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Learning To Fly R/C Airplanes
Great for the beginner, great fun for advanced flyers, too!
During the ‘90s, I owned and operated a general hobby store. People interested in learning to fly R/C (radio controlled) airplanes always wanted to know what it would cost to get started in the hobby. The least expensive way back then was to purchase an entry level 2M glider kit like the Gentle Lady matched to at least a two channel radio. Additionally, there were some supplies like covering material, specialty glues and specific tools that would be needed to complete the kit.
By the time everything was done to get the plane into the air the cost would have been at least $250. Getting the plane built and airworthy would take a few weeks, as well. Nitro powered flight would cost nearly twice as much for the motor, a four channel radio, fuel and flight accessories. Finding someone to check the airworthiness of the new plane and help the newbie learn the basics was highly recommended and even then the first few attempts would result in many repairs to the pretty, new aircraft.
Often the new pilot would have a difficult time finding a good place to fly their new aircraft. My store along with a few dedicated customers formed a club and had a dedicated field we took turns maintaining. The grass runway was cut as short as a putting green and we had work tables (utility spools). Eventually as the club grew, we had a shelter from the summer’s sun and even a gas grill for those days we flew until dusk. Those that tried to fly at too small a field would soon find out about the plane eating trees and other obstacles.
After the new millennium, our beloved hobby caught up with technology. Lightweight and powerful lithium batteries brought electric flight to the forefront and new radio systems eliminated the problems associated with multiple flyers using the same frequencies. Slowly, more electric aircraft began showing up at the field.
Today there is a plethora of small and inexpensive airplanes referred to as “Park Flyers” available to the novice, intermediate and professional R/C pilot. Some of the new planes are small and light enough to fly inside school gymnasiums while others are geared toward the novice flyer. A great example is Hobbyzone’s Champ. The entire package includes everything needed to fly. The airplane resembles a real high wing airplane and is completely assembled with all flight systems in place. Additionally, an advanced radio, charger and batteries for both the transmitter as well as the charger are included. All this for about $89.
The bright yellow Champ is designed to get more people into the R/C hobby however even experienced flyers like myself get a big kick out of this fun flyer. It is supposed to be flight ready out of the box with the exception of charging the flight battery. Usually, some trim is needed to get the plane to fly straight and level but once that is done, the new pilot can literally release their grip on the radio controls and the plane will level itself and glide safely to the ground. Supposed to.
Before departing on my journey into unknown territory, I had given most of my R/C airplanes and equipment to friends or charities. The small planes I took with me couldn’t handle the winds I experienced in the desert and the larger ones were crushed during rough conditions and tightly packed storage compartments. A visit to a local hobby store resulted in a new Champ and upon return to the RV park I charged the batteries and headed out my front door. The picnic table at a neighboring site became my aircraft carrier and upon applying power, the little plane leapt into the air. It climbed quickly and I adjusted the trim for level flight.
Though the plane flew as I expected, a novice would have had difficulty keeping it away from trees, power poles and other campers but I was able to weave in and out amongst the obstacles. After a few minutes of flight I allowed it to climb above the tree line where I began doing loops and high speed dives. The park’s owner drove by and I flew alongside his golf cart. He said he had seen the plane from a distance and had wondered what the heck kind of bird he was seeing.