How it all started

The tale of how I ended up mildly insane and hopelessly addicted
By Eric Kler

In the beginning...

It all started when one day I walked into a hobby store, and saw a very nice scale P47 RC model sitting for sale.   I think I said something profound like, "I want that!",  to which the the clerk said, "Will that be cash or credit?".  Actually the store owner politely explained how you have to start out with a trainer and practice your way up to handle the 'heavy Iron'. I stared blankly of course,  because in the back of my mind I was saying, "Yeah, yeah, well I am the PILOT GOD! GIVE IT TO ME NOW!".

In the back of his mind I'm sure he was saying, "Putz".  Anyway not long after,  my cousin and I shopped around and bought a ARF trainer, engine and radio. We were positive we could fly w/o any instruction because, "We must have like 1000's of hours on computer game flight sims". For some reason those words, and many like it have haunted me to this day...(shaking head)...., where were we,  oh yeah. Well, the trainer didn't last long, in fact you could time its life on a stop watch. Wow, this ain't like flying a computer..

The First Flight

Well, the day came finally, we finished putting that Royal trainer together, using a Royal 46 and a Futaba radio. We took it out to a small fenced pasture. How small you say? Well lets just say,  

you couldn't turn a Yugo around in it. On top of that on the windward side was a tall hay stack next to the fence.    I tell ya between newbie ignorance, misplaced over confidence and testosterone, hell only idiots couldn't fly this thing! Remember, we have umpteen hundred hours on flight sims right!?! How hard could it be?

Excerpts of dialogue-

Matt - "Yeah, I think we can come in and drop over the hay stack and land right in the middle,  "Eric - (thinking maybe Matt might be just a little enthusiastic about his ability) - "Well I think we can come in the other side through the gate, heck its 16 feet wide" .Luckily for us we discovered the 1st of many short comings of RC planes vs. our perception of reality. Though the pasture looked smooth enough, it was rough as a cob from cow tracks. Those little tires don't roll through tracks (and worse) worth a darn,  imagine that! So we moved out to a more suitable surface, on to the infamous county road, next to a hill.  Which was eventually dubbed FUBAR Hill for the remainder of time.  Eric - "Wow, this is hard to steer", after ground looping about 7 times in a row.  Matt- "What if we threw it?",  Eric excitedly - "Yeah! that would work!, why didn't I think of that!?".Do I need to type the rest? Well, I will anyway. Matt gets a good running start, and then stops and throws the plane. The plane leaves his hands at about a 45 degree angle.  I give a goodly amount of up elevator, like say about 7/8 or so.  Ok so its going straight up now, the 46 is screaming the plane is doing its best impression of a Cap 232 in doing a torque roll.   My quick thinking, I push full forward on the right stick, and it wallows over, heading down banked a little, at a seemingly very fast rate.   I pull up, just in time to see the wheels touch the gravel road.  Just for a fleeting second I think, "I've got this bad boy, ain't no holding me...",   I never finished that thought as trainer 01 met the barbed wire fence and became a nice colored slotted bag of sticks!  A woeful tale if I ever told one.  

I think we're gettin the hang of it!

Lets skip forward a few months, towards the end of summer and a ratty Sturdy birdy .  We kept bending the landing gear so I just bolted a chunk of metal under there as a skid to keep from  hitting the prop. (This was before wing loading was discovered by the butthead bros).  We had somewhat successful flights but never a full take off/ flight/ landing (with no damage).  The Sturdy Birdy was Matt's,  and I had made a bigger version with about twice the wing area, a real floater.   We kept trying and trying and finally did it, we decided that to be real pilots we had to do 3 take offs and Landings in a row. kind of our solo - solo, 

to to speak.   After some intense concentration, we managed to reach our goal,  followed shortly by antics and celebration that would put a Pro football player to shame.   I could drone on and on about the planes that have come and gone,  but alas if anyone is still awake this far, I'll let the misery end 

The Moral

There are very few things in life that have given me as much pride and joy as the first time I felt I could fly this damn annoying toy that has cost more than its fair share of my inheritance and rent money.  But even that very 1st day from what little taste I got I was hooked. there were some very dark days when I threatened to sell it all, and others that I still have scars from.  But I still get the tickle in my tummy when I take off nice and straight, or make a fast pass with a warbird or any other of the things that takes some know-how or skill to pull off. To anyone who wants to travel the unbeaten path of self taught RC flight, you will learn patience and perseverance.   None of this comes quick and easy, but things that are worth doing never do it seems. 

Are you thinking of or started down this road of self taught RC? 

  check out the Tips and Techniques page.


The way things work some times

A true story of life from Joe Carlson


I just finished building my first airplane in 15 years, a Great Planes PT-40.

I've been out of the sport for that long. I kinda backed back into the hobby

about 4 months ago. You See, my dad was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago.

Since that time I have been commuting to and from his house every

2 to 3 weeks or so (he lives 300 miles away). In going back home, I got the

opportunity to receive some of my "inheritance". He had been out of the hobby

for 15 years or so and still had a few items. He hobbled out to the screen

porch and told me that he still had a few items around if I was interested.

I wasn't really, but I didn't want to let him down. He handed my a 15 year

old Balsa Usa Swizzle Stick kit and a Futaba FP/7 Gold case 7 channel radio NIB.

