspondence course in learning to fly properly Complete Lesson I and go on to Lesson 2, and soon, until you pop out the end of the tunnel, fully armed and dangerous and ready to enter the FAI wars, where you can really start to learn. It's a good system, and it produces excellent pilots, If you enter the system, spend the time and do the neces­sary work, it will produce you.
For many of you who are already "works in progress," the time between competition seasons (called "winter" in most places) is the time for making the jump to the next level, whether it be Novice through Advanced, Expert or Master. This transition has always been a little bumpy and unsettling, but with the number of levels now reduced by one with the departure of Expert class, the skill gap between each class is even greater than in previous years. The average flight time and amount of practice needed to bridge that gap successfully have in­creased substantially. Just going out and hacking around at the new maneuvers won't get the job done fast enough anymore.
The system is built around the idea of progressive flight elements or tasks being introduced by order of difficulty. For in­stance, Novice class might appear in a hypothetical course catalog as Introduction to aerobatic competition. Sur­vey of basic flight skills with emphasis on straight and level flight parallel to the flight line. Basic inside looping maneuvers, begin­ning axial rolls, and introduction to the stall turn. Advanced might look like this Beginning Turnaround. Intro to trimming pattern aircraft. Multiple Rolls, Outside Loops, and Beginning inverted flight skills. Flying in the aerobatic box And soon. Upright flight skills are covered before inverted ones, inside square maneuvers are intro­duced before outside square maneuvers, axial rolls before slow or hesitation rolls, stall turns before Figure Ms, etc.
The only thing not spelled out for the to absorbing all the great aeronautical edu­cation offered between the covers of that SAMAA Rulebook Item One in the my guide is to isolate and identify the specific new elements in­volved in the new schedule you are trying to learn.
Notice that I didn't say "new maneu­vers.' The element and the maneuver are not the same thing, any more than atoms and molecules are synonymous. As atoms comprise molecules, maneuvers are com­posed of element combinations. In any complex new maneuver, you will find a lot of familiar elements from maneuvers you already know and do well, along with one or two new skills. The idea is simply to first master the new fundatnental element before attempting to master the maneuver, which contains it.
The traditional method of trying to learn the element is to do the whole maneuver (usually very badly), which contains it an enormous number of times. This does work in most cases, but it takes a lot of time and fuel, You might compare it to cooking a spaghetti dinner one noodle at a time, while washing and drying the pot between each noodle. You eventually get there, but you aren't exactly a model of modern effi­ciency enroute.
For an example, one of the many new elements involved in the transition from Advanced to Masters class is the outside square corner, or outside partial loop, if you prefer. This element doesn't appear in any sequence before Expert, but it is per­formed twice in the Square Loop with 1/2 Rolls (K=5), twice in the Reverse Top Hat (K=4), once in the 1/2 Square Loop with 1/2 Roll (K=2), and four times in the Square Horizontal Eight (K=5). This is obviously going to be a very important skill to learn to perform properly if you want to score well in your new class. To do this efficiently, isolate the task- the square outside cor­ner- and practice it alone, until you can do it well upright to a vertical down line, inverted to a vertical up line, and from the vertical up and down lines to the horizon­tal.
I like to use learning exercises or routines when working with new elements. For ex­ample, for practicing the outside square corners above repeated whole outside square loops would he a good learning exercise.
Only when you have the new element down pretty well do you go to practicing the specific maneuvers, which contain it. You'll find that the complex new maneuver that looked so difficult before is now user-friendly, and takes many less reps to master than it would using the old-fashioned "Beat It to Death with a Fuel Can" method.
Once the new maneuvers all look pretty good, put them in sequence. Run through the new sequence until you come to a rough spot. The rough spot usually marks an element you still don't do very well. Stop, go back to the element practice, then back to the maneuver practice, and finally back to the sequence practice.
With every ruie you get an exception or two. Sometimes you will run into a maneu­ver that has very few familiar elements. The Six-Sided Outside loop comes to mind.
The new element in this one is a 60 degree outside corner; it appears nowhere else in the pattern, and the maneuver is nothing more than the element repeated through 360 degrees. Obviously, the easiest route to success here is doing whole maneuver repetitions.
The process remains the same, however.
First, analyze the new sequence, breaking the maneuvers down to elements or tasks.
Second, identify the new elements, isolate them, and work out an efficient practice exercise for learning them.
Third, put the new elements into the new maneuvers, and Practice them. Fourth, put the sequence together and practice.
When you come to a problem area, stop, analyze the difficulty you are having, and go back a couple of steps to cure the root cause.
If you have a problem holding concen­tration through a long sequence, break the sequence down to mini-sets of three or four maneuvers each, practice those until things flow well, then return to the full sequence. This is also good for curing the type of problem with a specific maneuver that only seems to trouble you when the maneuver is flown in sequence. The difficulty here is almost always on the entry or setup to the maneuver, and the mini-set allows you to work out the problem in context without wasting the time and fuel to fly through the entire sequence each time.
Call the whole thing a piece-work strategy if you like. Things aren't too tough if you go a class at a time, an element at a time, a maneuver at a time; piece by piece, skill by skill. The method just outlined builds good habits, and good habits mean faster progress because each succeeding lesson builds on an increasingly solid foundation of skills.
Conversely, bad habits mean slow going. They are the natural result of practicing mistakes, and flying a brand-new maneu­ver badly a large number of times in succes­sion is certainly a prescription for practic­ing mistakes. Besides all the wasted time spent learning bad habits, there is all the wasted practice time which must be spent in the future to unlearn them. Who needs to work that hard? Use the lazy man's ap­proach, and get it done a piece at a time.

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