Chapter 3: Crash Curve - Solo and Beyond

One thing that surprises many pre-solo students is how crashes seem to suddenly go up even as you gain more experience with the trainer and getting ready to solo. In fact based on the students I have helped and from my own experience - there is a simple crash curve and it repeats as you scale up your skills.

Phase 1 - no crash, happy to go home: When you are new to the hobby and flying with a buddy box - your initial focus is on steady flights at reasonable altitude. Your instructor maintains recoverable control at all times. So there are no crashes.

Phase 2 - frequent crashes: once you master the basics of flying around, it's time to start practicing approaches - after you do those well, try the landings. This is ofcourse the riskiest part of your training. Your instructor has very little time to recover as the plane gets close to the ground. Suddenly it feels like everything is going wrong - you are crashing more often and lucky to go back home without some repair necessary. 

From an instructor's standpoint -this is a delicate balance between playing it very safe and letting you take some risks and learn. So it's inevitable that you will likely crash a lot more even as you are getting better with RC. 

I discuss this with my students and give them a choice. I can almost guarantee a recovery with any approach or landing - or I can let them try and recover on their own (as long as it is still safe). Safety first ofcourse. 

What helps you the most here - is having a trainer that is easily repairable. And treat a trainer like one. I don't have a cowl or spinner on my Apprentice - they are damaged easily in a crash. The plane flies just as well without them. It's a trainer that's very functional. It's been reinforced, has a bigger motor now, wings have flaps, and this thing will fly in almost any wind my students are eager to fly in.

Phase 3: reduced and occasional crashes: Once you understand that crashing is a part of learning, you don't despair. Once you get basic landings done, your crashes will go down quite a bit. Now your crashes are primarily driven by flying outside your current skill level.

In my case - I crashed when I was tired and did not realize it, or sun was in my eyes, or I was distracted and chatting with some one while flying, got caught in a down wind turn without sufficient airspeed, or was simply exploring doing things differently. Or one time - got my batts mixed up and flew with a used one. Never again. Experience and retrospective helps you avoid the same mistakes again.

This is the crash curve as I see it. After trainer crash curve - I went through this curve a couple more times when I started doing aerobatics and then 3D. 

Sanjeev Joshi