So you want to fly a model aeroplane and are unsure how to go about it.
A good start would be to come along to a Club session and speak to some of the lads. You will find that despite their appearance, they are a friendly bunch with, in some cases, a wealth of experience to point you in the right (enough) direction.
You may be tempted to buy a kit and go it alone, but this is likely to end in disappointment and probably a pile of broken bits because despite what it says on the box and on the CD that comes with it, flying is not as easy as it looks. There are also a number of safety implications that need to be taken into consideration such as watching the frequency of your transmitter and what happens if you crash into something or somebody else? That is why members have obligatory insurance.
The Club would be delighted to welcome newcomers to the sport and set them off on the right path with good advice and tuition so if you want to fly, then come and say hello.
Some reviews of models flown by members are included in the margin to whet your appetite.
Almost all models these days are radio controlled. Basic gliders rely on rudder and elevator control and use 2 channels, but modern radio equipment generally has up to 6 channels. This allows aileron, flap and brake control and if a powered model is used then engine control also. Gliders with wingspans of 1 to 2.5 (100”) metres are commonly used although wingspans of up to 4 metres are possible. You can build a glider from a kit or a plan and for those who are short of time you can get models already built for you. These are known as Almost Ready To Fly (ARTF) models. They are generally good value for money, often having a very good build quality and all that is normally required to fly is to piece together the large ready built components and install the radio equipment. No more than a couple of hours at most.
Gliders are launched either by winch or bungee. After the glider has been launched use is made of rising columns of warm air, known as thermals, to lift gliders above the height of release. Knowing where the thermals are is the difficult bit and modellers of many years experience will tell you that you never stop learning.
Use is made of rising currents of air that are deflected up the face of a hill or cliff. The glider is simply launched by hand from the slope face and allowed to soar in the rising air. Flights lasting hours are possible. This form of flying gives plenty of ‘stick time’ and is an excellent way of giving beginners confidence. Local sites are Brimmond Hill, Cairn O’ Mount and Durris.
Model gliders can be launched by being pulled up by a powered model. This is called aero-towing. It is not practised very often in the Club.
It would be fair to say that many glider pilots have turned to electric flight. This is because of the rapid development of electric motors and batteries over recent years. It is clean and relatively quiet compared with internal combustion engine models. A full range of models from fast jet type aircraft through to slow thermal type Soarers are available all electrically powered.
Thermal gliders with electric motors eliminate the use of a winch or bungee and rely on a small electric motor to take them to height where it is switched off and gliding commences. This means that models can be launched from small fields whereas a winch requires 150m or so of clear space.
Glider kits (for building) for novices cost in the region of £50. Conventional trainer type models powered by electric motors are similarly priced. ARTF packages start arounf £100.
Many shops including online shops will sell you everything you need in a box (including the model!) in a box for £100 to £130, however these parts are generally not be interchangeable. Nowadays 2.4Ghz is the common frequency used and is certainly the way to go if you are starting out buying radio equipment. 35Mhz is still in use and if you have access to that don't throw it away. It is very reliable and works well.
Radio sets cost about £100 at the low end of the price range, but it might be wiser to go with a computerised 6 channel package like the one on the left. A package normally includes a receiver with battery and four servos. This will cost about £140, but will allow you to fly basic models with 2 channels and as you progress the same radio equipment can be used for more complicated models that use additional channels for ailerons, flaps or v-tail for example.
Electric motors can range from £5 to £100 with battery packs starting around £10 and their accompanying chargers from £25 although so called ‘intelligent’ chargers start at the £50 mark. This latter charger will charge a wide variety of batteries.
In order to regulate the speed of an electric motor a small device known as a speed controller is required. These items must be amp rated in accordance with the motor and start from around £15.
This may all sound a bit expensive, but once purchased these items will last many years and can be interchanged between models
There are many online model shops who often have complete package deals available. Ebay is a good source of bargains but get some advice before committing to buy.