If you are reading this, you are probably a newcomer to radio control
model flying and to the Flying Sites website. If so, welcome to
FS and to this great hobby of radio control model flying
purpose of this article is to put together the advice that has been
written many, many times on the FS Forum for people starting in
model flying, to save the regulars from repeating themselves again
So you want to start flying radio control aircraft, what do you
need to do? The first thing we always recommend is that you should
join a club immediately. 'How do I find a club?' I hear you ask.
A good place to start looking is to use the Club
Finder feature on this web site. (See the link on the left).
Locate a local club and join them as soon as you know you want to
be involved in radio-controlled aircraft. If you can't find a club
near you in the FS Club Finder, then have a look at the clubs listed
on the British Model Flying Association website, www.bmfa.org.
If you fail to find one here on FS, or the BMFA, a search on Google
a club is the first step, and personally I would never suggest to
anyone that they learn to fly without help. For a start, setting
up a model to fly properly is not always straightforward, so having
an experienced flier around to test fly it is sensible.
Then there is also the matter of insurance. Model aircraft can go
out of control even with the most experienced flyer. Even more so
when you're learning to fly! So you will need a good 3rd party insurance
policy. This doesn't cover your broken model but insures you against
damage to other people and property. No amount of money can compensate
for a loved one, but at least some legal problems could be overcome.
Also damaged 3rd party property repaired or replaced. It's not as
difficult as you may think to find such specialised insurance cover.
By joining the BMFA,
and renewing your annual subscription, automatically gives you the
necessary cover you need. Insurance is not a legal requirement but
you would be mad not to have it when flying model aircraft.
flying can be dangerous. Proper training is vital to the safety
of you and to others, and in many areas that the uninitiated would
not suspect. For example, there are cheap models available on the
High Street, some of which are equipped with radios, which operate
on the same frequency as toy model cars and boats. So if you use
one of these, you risk interference from a kid with his toy car!
Without being taught these things, most people would remain unaware.
own club has negotiated deals with several local model shops and
this gives us a 10% discount on every purchase. If the club you
join has a similar deal, you will actually save money by joining.
Most clubs have training models and equipment that you can have
a go with before joining. This will give you an opportunity to try
flying a model without it costing a penny! You may find that you
do not like it after all, and if you have just spent a couple of
hundred quid on a model and radio, you will be lucky to get half
your money back! Better to find out before you spend your money!
usual training method used today is a dual control system using
2 transmitters linked by a cable. This is sometimes referred to
as the 'Buddy Box' system. The instructor has the master transmitter.
He has a "dead man's switch" which he has to hold whilst
the pupil flies. By releasing the switch, instantly the instructor
has control back. This saves passing the transmitter from hand-to-hand,
reaching round the pupil and other means that are less satisfactory.
Normally if a pupil has lost control, by the time he has passed
the Transmitter over to the instructor it is too late!
use this system, the transmitters must be compatible. Modern Futaba
and Hitec systems work together with the right buddy lead, but JR
will not. I do not know about other makes. There are also different
ways in which the controls are arranged on the transmitter, called
Modes. Mode 1 and 2 (click here
for an explanation of Modes) make up 99.9% of transmitters, and
having a transmitter on the same mode as your instructor means he
can test fly your model, and also makes instruction easier.
advantage of joining a club is that there are many different types
of model flying, and a club will give you an opportunity to see
several. If they are a single discipline club, that is they fly
only fixed wing aircraft, or perhaps only gliders or helicopters,
they will probably know where other types of flying are to be found.
My own club is part of a federation of model flying clubs in the
county, so if a member wants to see a branch of flying we do not
do, he can see it at another club. We mostly do fixed wing gliding
and electric flying, but there are Internal Combustion and helicopter
sites around for those who would like to try this.
A club instructor is the best person to talk to about choices of
equipment, by the time you get around to this he will have some
idea of your capability and how quickly you will progress, although
he is not always right in this! My own instructor and a flying buddy
were once chatting about another pupil and myself. They agreed that
my mate Tony would get the hang of flying quicker than I would.
