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While Alzheimer's is generally frustrating I do have moments when the benefits of RC flying step to the front and offer a bit of hope.
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I Make a Big Mistake and a Bigger Save

A momentary win over Alzheimer’s

Text and photo by Tom Hintz

Posted – 4-11-2015

Living with Alzheimer’s forces one to learn new ways of dealing with everyday things. I suspect that there is a point in this disease when I will stop recognizing these difficulties more than I do now. I also am painfully aware that it is likely that I am not remembering some deficiencies right now. What is certain is that I get confused in situations that I don’t think would have been a big thing in my pre-Alzheimer’s world.

While building a plane recently I made a huge mistake on the CG (center of gravity). The CG is crucial on model planes just as it is on the ones you fly to grandmas on. Each plane has specific spot at which the plane must balance for it to handle correctly. Get the CG too far forward and the controls start feeling mushy or less effective. Move the CG towards the tail and the controls can instantly become so sensitive that the plane can be uncontrollable.

The instruction manual for the model plane I was building had three different CG locations listed on the same page. To make matters worse, all of these proved to be wrong. A reality in today’s economy is that instructions for similar things are often combined, like instruction manuals for several planes that are all built in similar ways. Unfortunately the all-important CG can be different for some or all of the planes but that gets lost in the process of combining instruction manuals.

I followed one of the CG locations in the manual and went to the flying field with a plane that was wildly tail heavy and almost certainly doomed. On takeoff for the maiden flight the plane shot straight up when I touched the elevator control. I started to push down correction and the plane instantly was aimed straight down. I was essentially out of control and about to witness my new plane impacting the ground.

This is where the intensity of the concentration required to fly normally configured RC planes forces my brain into overdrive. In this case with the plane so far out of balance the level of concentration needed increased sharply. I had not had a situation like this in around 25 years but my brain was able to recall what to do and began sending tiny inputs to my fingers. I had to slow way down on the controls and use the smallest of inputs combined with manipulating the throttle to keep the plane from zooming up and down. I got it turned around and began shooting an approach to get it back on the ground but there was a guy on the runway that had flipped his plane over so I had to turn away and try and get the plane back around on a second approach.

I managed to keep it out of the ground and made a lousy-looking landing that was in my mind spectacular because there was no damage to the plane. I had made a huge mistake following the wrong instructions for this plane that I don’t believe I would have pre Alzheimer’s. Though I had put myself in this situation the benefits of RC flying as a tool with which to fight Alzheimer’s once again became very clear.

The forced concentration of RC flying can draw brain power through the murky veil of Alzheimer’s if only for a short while. That entire flight lasted under 3 or 4 minutes but I felt more clear headed for hours. I was ecstatic that I had recalled the procedure for controlling a nearly uncontrollable plane and was able to get the long series of tiny control inputs necessary to save the plane to my fingers with a level of coordination I didn’t think I still had.

Once again RC flying showed that I can make mistakes I might not have before Alzheimer’s but also that I can still draw the moments of clarity of memory from my brain during those spikes of concentration. I have no illusions that this type of event means I am returning to normal but am sure that it means using RC flying as part of my fight against Alzheimer’s is still my best bet.

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All Fighting My Alzheimer's written, photographic and drawn materials are property of and copyright by Tom Hintz and LLC 2013-2016. Materials may not be used in any way without the written permission of the owner.
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