Together with loops, rolls are the bedrock upon which aerobatic flying is built. Learning to perform them correctly and efficiently is integral to opening the door to thousands of different maneuvers. There are varying opinions regarding the best approach to teach rolls, and certain methods can promote faster rates of learning and more successful results. This article features the timeless crawl-walk-run method which, during 1st U.S. RC Flight School’s aerobatic courses, proved to be one of the most time-effective approaches for developing roll proficiency.
The basic aileron roll starts by pulling the airplane up into a 10- to 20-degree climb. This way, the pilot doesn’t have to worry about altitude or the ground and can then apply full left- or right-aileron and roll all the way around (Figure 1). The most important step in this sequence is making sure that you’ve neutralized the elevator used to set the climb before you apply aileron. This precaution ensures that the roll remains axial and on the same heading. Novice pilots must be especially careful not to get ahead of themselves by directly applying aileron while holding in the elevator. This can result in a clumsy barrel roll and loss of heading (Figure 2). Once you have initiated the roll, you need to focus all of your attention on preparing to quickly neutralize the aileron the instant the wings approach level.
Since most rolls only take a second or two, you’ll have to wait until after the roll is completed to consider the result and reflect on whether or not you need to make any changes. For example, if you find that your roll finishes lower than where it was started, you might want to try a steeper entry next time. When learning new maneuvers, I’ve found that it’s best not to muddy the waters by making corrections during the maneuver. If there are deviations, you want them to be obvious and to leave no doubt about what you need to improve next time.
While nearly all symmetrical wing airplanes will roll just fine at half throttle, rolls performed at lower airspeeds tend to be more influenced by gravity and, as a result, tend to drop more toward the end. Rolling at higher speeds reduces the influence of gravity and therefore lessens the drop. Applying full aileron also makes the basic roll easier because it’s completed before it has a chance to lose any appreciable altitude.
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