Think you want to start flying R/C Aircraft? Great!
It’s a great hobby with great people and aspects to meet every interest. One of the best resources for information is the Academy of Model Aeronautics- http://modelaircraft.org/. Membership in Paradise Flyers RC Club (PFRCC), and many other clubs across the US requires membership in AMA, primarily for the safety program and the additional personal liability insurance and club field insurance.
While it is possible to buy, build, and learn to fly RC aircraft on your own, it is far safer, less expensive and more enjoyable to join a club such as PFRCC (http://www.pfrcchi.org/) or Aloha State RC Club (http://www.asrcc.org/) to take advantage of the years of experience in building and flying RC Aircraft. Doing so will dramatically improve the odds that your first flights will end in success, vs. turning your effort “back into another kit”, or worse- something for the trash can… . If you are not located on Windward Oahu, a local club can be found through a search at the AMA site: http://modelaircraft.org/clubsearch.aspx
Learning to fly RC aircraft is like learning to do anything else- you start with the basics and then as your skill develops you advance to more complex and higher performance aircraft. Jets are exciting- but without any prior experience and support from experienced RC jet pilots, your chances of success are essentially none; even if you are current full scale commercial pilot with thousands of hours of full scale experience. Depending on your initiative and drive, you can progress from basic trainer to war-birds, jets, or other high performance craft relatively quickly, in as little as a couple-three years if you are truly dedicated, and use some of the available computer flight simulators.
A typical trainer is a high wing stable airplane which is forgiving in terms of control and speed. Something like:
You can find these “almost ready to fly” (ARF), for about $400 from any of many online websites (see some links below). For Oahu, with the typical 10-15 mph trade winds, bigger and heavier is going to be better. If you like top build- you can buy a kit for about $90, but plan on many hours of labor, and engine and radio gear so you’ll still end up at almost $400 in the end (not counting your labor hours). You’ll also need about $100-$200 for an assortment of field “pit” equipment to fuel and start the engine, and oh yea, a few extra propellers.
Hopefully you’ve joined a club, have one of the experienced club members check out your aircraft and make the initial test flights to trim the control surfaces. Learning to fly is hard enough, and an out of trim aircraft will not teach you anything but frustration!
Typical flight training uses a buddy box system- two radios connected together. The instructor pilot has the master radio and the student pilot has the trainee radio. The aircraft is flown by the instructor’s master radio. Through a switch on the master radio the instructor can pass control of the aircraft to the student’s radio. If the student gets into trouble, the instructor can release the switch, regain control of the aircraft and set it up to try again!
Computer RC Simulators like “RealFlight” (http://www.realflight.com/index.html), can go a long way towards training your thumbs to control an RC aircraft. Unlike flying a real aircraft, the attitude and perspective of the model aircraft is constantly changing relative to the pilot- and this is especially confusing to new pilots when the plane is flying towards you. Additionally with the simulator you can try out that F-4 Phantom, or F-86 Sabre jet, or your favorite war-bird, to get a feel for the speed and control required for the advanced or complex models. Crashes can be spectacular, but in this medium the only loss is a bit of pride- privately!
OK!, some links to suppliers of models and related equipment:
On the island of Oahu, the only RC Aircraft hobby supplier left is Hobbitat (http://hobbietat.com/) , while limited in model aircraft, they do have glow fuel, glue, balsa, propellers, some radio gear and other assorted model hardware- definitely worth checking out.
Online sites with “stuff” and lots of information:
(Coming soon will be a page devoted exclusively to links)
Hopefully you are still interested, and getting excited- Now is the time to contact a club, check into possibility of a Intro flight with a club trainer- (just to check and see if its really what you think it is), and then join the club and let them help you grow into the hobby/sport.
Hope to see you at the field!