Learning How To Fly 3D Helicopter Aerobatics

by John Salt - updated March 2024

So, you've made it through my 10 day RC helicopter flight school and can confidently fly your RC helicopter in all upright orientations including nose-in without even thinking. You're having lots of fun, you rarely crash and are now ready to push the limits of where this hobby can take us - aerobatics & 3D flying of course. 

How To Fly 3D HelicopterLooks easy, but it's not!

Learning how to fly 3D helicopter aerobatic maneuvers is without doubt, the most difficult form of RC flying - period! The amount of practice to first learn and continual practice to stay sharp; along with the amount of mental processing required and maneuver understanding is monumental. 

I don't want to scare you off because advanced aerobatic RC helicopter flying (also known as 3D) is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating aspects of RC aviation. As I often say, nothing worthwhile is easy, but many will simply never be able fly a 3D RC helicopter like a gifted few are able to.  

I fall into that camp myself.

Even though I have my MAAC (Model Aeronautics Association of Canada) advanced level RC helicopter pilot & instructor certification which includes flying in all upright orientations, transitioning through inverted orientations with loops, rolls, Immelmann turns, half cuban's & other basic aerobatic maneuvers; I've never been able to crack & progress with full-on aggressive aerobatic RC helicopter flight. 

Flying A Scale Airwolf RC Helicopter Smoothly

It's why I primarily focus on scale flying these days which admittedly still takes a good deal of skill to make an RC helicopter behave like a full size one; but no question, the pace is slower. 

Hovering a T-Rex 150X inverted learning the control command reversals

I've accepted that fact as I've practiced and practiced 3D on my heli simulator & with my birds until my thumbs are raw & the old meat servo between my ears is spinning.

I simply don't have the quick orientation & control command reversal mental processing abilities coupled with the fast reaction skills it takes to be successful at 3D RC helicopter flying. I don't have the right stuff as the saying goes, for 3D anyway. 

You should be prepared for that possible reality as well; but you won't know until you try.

And yes, progressing into advanced aerobatics & 3D is when a good RC helicopter simulator more or less becomes a necessity as you practice, practice and practice more.

So how can I possibly instruct you how to fly 3D helicopter aerobatics, when I don't have the skills myself? I won't even try; I'll leave it up to Bert Kammerer & Bobby Watts. These are two well recognized names in our hobby because of their excellent aerobatic RC helicopter flying & instructing skills along with their proven 3D instruction methods. 

I had to pay a small amount for their 10 part 3D Smack Talk RC video course a number of years ago, but they now offer the lessons for free (all 10 lesson videos shown on the bottom half of this page), 

What you'll soon realize is their 10 part 3D flying lesson plan is based on the same proven skill building lesson process you've already mastered in my 10 part RC helicopter flying school to get you to this point; slowly building & mastering your skills before moving on to the next lesson.  

The primary difference is all those same lessons you've already mastered upright, you'll now start doing inverted to first understand and learn the basic orientation reversals that occur while upside down and how they change between nose-in, tail-in, left side-on or right side-on.

Mastering your inverted orientation reversals is the foundation of advanced aerobatic RC helicopter flying. 

If you found my upright nose-in lesson on day 10 difficult, where you were first introduced to an orientation that forced you to understand and learn how cyclic along with tail rotor controls were reversed, you'll now have a new appreciation & respect of just how difficult this hobby gets once inverted orientations are introduced.

VWINRC Inverted 250picsInverted nose-in: Left/Right Cyclic reversed. Forward/Backward Cyclic Normal. Tail rotor & collective reversed.

Inverted command reversals are even stranger than upright nose-in ones are because depending on which way the heli is facing you, only half of your cyclic controls will be reversed.

Harder still is the fact these cyclic "half reversals" will be constantly changing as your helicopter transitions into different inverted orientations.

Tail rotor control will constantly be reversed, but the same approach to thinking of it as CW or CCW yaw like I showed in the day 10 nose-in will apply; only difference while inverted will be that a left tail rotor stick command will now yaw the heli CW and CCW with right stick. 

Collective control will also be constantly reversed while upside down and this one can bite you hard when you panic. Your natural tendency up to this point is to give up collective stick to gain altitude if your bird is getting out of shape giving you some altitude to regain control; if you make that natural command movement while inverted, your heli will suck itself right into the ground. 

Inverted crashes are destructive & costly!

Much more so than skid/belly down crashes. This damage is RC helicopter size and energy release dependent of course, but the blades will obviously be shot, the main shaft & feathering shaft/s almost always bent, 50/50 chance some bearings will be shot, some ball links will be cracked, main gear usually strips, the tail rotor will usually hit requiring at minimum new tail blades, the boom often bends/cracks and at least one set of servo gears is often stripped out. That covers the usual stuff, there is almost always more.

Anyway, inverted orientations mean you'll be learning to fly all over again and you very well may learn some new colorful words along the way; I know I did! Change of underwear potential is high. 

Just like my skill building lesson plans, you must follow Bert's & Bobby's 10 part lessons in order and not progress to the next lesson until you have mastered the one you are working on. Each progressive lesson requires and builds on the skills you learned in the previous lesson/s in other words. 

So, let's get started with the basic foundation steps of learning how to fly 3D helicopter aerobatics - inverted orientations.

Part 1: How To Fly 3D Helicopter Aerobatics Inverted Orientation & Command Reversals 

Part 2: Flips, Hurricanes, and Funnels

Part 3: Rainbows and Tick Tocks

Part 4: Piro Flips

Part 5: Transitions

Part 6: Rolling Circles

Part 7: Advanced Tick Tocks

Part 8: Loops & Pirouetting Loops

Part 9: Piro Flipping Maneuvers

Part 10: Pirouetting Circles & Funnels

That's all there is to learning how to fly 3D helicopter aerobatics - easy right - haha. I've barely progressed past part 1 after years and years of trying. I of course hope you'll do much better :) 

If you like Bert's videos above, be sure to check out Bert & Bobby's SmackTalk RC YouTube Channel. It's loaded with great technical heli videos. 

Are You Looking For RC Helicopter Help?  

You Might Like These:

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.