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Radio Signal Modelers RC Flying Club

Flyzon RTF Switch Trainer EP Flyzone RTF Switch Trainer EP

Begin with high wing


Advance to a low wing

Your First Trainer Plane

Electric                                                            Nitro

Multiplex Fun Cub Tower Hobbies Trainer .60 MKII ARF 69.5" Hobbico Avistar 40 II Monokote ARF .40,59" Hobbico NexSTAR 46 Trainer ARF .46,68 75" Hobbico NexSTAR Select Brushless Trainer RTF 68.5" E-Flite Apprentice 15e RTF w/DX5e Radio

Getting into radio control airplanes has never been easier.  Back in the not too distant past, radio control and model airplanes in general were restricted only to those who had the woodworking and mechanical skills to assemble a model piece-by-piece.  Models that require complete assembly are known as "kits".  Kits can require anywhere from a week of dedicated work to complete, all the way up to years to complete.  Imagine your maiden flight when you have so many building hours in the aircraft...now that takes guts and determination!

But today, most fliers take advantage of the advances in manufacturing technology that have brought the "almost ready to fly" or "ARF" airplane to modeling.  Due to efficiencies of shipping requirements, the major sections including the fuselage, wings and tail section are completed, but it is left to the modeler to finish off the model by gluing the wing together, connecting the control surfaces (ailerons, rudder and horizontal stabilizer) by gluing the hinges, and by installing the motor or engine, radio and servos.  Once you get the hang of it, a basic ARF can be completed in a few nights, or a week or so if it is your first time.  Because ARFs represent a significant savings in the time to complete, a maiden flight is a little easier psychologically than the kits with many hours invested.  

So the best advice we have for the beginning RC pilot is to start with an ARF.  Kits are fine and teach a host of important skills that help you to rebuild in the event of a crash, but ARFs are the way to go due to the ability to simply buy a new one when you have your inevitable major crash.  Let's face it, you will crash, and every experienced pilot at the field has had major crashes.  The key is to minimize the impact of the crash both financially, and from a safety standpoint, as you master this great and rewarding hobby.

Most new pilots need all the help they can get becoming proficient in flying.  So the best style plane to train on is a high winged basic plane. These may look boring to the new pilot chomping at the bit to streak across the field at 100 mph, but trainers are very effective in giving the new pilot an assist by self correcting in flight.  The high wing trainer plane with a little dihedral on the wings (the wings angle up from the fuselage) rights itself after a turn due to the combined impact of the pendulum effect of the heavy fuselage hanging on the wings in flight, and the dihedral wing causing the relative wind to push down the high side of the wing during the turn.  Teaching a new pilot is more difficult if the student pilot wants to train on a low wing plane.  Our advice is to get a high wing trainer plane.   

After deciding on an ARF based on our learned advice, the next major decision is whether to go electric or wet power.  Wet power includes the traditional RC engine--the glow fuel (nitro methanol) powered 2 and 4 stoke engines--as well as gasoline powered engines.  As a first time beginner, we would advise to not start with gasoline, as there are more complicated set-up considerations and safety concerns that should be avoided during training.  The way to go is definitely a .46 size 2 stroke glow engine.  The standard is the OS Engines .46AX. This engine starts every time and is worth the extra dollars to have a dependable engine.  We have for years tried to help new modelers who have come to the field with an old outdated engine or cheaply made engine, and found that the new pilot spends most of the time trying to start  and run the engine, rather than have training time.  And remember, if it is undependable, it is likely to stall in the air which can result in damage to the airplane due to unplanned landing approaches.  Believe us when we tell you to start with a dependable and modern engine, you will not be sorry!   Most trainer planes powered by glow fuel are bigger than electric models and are made of built up balsa wood and plywood, and covered with a heat shrink covering and weigh from 8lbs. to 10lbs.    

