Made with Xara Web Designer 1954- Rocky Mountain Modeleers If you are seriously considering taking up the hobby/sport of RC model airplanes, you may want to follow these suggestions to make it more fun and less confusing. The first step is to join the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). This national organization sanctions local clubs for events and competition and provides you with liability insurance while flying your models. In addition the AMA works with the FCC to maintain our radio frequencies and helps local clubs acquire and keep flying sites. As a member you receive one of the best monthly magazines around: Model Aviation. Visit your local hobby dealer and pick up an application or check out AMA's homepage to apply on-line. It takes the AMA about three weeks to process your application and get your membership card back to you. AMA has a membership 800 number at: 1-800-435-9262. The second step is to join the local flying club: the Rocky Mountain Modeleers. You must already be an AMA member with a membership card. Currently the annual dues for the club are $60 for an adult, $30 for youths (under age 19) and $70 for families. There is also a $50 one-time runway fee when you first join. The club has flight instructors and offers basic flight training at no extra charge. Training sessions are held on Thursday evenings during daylight-saving time at Clifton Field, located behind (east of) Jax Surplus on North College Ave in Fort Collins, Colorado. Check back on the Modeleers home page as this summer (2002) we are in the process of moving our flying site. Membership in the club entitles you to use the flying field, and you get substantial discounts at the local hobby store just for showing your membership card. You also receive a monthly newsletter to help keep you up to date on local modeling events. Information about the club is also available at the hobby shop or from any member. You are likely to find members flying at Clifton Field on any fair weather weekend or evening. Spectators are always welcome and members are happy to answer your questions. Please look at the links on the home page for threads to more Beginners information. One of the first questions that most people asks is "What will it cost me to get started?" This is a real concern since you will have to spend a considerable amount of money, time and effort, and you aren't even sure you're going to like it. Well, if you take a sensible approach to learning, you enjoy working with your hands, and you want to meet some of the nicest people around and make some new friends, there's a very good chance you'll love and stay with it. Many would-be modelers invest a lot of time and money in their dream plane and, without any previous flying experience, take it out for its maiden flight and promptly pile it into the ground. Totally frustrated, they give up. Chances are that would not have happened if they had selected the right equipment and gotten help from an experienced flyer. That's where the club membership comes into play. As far as the amount of money needed, it compares pretty favorably with most other hobbies and sports (e.g. skiing, golfing, fishing, boating, etc.). You can plan on spending around $350 to $450 on your first plane with a 40 size or larger engine, at least a four-channel radio and your basic field equipment. Learning the skill of flying model airplanes as soon as possible should be your #1 goal once you decide you would like to try the sport. By this, I mean that you can help yourself immensely by picking the right airplane and equipment. The club has included a list of First Airplanes below with some comments to help in picking one that will suit you. There are some key features common in all of these planes. They are 1) high wing, 2) tricycle, 3) large wing span and 4) lightweight (5.5 to 7 pounds). Good decisions made to help you get flying on your own soon will build your confidence and free up the instructor to help the next new pilot in line. With your confidence high, you can pretty well choose what plane #2 should be. Keep your first plane in the hanger, whenever you need a confidence booster, roll out the trainer. The next question most frequently asked is "What is the best equipment?" Hopefully you are asking before buying. One of the big mistakes that beginners make is to fall in love with a sleek, racy stunt plane or a fantastic warbird, thinking that they are going to learn to fly with this beauty. Full-scale pilots don't learn to fly in pylon racers or fighters and neither do model flyers. You should select a well-known trainer model as your first plane. Your local hobby dealer can suggest good ones. Believe it or not, every one of the flyers you see at the field started out with a trainer and many still fly them along with their newer planes. Your trainer should be a high-wing aircraft with plenty of dihedral in the wing for stability in the air and it should have a tricycle landing gear for easy ground handling. It can be either a three-control (rudder-only for turning; no ailerons) or a four-control (with ailerons) system. Either will satisfy a beginner. Although ailerons are little harder to learn they provide much more flight versatility, and many instructors believe that beginners should jump right in with an aileron trainer. Your airplane should be large enough to be easily visible at a high altitude. Most .40 size trainers have about a five-foot wingspan, the minimum recommended size. SIG, Goldberg, Great Planes, Hobbico, and Ace RC make some very good kits. If you are hesitant to build your first plane yourself there are many good ARF'S (Almost Ready to Fly) available that require a minimum amount of building. You may also get another modeler to build one for you! Just ask around; some modelers just love to build. A .40 cubic inch engine is the smallest size advised for your first plane. One problem with a .40 size engine is that after you are done with your trainer and move on to other airplanes, the selection of intermediate and advanced models that fly well with a .40 is limited. A better choice would be a .45 to .60 size if you can afford it. With a .60 you will want to consider a larger trainer (which would be a definite advantage while learning). These sizes apply only to two-stroke engines. Four-stroke engines operate at lower RPMs and produce less power per cubic inch, so you need a larger engine to get the same performance. For example, to match the output of a .45 two-stroke you would probably want to use a .65 four-stroke. It's best to start with a two-stroke because they are simpler, more durable and usually more reliable. Manufacturers of good two-stroke engines include 0.S., K&B, Super Tigre, Royal, Fox Eagle, Thunder Tiger and ASP. Four-stroke engines are made by 0.S., Saito, Enya, Y.S. and others. All new transmitters are required by the FCC to meet certain "narrow-band" specifications, so no concern there. Your radio should feature a minimum of four channels, preferably with servo-reversing switches and dual-rates. It should have rechargeable NiCad batteries. Another very nice feature to have is a trainer-cord system. With two transmitters of the same brand connected by a trainer cord, your instructor can give you the controls or take them back without the transmitter ever leaving your hands. If you do buy a used radio, it should be a popular brand, "gold stickered" (certified narrow band tested). It would also be advisable to send it to the manufacturer or a recognized service station to have it checked out. At the very least you should see it in use by its owner before buying it. Don't buy an older, wideband radio. They are illegal and dangerous to other flyers. If you are concerned about the quality of the transmitter frequency, see one of the club officers; they have contacts with the Love-Air RC club who have a spectrum analyzer to test for narrow band frequencies. Which channel you fly on is not very critical. Radios are available in AM, FM and FM/PCM versions. In general, FM radios are less susceptible to interference than AM and thus more reliable, though AM radios seem to work fine in our area and are somewhat cheaper. PCM radios are even more selective and the most reliable. Airtronics, Futuba and JR make high quality radios, just to name a few. Whichever brand you select, it would be smart to stay with one brand. That way you can easily interchange components between systems. Your field equipment can be very basic but it helps to be prepared for emergencies. As a minimum you will need a gallon of 10% to 15% nitro fuel, a fuel bulb or pump. A Ni-Starter or 1.5 volt battery and glow plug connector, a glow plug wrench (4-way wrench), a prop nut wrench, extra props and glow plugs, and a box to carry it all in. You will probably want to use an electric starter to start your engine. That will require a 12-volt battery (motorcycle size) and a 12-volt charger. It's a good idea to have some basic tools such as screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, needle-nose pliers, knife, etc. Some flyers carry so many spare parts, tools and adhesives that it seems they could build a new plane right on the spot. Be sure to bring paper towels and a cleaning solution in a spray bottle to clean your plane after your flying session. Finally, bring a hat, sunglasses and insect repellent. Getting Started with Radio Controlled Model Aircraft By Joe Butler, 1991 Updated April 1999 (please see disclaimer at end of article) Page <1, 2> Page <1, 2> Continued >>>