Land like a Pro - Model Airplane News News letter 3/11/2017


We’ve all heard the old adage, takeoffs are optional, but landings are mandatory. Bringing a plane back to the ground safely is a pilot’s top goal. Unfortunately, one of the hardest maneuvers for an RC airplane to perform is the landing, and it is the first one that we pilots must learn to perfect to keep our models intact. How should you get started? Read through these tips, and then go to the field and practice!


To ensure a good landing, the first thing you have to do is trim out the plane so that it flies with a predictable sink rate at slow speeds. If you cannot slow down the model, you have no hope of ever making a successful landing. Start at a relatively safe altitude, and bring the throttle stick back so that the engine slows down and the plane begins to lose altitude. You will have to feed in some up-elevator to increase the plane’s level angle of attack. If you continue to feed in up-elevator, the plane will eventually enter a stalled condition and will either drop a wing or fall forward. Practice entering and exiting this stall speed so that you know the speed at which the plane will travel before it enters the stall. Now you know your plane’s slowest speed; this is the speed you want just before touchdown. Knowing how to control your plane’s speed so that it can fly with a predictable sink rate and land at the slowest possible speed is the first step toward perfecting your landing.

A good landing starts out with a good landing traffic pattern. Start your landing pattern by entering the crosswind leg and then turn into the downwind leg. Turn into the base leg, start your descent and then set up your final approach. All your turns should be 90 degrees.


Using a landing pattern contributes to your touchdown’s perfection; emulate the same landing pattern that full-size aircraft use. Start by traveling into the wind and away from you. Your landing pattern will have a rectangular shape with four distinct 90-degree turns. Enter your first turn, and travel the upwind crosswind leg of the landing pattern so that the plane has about 100 feet of altitude. Your second 90-degree turn will also be in the same direction and should set up the downward leg so that the plane will be traveling parallel to the runway on the opposite side of the field and away from you. Fly the plane straight and level until it enters a spot directly in front of your location; then reduce the throttle to about 75 percent and begin your descent. Execute another 90-degree turn in the same direction, and begin flying the plane into the downwind, crosswind, base-leg descent. You should reduce your throttle to about 50 percent and let the plane’s altitude drop to about 50 feet before you turn into the final 90-degree turn. Remember to use the throttle to control the rate of descent and the elevator to control the speed.

At your last 90-degree turn into the final approach, have the plane lined up fairly well with the runway; you can make minor adjustments along the way to touchdown. Now the plane will head into the wind, exactly as it should. Depending on your plane, the throttle should be reduced to somewhere between 25 percent and idle. Most importantly, remember to keep the wings level on the final approach. Use your rudder to move the plane left to right, and line it up with the runway; use the ailerons only to keep the wings level. Aim for an imaginary spot just above the end of the runway. When the plane is lined up, it should cross the end of the runway at about 10 to 15 feet above it.


Just before touchdown, all pilots have to perform one of the most precise maneuvers known: the flare. The flare requires exact timing at the moment just before touchdown so that the plane lands softly without bouncing back into the air. The height at which you should flare varies according to the plane you’re flying. Pull back on the elevator, and raise the nose of the plane just enough to slow it down; then perform a stall with the wheels barely above the ground. If this is done correctly, the plane will softly greet the runway and do a smooth rollout. If it’s done too soon, you risk tip-stalling the plane and having one wing touch down before the wheels, thereby causing a spectacular cartwheel down the runway. Or, the plane could drop onto the runway and spring back into the air with little or no airspeed. If you flare too late, the plane could also bang down on the runway and bounce back into the air with little or no airspeed. Being in the air with no airspeed is a sure-fire recipe for disaster! If you do find yourself in this predicament, it is best to add power and fly around for another try.

That’s all there is to it; almost any plane can land following this approach. Heavy-scale planes and fast jets require more speed for landing than slow, high-wing trainers. This is why the first step in our process–practicing slow-speed stalls with altitude proves so valuable in discovering a plane’s stall speed. Every plane is different, so be sure to do your homework here.

In a crosswind landing, you should set up a crab heading angle that produces a straight tracking path. The stronger the crosswind, the larger the crab angle needs to be.

