Your new model airplane's build is complete. You have triple-checked your CG, your control surface connections, screws and electronics are all solid, your battery and transmitter is charged, you've programmed your radio for the new model, everything, including the weather, has aligned for the maiden.
Besides a solid pre-flight check, what's left to do?
Oh we know, trust us. Easier said than done!
Flying RC model airplanes can be a tremendously rewarding and fun hobby, but maidens especially can be stressful events, and the stress level is often directly tied to the investment level and size of the model. But even the smaller class of aircraft can still keep you on your toes because there's a mystery to how any plane - large or small - is going to behave until you fly and figure out its tendencies and characteristics.
The absolute first thing you should do on maiden day is double check that your CG is correct, using the manufacturer's recommended as your mark. Check the RC forums like Hobby Squawk if there is a build thread for that existing plane. Many times you can verify correct CG by searching through a build thread or asking pilots who have already flown that plane successfully. Most times the manufacturer's CG is correct but once in awhile it could be different than where most pilots prefer, but this is usually rare.
Once the CG has been verified, run through your complete pre-flight check. Check to make sure all screws are tightened, the clevises are secured to the control horns, servos are operating normally and your recommended throws and expo are correct. Once you have completed your radio's range check and everything you can think of has been verified, the only thing left to do is settle in for the takeoff roll.
If this is an expensive model you have invested a lot of time and money in, understandably your stress levels will be more elevated than those who are maidening a micro or inexpensive aircraft. The key - regardless of model - is to trust your ability as a pilot. One of the reasons we spend so much time flying - on the simulator or the real thing - is to develop that vital muscle memory required to fly without overthinking.
Trust your experience and muscle memory to take over. Focus on the task at hand. Your primary objective is to have a safe, fun flight and successful landing.
Separation is in the Preparation.
Here's a few quick pointers to help you have a safe and rewarding first flight.
- Mentally go over your entire flight first. Many of us have the bad habit of not planning out our flight mentally first. We just throttle up and go. While many times this in and of itself doesn't create problems, when we visually plan out our flight from takeoff to touchdown, the element of surprise is removed. Being a few steps ahead of the plane is an essential attribute to have, especially on a maiden.
- Sweaty Palms? That's okay, most of us deal with clammy hands and fingers when we're anxious and nervous. Feelings common with most maidens. What's not okay is having a less-than secure grip from your fingers to your control sticks. You might want to bring a clean towel to wipe the stress off your fingers. You will be thankful you did when your airplane is in the air and you have full control and a good grip.
- Have a spotter/Wingman. When you fly, especially a maiden, having someone you trust be a spotter for you can be priceless. Sometimes our minds are going a million miles a minute on a maiden. A spotter can help to calm you down and boost your confidence while providing essential flight/visual information.
- If possible, maiden without an audience. Focus is mandatory when flying. A maiden can be a stressful event and if you have an audience or crowd watching, that just creates more pressure to perform. Something you don't need. Not to mention the less people around the safer it is to fly. So if you can avoid it, try to maiden when nobody (besides a spotter/trusted friend) is around.
Take a few deep breaths, again trust your ability to safely takeoff, fly and safely land. Have the confidence that the flight will be a success. With the proper preparation chances are favorable it will be!
Breathe, Trust and Fly!