Dennis Greenfield began flying at the Tingalpa Model Aero Club in the early 70s with a Hustler plane and an old 27 MHz radio.
He notched up 200 flights before work forced him to leave Brisbane and the sport. His interest in the sport was rekindled in 2006 with the arrival of electric planes, and it wasn't long before he became an instructor.
Dennis finds instructing a rewarding activity and has had the pleasure of training many pilots in all levels of flight. Here he talks us though some of the key requirements of the MAAA Bronze Wings certification.
1. What key transmitter controls does a pilot need to be able to access as part of the Bronze Wings assessment?
The bronze wings certificate is a basic safety test for a new pilot. It's the first step in showing a pilot's ability to fly a model safely including taking off and landing. To earn bronze wings a pilot needs to master the four major controls: throttle, aileron, elevator and rudder
2. What are the major components a pilot needs to be able to name and define the function on an aircraft?
Trainee pilots need to be familiar with the type of aircraft they are flying, and be able to describe the fuselage, wings, tail-plane, engine, propeller, and undercarriage. They also need to explain the effect of four basic flight controls: ailerons, elevator, rudder and motor.
3. What airframe and pre-flight check must a pilot carry out?
First the pilot assembles the aircraft making sure each part is correctly in place. The radio must be range-checked before the first flight of each day this means the pilot moves 30 paces from the aircraft with the radio set to low power and ensures the aircraft controls still function. Internal combustion engines should be warmed up, and battery levels tested. All control surfaces should be checked for correct direction.
4. What makes a good take off?
A successful take off is one where there is no crash! A good take-off is also a smooth, controlled and successful lift of the aircraft from the ground, gradually applying power.
5. What's trimming the aircraft in flight?
If an aircraft moves slightly off course or there is a gradual change in altitude the movement requires a slight adjustment, this is called trimming. The radio control will have four trim switches or slides adjacent to its two control sticks. These trims are used to make fine adjustments to the control surfaces on the aircraft to maintain straight and level flight. It's an acquired skill!
6. What are the steps in a procedure turn?
When a significant wind change occurs whilst the aircraft is in the air the pilot will need to change direction. The procedure turn is a formal method of reversing the circuit, so both take-off and landing are into the wind. Whilst flying over the main runway (downwind because of the wind change) an early turn is initiated and continues to approximately 90 degrees. The turn is then moved in the opposite direction for 270 degrees so the aircraft is back over the main runway and flying into wind.
7. What is an inward and outward figure-of-eight?
The outward figure-of-eight begins with an approach toward the pilot in line with the runway. At a point prior to reaching the pilot a turn is initiated in a direction away from the pilot to an angle of 90 degrees. At this point the direction of the turn is reversed and continued for a complete circle of 360 degrees. The direction of the turn is again reversed for a further 270 degrees. This will bring the aircraft back to the original entry point to return to straight and level flight. The inward figure-of-eight is commenced at a point just past the pilot in the same manner resulting in a flight path towards the pilot during the manoeuvre. Maintaining a constant altitude and similar circles is a necessity for successful completion of this element of the test.
8. What are landing circuits?
A correct landing approach should begin with a normal down-wind leg, followed by a turn onto the base leg. During the base leg power is reduced and the descent initiated. On turning to the final approach the aircraft should be positioned correctly on the approach path to reach the end of the runway at minimum altitude ready to flare prior to touching the ground. Landing speed and distance will vary depending on the aircraft.
9. What is an engine assisted landing?
This is where the pilot uses a reduced power setting in landing the aircraft. While lighter planes may happily glide without any power to land, some faster, heavier aircraft may require some power input on the final approach. At times just a short burst of throttle may be all that is needed to prevent the aircraft from a hard landing.
10. What is a simulated dead stick landing?
In a simulated dead-stick landing the pilot is required to bring the throttle stick completely back on call by the instructor and perform a successful landing of the aircraft without further use of the throttle. Skill is needed to determine both the altitude and position of the aircraft in relation to the runway and adjust accordingly. The pilot will not always be able to keep the aircraft in the normal circuit pattern for this manoeuvre.
11. What safety rules and regulations are Bronze Wings pilots expected to know?
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has basic rules which apply to all model aircraft and the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA) has a detailed book of rules and a comprehensive manual of procedures. Trainee pilots should also be aware of their own flying club rules including height limit, flight boundaries and no-go areas.
The bronze wings qualification is a stepping stone to confident flying. Every pilot who completes any level of wings will improve their skill and get more enjoyment from the sport. Join a model flying club for encouragement, assistance, information and guidance. This is probably the best and cheapest way in the long run to acquire the skills to successfully pilot your own plane and get maximum enjoyment from this addictive hobby.