A smooth and consistant approach angle is also very important. Use throttle to control the descent rate and keep the wings level. Aim for an imaginary spot just above the runway, and cross the end of the runway at an altitude of about 10 to 15 feet.

Thinking backward. Many pilots encounter problems when the plane is coming towards them, and aileron and rudder control are reversed. Over time, this becomes second nature, but in the beginning, it can be quite bewildering. If you are just learning how to land, try to keep in mind that when the plane is coming towards you and one of the wings drops, you’ll have to move the aileron stick in the direction of the lower wing to raise it up. Remember, when the plane is coming towards you, you are looking at a mirror image of it. Left becomes right, and right is left.

With the plane low to the ground, all of your stick movements should be done slowly. That way, if the plane does start to head in the wrong direction, it will travel just a short distance before you apply corrective measures. Smooth slow-stick movements will prevent potential disasters more often than they will cause them. Another trick is to angle your body in the direction the plane is flying and look over your shoulder, so the sticks won’t have the opposite orientation. The bottom line is that “backward thinking” will eventually become second nature. Use any crutch that helps until you have gained experience.

Crosswind landings. Crosswind landings are among the most difficult situations. If you have practiced all of the basic steps to landing, such as mastering a standardized landing pattern and using elevator to control speed, throttle to control altitude, ailerons to keep the wings level and rudder to steer the plane at slow speeds, you won’t find cross-wind landings so difficult. Regardless of the wind conditions, the key to any landing is a good approach. If you aren’t happy with your landing approach, call it off and come around again. Consistently following a rectangle pattern every time you land your plane will improve your odds of a good approach. To maintain better control, it is good practice to keep your approach speed a little above what you would normally use, especially in gusty winds.

When landing in a crosswind, the plane has a tracking path (the direction in which the plane is traveling). If you use a technique called “crabbing,” the plane also has a heading direction (the direction in which the plane’s nose is pointed). The strength and direction of the crosswind will determine how much crab angle you will need to keep the plane on a straight track down the center of the runway.

For example, a 15mph wind coming across the runway at a 10-degree angle will make little difference on your landing approach; however, a 15mph wind coming across the runway at 45 degrees will require some compensation on your part during landing. A 15mph wind coming across the runway at 90 degrees will require total concentration on landing.

Establish a natural crab angle so that the plane tracks parallel down the runway with the fuselage slightly angled into the wind (the angle will be dictated by the crosswind). Use the rudder to turn the nose into the wind and the ailerons to keep the wings level. If you have too much or too little crab angle, the plane will start to track off course, so adjust your rudder accordingly to get the plane to track straight down the runway. Once the plane is about a foot or two above the runway, slowly apply opposite rudder so that the fuselage straightens out parallel to the runway, and flare the plane as you normally would. Remember to move all of your controls (including the rudder) slowly. Moving the rudder quickly at this slow speed could cause a spin, and that’s the last thing you want. After a bit of practice, you’ll never fear crosswind landings again.


Using a computer radio will allow you to incorporate some mixing programs that can make landing your aircraft just a bit easier. If your plane is equipped with flaps, you can program a mix so that once the flaps drop down to slow the plane, the elevator automatically compensates for the extra lift by applying some downtrim. Even if your plane doesn’t have flaps, you can set up a mixture to have the ailerons drop down and act as flaps while still working as ailerons. This will slow your plane down but still give you the control you need to keep the wings level.

Other mixes that could help with landing the plane include one that automatically applies a little up-elevator as the motor is throttled back. This will keep the plane flying level at slower speeds. Another mix could be set so that when the rudder is applied, it gives opposite ailerons to keep the plane level. Dual rates would be helpful to have so that when the plane slows down, you can switch to high rates and have more control throw. This is equivalent to having more control authority at slower speeds.

The ultimate mixing program for landing is one that puts the plane in a landing mode. With one flip of a switch, you can have the plane lower the landing gear (if equipped with retracts); lower the flaps; incorporate a rudder/aileron mix to keep the turns flat; automatically adjust the elevator to compensate for the extra lift generated by the flaps; and switch all of the control servos to high rates. Now your plane is set up for a soft, gentle touchdown.


