An entry-level, fixed-pitch heli is inherently stable and returns to upright
when the controls are neutralized. The more forgiving characteristics of
fixed-pitch helis and quadcopters translate to fewer corrections needed
to maintain a stationary hover.
A collective-pitch heli requires control inputs during a hover similar to
those used to fly a fixed-pitch heli. Because it’s less stable, constant
corrections are required and there’s less margin for error if the controls
are accidently held in. That’s why novice pilots should start with a fixed-pitch heli until they are proficient at making small, brief inputs.
Figure 1 A s the saying goes, some of the most rewarding activities are often the most challenging, and learning to fly helicopters often fits into that category. Indeed, merely
hovering a helicopter has been compared to trying to balance
a marble on top of a bowling ball, so those who become
successful heli pilots have something to be proud of.
Although the new generation of entry-level, fixed-pitch
helicopters have never been easier to fly, flying more agile
collective-pitch (adjustable) helis is a skill that requires a lot
of practice. The practice cannot be haphazard or pilots risk
developing improper habits that will impair learning and
The following instructions, combined with simulator
practice, are aimed at helping new helicopter pilots learn to
hover with greater efficiency and fewer mistakes.
The Simulator Advantage
Much of the challenge of flying helicopters stems from
the fact that a pilot often has to manipulate all four primary
controls at the same time (compared with an average airplane
pilot who uses only two controls most of the time). Training
on a simulator allows a heli pilot to learn the controls
independently before combining them.
This article focuses primarily on the control techniques
required to fly more agile collective-pitch helicopters, with the
understanding that if a person can fly a collective-pitch heli
with a simulator, flying a highly stable, fixed-pitch aircraft will
seem like child’s play.
I’ll forgo discussing entry-level coaxial helis, not only
because they are so inherently stable that they almost fly
themselves, but because the control techniques required to fly
them are in many ways contrary to the techniques used to fly
more agile, single-rotor helis. Specifically, coaxial helis typically
require you to hold in inputs to maneuver them, which is a
habit to avoid when hovering single-rotor helis.
Thanks to modern helicopter software and design, a typical
entry-level, single-rotor heli is nearly as stable as a coaxial heli,
but features enough agility to allow control techniques closer
to those used to fly collective-pitch helicopters. Whether
hovering a fixed-pitch, single-rotor heli or a more agile,
The biggest difference when flying entry-level, fixed-pitch
helis, including quadcopters, is that they are designed to return
to upright flight when the pilot neutralizes the controls. The
tradeoff for the increased agility of collective-pitch helis is
that they are less stable and will not return to upright on
their own. Deviations will tend to grow worse unless the pilot
immediately corrects them.
Collective-pitch helicopters require more control inputs
to fly and there’s less margin for error if overcontrolled.
31 Model Aviation DECEMBER 2014
by Dave Scott
Become a successful heli pilot by learning to hover
HOVER TRAINING, PART 1