Getting started (Fixed Wing)
The information offered below is only meant to be a general guide and offer a first insight into some of the equipment needed.
Talking to club members is the best way to learn about it and everyone has some differences in ideas.
If you are a newcomer to radio-controlled model aircraft, you will probably be confused about what you need to buy and how to get started.
Following, are a few tips which we think will help you get off to a good start.
Firstly, join a club. You will have the satisfaction of being insured, having members to help you get underway and into the air and progress your flying ability.
No matter how much you have used a flight simulator, do not try to teach yourself as it will definitely end in tears which may not be just your own.
In a club you will normally have the chance to fly with the aid of a 'Trainer Lead' or 'Buddy Lead' which is a bit like dual controls when leaning to drive a car.
In this case both the student and instructor transmitters are connected by a lead and if the student gets into a problem situation, the instructor can take over at the flick of a switch.
This is considered to be better than the transmitter ‘pass and grab back’ method in that control is re-gained quicker by the instructor, hopefully saving the last inch of height which is where the bits usually start flying about.
Electric and un-powered flight are of course options, but other than for radio gear, these are not covered on this page.
There are quite a few ARTF (Almost Ready To Fly) trainers on the market. which will usually come with a tank, under carriage etc. and will usually need the addition of an engine, radio gear, servos, battery pack, fuel, glow start and a 12v battery.
If you purchase a 'Deal' from a shop, most of the items that you will need to get you into the air will be provided, but radio gear and engine may not be the most suitable for you - read on.
A trainer inevitably has a high wing with some dihedral (the upward angle of the wing) both aiding stability and a span of about 60" is a good size.
Model shops will usually advise but we recommend that you visit the flying field first and speak to members who are using trainers currently or have recently moved on.
It is worthwhile talking to members first to see what second hand gear is around.
Examples of trainers which club members have had recent success with, but not limited to, are the Thunder Tiger 40, Ripmax Nova 40, Trainer 40 and Ready 2, and the Irvine Tutor 40, the list goes on. See pics below.
Usually a number like 40 means it is designed for a 40 size engine which means 0.40 cubic inch capacity.
Buying an ARTF is probably the best way to get into the air quickly with the minimum amount of building and will get you used to how planes are constructed, the good and bad points.
Don’t be tempted to go out and buy a Spitfire. Something like this will be too advanced. When you have mastered the basics with a trainer, then think of moving on, maybe to something like a WOT 4 advanced sports trainer before venturing onto low wingers.
Radio sets should be 35MHz as this band is set aside exclusively for model aircraft, displaying an orange flag with a black or white number on which identifies to others the frequency number that you are operating with. The 35MHz frequencies and numbers
The 27MHz band is for general use and includes aircraft, ground and water based models.
Some toy planes and transmitters use this band width but the risk of someone using a transmitter for a car or boat close to where you could be flying is an unacceptable one as interference could cause your plane to crash.
At CMAC, although 27MHz equipment is allowable for certain sized models, you are strongly advised against it and 'buddying up' is most unlikely. Buy a proper set, that is 35MHz.
Radio controlled aircraft clubs are closely controlled and are not usually closer to each other than 2 miles to ensure separation and that no interference occurs.
Most Radios are at least 4 channel with the main controls being Throttle, Ailerons, Elevator and Rudder.
Extra channels over this will usually give control of Landing Gear, Flaps and the opportunity for mixing features but to begin with, most beginners will start with 4 channel learning.
Lets assume that you get the bug! It will be better to devote more of your budget to a good transmitter than say a plane. The reason being is that your plane will have long gone while your transmitter is still going strong. A well looked after transmitter will last many years and should you want to upgrade in the future, good transmitters will sell on better.
Most flyers upgrade their transmitters sooner or later so by the best that you can afford and you will probably save in the long run.
Transmitters come from such manufacturers as Futaba, JR, HiTec and Sanwa with Futaba being probably the more popular amongst diehards.
The better sets are computerised and will store information for a number of models, with all sorts of other features. Some have digital trims where the trim settings are remembered for each model and cannot be accidentally knocked.
You will have to make the choice of either Mode 1 or Mode 2 The Mode refers to the layout of the sticks.
Mode 1 has the Ailerons and Throttle on the right stick with Elevator and Rudder on the left, Mode 2 has the Ailerons and Elevator on the right stick with Rudder and Throttle on the left.
Basically the choice is up to you, there are pro’s and cons.
As once in the air, with normal flying, Ailerons and Elevator are the main controls, and some flyers feel that with Ailerons and Elevator on separate sticks, the chance of un-intentionally pulling on say the Elevator when applying Ailerons is removed so Mode 1 benefits.
Some flyers come to aircraft from model cars where Throttle is generally on the left and Steering on the right. Mode 2 would probably be natural under this scenario but is up to you.
If your would be instructor does not have a buddy compatible transmitter to you then you will have to choose to fly on his mode.
Another important point to remember is that if you purchase a brand that is the most popular in the club, you will stand the chance of being ‘buddied up’ with a largest number of potential instructors.
With modern computerised transmitters, you will not have to choose the same mode as your instructor(s) as the electronics and the buddy lead do the necessary i.e. Mode 1 student, Mode 2 instructor or any combination.
The choice is yours.
Before buying a transmitter, check with the club as to what the frequency number distribution is. Choose a channel number with the least number of members using it, that way it balances the available flight slots for members.
Some clubs allocate certain frequencies for particular use e.g. helicopters.
Although a transmitter and receiver will come with a set of crystals in it, the model shop will change them to the channel you require - if they are in stock.
Again, as with radio gear, chances are that your first engine will long outlive your first plane so it is worthwhile spending a bit more on a decent engine.
Good examples come from OS, Irvine and Enya but there are others as well. The likes of Saito only produce four strokes.
Manufacturers like MDS offer budget priced models.
Generally you are paying more for the better engineered engines with greater reliability and less running problems.
Two strokes offer more power than four strokes size for size engine but are usually less economical, four strokes being that bit heavier with the valve gear.
For example, a 40 two stroke would equate to about a 52 four stroke.
Most 40 size trainers are designed to accept the physical size of a 40/46 two stroke and might struggle a bit with the extra bulk of an equivalent power four stroke so check before buying.
You will want certain accessories, some are a must, others are to suit your personal requirements.
See what other members are using before you buy. Ask around, someone might want to sell what you are looking for.
Listed below are some such items but the list is not necessarily recommended or indeed complete.
|Receiver battery condition checker - this one is a must|
|Fuel pump hand or electric|
|Glow start either with integral battery or leads (needs a power panel for power supply|
|Field charger and leads|
|A selection of hand tools|
|Spare glow plugs|
|Table or workmate - useful for putting a flight box on to make a good working height|
|Sealing iron and heat gun for applying/repairing coverings|
A purchased flight box is an option and one usually contains some of the above items: e.g. a 12v battery, electric fuel pump, variable power output and meter for glow clip, glow clip, 12v output for starter motor to plug into, a rest to locate your plane while working on or starting
Check as to whether the model shop will offer you a price you can't refuse if you buy these as part of the plane "deal".
There are lots of different fuels available usually using Castor or Synthetic oil as the lubricant and Methanol as the fuel medium in the typical ratios of 20% and 80%.
With the higher performance fuels, Nitromethane is added in various amounts but most club flyers will use either no Nitro or the 5% to 10% Nitro blends. The number on the fuel container e.g. 'Contest 10', tells you the Nitro element, 10% in this case.
The higher the Nitro element, the more power and higher the cost.
All sorts of fuels are used at the field but generally you will choose one stocked by your local shop which best suits your engine and needs.
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