Have you wanted to learn to fly RC but thought it was too hard, too expensive, or just something that you would do "someday"?
Well, nows the time. With the help of cheap easy to use simulators, inexpensive small and quiet electric planes, and training devices that lets an instructor save the plane in the event of a learning incident it is relatively cheap to get a plane in the air, and back on the ground in a condition to allow you do to it again without hours of repair.
These have come a long way in the last few years. You can spend anywhere from $20.00 to several hundred. The difference in price will yield a difference in video quality. Newer is not always better. The newest simulators require faster computers with modern video cards. Meaning, if your computer isn't very new, and you didn't have the video card upgraded for video game quality use, then chances are, the new simulator won't work well on your system.
The introductory simulator is around twenty dollars. You buy a simple USB controller that has the basic functions of a standard 4 channel radio. The simulator program is often included on a disc, or one of a few free simulators can be found on the internet. The most common bundled free program is FMS or Flying Model Simulator.
A good mid level, if you can find it is the older RealFlight G3.5 system. This one can be found on places like ebay and craigslist for around $100. I recently picked up a used version, with some extra software that adds planes and flying sites to the program for $75.00 The RealFlight systems requires their controller box to be plugged into your computer to operate it, but it also allows you to plug your own transmitter into the back of their controller, so you can learn with the controls you will be using when you fly at the field.
Higher end simulators like the new RealFlight G4.5 and Aerofly PRO Deluxe provide mind blowing graphics, as well as highly accurate physics. These systems will cost around $200.00 or more. They will also require a more up to date computer system to operate properly.
AeroFly Pro Deluxe
A higher end simulator. Excellent graphics and physics.
A simple but free flight simulator that will work on Mac cimputers
Another simple but free flight sim. This will only work on windows based computers.
A mid level simulator, not well received by the flying public, and has been dropped in price to $100 with the controller box.
This sim appears to be a step up from FMS. According to the site, it's just under $30.00. That gets you the software and a cable to hook your transmitter to the computer.
Depending on the version you get (3.5 or 4.5), this can be a mid to higher level simulator. 3.5 has good graphics and physics, and has an easy to navigate series of menus. 4.5 is a high end graphics packed program that has been reported to bog down any but the newest of computers.
This simulator is reported to have fantastic graphics. Priced at just under $160.00, it looks like a cost effective alternative to the RealFlight G4.5. It does not come with a controller for that price. Just software and a cable for your transmitter.
A visit to the local hobby shop can lead to disaster. There are plenty of "cool" planes, that come packaged ready to fly (RTF). Mustangs and jets have a lot of eye appeal, but are poor choices for the first time pilot. They lack all the attributes that make a good trainer plane easy to fly.
What you're looking for in a plane to learn on is, durability/ease of repair, speed/stability, size, and price. While the RTF packaged planes might be available at the affordable price, and at a comfortable size that we're looking for they are generally fragile, and hard to repair. They usually need to be flown faster to have any stability.
Planes with high, large wings, minimal parts that are easy to glue back together or replace, and slow flying speeds, will treat the first time flyer with a much better learning experience.
There are many good RTF packages available. Beware, kits that include all the components might be cheaper up front, but if you're going to stick with the hobby, you might want to look at the cost of buying your components separately. Generally to get the price to that $200.00 or less mark, the costs have to be cut somewhere. You'll usually end up with a radio that you can only use with that one plane. Likewise with the components inside the airplane, including the motor, speed control, servos and battery. Often these are outdated items that are heavier and less efficient than many of the modern components which you could buy for just a few dollars more.
That all being said, without the aid of a person experienced in what is needed to put together a plane with your own components it could be too daunting a task. So here are a few of the older style RTF kits a beginner might consider.
I have flown this plane, it has been the entry level trainer for many a person. I liked it's performance so much that I bought the body pieces and installed more up to date gear in it to spice up the performance. It gave me many fun filled flights before I passed it on to some student pilots.
Another plane that got many first time pilots into the air, and allowed them to continue on to more advanced planes.
There's been many advances since these planes first came on the market. Brushless motors, lipo batteries, and cheap micro electronics to name a few. Here are some examples of what recent technology has made available.
I own this plane and love it. It is mostly an indoor plane. A little bigger than the airhogs planes you might have tried out from Walmart it differs with it's full functioning rudder and elevator. You are not dependent on proportional thrust to turn or climb. It comes with a bigger price tag though. Ranging from $115.00 to $130.00 for the RTF package. It uses the new Spektrum technology though. The "Bind and Fly" version allows you to use the larger Spektrum radios with just a push of a button.
The older sister to the Vapor, this plane is made with foam wings and tail feathers, and is a little heavier. This means it tends to fly faster and needs a slightly larger space, but is still an indoor plane.
Eflite's answer to the Hobbyzone SuperCub. This is a sharp looking RTF plane with all the modern attributes you could ask for. Four channel control, 5 channel (non computerized) Spektrum radio, brushless motor, and a lipo battery. While it might seem a little pricey at about three hundred dollars, it's a great deal for that price. It's a bigger faster plane than any of the other ones mentioned here, so it will need a larger area to fly in. The good news is, with four channels to play with, it's a plane you can really enjoy past your training stages. My main recommendation would be to pick up a higher grade charger. The one that it comes with will do for a while, but you'll find yourself wanting something with a few more options.
Add to all of this the benefit of getting help from a person who has already made, if not all the mistakes, most of them. With systems like the "buddy box" where there are two transmitters. The instructors transmitter is the one that sends the signal, but with the flip of a switch, the teacher can allow the student control. If there is a problem, the instructor releases the switch, and takes over instantly. There's no more tossing the controller back and forth while the plane plummets to the ground. Other factors come into play as well. Things like how to properly balance the airplane make a big difference, but is nothing that a new pilot could be expected to know how to do without being shown. Another thing that downs planes of beginning pilots is the improper movement of control surfaces. The last thing I'll mention is in regard to reflexes. It takes time to develop the specific muscle memory that it takes to fly a plane. Having an instructor there to get the plane out of a jam while you're working that out can make the difference between learning to fly, and having an expensive pile of broken equipment. There are several options learning to fly , but first contact the club instructor Jon Ritter at 974-1556 or 401-3631 . See ya at the field !