A powerful RC plane has a much higher power to weight ratio than a manned full-scale plane, with vertical climb not uncommon (compared to only present in a few supersonic fighter jets with afterburners in full-scale). Commonly used RC planes also have considerably lower inertia relative to their drag than full-scale planes.
All full-scale planes are forced to fly in a certain set of maneuvers that are aerodynamically viable ('patterns'). A curve has to be banked just so in order to avoid the pilot passing out, or tearing the wings off, or going into a tip-stall spin; All maneuvers are smooth transitions from one position to another, in part because they just don't have that much rudder, elevator, and aileron authority relative to their mass, and in part because they're dealing with reciprocating or jet turbine engines with a throttle response speed 1/10th that in RC brushless motors, which only operate efficiently at cruise and require work to re-start. A serious stall in an RC plane is a temporary condition which is probably self-righting, while in a full-scale plane it literally requires that the pilots are strapped down and know what they're doing to survive.
Pattern flight, then, is the practice of these aerodynamically advisable maneuvers, moving at a high forward speed relative to changes in direction, in a heavy plane. One term that's come to describe it is 'Precision aerobatics'
FAI does maintain an official listing of these maneuvers for competition use.
This wiki will use a timestamp and control inputs to describe these patterns, because they are useful for any autopilot that wants to operate efficiently and quickly, particularly in underpowered and overloaded planes (in conjunction with some type of launch + landing solution). Bias in controls will be positive pitch up, positive yaw right, positive roll clockwise.
For example, this describes a stall turn, or 'hammerhead turn' useful for achieving high horizontal speeds:
- 000.0 pitch +90 for 1s
- 004.0 yaw +180 for 2s
- 008.0 pitch +90 for 1s
- Net change from 0:
- slight added height
- 180 degree yaw
- significantly increased speed
This pattern describes an 'Immelmann Turn', which can save up some airspeed + elevation while evading a combat opponent, and getting a good LoS look at him.
- 000.0 pitch +180 for 5s
- 005.0 roll +180 for 2s
This pattern describes a 'roll', a basic maneuver:
- 000.0 roll +360 for 5s
This pattern describes a 'loop', a basic maneuver:
- 000.0 pitch +360 for 5s