By following these pointers, you can greatly increase your odds of a perfect landing–not just occasionally but consistently. It’s important to become as proficient with your landing skills as you are with your loops and rolls. Perfecting your expertise at bringing your plane in safely is the most cost-effective talent you’ll develop! Before you know it, you’ll be landing like a pro.

No Samaa - No Fly!

no samaa bo fly.jpg

This article explains the dangers of allowing non-SAMAA members to fly at SAMAA-registered clubs or sites.

It is of concern, and a known fact that there are model fliers without SAMAA membership using the facilities of registered SAMAA clubs, or sites, sometimes with the knowledge and even consent of the club’s management! The SAMAA (read, Management Committee, since all of us are really SAMAA) is not an enforcement agency, and the management committee has neither the capacity nor the desire to play policeman. It is however expected that clubs and club managements will self-manage their activities, and do the right thing to ensure that fliers using the club's facilities for flying of their model aircraft, are adequately protected, and this means that all flying members must be paid up SAMAA members.

We often get enquiries and comments at the office by members whose SAMAA membership has lapsed, and they claim that they were unaware of this. The SAMAA membership card is, in effect, your license to operate a model aircraft, and the expiry date of membership is clearly indicated. It is not unlike a driver’s license, or a motor vehicle license.

The real danger of allowing non-SAMAA members to fly from a registered SAMAA site or club, is something that must please receive consideration, no, attention. One can start by using an example of a non-SAMAA member having an accident at the club, let's say, with personal injury and property damage as a result. “So I don't have SAMAA membership, and it so happens that I do not have any form of public liability insurance. Sue me if you want”.

The party suffering injury, or property damage is now left without recourse, unless he chooses to follow an expensive and time-consuming legal course of action, sometimes with no guarantee of a successful outcome. A likely scenario is that a lawyer or advocate may decide to include the club management, and even the members, in this action, reasoning that the club officers knowingly allowed a non-SAMAA member to use the club's facilities, thereby increasing the risk profile. Landowners could also suffer consequences, since the incident happened on their property.

One can draw an analogy here: would you allow an unlicensed driver to use your motor vehicle, and risk having it damaged or even written off, with no recourse? Let's not even contemplate loss of life where a third party may have been involved. In a case like this, if you gave your permission for the use of your vehicle by an unlicensed driver, you may face arrest and prosecution on criminal charges.

Please note that all the SAMAA registered clubs and sites, have allocated airspace above and around the site, and the details of the clubs and sites appear in the National Airspace Register. The SAMAA is the responsible entity, and it carries the responsibility and liability to manage this airspace. It is only logical that only SAMAA members are entitled to use this airspace. In the event of proven cases where clubs continue to turn a blind eye of non-members using the site, the SAMAA Management Committee will be left with no alternative but to consider de-registration, after due process of course, and to inform all relevant authorities, and landowners.

Sites that are not managed by traditional club structures, are particularly at risk. Perhaps a good example is the slope soaring site at Volksrust (Tamatieberg). There is no club committee managing the activities at this site. Yes, visits and outings are generally pre-arranged, but everyone using the site could do well to make simple enquiries to establish that all the fliers in attendance, are paid-up SAMAA members.

There is however the accepted practice of “try-out” flights that may happen at clubs quite often. A bona-fide interested spectator or visitor is given a short introductory flight through a qualified instructor, with a view of joining the club and the SAMAA, and being taught to fly. In this case, the instructor is the owner of the equipment and accepts liability in case of an incident. The SAMAA insurance company will entertain a claim, should there have been an incident or accident.

This is a gentle reminder and a wake-up call to club managements: do not tempt fate by allowing fliers without valid SAMAA membership, to use your facilities for flying of model aircraft. The dangers and risks are just too great. Compliance is easy, and affordable, and the protection is beneficial to all of us in this great hobby.


