The objective for Phase 1 is to slide the helicopter around on the ground to start building the hovering reflexes. We do not want to lift off yet. I recommend doing this for at least a few battery packs.
You will be learning the "tail-in" orientation, which is the tail of the helicopter pointed towards you and the nose away from you.
Be sure to focus on the nose of the helicopter, and not the tail. If you focus on the tail, this is very bad. You may want to stand slightly left or slightly right of the helicopter so you can see the nose.
For a non-micro helicopter, find an empty flat space that is fairly level and is fairly clean (no rocks or debris for the training gear to hit). You will need at least a 20 ft by 20 ft area for this, although bigger is better.
An empty parking lot works well for this. Make sure there are no cars nearby to ensure you won't hit them.
For a microheli, you probably want to find a hard level indoor surface, possibly an empty garage or the kitchen. A 10 ft by 10 ft surface is probably necessary.
Make sure wind conditions are ideal.
If you are using a heading hold gyro, then you want as little wind as possible. The best times for this are probably the first three hours of daylight or the last hour of daylight before dusk.
If you are using a non-heading hold gyro, then you want a little bit of steady breeze (not gusty) to help hold the helicopter tail steady because the helicopter will tend to turn when moving around. You will also want a little bit of forward trim to compensate.
With either gyro type, make sure you point the heli nose into the wind so the tail fin will help keep the heli straight.
Place the helicopter and training gear on the ground, with the nose of the helicopter pointed away from you.
Preflight check the helicopter. Make sure all ball links are properly on the balls.
Perform the helicopter power-up procedure described in the previous section.
VERY, VERY SLOWLY apply enough power for the helicopter to become light on the skids. *** DO NOT LIFT OFF *** If you accidentally lift off at this point, you will probably panic and crash. So try not to lift off.
You should test the left/right cyclic and the fore/aft cyclic, and ensure the helicopter moves in the correct direction. The helicopter should move equally well in all directions. If the movement is not symmetric, e.g. the helicopter moves quickly left but very slowly right, then this is a serious setup problem which should be fixed before proceeding.
When you push the rudder stick left, the heli should rotate counterclockwise. When you push the rudder stick right, it should rotate clockwise. If these directions are reversed, then you should fix the problem before continuing.
The rudder stick should control the NOSE of the helicopter and not the tail.
Some heading hold gyros will have a tendency to "drift" away from the direction they're supposed to hold. This has been reported with the CSM LW200 gyro. If this occurs, then use the trim on the rudder to remove any drift.
The heli will start to wander around on its own. Use the cyclic control to keep the helicopter within a 10 foot circle.
The helicopter may have a constant tendency to move in one direction, and you may need to apply some trim to counteract this.
Note that it will be impossible to perfectly trim the helicopter at this stage since you are hovering in ground effect.
Always keep the tail of the helicopter pointed towards you. If you are using a heading hold gyro, this should occur automatically. If you are using a yaw rate gyro, you will need to use the rudder to maintain the tail position because the tail will tend to weathervane with the heli movement.
Always fly the nose of the helicopter. This is very important. Do not fly the tail. Always fly the nose of the helicopter. When you give left rudder, the nose should turn left, so always look at the nose.
Try to avoid overcorrecting. Be sure to reread the "Hovering Technique" section if you have problems with overcorrection.
If the helicopter starts to wander too far, reduce the throttle to let the helicopter settle and stop moving. Don't "chop" the throttle - reduce the throttle smoothly. Later on when you are actually hovering, chopping the throttle will cause the helicopter to crash. So, it's good to not acquire this habit in the first place.
Focus your attention on the helicopter. Try to tune out any distractions, and don't hold a conversation while learning to hover. Think only of the helicopter and its tilt and direction of movement.
It may help to watch the disk of the main rotor blades because it will tell you if the helicopter is level.
When your nerves become frazzled, take a break. Don't push yourself too hard, because you may lose concentration and crash the helicopter.
When your batteries become weak, switch packs. Be sure to wait a little while between flights to allow the motor to cool down. For maximum battery life, let the battery cool a little (about 5 mins) before recharging.
For a non-micro helicopter, when you can hold the heli in a 10 foot circle, you are ready for the next phase.
For a microheli, you should be able to hold the heli in a 3 foot circle.