How do I get started in Model Airplanes?

The first thing you want to do is go to your local hobby shop and find out where the local clubs are flying.  Go to the field and see some planes fly.  Ask questions. You'll find that most pilots are more than happy to tell you about their plane.  Find out if they have a training program for new pilots.  You'll definitely want help if you can get it.  If there aren't any local clubs then at least make sure you have a place to fly before you buy a plane and put in the time to build it.

OK, now that you have a place to fly your plane, which plane do you buy? There are several good trainers on the market, any one of which will do just fine.  Some examples would be the Great Planes PT-40 or Top Flite Sierra trainer.  Both of these are available as kits or Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) pre-built models. Trainers fly slower than other models and therefore give the novice more time to react and make the necessary inputs.  Don't go and buy that Mustang or F-15 you've been drooling over just yet.  Your chances of successfully completing a flight on one of these is slim to none as a beginner.  The trainers may look boring but believe me you'll have a ball learning how to fly one. Although the planes I've just mentioned are for beginners they will still require the help of an instructor to insure success with those first few flights.

What if you don't have an instructor? Well then I would start with a glider such as Carl Goldberg's Gentle Lady or the Great Planes Spirit.  These will fly even slower yet and will therefore receive less damage in those first few "dorked" landings. My first was an Airtronics Olympic 650 which is currently out of production.  I would take it to a high school practice football field and just throw it.  It would never get over 15 feet in the air but I learned how to give just the right amount of input to keep it flying smooth and level and was able to practice landings.  Later, I had an instructor put it up on a winch and I was then able to complete the flight and landing with no other help.  I didn't worry about landing in a particular spot, I just kept flying it until it was on the ground. I think I could have handled a high-start launch at this point without an insturctor but would still not recommend doing it on your own unless absolutely necessary. Anyway, to make a long story short, once I was comfortable with my glider I got a 2 channel .049 powered trainer called a Q-Tee.  I was able to fly this without any assistance although it was a real handfull at first.  Once I was comfortable with the little .049 plane I got a Great Planes Trainer 40 which is an intermediate trainer. I went to the local club field and I had an instructor help me with the first flight.  It was easier to control than the little Q-Tee but now I had to worry about throttle management.  I was glad I had an instructor present.

When it comes to what radio to use I would recommend what ever brand your instructor is using.  That way the two radios can be connected together with a trainer cord.  This allows the student to fly the plane and the instructor to take over in an instant if the student gets into trouble. Don't worry about getting anything fancy.  A simple, 4 channel radio will do fine. The only recommendation I can make on the proper engine is to get the upper end of the recommended range.  In other words if the model recommends a .25 to .40 engine then by all means get the 40.  There is nothing worse than an under powered model airplane and in some cases the smallest recommended engine may not even get you off of the ground.

If you don't have a local hobby shop then you can check out Tower Hobbies on-line.  They have everything you need to get started in the hobby and their prices are great. Please support your local hobby shop as much as possible.  They will normally be able to match the big mail order house's prices when you take shipping and handling into consideration and they are a convenient source for all those "consumables" such as props, glue, fuel, etc. Of course you still have to mail order something once in awhile to keep the catalogs coming.

...back to Big Jim's Radio Controlled Aircraft Page.