Bedeviled by bottoms! Photos from the Jim Walker Memorial Spring Tune-Up in 2009 illustrate the difficulties of hitting the bottom. At left, an intermediate flier's level flight is right in the 5-foot range, as it should be. At right, the bottom of one of his maneuvers is several feet higher -- which is sure to lose points with the judges. Flying Lines photos.
During the recent "Fun Fly" in Eugene, Mike Denlis mentioned that he was working on his pattern and was focusing on getting the bottoms of his maneuvers down. This comment got me thinking about my own efforts to lower the bottoms of my maneuvers, a subject I haven't considered closely for a few years. Why was it not an issue for me now and when did it stop being one? Was there a moment in my experience when some understanding just fixed the problem? Is there a trick or skill that once understood just magically improves your bottoms? I'm not sure it's that easy but I think I can explain what happens when you're flying well.
First, let me define the aspects of a maneuver that a judge considers when it is scored. These include, shape, size and position. While the first two are easily understood, if not easily flown, the position of the maneuver, as I define it, includes the aspects of intersections and consecutive location as well as the bottoms. I would argue that the beginner and intermediate pilots should first work on shape, intersections and consecutive location.
Initially the size should be bigger than the 45 degree defined by the maneuver descriptions and the bottoms should be above six feet. Flying the maneuvers bigger than standard teaches the value of flying the model through the maneuver and seeing their shapes, intersections and consecutive location. The goal of practice at this point is to develop comfort with the model flying in any orientation without a constant fear of the ground. The model should be pointed along a visualized path. The handle movement and the mechanics of changing direction should become unconscious. The feeling you are seeking is one of drawing on the sky.
You should have noticed at this point that I have not mentioned lowering the bottoms. Keeping the maneuvers up takes the influence of the ground out your mind as you focus on flying the model through the maneuvers. Maneuvers are not thought of as a sequence of handle movements, and panicked adjustments during a flight to save the model from spontaneous rekitting.
When the pilot has improved to a point where the shape of the maneuver is consistent, round is circular not oval and squares have flat parallel and equal sides then it is time to consider reducing the size. During the flight the pilot sees the overall shape of the maneuver and recognizes how consecutive maneuvers overlap each other. When the shape is consistently seen during the flight the size of maneuver is reduced to its correct dimension. During this time level flight is above six feet. Entry and recovery are consistently at the same height as level flight.
Now comes the simple answer to getting your bottoms down. Fly all
your level laps at four to five feet. Enter all your maneuvers from level
flight. If you find yourself recovering too high, make sure you are
still flying the shapes not the ground. Visualize the shape of the maneuver
as it approaches the ground. Fly the shape to the correct bottom location.
This page was updated May 5, 2009