The way many of us fly RC airplanes, five years of experience is more like one year of experience repeated five times.
Joe Paterno, the legendary college football coach, passed away about a week ago. He played or coached football for an incredible total of 65 years. What if he had spent those 65 years playing or coaching the same way? Could you then honestly say that he had 65 years of experience? Wouldn’t it be more like one year of experience repeated 65 times? Before you laugh too hard, that is exactly how many of us fly our RC airplanes.
I know guys that have been flying for years and years and still seem to be learning the basics when it comes to flying. When they come in for a landing, their landing pattern is a joke. They are just as likely to be too fast, too slow, too high or too low. And I’m not talking a little bit off. I’m talking about gross errors in judgment, every time.
When they are flying around, they are also all over the place. I don’t see them practicing new maneuvers. When I talk to them before and after a flight, it’s apparent to me that there is no flight plan. There are no goals.
Some of these are the same guys that get bored and try to find some excitement by flying a bunch of different airplanes every time they go to the field. Like they say, jack of all trades…
Practice, Experience, and Mastery
Mastery of a skill does not come automatically from experience. If all you are doing is developing bad habits, more experience only makes it harder to master the skill.
Too many sentences online and elsewhere begin with “Well, I have X years of experience, and the answer is…”. Well, I beg to differ. The true experts don’t begin their sentences that way. They know that their statements stand on their own, without any artificial propping up.
Making the Most of Flying Practice
A lot of research has gone into how people learn new skills. Here are three tips that research has shown to be very effective. I have 30 years of experience with model airplanes, and… (just kidding!).
1. Interleave the Practice for Different Skills
Make sure the interleaved skills are related somehow. In other words, practice a couple rolls, then practice a couple touch and go’s. That would be more effective than doing twenty rolls followed by a dozen spot landings.
2. Fly in Different Locations
Even if it is just one end of the field versus the other. The point is to change your surroundings to maintain your interest level and to keep you from developing bad habits.
3. Regular Practice Sessions
This one is key. Two short sessions a few days apart are better than longer sessions spaced a week or two apart. Remembering what you learned in the first session is beneficial to long term learning. We never forget anything – the challenge is with recall.
By forcing your brain to remember what you did in the last session, you dramatically improve your ability to recall later what you learned. If the flying sessions are spaced too far apart, you won’t be able to recall what you learned in the last session the next time at the field.