For at least 45 years, I wanted to fly radio controlled helicopters but had been told repeatedly that they were very difficult to master, complex to understand and maintenance-intensive. Finally I decided if others could do it, surely I could also, even at 60. Due to limited time to build the heli from a kit, I purchased a ready-to-fly Raptor Titan 50 on Ebay in February, 2008. My thinking was, if I could learn to fly and found it enjoyable, I would build another from scratch. I had already researched enough, however, that I was convinced learning by myself or trying to work with someone on an ad hoc basis at a flying field would not be satisfactory (patience is not one of my attributes and once the decision is made, I want quick results). Additional research led me to the Eagle Flight Training Center in Keystone Heights, FL. I enrolled in the 20 hour beginner heli training in May, 2008 and went to the class without having ever started a nitro engine or done more than read manuals covering the heli and radio. I was flying one of Robert Barnes’ Raptor 50’s within an hour, with Robert monitoring and “rescuing” via a “buddy box”. Within 14 or so hours, Robert had me flying my own heli solo with him at my side talking me though maneuvers. It was a bit tense at first but by the time I completed the course I was confidentially hovering the heli in a “tail in” mode (my proudest accomplishment!!) , moving it from side-to-side in a wide semi-circle, gaining and losing altitude up to 25 feet or so and beginning to turn the heli slightly to the right and left. Since completing the course, I have flown solo probably 40 hours, including forward flight, altitude to 75 or more feet, figure 8’s in a tail-in and forward flight mode and gradually widening the figure 8 circles. I have had two “bumps”, both from pushing the envelope a bit too aggressively and losing orientation momentarily, regaining too late to recover. I owe a lot to Robert who exhibited great patience and positive reinforcement to take a rank beginner and have them gain 6-8 hours of solo “stick time” in a 20 hour period. - Bob McCollum
I had a marvelous time all around. Robert is an intuitive instructor. He knows how to make you stretch to reach a goal, he has a very pleasant personality, is quite when he needs to be (i.e. in high risk, high concentration times) and uses his voice to coach you through recovery or new experiences. I remember my full scale flight instructor let me make mistakes, then made me recover from them and seemed to know when to talk and when not to. Those characteristics are present with Robert. I will defiantly fly with him again to help me reach new goals.
I had strong tail-in hovering skills, mild lateral movement control, strong nose-in hovering skills but zero forward flight time. My goal was to achieve forward flight with outside turns. On the first day I fumbled my way thru forward flight with Robert having to save me several times. By day two Robert had to only save me once but his invaluable coaching punched me thru the rough spots. I would say that I am a below average pilot and am very risk/crash averse. On my first day home I flew by myself three tanks of forward flight without him! So I guess it worked.
Training on your own heli is the key to success if you ask me. Very professional team, will use them again. In fact trying to get dates organized to have my 13 year old son have some flight time with Robert.
- Paul J. M. Towell
EAGLE R/C Grad Student - Bob McCollum
EAGLE R/C Grad Student - Paul Towell
I’m not sure why, at the age of 61, I decided to take up RC helicopters, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, after countless hours flying sims and numerous flights with an arsenal of progressively larger electric helis, I was still measuring my progress in terms of how long I could fly before crashing so badly that the flying that day was done. To say that the experience was both frustrating and expensive would be an understatement. I finally decided that I would have to do something about it or sell what was left of my helis and give up the hobby. That’s when I came across an ad for Eagle Miniature Aviation and I decided to give professional lessons a try. I am happy to say that I’m very glad I did.
Although I had trepidations of feeling “stupid” or being embarrassed by my lack of coordination, I was quickly put at easy by Robert’s friendly but professional manner. He is a natural teacher. Calm, confident, thoughtful and genuine. With each flight, he carefully assessed what I was doing right and wrong and then proactively adjusted his strategy to provide the help and flying exercises I needed. With Robert on the “buddy box” I was able to test my limits and advance my skills without being hampered by my concern about destroying an aircraft, either his or mine. That made a huge difference in what I was able to accomplish. By the time the instruction was finished, I felt that I could return home to practice on my own and continue to develop my skills without being paralyzed by the fear of crashing.
All in all, I feel that my time and money were well spent and I’m grateful to Robert for his help. I unhesitatingly recommend that others who are frustrated by the speed at which their skills are developing give professional instruction by Robert and Eagle Miniature Aviation a try.
West Linn, OR
EAGLE R/C Grad Student - Harvey Smythe
Dick K. from Dade City, FL (March 2006 Graduate)
Grad - Al S. from Clearwater, FL
Grad - Chubby S from Inverness, FL
Eric and I discussing his over controlling, bad skill that was learned from simulator if you "crash on the simulator you will crash in the field". Bad habits can be picked up on a simulator very quickly, but can be very hard to get rid of.