How Do I Learn About the Ragland Student Training Technique?

By Clarence Ragland

First of all, stand off to the right side of your student, so that you can easily reach the elevator / ailerons stick with your right hand. Have your student place his right thumb on the top of the stick, and place your thumb and forefinger underneath his thumb. That way you can give him the feel of precise control movements and instantly feel his incorrect inputs just as quickly; demonstrate correct inputs at the same time.

** Please note; this explanation is for the experienced pilot to upgrade his /her teaching skills.

You can practice by teaching yourself, in essence, by 'teaching yourself how to fly again'. Explain (out loud) to yourself what control movements it takes to smoothly fly your own aircraft. You've probably flown many flights by reflex and seldom given it much thought. Now, you have to verbally explain every stick movement to yourself and ultimately to your students.

Practice holding the transmitter off to your left side, as if your student is holding the box. That way, you the instructor can get used to the off-set angle of the elevator/ailerons lever.

My first goal is to assure my student that the aircraft will fly smoothly on its own. Then work at projecting confidence and calmness. Sometimes I'll put the aircraft in a slight bank and set the transmitter on the ground; to show how stable the aircraft really is. Note: This cannot be done with self-correcting trainers.

With your thumb and forefinger always at the ready, to not only save the aircraft, but also give minute demonstrations of the corrections, crashing is literally impossible by the student.

Slowly let your student take more and more control. In fact, I never have to touch the transmitter any longer than 60 seconds (total) throughout any students' entire learning career.

Commands are repeated and never shouted. For example: "left, Left, LEFT, then back to neutral." (to carve a smooth turn)

Sometimes I use the three second count technique for banking the wings. Such as:

"Left and hold for --1 thousand, 2 thousand, 3 thousand", then "neutral".

If the stick is over too far, a 3 second count will indicate as much (that is, the plane will roll over in 3 seconds with the stick in an over-controlled position). With the 3 second count, every student has a reference point to accurately judge the correct duration of deflection for the aileron control lever. I'm sure that over-banking has been a daunting problem many students and instructors often experience.

I realize that my incessant chatter (continual verbal commands for the flight) has annoyed many a student. But all is forgiven when, after less than an hour into their first lesson, the student discovers that that his annoying instructor is not even watching the newcomer fly anymore (at least that's how it appears). Like everything else, to become a good instructor it takes practice. When you really start to mass produce new R/C fliers, R/C flight instruction will become more fun than sport flying. At least it is for me!

From take-off to landing, the Ragland Technique (RT) method lets the instructor have instant access to the elevator/ailerons lever. This is similar to dual control on full-size aircraft.

For landing approaches, I simply have my student reduce throttle on the downwind leg and give a slight bank in the appropriate direction. Simply let the aircraft turn into the final approach practically by itself. All that's left for the pilot to do is keep the wings level and flair just before touch down.

For take-off drills, I assist my student on take-off and immediately take the box and land so he gets another take-off. Within 5 minutes, he'll get in 10 take-offs. This is the only time I have the box.


When the plane is up and away, you should see the top of the wing. With the light shining off the top, any color will be easily visible. When the wing is banked over for a turn, you should see on a small portion of the top of the right wing in a left bank/turn.

The more of the wing that is seen in a turn, the more the bank angle. If you see the full span of the wing, it means that the bank angle is dangerously over too far. In a gradual left hand turn, you should only see about a quarter of the top of the right wing.

Using the three-second control stick defection rule, making safe and consistent turns will be much easier to learn. Remember? Hold the aileron stick over for a count of 3 seconds and if the plane is banked over 45 degrees, you have pushed the stick over too far. Of course, this is with an instructor to correct your mistake. But if you have no choice whatsoever, and have to learn on your own, the three-second rule will help. This is something that you can practice while watching television or waiting for your turn to fly... in fact, anytime! Whether your instructor uses the buddy-box or another teaching method for that matter. Like they say, practice, practice, practice.

My motto being; "Perfect practice makes perfect!"

Go ahead and give my technique a try. That is, if you're truly concerned about the newcomer and the future of our wonderful hobby/sport. When someone earns his wings in a matter of an hour or so, he or she will be in a better position to become an instructor that much sooner. Obviously producing more pilots, with safe flying habits, the R/C hobby/sport has a better chance of growing; which will ensure the survival of the R/C hobby for us all.

The future of aeromodeling is much too important to take lightly. I've worked over 20 years to help keep the public interested in our sport. I encourage you to do the same by becoming the best instructor possible. GOOD LUCK!

How did you come up with the technique?

After teaching people to fly for many years, I noticed the tendency for new flyers to be a bit erratic with the stick. By working with them with one transmitter, you can feel the movements they are making and help them to make smaller adjustments. They are learning to teach as they are learning, which is great for everyone because once they have some practice they can teach others to fly as well.

Teaching others to fly was beneficial to his business as well

—Years ago I had a hobby shop and would teach them to fly. It helped keep the doors open.

How many people do you think you have taught to fly with this technique?

I have been teaching for more than 40 years. I’ve taught more than 500 people how to fly.

AMA leaders including AMA Vice President Gary Fitch and former president and current executive director Dave Mathewson have been introduced to the technique.

I see this program as a way to plant a seed. Once they learn they can teach others.

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