As promised yesterday, let’s get right into “getting started” in radio-controlled model airplanes. I would like to establish one thing up front so that we can all start thinking and expressing ourselves in the same context.
Safety is all important in this hobby. R/C model planes can easily reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and that fact in and of itself requires that you pay close attention to detail. It is very important that your model is built or set up exactly as the manufacturer specifies. All aspects of building and setting up the aircraft is very important, therefore, we must be sure that everything is done according to the instructions. We all want to get the model into the air as quickly as possible, but in doing so, we must not sacrifice safety and risk injury to ourselves or others. Also, we do this to avoid crashes. More on the art of crashing later.
Having said that, let’s proceed. First, it is very beneficial to you (and your model aircraft) to enlist the help of an experienced radio controlled model airplane builder and flyer. This is not to say that you wouldn’t be able to accomplish getting your model in the air by yourself. Having a competent person to help with balancing and tuning your model will save you a lot of possible frustration and will actually speed up the learning process for you.
You will have to select your model and here is where the advice of an expert flyer is really important when you’re just beginning. Maybe you have been to the flying field and seen some model rc airplanes that are really cool and beautiful. If not, go to the local R/C flying field or club (do a google search for your city and R/C model airplane club). You will find that most RC modelers are friendly and willing to help you with everything you need to get started. And this blog is here to help in anyway we can.
For your first plane you will need to pick out a model that is easy to build and fly. I keep using the word “build”, but you don’t have to select a model that is built from a kit. There are many models that are “almost ready to fly” (ARF) which only need assembly of the major components, such as the fuselage, engine, wing, and radio. No matter which way you choose to go, you should pick out a “trainer” or at least a model that has good inherent stability. When talking about inherent stability, I am referring to the ability of the model aircraft to return to straight and level flight when the flyer lets the radio’s controls return to the center or neutral position. Generally speaking, a high-wing aircraft has better inherent stability. Although, some low-wing models are quite stable and controllable.
Other considerations include whether to choose electric or fuel (nitro) powered aircraft. There are pros and cons to both choices. The battery powered models are usually smaller and easier to transport and some of them are specifically meant to be flown in small places. Some of the electrics are very aerobatic and for their size can challenge even experienced pilots. One down side of the electric powered planes is the need for recharging between flights. For some people the way to go is with a nitro powered airplane. Both work well and it really is a matter of personal choice.
So far we have talked about safety and selection of the proper model. Please remember we are still talking in generalities and we will get into the specifics in the next posts. Be sure to check back every day for more information on radio controlled model airplanes.