2 years on I am instructing and Tony is still under supervision!
normally an instructor will be able to tell quite soon how well
you will do, and this is one factor in what model he would advise
you to get. He will also know the conditions where you will fly
and the type of model best suited to those conditions. An example
of this is my own regular site. We fly a type of glider that depends
on the wind blowing upwards from the sea up a cliff, a type of flying
called slope soaring. This is fine when you have a smooth slope,
but ours has a vertical face at the top, about 15-20 feet. This
causes an effect called 'curl over', where the air curls like a
surf wave over the edge (you must have seen films of surfers going
through a "tunnel" of water). As a result, we get a lot
of turbulence in the landing area and so I often recommend as a
first model a flying wing made of foam, a very tough model that
bounces well. I have even seen one survive a car being driven over
it! When you have to land in severe turbulence, this durability
is very useful!
having said that your instructor should have the last word, but
here are a few ideas for you to be looking at.
Abbreviations and Terms
Tx = Transmitter
Rx = Receiver
Xtal = Crystal determining the channel that you fly on, a
Tx Xtal and an Rx Xtal of a matching channel number are used.
remember that in the UK part of the 35Mhz waveband is reserved solely
for the use of r/c model aircraft. See here
for Channel numbers and there respective frequencies. Find out your
club's system of frequency control, usually a pegboard system. And
never switch on your radio equipment before checking if one else
is already using the same channel number/frequency.
do not confuse Frequency Channels with the number of Channels i.e.
functions your radio can control. A four channel radio will control
four seperate controls. Elevator, ailerons, rudder and throttle.
See an explanation here. Also read
an explaination of radio terms here.
IC = Internal Combustion
NiCad = Nickel Cadmium rechargeable battery
NiMh = Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeable battery
LiPo = Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery
Rx Pack = Usually a 4.8 volt rechargeable NiCad battery used
to power the Rx in a glider or IC model
ESC = Electronic speed controller. Used in electric flight
to operate the throttle
BEC = Battery Eliminator Circuit. A feature in most ESC's
that cuts the power to the motor whilst there is still sufficient
power to operate the Rx
LMS = Local model shop
EPP = Expanded Polypropylene, very durable foam used in many
models, often with glass fibre tape reinforcement.
R/E = Rudder elevator model, one without ailerons, normally
a glider or electric glider.
Please read all the other articles on this site written for
Newcomers by clicking on the link on the
British Model Flying Association, the governing body of our sport,
with many useful resources.
Hundreds of useful links to shops, organisation and personal sites.
Weather site with frequent local updates from all over the
Online division of Steve Webb Models, top model shop and FS Forum
hope this helps you as you start to get involved in model flying.
Please read up as much as you can and keep asking questions before
committing you 'pride & joy' to the air. Everyone has started
at sometime and asked all the same questions that you may now find
you need an answer to. You never stop learning in this hobby!
being involved in many different activities over the years, for
me model flying is the best hobby there is. I have made some excellent
friends, learnt an awful lot, and enjoy every time I go flying.
final pieces of advice - commitment is vital, going to the site
once a month with poor equipment is no good at all. Once you have
found that you want to fly model planes, buy the best equipment
you can afford and spend as much time as you can at it. The more
time you spend flying the faster you will learn. Secondly, never
be afraid to ask questions, either on the forum
here, or at your club. If you do not understand, ask. The chances
are that your instructor will have had the same question many times,
and may well have asked it himself in his early days. But he is
not telepathic, he cannot tell if you do not know something you
should, or have misunderstood what he has said. If you are not sure,
Be prepared for mishaps. Every time you put a model into the air
could be it's last flight, and it does hurt both emotionally and
financially. It has happened to me, and will almost certainly happen
you are not prepared for the occasional mishap, maybe model flying
is not for you. But by following some of the advice given here we
hope that the occasional mishap will be very rare. I learned this
the hard way, I hope you don't!