How do I get started in Model Helicopters?

Model helicopters are a real challenge to learn how to fly. They require the mastery of two distinct flying skills, hovering and forward flight.  Hovering is the first skill to learn and is completely unlike flying planes or gliders.  Every successful helicopter flight begins and ends with hovering. Once hovering is mastered then forward flight is learned. Forward flight can be very similar to flying a plane or glider.  Because of this it is very helpful if the beginning helicopter pilot learns to fly an airplane first.  The engine operating skills aquired while flying airplanes will also come in handy. An instructor isn't necessarily needed to learn to fly a helicopter.  What is invaluable however, is an experienced flyer to set up the helicopter pitch and engine settings and put in that first flight to make sure everything is balanced and operating properly.  Even if it's a days worth of driving to have someone help you it will be worth the trip. Then a little bit of instruction on how to learn to hover and the beginner can practice, practice, practice.

Most beginners start with a .30 sized helicopter as they are very common, fly well, and cost less than larger machines. There are several brands on the market that will serve as a good beginner's helicopter. Some examples are Kyosho's Nexus 30 or Miniature Aircraft's X-Cell 30. The important question isn't which one is the best,  but which one does my local hobby shop carry parts for. That way when you crash or when parts wear out you will have quick access to replacements.  If your hobby shop carries more than one brand then I would suggest the brand your instructor is using. He or she will then be better able to set it up and answer any questions you might have.

Computer radios are somewhat of a luxury for sport airplane flyers but for helicopter flying they are almost mandatory. There are some non-computer type helicopter radios available but they will be limiting as soon as the pilot progresses to fast forward flight and is ready to learn aerobatics. Computer radios can also be a chore to set up properly and again the new pilot would benefit from the help of an experienced flyer. Your helicopter will also need a gyro to help control the tail rotor. Stick with one of the lower priced ones as they all work well for beginners and the fancy dual rate and piezo models are only necessary for competition and advanced aerobatics.  

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.

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