Suggestions to Preston Briggs
This site was last updated on February 15, 2008.
by Neil Simpson
In this issue I would like to talk about combat philosophy; that is to say, what represents a good philosophical approach to a combat match and or competition and what doesnít. I suppose, when Iím done, more folks than usual will suspect Iím full of it; however, for those who will drink the ďgrape juiceĒ perhaps some of this can be helpful. I will try to tie out what I think is the right philosophical approach with a discussion about practice techniques, airplane trim, conditioning and equipment preparation. OK, here we go, I hope I can convey this in a coherent fashion.
First and foremost, remember, that for almost all of us combat model airplanes is an avocation, a hobby, something we should have fun doing. A veteran combat pilot recently told me, that most of us set our goals too high. If your goal is to win every contest, you may have the bar set way too high. Unless your name is Stubblefield, or Wilcox, or Mears, a goal of winning each and every time out is just not achievable. This veteran pilot suggested that a more realistic goal would be to try to fly to oneís maximum level of ability and, when that is accomplished, be satisfied with the outcome, regardless if it lands you a spot on the trophy stand. I agree with this. More combat matches are lost by trying too hard then for any other reason. I see people, who should know better, close there eyes, at least figuratively, aim for the noise and hope for a good outcome. The combat gods are spiteful. They will let you succeed with this technique, once in a while, just to encourage more of it. In the final analysis, it works a very small percentage of the time. If you fly a good clean match, fly to whatever your current level of ability is, you will have fun and in the end be happier. The trophy and/or the fifteen minutes of fame that go with it is not whatís important. No one remembers who won last week or certainly not who won the week before. However, occasionally, you can have that one great match, five minutes of twisting and turning, great flying by both pilots where each guy flies to his maximum level of ability, but neither exceeds it. A match you can remember next week, next month or next year. A match where you donít remember who won, you just remember how great each pilot flew. This is the essence of competition and in the end what makes our sport so rewarding. When we strive to improve our skills and our equipment the goal should not be to earn another ďdust collectorĒ but to gain the great satisfaction that comes from flying good matches.
OK, hereís some more philosophy. Is there is a guy or guys on your circuit, when you draw them for a match, you feel an inevitable mid-air is on the horizon? Try looking at that match as a challenge, not as bad luck. Challenge yourself to use a different approach or flying style that might change the outcome. Assume at least part of the responsibility when the outcome is bad. Mister Stubblefield or Mister Wilcox would have found a way to avoid that mid-air, that you keep blaming on the other guy. Neil, you say, I canít fly both airplanes. Maybe not, however, you could challenge yourself to always know where the other guy is. The most common physical, not philosophical, mistake that I see, and I see it over and over, is one or both pilots not knowing where the other manís airplane is. That gets me to the subject of practice techniques, airplane trim, equipment and believe it or not, physical conditioning. If we need to watch the other guyís airplane we need to be able to fly our airplane without looking at it.
When youíre testing airplanes and engine set ups or just plain practice flying, donít waste your time impressing no one with a bunch of figure eights; instead, practice flying your airplane without looking at it. Also, practice flying inverted so that you donít think of it as upright versus inverted but simply turning one way or the other with equal ease. Fly all your level laps inverted, changing altitude constantly to simulate inverted passes at your opponentís streamer.
Donít confuse a ďtouchyĒ trim set up with an airplane that is trimmed to be responsive. If an airplaneís CG is correct you have maximized its ability to turn. From there adjust your handle spacing to change how much handle movement you need to make it turn. We want the airplane to turn tight, feel responsive yet still be able to be flown eyes off. This needs to match your personal taste and ability; if you canít fly it without looking at it, you need to slow up the controls. Another tip off thatís itís too touchy for your ability is when, in the heat of competition, you turn a three-foot loop when you were trying for a six footer or you do three quarters of a loop when you were trying for a switchback or half loop.
We donít have to be trained athletes to fly toy airplanes; however, a little conditioning doesnít hurt. After all, we may need to run around in a tight little circle, while looking up, for several minutes at a time. A neck on a swivel, like an owl, is also sometimes a requirement, so a little pre-match stretching is good for us older guys. Iím not a proponent of hats either. Theyíre fine between matches to keep balding heads from getting sunburned, but lose them during the match; they restrict your overhead vision.
No one wins with unreliable equipment. Keep your set up as simple and bullet proof as possible. This is where our philosophical approach to a match or a competition ties back to our equipment. If you truly fly to your level of ability, without exceeding it, you wonít be ďground poundingĒ all day. If you stay out of the ground, tanks and fuel lines donít get punctured and or develop leaks, needle valves donít get bent, engines donít get full of dirt and airplanes donít get weakened, only to fail in subsequent matches.
See how much more fun your day can be with the right philosophical approach. It sure was easy to say, a little tougher to actually accomplish; however, a goal much more achievable then winning every contest.
See ya next time Ė Neil Simpson