IRF Float Fly-in: 18 and 19 March, Sunset View resort, Bon Accord dam

It has been a very long time since anyone or club for that matter arranged a float fly-in.  Well it just happened.  Irene Radio Flyers hosted a float fly-in at Sunset View resort, Bon Accord Dam on the 18th and 19th March 2017.  Most pilots were keen on doing some float flying, but a suitable location has always been a challenge. After some searching and driving around and looking at every blue spot on Google Earth, we found Sunset View resort at Bon Accord.  It turned out to be a great venue. The management of the resort was very accommodating,, especially since the event was arranged over a long weekend and the resort would be open to the public who normally camp and do some fishing there. They reserved an area for us that consisted of a few jetties and a boat launch slope and it was game on.  We advertised the event amongst the local clubs and the interest was amazing.  Apparently, Aerial Concepts sold 15 pairs of floats prior to the event and Hi Flyer sold a number of foam float planes.

Deon Viljoen's Stick

Deon Viljoen's Stick

On Saturday 18 March club mostly club members from Irene Radio Flyers, supported the float fly-in.  The main event was Sunday 19 March and we had fantastic participation. No less than 5 clubs supported the event and 20 pilots from Irene Radio Flyers, RMAC, PRF, NERF and PMRF showed up at the event.  Everyone was very excited and took to the water without hesitation.  There were a few nice float planes that emerged on during the weekend. There were Sticks, Beavers, Icons, Cessna’s and some very good-looking scratch built planes, made of composite, balsa and foam.  The Sticks flew well but the foamies on floats impressed most by being surprisingly competent taking off from water.  The foamies will definitely be a popular model of choice next time around. So model hobby shops, please take note.

Martin Venter's Cessna

Martin Venter's Cessna

The flying was fantastic even though many pilots have not done any float flying before.  The landings were even more spectacular not to mention the many “crashes” that occurred.  Landing on water is just not that easy as it seems, but after a while, everyone got the hang of it.  Luckily, the “crashes” were mostly not fatal with only the float mounts that either bent or got detached. Warren van Rensburg’s Stick was not that lucky and broke a wing and Petrie du Preez’s scratch built foamy, known, as “the duck” did not survive the event. It would have been great to see a chopper with floats. Maybe next time.

The Duck

The Duck

Grant Tunbridge and his wife, Leazel did rescue duty on Saturday with a canoe and Dirk van der Bank had his Bass boat out on Sunday to collect the stranded planes and pieces from the water. 

Grant Tunbridge

Grant Tunbridge

Dirk van der Bank rescuing

Dirk van der Bank rescuing

We were hindered by hyacinths on Saturday afternoon and we had our hands full to open an area at the jetty so that we could launch and land our planes.  Sunday was fantastic and the wind pushed all the hyacinths to the opposite shore

Everyone enjoyed the event tremendously and Irene Radio Flyers thanks everyone that supported the event and contributed to the success. The event was incident free due to the excellent safety measures in place.  This will definitely become an annual event and we are already following up on some leads for suitable dams.     

Johnny Foonk's Beaver

Agreement with Waterkloof AFB

As per the instruction from Air Traffic Navigation Services, several SAMAA-registered Clubs within the control zones of major airports are required to enter into an agreement with their local Air Traffic Services Unit (ATSU).

Irene Radio Flyers is situated within the Waterkloof CTR and therefore we were required to negotiate and sign a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the Waterkloof Airforce Base ATC.  This LOA is an agreement for the safe use of a portion of the Waterkloof airspace by Irene Radio Flyers.

I am happy to report that the IRF committee successfully negotiated an agreement with Waterkloof Airforce Base and the agreement will be signed within the next few days.  This LOA covers the flying of model aircraft for sporting and recreational purposes only.    

The most important contents of the agreement are as follows:

1.      Flying of any model aircraft shall not exceed 400ft above ground level.

2.      ATS shall take the site as permanently active for model aircraft flying up to a mass of 25kgs.

3.      In the event of loss of control resulting in a model aircraft "flyaway" event, ATS are to be notified immediately via telephone on 012 672-3251/3060/3264.

4.      A spotter/safety officer shall always be present during any flying activity.

5.      ATC may place any restrictions to flying which they see fit.

6.      All model flying activities are to be conducted strictly in accordance with SACAA CAR Part 94.06.10 and 94.06.11 and the SAMAA Manual of Operations.

7.      For temporary increased height, applications may be made to RAASA as per FUA/CAMU processes and for NOTAM publication.

8.      All model aircraft sites/clubs will be 1NM radius centered around the stated co-ordinates (Irene Radio Flyers S25°54’34”   E028°13’13), unless otherwise specified.

