Hover throttle technique: Precise altitude control during a hover is
accomplished by briefly bumping the throttle in response to slight
altitude changes. The only time a throttle increase or decrease is
maintained is when you wish to gain or lose altitude. The instant the
heli starts to sink, input a short burst of throttle and return to slightly
above half throttle. The instant the heli starts to rise, briefly reduce the
throttle and then return to slightly above half throttle. Sustain a throttle
adjustment to climb or descend.
Whenever things start becoming hectic, focus on using the
right stick to level the rotor disk and reestablish a stationary
hover then use the rudder to correct the body. Crashing
out of a hover usually doesn’t occur because the nose is 10°
off heading. Crashes occur when a pilot is so focused on
correcting yaw that he or she neglects to return the heli to
level or stop it from moving!
Hover Throttle Technique
For various reasons, helicopters are prone to rising and
sinking while hovering and therefore require frequent
throttle adjustments to maintain the same height. On
average, slightly more than half throttle is required to hover,
thus, if a throttle adjustment remains above or below that
setting for any length of time, the heli will end up climbing
In order to maintain the same height during hover, the
proper response to rising and sinking is to briefly bump or
nudge the throttle more or less to stop the trend and then
return to slightly above half throttle (or to whatever throttle
position your heli best hovers). If it turns out that the initial
bump of throttle isn’t enough, you can always bump the
throttle again and/or learn to change the size of the bump
depending on the severity of the rise or sink.
In the same way that bumping the right stick enables more
precise flight control, briefly bumping the throttle will enable
you to stop unwanted altitude changes without affecting a
climb or descent in the other direction (Figure 4).
Anyone who can maintain a stationary hover can also
land the helicopter. Gradually lower the heli and establish
a stationary hover a few inches above the ground. Because
of the ground-effect phenomena, the helicopter will tend
to descend more slowly as it gets close to the ground. This
sometimes causes novice pilots to feel as though they must
reduce the power further, only to experience a sudden drop
and hard landing.
Practice gently nudging the throttle to lower the heli an inch
at a time until it touches down. Furthermore, don’t ever allow
the heli to touch down if it’s moving sideways, forward, or
rearward, because doing so in the real world would likely result
in the heli tipping over and the rotor blades striking the ground.
Although it’s only on a simulator, reinforce good habits by
not letting the heli touch down unless it’s vertical.
There’s no shortage of people telling pilots what the
helicopter is supposed to do, but not many can explain how.
Consequently, most fliers hold onto the narrow view that only
practice makes perfect. The million-dollar question is, “practice
In the absence of any plan for success, it becomes more
difficult to maintain the motivation to overcome challenges
when learning. On the other hand, those who increase their
odds of success by understanding the proper techniques
beforehand are more motivated to continue putting forth the
Now that the control techniques required to hover are
understood, next time we’ll apply the timeless crawl-walk-run approach to learning to fly in order to produce
maximum results in the shortest amount of time possible.
1st U.S. R/C Flight School
Dave Scott is a full-scale aerobatics competitor
and airshow pilot, and has worked in the
development of several full-scale aircraft. He
founded 1st U.S. R/C Flight School and has
professionally trained more than 1,500 RC
pilots of all skill levels. His groundbreaking
flight training manuals and articles feature the
accelerated airplane and helicopter training
techniques that he’s developed during his
14,000 hours of instructing experience.
More information about Dave’s flight school and manuals can
be found at www.rcflightschool.com.
34 Model Aviation DECEMBER 2014