New To R/C - Read Our Intro's to Model Flying

Getting To Know R/C Model Aircraft
If you have not already seen an R/C aircraft in action, go down to your local club field (see our 'Club Finder' section) where you can meet some of the members and see some flying first hand. Once you have seen it, we are sure there will be no turning back! A Typical Trainer Aircraft

Most people find that after they have been to see some flying first hand, they understand that there is a bit more to it than they first thought. It is more than just boys and toys! But, because it will take some time to master the hobby, with the challenge of learning new skills, the effort will make it that much more enjoyable and satisfying. We can assure you this is not a hobby that will easily bore you!

The R/C model IS a real aircraft which flies and operates by the same principles as its full scale counterpart. It most certainly is NOT a toy. The only difference between a model and a full size aircraft is size and weight. Models can fly at anything from between 10 miles per hour to more than 150 miles per hour. The average trainer that you will become accustomed will fly at anything from 40 and 60 miles per hour! This is not slow by any stretch of the imagination. They require space and lots of it! They should NOT be flown in any sort of confined area or where unsupervised people may be. And just like full size aircraft, you have to be taught to fly. You would not consider going to your local airport and jumping into the nearest Cessna 153 without a qualified pilot next to you. It is the same with R/C model aircraft, it is a skill to be learnt.

How To Start Flying
There are two ways to get you flying quickly, safely and most enjoyably. The first is to get involved with the local club in your area. In the U.K. there are hundreds all around the country. Most are affiliated to the British Model Flying Association (BMFA). The BMFA is the governing body of model flying in Britain and is answerable to the FAI through the Royal Aero Club. If you can't find a club in our 'Club Finder' then the BMFA may be able to put you in touch. Their web site address is listed on our 'Links' page. When you do find a club, their experience and help will be invaluable to you in both building your aircraft and learning to fly.

The second point is to get yourself a good trainer aircraft for your first model. There are many on the market and your club contacts will give advise on what to look for. Learning to fly is not the time in your modelling career to try and fly that Spitfire or Tiger Moth you've been fancying.

Basic Flying Set Up
The items listed below will give you a basic flying set up. They are the main requirements for flying radio controlled model aircraft.

The Aircraft
A Typical Trainer AircraftCan't fly without one! As we have already said, you should choose a model that is designed specifically for training. These aircraft will have a high wing design, simple but sturdy construction, with excellent plans and instructions. They are designed especially with the newcomer in mind and are relatively simply and forgiving to fly. Don't leave home without one!

But choosing an aircraft is not a simple as it may first appear. There are so many on the market. Do you want to build one yourself from a kit or perhaps you want to leave the building side of the hobby for a later date? So the decision come down to building a complete kit or just do a simple assembly job with an "Almost-Ready-To-Fly" kit. ARTF as it is usually known. There are lots of acronyms in this hobby, you'll soon get to know them all! ARTF models have most of the construction completed and it will even be covered. Generally the only assembly to be done is joining the wing, adding the tail surfaces, putting in the radio system, engine and undercarriage, then connecting the control surfaces.

The building of a complete kit from a box of wood and a plan is more difficult, and certainly takes more time. But it is usually more satisfying. When you build from a box of wood and plastic, you become more familiar with the aircraft and the way it's put together and when, yes when the day comes that you have to do some repair work, you may find it much easier to repair because you will know how the plane went together in the first place.

The Radio
Like the aircraft, you can't fly without one, unless your into 'Free Flight' models. But then that is another skill outside the scope of this web site! Most aircraft radio systems have four (or more) channel capability (see below) and come with just about everything you need including the rechargeable battery packs.

R/C TransmitterOne thing you may want to look for when buying your first radio is "Buddy Box" capability. The "Buddy Box" is where two radio transmitters may be connected together by a cable, the instructor holding one and the student holding the other. The student can have control over the model as long as the instructor holds a trainer switch on his transmitter. If the you gets into trouble, the instructor releases the switch and hopefully regains full control of the model. This can greatly reduce the learning time and can also prevent accidents with novice pilots. Check with your local club or instructor to see if they have "Buddy Box" capability and if so, you may wish to buy a compatible radio system. Also ensure that the radio is on the 35Mhz waveband and not anything else. This frequency band is specially designated to model aircraft in the UK. Please read ' Getting To Know R/C Radio Systems' for more information on the right radio to buy.

Functions, Channels? What's That All About?
When choosing your first plane you will also have to decide how many control functions or channels to use. This depends upon your choice of radio. One radio control system can have a number of channels or functions. Each channel operates one function on the aircraft. (Not to be confused with radio frequency and associated 'channel numbers'). Radios can come with up to 7, 8 ,9 or even 10 channels/functions. Trainer aircraft come with a choice to use three functions or four functions, these being the Rudder, Elevator, Throttle, and Ailerons. Most aircraft beyond Trainers fly with four functions. Trainers, can however, fly without the use of ailerons. A greater dihedral (angle of the wings from the horizontal) on these trainers makes them more stable and produces gentle turns using rudder only. Usually a three channel model flies more slowly and is easier to fly than one with four functions. Four function models also have flatter wings (less dihedral). But starting with four channels will help ease your learning curve in the future, if you can get through the early stages. Check with your club instructor to see which type of model he recommends and is more comfortable teaching you with. For information about radios and their operation please read 'Getting To Know R/C Radio Systems'.

There will be a number of additional items that you will have to purchase when building any kit. Most kits supply the airframe of the model but do not contain such things as the radio system, the engine, wheels, covering material, and items related to the operation of the engine, such as fuel tank, fuel tubing, propeller, spinner, etc. ARTF models usually contain most items with the exception of radio, engine and propeller.

The Engine
To power your first model, with the exception of a glider, you will need an engine. The most common type of engine for model aircraft is the 2 stroke glow engine. Electric motors and petrol fuelled motors can also be used but are not common in trainer aircraft. Please read 'Getting To Know R/C Engines'.

Field Equipment
There are also a few basic field support items needed when you take your model to the flying field. Again if you starting with a glider then most of the following will be irrelevant. However, for the power flyer the first item you will need is fuel (usually sold in one gallon plastic containers). You will need a way of getting the fuel from the container into the fuel tank. This could be as simple as a bulb fuel pump, a handpump.

Flight Box & StandThe second basic necessity is to supply power to your glow plug. A glow engine needs to have current run through its glow plug before it can start running. This must be supplied by a 1.5 volt battery or by an adjustable circuit called a glow driver, usually found on power panels.

Additional field support tools should include a prop/glow plug wrench, a "chicken-stick" for flick starting your engine. A Stick is expendable your finger is not! You may also want to take a few other basic tools with you.

When you go to your local club you will see a wide variety of field equipment boxes. Some have everything including the kitchen sink, while other manage quite comfortably with the bare necessities. Most modellers though will have:

A Power Panel.
A 12 volt battery to power the power panel.
A glow plug clip to energise the glow plug from the power panel.
An electric fuel pump which can be operated from the power panel
Fuel line, filters, and cap fittings for the fuel container to connect to the pump and the fuel tank.
A 12 volt electric starter which can be powered from the power panel.
A 4-way glow plug/prop wrench.
Miscellaneous tools; spare glow plugs; and spare propellers.
A flight box to hold everything.

The level of field support you choose will usually depend on how much you want to spend right away and how far you can carry such a heavy weight while clutch your pride and joy in the other hand.