Catching in the Air
The next step is to prepare everything for flying. The raptor must be flying loose for this stage. Stand the pilot upwind and 3-4 metres in front of the raptor. Hold the roprey so that the head and food is visible. Make the food as feathery and attractive as possible, but not heavy and not so much that if the raptor pulls it off she will be overfed. Then unhood the raptor and let her see the model. The moment she launches after it, the pilot launches the model into the wind in a gentle flight to enable her to catch it, come to the ground and eat her reward. You can repeat this another time or two on the same day. Usually you can extend the distance quite quickly. If you have a slope with a nice lifting breeze, this makes it easier to fly slowly and entice the raptor.
After one or two sessions like this, the raptor is getting keen and you need to fly the model as close in front of her as you can – just a few metres. This will make her lock on and get really focussed. Then with a falcon, you can start to do more extended tail chases which also start to get her more fit. By this stage she will have graduated beyond the need for any flappy bits and you can remove them. She may be catching by the tail or wings to start with. As she improves, she will learn to go for the head and a skilled pilot will tilt the model up at the last moment so that the head is presented for an easy catch. Also, as far as possible, ensure that the ground below is soft grass for an easy landing. As a pilot, you must always fly like a prey bird. NEVER fly towards the falcon, always turn away. Never behave as if you are attacking the young falcon. Don’t try fancy stunts like multiple barrel rolls. Don’t fly upside down. Think and behave like a real bird.
The flight performance of the rocrow is more powerful and more manoeuvrable than that of a falcon. We have moved the balance in favour of the pilot, to make it easier for you. But with increased power comes responsibility. You need to fly in such a way that she thinks that if she just flies a little bit harder, she can catch you. If you just lead her around the sky in a hopeless tail chase she will not have her heart in it and we have seen a lot of falcons in the Middle East chasing lures behind powerful tow planes that just go through the motions or, worse still, are over-flown and get muscle cramps. As a pilot your job is to build her confidence, strength, endurance and footing skills. As she improves she will develop strategies to get above you and stoop. The higher the flight goes, the more advantage she has because piloting the Rocrow at 200-300 metres altitude gets more difficult whereas the open sky is her domain. Once she is starting to stoop at you we recommend using the stoop pad to reduce the risk of impact injuries. And if she is a big falcon catching the roprey high in the sky, then use the airbrake as standard to bring her down gently. If you are training to fly crows or gulls on passage, do not unhood until the roprey is 100-200 metres high, so that she expects to have to climb immediately before coming to terms. If you disappear in cloud, keep the engine running and the falcon will find you by the sound. Gently drop down in a curving flight.
After a month or two, your falcon should be flying like a haggard. The day will come when instead of enticing your falcon around the sky, you suddenly find you are flying for your life. The tables have turned. Instead of planned catches, the day comes when she is catching you out. You make a mistake. You try to turn downwind too close to the ground.Bam! You are dead!
When you reach this point we recommend statins and incontinence pants.