9.      ATC shall be informed of all organized fly-inn events well in advance on telephone numbers 012 672-3251/3060/3264.

Further requirements are that:

1        Waterkloof ATC shall be notified whenever a radio-controlled model jet fitted with a turbine powered engine is to be flown at the club

2        pilots shall always maintain line of sight when flying

3        all flying activities shall daily be limited from 0600 in the morning until 1800 in the afternoon. I would like to inform you that Waterkloof has issued a NOTAM (Notice to airmen) today that regulates these flying hours.  (we may, however, negotiate alternative times when we want to do night-flying for example).



It is still a few months away, but already time to start getting ready for our trip to “Tamatieberg”. You should start thinking about; what to fly, what to build, and believe me the time will fly past. Before you realize, there are only two weeks left and no more time to get ready.

For now this is only a reminder to start preparing and keep date for our weekend at “Tamatieberg” Volksrust 28 to 30 October, 2016.

Reservations will be taken at a later stage for accommodation and meals, there are limited availability but we hope to fill it up this year.

Please note “Tamatieberg” is a registered SAMAA site and operates under their rules, please practice responsible alcohol usage. Of course after the day’s flying, let’s enjoy something together.

So what do we do there? A fun weekend spent with fellow members where we use the wind and lift to spend hours flying with delta wings, gliders or other non-motorized planes. But good idea to also bring something with a motor when the wind does not play along.

We will try gather some prizes and one of them will be for best looking or most interesting plane, so think about it.

If you want to find out how the story actually works, speak to these veterans who are regular visitors and can be seen at club regularly.

Martin or Rassie Venter, Robbie Wilson, Petrie du Preez, Andre Beukes, Kleintjie de Klerk Francois de Ravel, Johnny Foonk and myself.

Take a look at the following:

Why you must improve your proficiency

In the interest of the hobby and sport of model aircraft, it is a requirement of Samaa, and subsequently also a local club rule, for any pilot to be allowed to fly on his own without a qualified instructor in attendance, that he/she should possess at least a solo proficiency rating (Section 6.16 of the General Rules and Guidelines for Operation of Model Aircraft)

 The proficiency rating system was introduced by Samaa to ensure a RC model pilot’s ability to fly and control a model aircraft safely when other members are present and flying. It also ensures that the model pilot had been instructed on his club’s bye-laws, safety rules, the SAMAA Operating Manual, and has an understanding and working knowledge of his radio equipment, radio installation, and a basic understanding related to model safety and aerodynamics.  There are five proficiency ratings:  Solo, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Instructor.  Samaa has for many years regarded the Bronze rating as the club minimum standard.

Out of the 120 club members at Irene Radio Flyers, there are 40 members who do not possess a SOLO rating as yet.   Many of these members are excellent RC pilots with excellent flying skills.  The completion of a SOLO proficiency test should for many therefore just be a formality. We as a Club would therefore like to call on these members to at least do a SOLO proficiency test as soon as possible.

But if you already possess a Solo proficiency, please do not stop there.  RC planes are getting bigger, faster and more powerful.  Turbine jets are becoming even more popular.  Samaa has therefore stipulated in Sections 6.26 and 6.27 of the said General Rules and Guidelines for Operation of Model Aircraft respectively that pilots who want to fly large model aircraft with a mass more than 10kg but less than 25kg, should at least possess a Silver proficiency rating and pilots who want fly gas turbine jets, should at least possess a gold rating.   The South African Model Jet Association (SAMJA) also has minimum proficiency requirements in this regard.

We can therefore not emphasize the requirement of obtaining a proper proficiency rating enough.  We have determined quite a few dates in our calendar to assist members with proficiency tests.  But we are willing to accommodate you on any date when you are ready and willing to complete a proficiency test, provided that instructors would be available on that day.  Any two members with a Silver rating are allowed to test a pilot for a Solo rating. 

Please consult our new web at and then click on the CLUB and then PROFICIENCY TESTS tabs to download the Samaa proficiency booklets fir fixed wing and heli’s.

Please make use of these opportunities availed to you.  You are welcome to discuss any of the above with any of the committee members or the qualified Samaa instructors at our club.