To all of my new flying buddies, here is an inspirational video
about life and PAPER AIRPLANES.
Radio controlled model airplane flight training – 1
Welcome to this portion of my blog site. Flying radio controlled model airplanes is one of my passions and I will be sharing with you some of the things I have learned over the last 20 years. Many of these are pretty basic and designed for the newcomer or perhaps less experienced flyer who wants to do better and have more fun. But that said, even more experienced flyers and some expert flyers will learn things as we go along. I invite you to send me your insights and I will post them too. Everything we will talk about is designed for you to build your confidence and proficiency. This will lead you to greater enjoyment of your flying by giving you the independence to safely fly your airplane. Speaking of safety, be aware at all times that your safety and the safety of others in the vicinity is of paramount importance and throughout these posts, safety will be stressed.
Radio controlled model airplane flight training – 2
There are some people who may be able to learn to fly RC without much help. The availability of some really terrific flight simulators allow the newcomer to try their hand at flying without leaving their computer. These simulators are extremely realistic and allow a beginner to use a transmitter to get a feel for flying. The response from the newer simulators is very, very good at mimicking flying a model. However, flying on the simulator is not the same as putting your pride and joy at risk of a crash. There is no “reset” button. Therefore, one of the most important things that a newcomer can do to learn to safely fly radio controlled models is to learn from a qualified instructor. The instructor will make sure the aircraft is safe to fly and will make sure that the first attempts to fly it will be successful. Without help, it is highly likely that someone who has never flown a model aircraft will crash and damage/destroy it on their first attempt. Safety is a priority, and making sure that first flight is safe is paramount. By all means, learn what you can from simulators and even experienced pilots use them to hone their skills. The next post will talk about where to find an instructor.
Radio controlled model airplane flight training – 3
Most new flyers join a radio controlled flying club simply because most flying sites “belong” to a flying club. A club has the resources (financial, manpower, maintenance) to operate an area where we can fly our airplanes. Additionally, a club is interested in promoting the hobby, bringing in new flyers and helping them learn to fly. Most flying clubs have several members who are willing to help new members of the club learn to fly. In addition, the club is an excellent resource to the new flyer in selecting and setting up a new airplane. But the question you are now faced with is “how do I find a club?” The good news is that the vast majority of flying clubs belong to a national organization (the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and I will give more information about the AMA as we move along.) The AMA has a fantastic website in which there is a link to a club locator. The link is http://www.modelaircraft.org/clubsearch.aspx. As you can see, the main website for the AMA is www.modelaircraft.org and I would strongly suggest you take a look at all the AMA has to offer in addition to the information on flying sites. Locate a couple of nearby clubs and contact one of the officers. He will likely invite you to visit them at their flying site and you should take him up on it. You should ask him if there are days when there will be a lot of activity so that you can get a feel for the club and meet as many members as possible. You should be made welcome and feel that you could spend some time with the people there. You may want to visit more than one site and that will give you a better sense of where you might fit in best. The club with a warm, friendly atmosphere and people offering to help you as a newcomer is always a good bet.
You will be asked to join the club to benefit from their flight instruction program. There are usually some nominal dues that offset the costs associated with maintaining the flying site, but typically these are not very much money. Part of the offering of most clubs is flight instruction for newcomers, and be sure to ask if the club you are visiting has this. Most clubs have flight instructors that serve as volunteers in assisting new pilots learn to fly. Since learning to fly will take some time and effort on the part ofboth the student and instructor, it is preferable that there are several potential instructors and most clubs have a list of them.
Now that you have a club and an instructor or so (it is nice to work with more than one so that you can get instruction even if your first choice is not at the field when you get there), you are a member of the club, your plane is ready, it is time to start talking about learning to fly and what to fly as a beginner. Our next installment will go into selection of your first airplane.
Radio controlled model airplane flight training – 4
Your first pride and joy. One of my mentors told me when I started to fly that I should never fall in love with my airplane. Accidents do happen and many of them can be repaired, but a few tips on the selection of your first plane will help in preserving its longetivity. A reliable plane is a must. Prices have come down dramatically and often include the plane, the radio gear and the engine in one package. I will not deal with prices, but there are lots of online sites with fantastic pricing as well as local hobby shops that try to meet them. The advantage of a local store is getting to know the people there who often are very knowledgeable. If what you need or want is in stock, you do not have to wait for delivery, pay shipping costs and perhaps suffer the possibility of damage en-route. A sample of vendors with great trainer aircraft is below. I have used each one on occasion and they all have fine products and reputations. Other outlets may be just as good and your personal comments about them are welcome.
Of course, Google will give you many more outlets to look at. There is also a website dedicated to giving its readers information about radio control. Click here for the link to the beginner page. Some of their recommendations are what is known as “park-flyers”, which are smaller, lighter, generally battery powered airplanes that are very easy to fly, but can best be flown only on very calm days. They do offer some advantages to folks with limited budgets and time to spend on the plane, but my recommendations below will be better for someone serious about learning to fly RC.
