Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Kit, ARF, or RTF?

Builders prefer to build from a "kit." Others, like me, prefer to put together an ARF or Almost Ready to Fly plane. Still others like to open a box, charge the battery (or fill the tank) and start flying (RTF or Ready To Fly). Which is better? While you can be sure of the quality of anything you build yourself (good or bad) today's ARF's and RTF's are fantastic flying machines.

When looking at a RTF plane that includes everything from batteries to transmitter, you want to keep one thing in mind. These planes often have a transmitter thast is on ground frequency and some flying clubs do not allow these to be flown. Check with your club first to see what they allow. If you are only going to fly at your local park, a ground frequency transmitter will be fine.

The term 'Park Flyer' usually means the plane can be flown at a park or ball field and is battery. Large electric planes should be flown at a club field. Gas planes always need to be flown at an AMA sanctioned club field.

Gas RTF's almost always have a transmitter that is on air frequencies.

One RTF that I bought was a Multiplex Magister. I still have it and still fly it. It is an excellent trainer, it's electric, and comes with everything you need including a battery charger. Even though it's an RTF, there is still some assembly required.

Check out the Magister

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Industry News Tuesday

Hobby People are having a sale on Phase Three models. Check out their 370 size J-3 Cub.

Sola Scooters is offering RTF ESky HoneyBee Helicopters on ebay. These are fully acrobatic CCPM helis and are LiPo powered! Biddding usually tops out at around $120-150. This is simply the best deal out there if you want to get into heli flying. Check out their video too - 3D heli flight! (NOTE: Heli flying takes some considerable practice - these are not a toy. Stick time on a sim is HIGHLY recommended.)

NSP (Northeast Sailplane Products) is offering a 3D AFR combo package that includes HYPERION 3-DELIGHT BALSA ARF, brushless motor, controller, prop and lipo, for only $227.98. This is an unbelieveable deal.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

When bad things happen to good planes.

Sometimes, great flying planes come to a bad end due to unforeseen acts of nature or human failure. If it was avoidable, then you can learn a lesson and, hopefully, never repeat it. If it was simply an "act of God" then you pick up the pieces and move on.

What is harder to loose, an expensive plane that is a so-so flyer or an inexpensive on that flies fantastic? I think it depends on the emotional investment along with the emotional reward. A plane that you bought as a kit, built yourself, flies great and has given you many great flights - well it's a drag to see it implode on impact with the ground. You invested time and it rewarded you with great moments. Kit builders know the fullness of the "Risk/Reward" thrill of the maiden flight of a new bird. Then, as they rack up each successful flight and return home, appreciation grows too. Bottom line is the bigger the investment, whether money, time, or emotion, the bigger the loss.

Mind you, no one sheds a tear - they're just toys after all. But if you are at the field with your family and a grown man plants his scale DG1000 sailplane into the ground, cover the little one's ears!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Why Fly?

I'm thinking about why I write this blog and who may be reading it some day. Maybe you are a newbie, maybe an old fart, maybe 'just looking'. This post is for those 'just looking'.

You may be asking why would anyone want to do this. Or, maybe you are interested in getting started in this hobby. Here is a list of reasons that I have found that make it a worthwhile endeavor.
  1. It's fun.
  2. It takes skills which can be learned
  3. Educational - It teaches you about the science of flight
  4. It's challenging
  5. It's rewarding
  6. It takes 100% concentration - clears your mind of other distractions
  7. Unlimited potential - the hobby can grow with you
  8. Helpful community
  9. Something for everyone
  10. Fun!
I'll keep the list at ten for now. I did not mention cheap or inexpensive. That is relative. You can get into the hobby for under $150. You can also spend well over $10,000 on one 'plane'. It IS cheaper than flying a full scale airplane however!

In addition to something for everyone, there are people from all walks of life enjoying this hobby. Doctors, lawyers, students, moms, retirees, etc. People with ADD and/or OCD are accomplished flyers and find the hobby to be therapeutic. You can learn it at any time in your life and the curve is not to steep.

There are a lot of variations that are available to match your interests with: gas or electric power; scale flight; acrobatic flying; soaring; aerotowing; helicopters; orinthopters; and combinations of all the above.

Interested? Hop on over to RC Groups and take a look at the variety of interests and types of people that are out there. Also, do a goggle search on R/C flying clubs in your area and pay them a visit. You'll find that R/C flyers are some of the most helpful and friendly folk out there.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Landing's not optional

Everything in R/C flying is optional - except landing. This takes some forward thinking. You can take off in 15 mph winds but your landing will be tougher. You can try to fly inverted, but you may land earlier than you had hoped (and at a orientation that is hard on your model).

That said, get a model that can allow you to make a few errors in judgement. I mentioned before that my second airplane was a Parkzone F-27 Stryker. It comes RTF which means Ready To Fly right out of the box. (ARF = ALMOST ready to fly. BIG difference.)

The Stryker is an amazing plane. It has a huge flight envelope (can fly slow and fly fast) and is made of styrofoam basically. This is good foe two reasons. Light weight designs fly better and styrofoam is easy to fix. I crashed my Stryker numerous times in the beginning (still do). But I have usually been able to put the pieces back together at the field and resume flying within 5 minutes. Few other planes allow you to do this.

I mentioned that the Stryker was my SECOND plane. It is not a starter plane. It is not a trainer. It uses elevons (combination elevator/ailerons - no rudder) so it is a bit different than a traditional trainer which has elevator, rudder and/or ailerons. The Stryker is a great plane to step up to after some time on a trainer or sim.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Addicted to a Hobby

Oh sure, there are a LOT of things I could get (and have been) hooked on. I never thought "toys" would be one of them. It started one day after seeing a friend (we'll call him Larry) toss a new Parkzone F-27 Stryker in the air and do some amazing things with it. Looked like fun.

Now I've always wanted to learn to fly but never had the funds. I found an Acipeter Badius for sale by Raidentech and well, since it came with everything and had spare parts galore, thought I'd give it a try.

Ok, first thing you want to do is get a guru/trainer/teacher/instructor. You will spend untold fortunes OR get out of the hobby very fast if you don't get hooked up with a good instructor and/or a good club. Now, this is COUNTER INTUITIVE. At least for me. Hey, I'm a man and I can DO THANGS. Well my friend, flying is NOT one of those things - at least not right out of the box.

My guru/instructor (Larry) was a great help and walked me through all the issues, and "gotchas" but I still managed to burry the stick and nose in in a horrible crash after takeoff. OK, it wasn't horrible and I did manage to take off (hand toss) in fine fashion but it was a short flight.

One thing a guru can help you with is to give you a post mortem flight deconstruction. This, while not real fun, is a key to learning what you did wrong. I waited a week for the new wings to arrive and had a much longer flight and now was on the way to becomming an addict. Thanks Larry.

Another thing a guru can do for you is give you his old stuff. Larry 'lent' me his rc flight sim software. This is a huge help and allows you to get comfortable controlling things from all angles.

Keys to the game:
For RC beginners, let me save you some time and money. These are some things that WILL help - no questions. I'll cover each of these in future posts as each has a million options.
1) Get a good/cheep beginner plane that has ample spares available
2) Get an instructor/guru/Larry
3) Get "Stick time" on a simulator