Introduction to RC
Have you ever marveled at a hawk soaring on the thermals and wished you could fly? Have you ever watch a fighter jet loop and roll and wished you were its pilot? Have you ever stared at distant vapor trails wishing you could control such power? Have you ever watch a helicopter rise and fall, wishing you had such vertical mobility?
Unfortunately, a birds’ flight is humanly impossible, purchasing or leasing an aircraft is either beyond our means or not worth the cost. Obtaining the required training and flight credentials is often too time consuming and too expensive. For most of us, flying is out of the question.
But, what if it were not only within your means but also easy to learn and inexpensive, would you then be interested? Welcome to the world of Radio Controlled Aircraft.
Granted, we do not feel six g’s when we pull out of a dive, but we do grit out teeth as we try to keep our miniature plane from slamming into the ground. We do not see the horizon swirling before our eyes, but we do see how many rolls and loops we can pull before having to ease off the stick. Gravity does not cause the blood to pulse within our temples, but our planes fly inverted. Landings and takeoffs are always a thrill. And, there’s just something relaxing, mesmerizing and magical about standing in a sunset-lit open field, watching your plane slowly and methodically float among the clouds, all the while knowing that it is I that controls its destiny.
If you wish to see if this sport does interest you, just drive out to our flying field (directions within this webpage) on any Saturday, Sunday or holiday afternoon when the weather’s nice and somewhat calm. Usually, several people will be flying their planes and helicopters. Just walk up to anyone who’s not currently flying and introduce yourself. Tell them why you’re visiting. The one thing a RC pilot would rather do than fly is talk about flying, so you won’t be interrupting. We love to share our sport. We will suggest what type aircraft to purchase, what radios you’ll need and if you’re interested, how to join the club. You might even get to fly!
“But how can I fly? I’ve never flown before.”
Simple. Some of us have what’s called a “Buddy Box,” which simply means that two transmitters are hooked together. The instructor will have control of the aircraft most of the time, but when he flips a switch, you’ll have control – you will be flying the plane. The moment you get into trouble, the instructor will flip the switch and take back control, saving the plane. Following several of these handoffs, you will begin to learn how to fly.
If you are a “Do it yourself” type of person, that is Ok, too. Just purchase a plane, helicopter or quad copter, walk into an open field and take off. Expect to crash. You will crash! You will crash very soon and very often. So, buy a durable aircraft. Which brings us to the topic: Which plane should I buy and how do I prevent crashing?
Simulators. Flight simulators are relatively inexpensive. They will often come with the transmitter and software, which will allow you to fly many different types of simulated aircraft at simulated airfields on your computer. By practicing with a simulator, you should get the feel of flying.
Even if you use a simulator, you will probably crash your new plane anyway, especially if you’re not using a flying field that has a runway. Without the runway, you’ll probably have to hand launch you’re plane, which means that both hands are not on the controls, which means that it will take time before they are, which for the inexperienced pilot means crash. Landings are even harder, especially in an Oklahoma wind.
If you have the plane and don’t want to crash it, call one of the club’s officers. They will arrange a time to meet you at Boomer Field. If your planes’ receiver is of the proper manufacturer, they will hook up a buddy box so the two of you can fly your plane.
If you’re still inclined to fly on your own, more power to you. I learned on my own. I crashed a lot. I went through a lot of planes. But, crashing does not mean expensive. Crashing usually doesn’t destroy the plane, if you have the right plane that is. Planes are usually repaired with glue. And, even if it does destroy the plane, you still have all the electronic components, which accounts for most of the cost of a plane. Most of the planes I crashed cost $2.00.
Your local RC hobby shop is the safest and most convenient way of finding the right aircraft. There you will be able to see the product before you buy it. They will also prevent you from buying the wrong item – a Mode 1 transmitter, for example. Enid has one such shop, “RCS Hobbies,” at 1913 W. Garriott RD. Friendly and courteous shop owner, James Mullen, will help you choose the planes or helicopters that meet your needs.
As with any product, the internet provides us with several RC vendors. Each business will offer many different products, shipping options, prices and services. Some may sell their goods for less money but charge more for shipping. Others will ship free, yet require four to five weeks for delivery. Some have generous return policies while others make it difficult to return an item. Most offer hundreds of planes and other aircraft. A few I have dealt with are: Nitroplanes.com, Bananahobby.com, Hobbyzone.com, Hobbyking.com, Valuehobby.com and Amazon.com.
If this is your first plane, I highly recommend an electric trainer. If you have a transmitter and receiver, or can borrow them, then purchase a “Plug and Play” (PNP), sometimes called a “Plug and Fly” (PNF). If you do, you will save the expense of buying a transmitter and receiver with every plane. If you don’t have the transmitter and receiver, you’ll need to purchase a “Ready to Fly” (RTF) plane, which comes with the transmitter, receiver, battery and charger. A PNP will not have a battery or charger so you will need to purchase these items with your first PNP plane. You might want to purchase extra batteries, which will extend your flying time with either of these two options.
By the way, transmitters and receivers can be inexpensive. If you plan to purchase several planes, you might want to purchase the transmitter and receiver separately. Used ones can sometimes be found on this webpage’s classifieds.
The most common trainers are those that resemble cubs like the Piper Cub and the Cessna where the fuselage hangs below the wing. This adds stability. Some of these will even have “Safe” technology, which means that if you’re in trouble and about to crash, you can flip a switch and the plane will recover on its own. RTF cub type trainers cost $50 and up and are available from just about every vendor.
Flying slow will give you time to get out of trouble and minimize damage in case of a crash. Therefore, you might consider an ultralight Cub designed for indoor flying. The durable and slow Champ RTF is one of this club’s favorites. It can be purchased from RCS Hobbies or Hobbyzone.com. Though not a cub, my favorite indoor slow flyer, the plane I learned on, is the Ember 2 from RCS hobbies or Hobbyzone.com. Ultralight planes, however, will not fly in much wind.
Before you purchase a Cub, you might consider another option. When a plane crashes, it usually hits on its nose. The motor and propeller are located at the cub’s nose. If the crash is severe enough, the prop will break and the motor and motor mounts might also get damaged. Therefore, I suggest purchasing a plane with the prop and motor mounted behind the wing where it’s protected by the wing. If this plane crashes, it might damage the foam nose, which can be glued. No amount of glue will repair a motor. I often use this type of durable plane when training someone. A few to consider: RTF Aerosky @ $99 and RTF Wing Surfer @ $96 from Nitroplanes.com, RTF Sky Surfer @ $140 from Bananahobby.com, RTF Sky-Surfer @ $109 and PNP Sky-Surfer @ $79.00 from Valuehobby.com, and my favorite the RTF Bixler 2 @ $111 from Hobbyking.com.
Now you’re probably wondering, “$2.00?” Yep, two dollars. I build my planes out of foam board. Once I own the electrical components, I can build many types of planes for under $2.00. All of my planes, including the paint (the more expensive component), can be built for under $6.00. I will show you how you can build these planes, too, in future articles. But, if you can’t wait, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you the unedited article as it sits now. Also, if you would like to fly one of my planes on a buddy box, email me.