Learn To Fly

Learning To Fly

There are a number of approaches you can take when learning to fly a radio controlled airplane. Many have tried to learn by trial and error, and most have found that they could have learned faster, safer and with less investment in airplanes and repairs if they would have used an instructor pilot to help them along the way.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is the national association for aero modeling activities in the United States. Membership in AMA is optional however it does provide several benefits, including liability insurance, a monthly magazine, an online magazine, and online access to archived magazine articles.

As an AMA chartered club, we require all persons flying at our site to be active members of the AMA and our club, however we also participate in the introductory pilot program which provides sixty days of liability coverage for the student pilot when being instructed by a club designated introductory pilot. Further information about the introductory pilot program can be found at: http://www.modelaircraft.org/PDF-files/917.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What do I need to purchase to get started?

A. We recommend novice pilots to limit their budget at first. Several introductory packages are available from hobby vendors at very reasonable cost. These packages usually consist of a trainer airplane, an engine, and the radio equipment necessary to fly the airplane. In addition some ground handling equipment is needed as well as some basic tools. The correct fuel for the engine is also a necessity

Q. What do you mean by ground handling equipment?

A. To start the engine you need to fill the fuel tank. A hand crank pump or an electric pump can be used. The engines used in model aircraft use a glow plug for ignition. The glow plug needs power during start up, but the power can be removed once the engine is running. Most modelers prefer to use a clip on glow igniter that has it’s own battery. A lower cost alternative is to use an igniter with a cable that plugs into a power panel. Starting the engine can be achieved by flipping the propeller with a special stick although most people prefer to use an electric starter. All of these items and the fuel jug will usually be carried in a field box. Kits and pre manufactured boxes are available, although some people use a regular tool box or alternative. Power panels can be used to provide power to the starting equipment, fuel pump, etc, by utilizing a small 12volt battery.

Q. What kind of tools will I need?

A. To begin with you should plan on bringing the basic necessities with you when you fly: Screwdrivers in various sizes and point shapes especially the smaller sizes. small wire cutters, a utility knife, pliers, needle nose pliers, a glow plug wrench, and a wrench to fit the propeller are essential items.

Q. How much will all this cost?

A. By shopping around at the local hobby shops, and by shopping online you should be able to put together the initial items for around $500. You may already own many of the tools needed.

Q. Why should I start with a Trainer?

A. Trainer airplanes are designed to be easy to fly. They are stable, and not too fast. They pretty much fly themselves if you let go of the sticks, so they are perfect for beginners who will often get disoriented and could potentially crash a new airplane.

Q. How will I learn to run and tune the engine?

A. Your engine will come with some basic instructions. However you should be fully aware of the dangers involved with running a small model engine. The propeller can be turning 15,000 rpm’s or more and can easily take off a finger. Your instructor will help you tune the engine for flight, and will also point out any precautions you need to take.

Q. What about PTS trainers?

A. PTS trainers are designed to fly slowly and remain stable at first, but by changing the configuration of the airplane as the pilot progresses they can be made faster and more maneuverable. There is no reason why you shouldn’t begin flying with a PTS trainer.

Q. What about electric?

A. Electric airplanes are available in two varieties. Toys and electric r/c models. The toy airplanes are fun while they last, but are more suitable for short term entertainment. Electric radio control models are available at regular hobby retailers such as your local hobby shops and online vendors. They are a very viable alternative to the glow powered approach as described above. Initial investment for electric is about equal to glow power if you consider the cost of batteries and charging equipment. Our introductory pilots are just as happy helping newcomers with electric models as they are with glow powered models.

Q. Should I build my airplane from a kit?

A. It is entirely up to you to determine what kind of experience you want to have. Building an airplane from a kit will offer you an insight into how the airplane works, and how the structure is built up that cannot be gained from pre-built aircraft. Kit builders often understand the airplane better, and are able to repair damage effectively at low cost. However your ability to fly the airplane does not require this level of experience.

Q. Will a simulator help?

A. Simulators are a great way to learn the basics. Correct orientation and control inputs when the airplane is flying in different directions can be learned very effectively using a simulator. However simulators are not a replacement for real world experience. They can speed up the learning process, but when you fly a real model the experience is quite different.

Q. What should I do next?

A. Read some of the online sites aimed at new modelers
Easy Rc - Tower Hobbies Beginners Web Page
MA Sport Aviator - AMA's Online Magazine
And either contact one of our intro pilots, visit the field, or come to one of our meetings.