Tower Hobbies and Omnimodels are owned by the same parent company and their offerings are much the same. One may beat the price of the other on any given day, or offer a break on shipping. Hobby Lobby makes what I consider the finest trainer ever made (the Telemaster), but I noticed it is temporarily out of production in the 6 foot wingspan. The larger one is still available if you have the room. Otherwise consider the models below as good starting bets. They are available as Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) or Ready to Fly (RTF).
ARFs are models that are built and covered. They do need some assembly, but the major components are built for you. You will need to purchase and install the radio components and an engine and fuel system (tank and plumbing). The assembly of the small number of pieces the plane comes in (so it can be shipped), plus the engine and radio installation typically takes 6 to 10 hours depending on the skill of the builder. This is about a week’s worth of evenings.
RTFs come with the radio, engine, plumbing and control hook-ups preinstalled and all the builder has to do in assemble the major assemblies. This typically takes an hour or two.
Tower Hobbies and Omnimodels:
Hobbico NexSTAR Select RTF
Hobbico Avistar ARF
Tower Trainer MKII
Great Planes Eagle 2
Hanger 9 Alpha 40 RTF
Hanger 9 Alpha 40 ARF
There are other excellent trainers and one of the best reasons for joining a club is that the members (especially the instructors) can give advice and suggestions on which plane they recommend.
Sticking with quality, reliable equipment makes the learning process go faster. Working with these recommendations or those of the club instructors will hasten the learning. An instructor will go over your plane before flying it or letting you fly it. I have seen many times newcomers show up with poor quality or poorly assembled equipment and then sent back home to correct major problems. Remember, your instructor is giving you some of the time he could be flying his own creations. He should not be expected to rebuild your airplane to make it flight ready. He will offer suggestions, but your best bet is to buy a quality product and assemble it according to the instructions. One of the best reasons for the RTFs is that much of that is done for you. More next time.
Radio controlled model airplane flight training – 5
If you purchase a RTF, the choice of equipment is not yours. The models from the manufacturers in the last part of the program are equipped with quality items. Other manufacturers may use less expensive components and you should carefully evaluate the model. Remember that saving a couple of bucks on inferior equipment may hinder the learning experience. My suggestions for the components are as follows.
Most established manufacturer’s trainers will fly well. I have had personal experience with the ones above and can vouch for them. I have also flown many others and by and large all are fine. The plane should be a high wing trainer. The wing on top creates a “pendulum” effect when the models banks, bringing it back to level flight faster. This is very good for a beginner.
Carefully following the assembly instructions should result in a well-assembled model. The instructions should also tell you how to balance the model. This is important and your instructor will check this before flying. You can save time at the field the first time you show up with the model by doing this beforehand. A poorly balanced model will be very difficult to control.
If you buy an RTF, the choice of engine is made by the manufacturer. If you select one of the above or another well known manufacturer, they will be supplying a quality, reliable engine. They do not need the purchaser to be saddled with an inferior product; they will not stay in business long. Follow the instructions carefully in setting the engine up.
For an ARF (or if you build your own plane from a kit – and there are still some out there), you will have to choose an engine. Most engines from the major companies are great. Top drawer are OS and Evolution. Reliability is the key here too. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations of fuel, propellers and breaking the engine in. You can do the break-in right on the plane. Again, this is where the flying club comes in handy, as you can get some tips from them. There are lots of engine manufacturers and most of them make good products, but the two above are the best for value, reliability, service and ease of use. OS costs more, but you do get what you pay for with them. More details to follow on break-in.
Your radio is your transmission link to the plane. Radios work within three platforms: AM (amplitude modulation), FM (frequency modulation) and spread spectrum technology. The last one is the newest and is by far the best choice. Both AM and FM radios will still work, but they operate on assigned frequencies allowing interference from other radios and commercial operations (like CB radios and warehouse operations). Some of the newer RTFs come with the spread spectrum radios. This is a very good thing. Spread spectrum radios do not interfere with each other or with other applications. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to link the radio with the plane. If you are buying a radio separately, go for the spread spectrum. Most of the top manufacturers (JR, Spektrum, Futaba and Airtronics) make affordable sets. You can buy a starter radio with 4 channels, the receiver, the servos, batteries and all harnesses and wiring as a package. You definitely should buy one that is trainer cord or “buddy-box” compatible. This means the radio can be connected to a second or slave radio so that both you and the instructor can control the model with a separate radio rather than trying to pass one back and forth.
I will discuss the buddy box method later, but suffice it to say that in the beginning, the few seconds it takes for the instructor to snatch the radio from you when your new plane gets into trouble, could mean the difference between a “save” and disaster.
Earlier I mentioned the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). Before you can fly your plane you will need to join the AMA because all sanctioned clubs require you to carry the AMA’s liability insurance. So while you are assembling the plane, log into the AMA website and get your license.
Next time we will talk about what you can do once you have your plane and you are waiting to meet up with your instructor for the first time.
Just a quick diversion from the RC flight training guide. I have discovered a flight simulator program that you might want to look at. All reviews are positive and it might be really intersting to some of you, so while I am writing the next installment, click here to check it out.
This is not one of the radio control model simulators, it is the real thing!