Summary: A Beginner's Guide to Radio Controlled Flying
Greetings! This is the "Radio Control (R/C) Flying" help file, containing information of general interest to beginners. This file is posted regularly (every 28 days), and automatically.
If you are just starting out in R/C (radio controlled) flying, or just thinking of it, be sure to read at least the Introduction and the sections on Building/Buying, Learning to Fly and one of Gliders, Power or Electrics. I have tried to address all questions a beginner may have; if your question isn't here, please send it to me so I can include for the next person needing help.
REMEMBER, NO AMOUNT OF FAQ READING CAN SUBSTITUTE FOR AN INSTRUCTOR!
Dave Burritt (drb@druwy.Att.COM), Jeff Capehart (jdc@reef.Cis.Ufl.EDU), Warren R Carithers (wrc@cs.Rit.EDU), and Carl Kalbfleisch (cwk@boomer.Ssc.GOV)
Whatever you pick, stay away from those sleek fast scale jobs! They look nice and fly hard, and those are the last things you want in your first plane. Stick to the trainers - they might not look as glamourous, but they will make you a much better pilot.
And the most important point - no matter what else, try to find an instructor! This is the one thing that may make the difference between a rewarding experience and endless frustration. R/C pilots are friendly, and most will gladly teach you for free.
For U. S. residents, an organization well worth joining is the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). They are the modellers' main voice where it matters---they liaison with the FCC, the FAA and Congress. It is an affiliate of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and is the US aeromodeling representative of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI). Membership in the AMA also gets you $1,000,000 of liability insurance, without which most fields will not allow you to fly. You also need to be an AMA member to participate in contests. Besides, you also get a magazine, `Model Aviation' which is rather good in itself, and it keeps you informed about the state of the hobby. So JOIN AMA!!! You can write to:
Academy of Model Aeronautics
5151 E. Memorial Drive
Muncie, IN 47302-9252
Tel: (317) 287-1256
Membership is $40 per year (and well worth it).
If you can afford it, a system that has a "buddy box" is a really good idea. This is an arrangement where the instructor's radio is hooked up to yours, and he just has to release a button on his radio to take over control, rather than wrestling the radio from your grip. If you do this, be aware that you need to get the same (or compatible) radio as your instructor.
Q: Should I start with plans and build my own plane from scratch, buy a kit plane with wood and plans included, or go with one of those everything included ready to fly planes.
There are a few good trainers that are ready to fly (or almost ready to fly, aka ARF). ARF planes are usually heavy and hard to repair. The new generation of ARF kits is all wood and better built but more expensive. The better kits have parts that are machine cut, the somewhat cheaper ones are die-cut. You'll probably have to so a little more work with a die-cut kit, mostly in separating parts and sanding them.
ARFs vs. kits: this is a matter of opinion, but more people seem to think that kits are a better idea for beginners. Pro kits: you get valuable building experience and are able to do repairs. Moreover trainers are good planes to learn to build as well as to fly, and most of them are cheaper than most ARFs. Pro ARFs: you can be flying sooner, and you have less emotional investment in the plane so when you crash you don't feel as bad.
However, regardless of what you chose, your chances of a painless education are greatly improved if you have an instructor - both for building and for flying.
Remember, the plane you buy doesn't have to be good looking, it just has to teach you to fly! Many pilots after building a beautiful model are so afraid to crash that they never fly. Far better to have a scummy looking plane that you don't mind crashing again and again and learning to fly than to have a slick model that you can only mount on a stand! After you are proficient you'll have plenty of time to build good-looking planes.
It seems to be the general consensus that there are enough decent kits around that building from scratch is not really worth the effort unless you are into design or obscure scale models. If this is what you really want, you may find the "plotfoil" program (available from the rec.models.rc ftp site and from comp.sources.misc archives) useful.
The most important thing you can do while building is to make sure that everything is straight and square. This will result in a plane that flies consistently, predictably, and according to what you do at the transmitter instead of constantly trying to turn! This means: make sure the fin and the stabilizer are at right angles; make sure the wing and stabilizer are at right angles to the fuselage (viewed from above); looking at the side view, the wing, stabilizer and engine (if any) are all at the angles specified on the plans; and that the wing is built on an absolutely *flat* surface, to make sure it doesn't have any warps or bends.
The most important point, one which cannot be overstressed:
Here's what one beginner had to say:
THERE IS NO WAY I COULD HAVE LANDED THE THING WITHOUT CRASHING.
By the way I am a full scale pilot. That did not help me at all. In fact I think it hurt. I didn't realize how much I use the "feel of the plane" when flying a real one. Obviously you have no feel whatsoever with RC planes.