Many new pilots are now starting with the myriad new electric trainers available.  With brushless electric motors and lithium polymer batteries ("Lipos") these new trainers are cleaner to operate and have less of a safety concern due to their minimal weight since most are made of foam. They also take a crash better and can be repaired with glue and a little tape.  Most electric trainer planes come with an electric motor included, and some even include a transmitter and lipo batteries.  These all inclusive kits are great to get you into the hobby and allow you to try it out without investing too much effort in outfitting yourself with a transmitter, receiver and understanding electric power issues.  But be careful if the transmitter does not have a buddy box socket (see below notes on buying your first transmitter).

Now for the pros and cons of the two types.  You can decide on what makes the most sense for you and your commitment to this hobby.  

Glow Powered Trainers



Much larger plane sizes allowing the new pilot to see and therefore control the model better.

Require much more ground equipment than electric including gallon of glow fuel, pump, glow starter, electric starter and battery to power starter.

Constant power curve during flight.  Fairly dependable once the engine is tuned up and broken in properly.

Requires some knowledge of glow engines, setting carburetor and installation of fuel tank and plumbing.  Glow fuel exhaust requires cleanup after flight.

Much louder in the sky allowing the pilot to understand subtle changes in the engine's operation by sound.  Including when it stops in the air.

Much louder in the sky.  Yes, this is a con as well as a pro since the new pilot can only use it at the official flying field as it is too loud to try to use in a public park.  And let's not forget the hearing impact!

Heavier planes take a windy day better than lighter planes.  

Heavier planes carry more safety risk, and glow engine are powerful and carry the risk of serious injury to the pilot and spectators.

Electric Powered Trainers



Minimal field equipment is required to operate the electric trainer.  The biggest field equipment is a charger with a 12v power source.  

Lipo batteries pose a safety risk in charging and should not be left unattended during charging.  Only able to use special Lipo charger as other chargers can cause batteries to ignite.  

Light weight plane poses significantly less safety risk than heavier airplane.  Foam construction allows for easy repair.

Power during flight can change significantly due to battery power curve.  As a beginner, such changes can be surprising and frustrate successful training.

Very quiet in flight.  Minimal chance of hearing damage from electric models.  

Because it is quieter, harder to understand subtle changes in the motor/power output.  Because of low noise level from motor, when motor shutdown occurs it can be very surprising and waste precious reaction time to land properly.

Engine is safer because it shuts down completely with throttle shutdown.  

Accidental throttle advance can cause injury when model unexpectedly starts up.

Clean, no nitro residue to cleanup.

Lipo batteries are easy to ruin

Smaller planes are easier to store at home if space is a consideration.

Lighter plane harder to fly with moderate wind.

Well the choice is yours.  For sure we recommend a high wing trainer style plane, but the choice of glow or electric is up to you.  The club instructors are willing to train with either and so it is up to you as to what makes sense as to what you are trying to get out of this hobby.  

One last word on radios.  The modern RC transmitter is one that is on the 2.4 Ghz band.  This frequency is new over the last few years and does not require frequency control like the previous standard of 72 mhz.  Both work great, but if you are buying new you should go right to 2.4 Ghz as it is the modern standard.  Note that used 72 mhz radio equipment is a great buy right now, but requires frequency control procedures at the field (and the longer antenna).   Additionally, consider the level of commitment to the hobby you think you have.  If it is high from the start, then try to "buy your next transmitter" from the start so you have room to expand.  Multiple model memories is a great feature when you start to get more than one plane.  The most important feature for your training is the existence of a buddy box socket on your radio to allow for us to plug in a second controller for training.  The buddy box is used just like a duel control driver training car, allowing the instructor to give control to the student, but more importantly, to take control back when the student is in trouble.  The major brands of transmitters that most club members use are Futaba, Spectrum, JR and Airtronics.  The club has buddy boxes available to use at the field for training on these brands of transmitters.  Although if you buy one for yourself while you are training, it makes it easier to get help if an instructor is not at the field without a key to the club shed where the buddy boxes are stored.  

Best wishes to you on your first steps into this hobby.  Be sure to join RSM to take advantage of the help getting started.  If you join before you purchase your equipment our instructors would be happy to help with any questions you may have as you make your decision.  Above are some examples of trainer planes to take a look at.    

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