From CIS, Modelnet Forum

>>I'm thinking about getting into RC Planes<<

Tips For Starting an R/C Hobby and Surviving the Experience

The Modelnet Forum gets many requests from potential R/C hobbyist for directions on how to get started. It is estimated by knowledgeable exerts in the hobby that over half of the people purchasing their first airplane and radio do not get to the solo phase of the hobby. This is an expensive undertaking and should not be attempted unless you are certain that you have the resolve and steadfastness required to devote to the hobby.

Here are a few thoughts:

Finding Expert Help

Do not attempt to get started without expert help in the selection of equipment, building or flight training. Do not assume that the person who sells equipment at the local hobby shop has expertise. Many do, but many do not, contrary to their claims. Do not assume that you can get expert help from Modelnet or other forums. If you are just starting, it is not possible to filter the flood of inputs you will receive. Much is good but some will be misguided. The best way to find an expert is to get into contact with the hobby shop that sells R/C hobby equipment. He will put you in touch with the club officials of an organized club in your area. Call the club and ask for an invitation to visit the club field at a time when there will be a lot of activity. When you visit the field ask for a contact to the best club instructor. This person will not be designate club instructor unless his ability to fly and teach is proven. Contact the instructor and ask if he will accept you as a student. This service is traditionally offered without any cost to the student.

Training Airplane Selection

Ask your instructor for help in selecting equipment used in the training phase. More than likely he will suggest that you purchase the airplane based on stability and simple for the novice to build. This type of aircraft is in a category called a "trainer". All these planes are similar in cost and characteristics for a given size. In general, the trainer planes are sized according to how big the displacement the engine recommended to power them. Small trainers require a .20 cubic inch engine (twenty), a .40 (forty) is medium and the .60 (sixty) is large. In general, the larger planes are easier to fly but more difficult to transport and cost more. The forty size planes are usually considered to be the best compromise and will fit into almost any car when the wings removed.

In the opinion of many, it is wiser to build a kit plane than purchasing an Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) plane. However, either will serve the purpose for which it is designed. Stay away from exotic planes that are made from corrugated plastic or are advertised as durable to the point of being indestructible. While they do fly, their flight characteristics are substandard. In general, electric powered planes do not make the best trainers in the opinion of many experts.

You should not spend an excess amount of attention and resources on your trainer since these planes are just devices to get you started. Save your major energy and effort for other types of planes that are more enjoyable and will surely follow after you have mastered the basics of flight. However, this does not mean you should not pay attention to details that makes the trainer fly correctly and be airworthy. Pretty is not a major factor when selecting or building the trainer.

In my opinion, a SIG Kadet LT is hard to beat since it combines easy

construction, and has excellent flying characteristics. There are many other trainers that are not far from the Kadet's superior characteristics. People entering the hobby tend to spend a good deal of time and worry a great deal about which airplane to buy. It is not an important decision as long as you stick with the better selling brands. There many other factor more deserving of attention.

Engine Selection

Basically, the type of engine most used in a trainer is a two-cycle variety. The two-cycle engines are subdivided into ball bearing and sleeve bearing categories. In general, the ball bearing models are a better value for the money even thought they cost a little more. They will give not wear out as quickly and their performance is better than the sleeve bearing type. Reliability, ease in starting and readily available parts are key factors here. Two brands fulfill these requirements since their quality is uniformly high. You can hardly go wrong with OS or Super Tiger. Enya is a good brand but spare parts seem to be difficult to find. Bargain brands are a poor value and their balkiness and their penchant to stop running without apparent reason are very definite hazards in the training phase.

Radio Selection.

You can hardly go wrong with any major brand since all are reliable and offer comparable features for a given price range. However, when you are entering the hobby you will likely not have all the accessory support equipment that you will need. Therefore, you will rely on your instructor to furnish these items in most cases. This makes it essential that you purchase equipment that is compatible with his to avoid unnecessary additional expenses. Items that are not compatible between brands are test equipment used to evaluate battery charge, field charging devices and the cord that connects his transmitter to

His instructors in a configuration known as a "buddy box".

The basic four-channel FM radio is the ideal set-up for a beginner. (Grandpa’s

Note) I still think a six channel FM radio is a better choice, as it will last through more advanced planes and you will not have to but a second radio for that plane with retracts. This is where Jim and I disagree.

Purchasing a more complicated model with the thought that you will "grow into" the more advanced features is not a good one. The extra features will give you more options to make an error that will likely cause you to crash. By the time you have decided to purchase an advanced radio, you will be in a much better position to make the decisions of what you will require. In addition, many of your radio components that you purchased with your basic radio will likely work with the advanced one. Almost all-practical flying everywhere is done with no more capability required than that offered on the basic four-channel FM radio set.

Buying used radio equipment is a bad idea for a novice (VERY TRUE). Both the transmitter and receiver almost certainly have to be fitted with replacement batteries. Equipment made before 1991 is of very questionable value even if never used once! There are untold thousands of radio sets out there that were never used and frequently show up in garage sales and flea markets. In general, these things are not worth the $15 price they are frequently offered at.

Building Hints

Follow the kit instructions closely. When connecting the servos to the

control services do not use "E-Z" or "Screw-Lock" connectors. These devices are easy to install but improperly installed are the cause of many crashes in the hands of the beginner. Instead, use a well-executed "Z-bend" on the servo end and a threaded clevis on the control horn end. Do not use a threaded clevis on both ends of a control rod without installing retainer nuts to prevent the entire rod form tuning and coming loose. Make sure that if the wing shits in flight it will not jam the aileron control. Set the center of gravity exactly where the plans indicate. Make sure that the control surfaces are not reversed from the control transmitter such that they have the opposite effect that the expected one.

Flying Hints

To take first flights without an experienced instructor at the controls of a buddy box is an invitation to disaster. Your instructor will do a check of you plane before he attempts to fly the plane. Do not be disappointed if you are sent back to the workbench without being able to fly on the plane's first trip to the field. The investment you have made at this stage is too great to take an imprudent risk. Try to get, as many flights in as concentrated interval as is possible since this will greatly shorten the total of number of flights need to solo. It is almost impossible to lean by taking a single lesson once a month. Try to stay with the same instructor during the early phases of training.

A Final Thought

Do you remember that I told you not to take advice from an unknown source too seriously? Well, this is from an unknown source! Therefore, make a printout of this and take it to your instructor. This will give you two a basis for discussion. Go over each point and he will clear up points you may not understand or be familiar with.

Good Luck!