[Headline: The magic of body English for flight perfection]
There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “A man grows most tired while standing still.” True words. Many pilots simply are unfamiliar with what it’s like to stand still, and that’s a good thing.
Our excitement over the hobby keeps us energized and on the move, whether we’re frequently traveling to events like MA’s Jennifer Orebaugh, or heading to the hobby store (again) to check out the latest wattmeter. We’re constantly on the go, and the notion of standing still—unless it’s from under the canopy of a rained-out event—is hardly something we’re familiar with.
Perhaps there’s no better example of a pilot’s desire to keep moving than that of those who attempt to fly their airplanes not only by skill, but by the pure magic of body English. Sure, more up-elevator does the trick in some cases, but it never hurts to lift one’s right leg up a bit while pulling the stick back. Doing so tends to elevate that takeoff from great to outstanding, right?
Scan your own field or indoor flight venue’s flightline and you’ll be sure to witness the “Leg Lifter” or the “Wanderer” in action. Hey, we’re all human, and just as we may lower the radio in order to concentrate while parallel parking or slap our hand on our knee during a good laugh, we all have gestures and habits that seem to add to the experience. Flying model aircraft is no different.
Most of the time our effort to have a great flight comes with some pretty entertaining body maneuvers while we attempt to stand as still as possible at our pilot station. Here’s a closer look.
Entertaining Pilot Stances
The Transmitter Extender: Such body language is especially observed in situations where it appears that our model aircraft may be out of bounds. Our heli is not where we’d like it, but by holding our transmitters as far from our body as possible, or away from our mid-section and in the desired location of where we’d ultimately like the aircraft to be, a successful turn seems much more doable.
The Arm Raiser: Sometimes, raising the transmitter toward the sky doubles as a way to block the sun. However, many pilots also raise their hands above their heads with the hope that elevating their radio about two feet closer to their model will help the aircraft “sense” their intention and perhaps make right what may go wrong. This is similar to the Wanderer, explained later in this article, but with more consideration to flightline rules.
The Leaner (aka The Jekyll and Hyde): While the lower half of the body demonstrates a near-perfect pilot stance—body facing forward, standing at the appropriate spot on the flightline, and so on—the upper body takes on a drastically different form. It’s as if the torso is trying to escape the rest of the body, but in reality the contortion is an effort to maintain control when it looks as though something may be out of control.
The sense of comfort that this lean provides is a favorite of many pilots. There are variations on the lean, including the “side” and the “backward” lean, and all change depending on pilot preference, flexibility levels, and the flight circumstance at hand.
The Leg Lifter: There’s nothing like balancing on one leg to help ensure a safe flight. Typically witnessed during either hold-your-breath moments or times of extreme focus, such as landings, the leg lift consists of a momentary raise that is held in position until the preferred maneuver has successfully been performed.
When the foot returns to the ground, it’s safe to assume that the pilot has achieved success. Resuming the original both-feet-on-the-ground-positioning conveys a restored sense of confidence and relief that might also be viewed as a celebratory, yet humble, “I did it” pose.
The Wanderer: Sometimes, although it’s not in line with rules and safety guidelines, we drift way beyond our pilot station and almost halfway onto the field. Departure from our pilot area brings us closer to our airplanes, seeming to give us a view that turning our heads to the side couldn’t possibly accomplish.
This move conveys to others that a full-on serious mode is in effect. Movement onto the field and away from the chatter of forgotten batteries and new covering in order to fly the airplane signifies that extreme concentration is underway.
The Perfectly Posed Pilot: Never one to stray from the rules, this pilot maintains a near-perfect stance at all times. Whether dealing with a dead-stick aircraft, taking off, or being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes, the Perfectly Posed Pilot has a stance that is always in effect no matter what.
This pilot stands with feet planted at his or her designated spot along the flightline, never once giving in to the sometimes tempting poses of an Arm Raiser or Leg Lifter—or a nagging winged pest.
Do you recognize yourself or some of your flying friends in one of these pilot poses? Share your observations about some of the funny or unusual poses you engage in—or have seen—by sending me an email. I’d love to hear about them![dingbat]