The balance of power
The power balance between your model and your falcon is critical. When we made our first model, the Robara, we were careful not to over power it. With the standard motor it is very well balanced to the ability of the falcon. However, pilots in the Middle East complained that there was not enough power to get them out of trouble, and so we provided a more powerful motor option available as an upgrade. When we designed the Rocrow we built in more power as standard, which moves the balance in favour of the pilot. If you are not a very good pilot you can use this extra thrust to get you out of trouble, either to avoid the falcon or to avoid a crash. However, if you are a good pilot you have so much power that you can out fly and out climb any falcon, and by a good margin. The problem with this is that raptors very quickly, almost instantaneously, recognise the strength and power of a prey animal. If just for one moment you hit the throttle hard and let the falcon see you have more power, she will treat you differently than if she thinks you are ‘weak’. She will probably chase you on the basis that eventually you will give up and in the end allow yourself to be caught. She will tail chase and follow on and to the uninitiated eye she looks good. But she is not learning to dominate and do slashing stoops like a haggard. You see the same effect with lure flying. Some people stoop a falcon to the lure and then at the end throw the lure in the air and shout ‘Ho!’. It all looks very pretty and for sure the falcon has had good exercise. But basically she has just been waiting for you to throw the lure up. It is fine for falcons just doing displays. On the other hand, if you lure her in such a way that she can catch the lure at any pass, even the first one, she will make more effort because she believes that by trying harder she can beat you. This is the kind of falcon we want to develop for hunting.
When you launch the Rocrow for a new falcon, just to start with, hold it in front of her showing the meat on the head and as soon as she bates for it, give her a gentle flight and let her catch it. Once she is doing this, lengthen the distance of the slip until you are 50-100 metres apart at the launch. The reason for this is, first to teach her to take on longer slips (which she needs to know as a hunter), and second so that the pilot does not have to use full power to escape from the close and accelerating falcon. This would betray how much power he has. Once the falcon is taking on 100 metre slips, slip the Rocrow and start to climb before unhooding the falcon. This teaches her to take crows on passage. Once she is fit and confident, you can wait until the Rocrow is 200 metres high before unhooding the falcon.
With the Rocrow, because it has more power, it is easy to make the mistake of letting the falcon realise that you have so much power. Therefore when training young falcons, we reduce the thrust available to 70% on our programmable transmitters. You cannot do this on the standard transmitter supplied with the Rocrow, so you have to be disciplined! When it comes to competitions we have to ensure that the balance is right between pilot and raptor otherwise the pilot can just make the falcon look silly. At 70% power, the Rocrow’s acceleration, top speed and climb rate are reduced and are in balance with most falcons. The falcons recognise this and each day becomes more and more determined. Instead of plodding along behind you tail chasing she starts to mount and dominate you, aiming to get a hard shot at your head and take you down. The Rocrow still has lots of manoeuvrability and you can jink away from most stoops but in the end she will catch you, on her own terms, not on yours. This means she may catch you high in the sky (and here we show you how the airbrake works). On the other hand, if you just want to do demos, don’t worry about all this. Just let her chase you and get yourself caught in front of the crowd. By using the extra power available, you can put off being killed until the exact moment you are in a good position.
Once your falcon is entered and catching real prey, you can look at her style and on the non-hunting days use the Rocrow to improve it. For example, some falcons have a ‘glass ceiling’ and break off from a pursuit when they are only 50 or 100 metres high. With the Rocrow or Robara you can improve this day by day until she will go as high as you want. Other falcons may be poor footers. They follow slavishly from behind and try and catch you by the tail. You see this a lot with lures on tow planes. With a lure behind a plane, the falcon has no choice but to take the trailing object because the ‘head end’ is actually the plane. With the Rocrow, keep jinking and using height so that she learns to dominate you from above and stoop only at your head. Crows and gulls, if they don’t escape to cover, escape by getting above the falcon and keeping out of trouble. Your falcon needs to appreciate this and when she stoops and misses, always throws up in such a way that she keeps the height advantage and can stoop again.
Wingbeat makes several prey species, from crows to gulls to ducks, and even game birds. They are essentially the same model but painted differently. We do this so that your raptor develops a proper ‘search image’ for her prey species and becomes wedded to it. But search image is not just about what the prey looks like, it is also about the way it behaves. Always remember to fly your model according to the species it represents. A sea gull for example has a low wing loading, is very buoyant, can manoeuvre well but does not have good acceleration or fast level airspeed. So adjust your power and fly like a gull. A duck on the other hand builds up its airspeed and has a fast level flight, and can jink but does not do clever aerial strategies like a crow does. So if you want to be a duck, then fly like a duck. Grouse and pheasants have a good acceleration, don’t fly up into the clouds and have a poor aerobic performance. Often the falcon has to learn to stoop and bowl the grouse over when it is only a few metres off the ground. Of course, with the game birds, you can lead your raptor in a gently curving flight so that the ‘kill’ is not too far away from you. Saves you a lot of walking!
These are all elements that you need to study and understand. A skilled pilot can really prepare and improve his falcon until she is hunting like a haggard. And by giving her the kinds of flights she needs he can keep her going and improving throughout her life. If on the other hand you just give her tail chases you will end up with a falcon that is OK for demos, but totally lacking in style and technique out hunting.