I’ve been flying for several years now and have a good collection of models. Learning to fly RC planes is very rewarding but it’s not as easy as it looks.
I started a bit later than most people about 44 years old when I decided to hang by crash helmet up. I’d had a couple of near misses on my Honda Fireblade and I lost my nerve on two wheels. I’m still passionate about bikes and sometimes wonder if I did the right thing.
My wife’s father flew RC planes in the early ’80s and I went with him a few times to watch, as I was newly married I couldn’t afford the cost back then. At the age of 16, I nearly joined the RAF but was talked out of it and stayed on an extra year at school and never went back to join. So planes had always been a big thing with me.
If you want to fly RC planes then here’s my advice for what its worth
- Visit a local flying club and see what it’s all about. Most clubs are very welcoming and usually have qualified instructors. In the UK you can find a list of clubs from the BMFA List of UK Clubs
- Talk to them first about what to buy. Don’t buy a Spitfire just yet you’ll need to walk before you can run. You’ll need a trainer which is much easier to fly when you’re just starting out.
- Make sure you find out which Mode the clubs mainly flies on before you buy a transmitter. I fly at the Rotherham & District Model flying club and we are Mode 1 flyers. MODE1 and MODE2 are the most common for transmitters and modern transmitters can usually be converted. It worth checking before you purchase as some can’t be easily swapped. MODE1 sometimes called split stick has the throttle and ailerons on the right stick whereas MODE2 the throttle is with the rudder on the left stick.
- Electric or IC? The choice of the engine really depends on what you prefer. Electric flight in modelling has advanced so much now that it’s quite possible to learn with an electric trainer. Only a few years ago you wouldn’t get very long in the air but now with Brushless motors and Lipo batteries duration isn’t an issue. Trainers are usually ARTF(Almost Ready to Fly) and the best model shops will do you a starter deal. I wouldn’t build a kit for learning as it could be soul destroying if you’ve spent months building it and then have a crash.
- Insurance and the ‘A’ certificate. Model planes can be very dangerous and people have been killed by out of control models. Make sure you are covered. The best way in the UK is to get the BMFA insurance which is around £38 pounds for the year. In the UK we have various achievement schemes for all type of models. The ‘A’ certificate is basically to make sure you are safe to fly without risk to you or other people. It’s in the form of a practical and theory test which is carried out by examiners. Most clubs usually have someone who is qualified. At my club, you can’t fly on your own until you have passed the ‘A’ test.
- Try to get to the flying field as often as possible while you are learning and it will gradually get easier and you’ll enjoy it more. Some clubs use a buddy lead between you and the instructor and this lets the instructor take control when you get into difficulty. Our club mainly uses the 2 mistakes high method. You make the mistake and the instructor grabs the transmitter from you and regains control as long as you let go! Buddy leads are a good idea but at most clubs, you’ll usually find a variety of transmitters which aren’t always compatible with the buddy system.
- Some days you’ll fly really well while learning and other days nothing will go right. Don’t give up it just happens that way sometimes, I know it happened to me especially when worked interfered with my weekends. But I stuck at it and achieved my ‘A’ certificate in 2002.
- Don’t get too attached to your models, you will crash at some point. I’ve crashed some of my best models and looking back most were due to inexperience, trying to run before I could walk.
- Its a great hobby and if you enjoy the building side it will help with repairs.