People new to radio control modeling have many questions. One goal of our
club is to help newcomers to get off on the right foot. In working toward this
goal, our club has made an attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked
questions. While not endorsing any particular brand, we have found some to be
more suitable for beginners. This article will make recommendations, but the
best advice is to talk to as many people involved in R/C flying as possible
before spending your hard earned money.
Q. How much does it cost to get
A. This must be the most often
asked question. Like most anything, this depends on the type and quality of
equipment you purchase. While we don’t recommend the beginner purchase
“top of the line” equipment, we would suggest that a newcomer buy the best
equipment they can afford. With airplane, engine, radio, field equipment, club
dues and AMA insurance, expect to spend around $400-$450. Keep in mind that
although the initial investment might seem high, it can all be utilized for
many years of fun.
Q. What kind of airplane should
The airplane should be a .40 size, high wing trainer. A .40 size plane is
recommended mainly because of its size (approx. 60 inch wing span). It is
easier to see and control than a smaller airplane. In case you are wondering,
.40 refers to the size of the airplane’s engine in cubic inches. In
addition, the plane should have a tricycle landing gear to make ground
handling easier. Although a high wing trainer may not be as pretty and sleek
as a P-51 Mustang, you have to remember that even the Air Force does not start
its pilots out in fighters.
Q. Do I have to build an
A. Not always. There are
currently many good RTF (ready to fly) and ARF (almost ready to fly) kits
available that require much less time to complete that the more common balsa
kits. Many of the ARF kits require less than an hour to assemble.
Q. If I build the airplane, what
accessories and tools do I need?
A. Most kits come with required
wood, wire and plastic. To complete the kit you will need cyanoacrvlate glue,
epoxy, material to cover the structure with, such as Monokote, a fuel tank,
wheels, fuel lines and some hardware. Most beginners’ kits have good
instructions, which contain a list of the additional materials needed. The
tools required to build a beginner’s kit are minimal. They include a hobby
knife, drill and drill bits. T-pins, robber bands, allen wrench set and a
straight edge or square. A flat surface from which to build is also necessary.
Also keep in mind that the engine and radio have to be purchased separately.
Q. How do I know if my plane is OK to fly after I finish building it?
A. After your plane is built,
it should be “checked out” by an experienced flier. This should be done
before you take it to the field. Many members will be more than happy to check
out your plane before going to the field for your first flight.
Q What kind of engine is needed?
A. Most people use 2-stroke
engines, however 4-stroke engines are available at a greater cost, but offer
fuel savings. The 2-stroke has fewer moving parts and the 4-stroke has valves
and other parts requiring more maintenance. The 2-stroke engine is an ideal
choice for beginners. The instructions for the airplane kit will recommend the
correct engine size for that particular airplane.
Q. What type of radio do I need?
A. The radio required to fly
most airplanes is a four (4) channel aircraft transmitter. The four primary
aircraft controls are elevator (nose up & down), ailerons (roll left and
right), rudder (nose left and right including ground steering) and throttle.
Each radio transmits on a particular radio frequency. There are about 50 of
these frequencies assigned for aircraft operation. Each frequency is assigned
a channel number from 12-60. Airplanes on the same frequency cannot fly at the
Q. Can I teach myself to
A. Probably not. The best
advice we can give you is to get help learning to fly. It is almost impossible
for you to trim and fly your airplane without help. Our clubs has several
members designated as instructors. These people will help you learn to fly. If
you are willing to spend the time practicing, it will not be too difficult. It
is, however, usually disastrous and unnecessary to attempt teaching yourself.
Q. Where can I get more
information on RC Aircraft?
A. There are many
sources of good information. Several of our club members have volunteered
their phone numbers (see members page of this Web Site). Check your local new
stand for some RC Model Aircraft magazines. Also, check your phone book for
local hobby shops. Another source, although dated, is the local library.
The Internet has several excellent sources of information, for example: Sports Aviator, a AMA sponsored site,
that provides information beginners need to understand model aviation.