Southampton Model Aeroplane Club

Established 1932

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F3A preparation

There are two completely different phases to preparation for competing in an F3A event.  One is the preparation of the model, and the other is the preparation of the pilot.  As models become more standardised the balance is definitely shifting towards the pilot rather than the plane.  Notwithstanding that, though, preparation of the plane is still vital and more than it looks.

Preparation of the model

This covers the design, the build, and the setup of the model.


Most pattern aerobatic planes follow a standard layout using a semi-elliptical wing plan using a symmetrical, laminar-flow wing profile.  The fuselage is long, torpedo shaped with wings and tailplane mounted centrally. A canaliser is common.


Most planes are factory-built from  balsa/ply or composities. Airframe modification post-manufacture is therefore difficult.


Components: top quality digital servos, top end radios and telemetry and heavy duty engine or motor+esc.

airframe modifications: concealed hinges, dual battery, voltage regulators etc.  

Special Tx mixes: knife edge flight, stalls, snap rolls, normal-mode, spin-mode, landing-mode, Etc.


Preparation of the pilot

Because this is test of the pilot, the demands on the pilot for different tasks are extreme.  The tasks are changed every two years, and in general become harder as pilots and planes improve.

The first pre-requisite is to master:

  1. Flying a given flightline with headwinds and tail winds.
  2. Flying a given flightline with crosswinds, in or out.
  3. Flying 150m in front of judges, 250m  left to 250m right, 50-250m high.

The first actual tasks to master are:

  1. Flying straight and level, both upright and inverted,
  2. Flying an axial roll without deviating up down or sideways,
  3. Flying a perfectly circular loop, both inside and outside,
  4. Flying a vertical up-line and a vertical down-line.
  5. Executing a stall turn, and a 3-turn spin without drifting.

Only now can true aerobatics be attempted:

  1. Looping and rolling combined as Immelman turns, Split-S, Cuban-8, Comet, Half-cuban, etc both upright and inverted,
  2. Straight line combinations as Humpty-Bump, square-loop, triangle, hexagon, octogon,hour-glass, top-hat, stall-turns, etc
  3. Roll combinations as 2- , 4- , 6-, 8-point rolls, reverse rolls, slow-rolls, 45-incline rolls, knife-edge loop, rolling loop, etc.  
  4. Stalling manouevres, Snap rolls, spins, both upright and inverted.