How to Set up a Glider for Challenging Slope Soaring in the Phoenix Radio Control Flight Simulator
What is Your Favorite Type of Soaring?
Flying with No Motor
I really love flying RC planes. My family lives in the city, so it is hard to make it to the larger fields where we can fly the bigger planes, but the small Ultra Micro planes and Mosquito Class Discus Launch Gliders work great in our small city parks. Of course, we have to go early in the morning when there are no kids playing.
I still get an itching to fly the giant class planes. Nothing beats the exhilarating feeling of watching a plane go into the air that you are controlling - especially when it is almost as big as you!
We don't have many slopes in the city and can't fly gliders on the few that are around, so we break out Phoenix Flight Simulator instead. There are some gorgeous sceneries and several slope soaring models to choose from. It is very realistic and you can almost feel like you are out there on a hill, soaking up the fresh air! A huge plus is that I don't feel bad when I crash on the simulator - crashing on the field, however, is painful on the wallet!
This article will walk you through slope soaring in Phoenix Flight Sim. Tweak a few of the settings and practice finding thermals, launching into prickly wind and even landing a model with no motor!
Did You hit a thermal?
How can you tell when your model hits a thermal? There are a few telltale signs. First, a medium to strong thermal will cause the model's tail to "pop" up. Watch the video above to see the tail move up quickly.
In an otherwise smooth flight, you may also see a sharp wiggle in the wings. This signifies that there was air turbulence in that location and it very well may have been caused by some thermal action.
Lastly, gentle thermals may not show any of those signs, but you will notice that the model is simply not losing altitude. This is especially noticeable with very light models like the Elf Discus Launch Glider (DLG).
How to Mod the Weather
Modify the Weather
I am not a fan of the weather settings in Phoenix. It seems very inefficient to shift between the various screens and settings just to modify the weather. That said, leaving the weather defaulted to the standard setting is a good idea if you are brand new to the model and are working on learning the basic skills. Beyond that, I highly recommend adding weather parameters. When is the last time you took a model to the flying field and had no wind at all and no thermals? It happens VERY rarely.
Instead, it is a good idea to practice with the prevailing conditions in your area. If your flying field or favorite slope has gusty wind, then it is a good idea to program in gusts into Phoenix Flight Simulator. It is better to practice with the conditions you will most likely face.
Step 1: From the FLYING SITE menu, choose WEATHER and CHANGE
Step 2: From the SETUP WEATHER pop-up, you can change the wind and gust speeds and their directions. Very seldom will both the predominant winds and the occasional gusts come from the exact same direction.
Step 3: I like to add some randomness to the winds and gusts as well. It is what you will really see at a flying site, so it is best to practice with that variability now.
Step 4: Notice the far right hand side are for thermal strength and thermal duration. You do NOT need these for slope soaring, but it sure does add some fun! If you are new to soaring, you might want to set each for the maximum. Those settings will make it very easy to see the plane hit the thermal activity and you can begin the slow circling to maximize its impact. As you progress, you should lower the strength and the duration to best reflect what you will find on your flying site.
Step 5: Click FINISHED.
Step 6: You now need to activate the custom settings you just programmed. Go back to FLYING SITE and then WEATHER. Make sure the USE MY WEATHER has a check mark next to it. If not, then check it. Your settings will now be active.
Step 7: Optional - I like to show the thermals on the screen as I learn to control a glider. Click VIEW then DISPLAYS and check the THERMALS option. When you get better, uncheck this option. You will be flying the slope and will notice when the model hits a thermal based on its behavior and will not need the visual cues of the shaded thermal option.
If both "Use My Weather" and "Use Field Weather" are UNCHECKED, then there will be no wind or thermals while you fly. This may be good for learning a new model or practicing with the dual rate or expo settings, but it will make for a much shorter flight. I prefer to use my own weather as I can add gusts and turbulence to emulate my favorite sites. Always practice with what you will actually fly!
Program the Flaps
Programming the Flaps in Phoenix Flight Simulator is very easy, but many people have difficulties. It requires you to make setting changes in the controller (I use the Spektrum DX6i) and in the software settings in Phoenix.
Follow the linked article above for a short video and description on how to make the changes.
Flaps on a Model
Do You Use Flaps
Smart gilder pilots will use their flap settings a lot. While the intricacies of flap use is worth another article unto itself, there are a few specific reasons to use flaps while gliding.
Deploying a small amount of flaps (5 - 10 degrees) increases the camber of the wing profile and creates higher lift. When do you need lift? When you hit a thermal! As you are watching your model for the tell-tale tail-lift, keep your finger on the flaps lever. Once you see the tail pop up or the wings teeter, deploy a small amount of flaps and begin circling the thermal.
Sure, you trade off a bit of speed when the flaps are deployed, but you will more than make up for it with the increased height.
You may also use flaps while landing the glider. Increasing the camber of the airfoil more substantially (30 - 40 degrees) will create higher drag which will slow the model significantly. Coupled with the increased lift, you will be able to pilot the model in for a much safer landing.
Of course, landing into the wind will make the effects of the flaps even more pronounced as the wind over the airfoil will keep the plane aloft at even slower relative speeds.
Having Problems with Flaps?
First of all, I recommend reading the tutorial on how to program flaps and retracts.
If you are still having problems, unplug your controller and make sure all the levers are in the 0 position. Every now and then, if the controller is plugged into the computer when a flap or retracts are in the 1 position, the computer will not recognize them being switched.
Preloaded Slop SitesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Slope Soaring Sites
There are several slop soaring sites preloaded into Phoenix Flight Simulator. Take a look at the fabulous scenery and challenging locations.
If you want a real challenge, try to land the glider on a few of these. There are a couple where the landing zone is very small, leaving little room for error.
We spend a lot of time soaring when the outside weather is bad. Whether you use a hand launch or have some fun with an aero-tow, enjoying the peaceful soaring is time well spent!