I accepted them graciously and wondered how I was going to fit the plane

box in my car. I managed to get the kit in (I was traveling with my wife and child)

sideways and put the radio in the trunk and drove 6 hours home. Upon arriving

home, I unpacked the car and put the plane and radio out in my workshop

and just went about my business.


The next weekend, I was visiting a neighborhood garage sale when in

the bottom of a box I was looking in was a OS 40 FP engine. I stepped back

a minute and wondered if fate was at hand. Why would I come across this

engine now? I've been to hundreds of garage sales without seeing any RC stuff?

Anyway, I bought the engine for $5 and took it home, cleaned it, put some

oil in it to make sure it turned and had compression, and once again, the bug

hit me like a freight train. I cleaned off my work bench, set up some drywall on it,

covered it with wax paper, and opened the Swizzle Stick box. It was a little old to

say the least. The plans were brown on the edges and the instruction manual

was a one sheet of paper, typed, with no pictures. The feel of unrolling plans

for the first time, the smell of balsa wood, all of these brought back memories of

my dad and I sitting down to build my first Kadet MKII 20 years ago.

To give you an idea how long I was without R/C, I had to look in the phone book

to find the nearest hobby shop. I raced over just before closing time and bought

some epoxy, CA, and t-pins. I set out to build the Swizzle Stick. To do it for myself,

but mainly to do it for my dad. My wife started asking me questions like

"How much does it cost?" and, "Where are you going to fly it?". Questions that

I knew needed answering but was too into building that I said that I would find

out soon and get back to her. That first night I was out in the shop until 3 A.M.

fitting and sanding until it became painfully obvious that the Swizzle Stick was

a little too old and I was a little too inexperienced to do the job right. So I

stumbled inside dejected. I went online to see what was what in the R/C world

and got my second peice of bad news, turns out the radio I got from my father

wasn't "narrow-banded". My dreams of flying R/C came to a crashing halt.

I couldn't afford a new radio and I wasn't even sure if the engine even worked.

So I sulked into the bedroom and went to sleep.


The next morning, (Saturday), I was awakened as I always am by my daughter

saying, "Hi daddy!!". I moped into the kitchen and my wife asked me what was wrong.

I told her about the plane being old and the radio being no good and how I wished

that I could get it built and flying so I could tell my dad before he passed.

She was sympathetic about the situation and told me to look into a new airplane

and wait for a while on the radio. Which as all husbands know is a kind

way of saying that, "we do not have the money right now". Saturday night rolled

around and the baby and Mom were in bed and I went back online to do some

surfing.  I stumbled quite by accident on a site called RCOnline.

WOWWEE MAN! I was in heaven, look at all this info. I surfed around the forums

for about an hour, then registered and posted a question the next day about

my old radio and if there was anything that could be done to make it useful. I was

not expecting a response so soon, frankly I wasn't expecting a positive response

either. Within 15 minutes a guy posted an answer to my question. He directed

me to a website for Radio South Inc., who said they could narrow band my radio

for under $30 and a new receiver was $70. I hit the roof, I was so happy. I went to

my wife and told her the news, then I called my mom to tell her the news. She had

told my dad that the radio and plane were still good to keep his spirits up.

He had taken a turn for the worse and was really proud that he helped me

get back into the hobby and his stuff was still good. I didn't have the heart to tell

him that originally the radio and plane were no good, so I felt better that I was

actually telling him the truth (about the radio anyway). So I sent that radio off and

went in search of an airplane at the local hobby shop. I settled on the PT-40.

I originally wanted a Kadet MKII like the first plan my dad and I built but I

would have waited for two weeks to get it in the mail and time was getting

short, I needed for some strange reason to get this plane built before my dad died.

I plunked down $120 total for the plane and various implements and set about

building my new kit. It's funny how your mind recedes into the past. I kept thinking

that,  I could go inside and ask my dad a question about a certain aspect of the

fuselage then it dawns on me he's bedridden 300 miles away. I cannot count the

times I started inside to ask a question. It's also funny how the things your dad

taught you come back to you, a little late sometimes. Like never cut towards

yourself with a sharp xacto knife, a painfully late remembrance. Or, never touch

the end of a old soldering iron to see if it has warmed up. Or, be careful with CA

or you'll glue your fingers to the plane (I happily have the outline of 4 fingerprints

CA'd to my fuselage that I kept there and just monokoted over). I thought

about my dad all the time out there and the smells and feels just brought back so

many memories. I happily went on building my airplane,

but things weren't the same.


My dad was now incommunicado and I couldn't ask him question over the phone.

I was bogged down in the wing assembly and just couldn't get past a certain point.

Things just were not going together as they should. I went through enough

balsa to cover a 747 and the wing halves just wouldn't wouldn't match up.

I had taken over half of the dihedral out to make the plane more agile and

the plans just didn't help me. I called up to my mom from the workshop to ask her

if she could maybe ask dad the question and have him write down the answer and

she could read it to me. When she answered the phone, she said he was gone.

I set the phone down and cried for the first time in 25 years.

I wanted so bad to have my father by my side to help me, more than that I wanted

this plane in the air before he died. It didn't happen.


It took me two weeks after the funeral to go back out to my shop. My radio had

arrived and so had the new servos, gas, glowplugs, etc that I had ordered.

I went back out there and broke down for a little bit and then looked up and said,

"Here I am dad, I know you can see me now, please help me get these wings together."

Sure enough, with a little more work, they went together perfectly. A few weeks later,

I was at the local flying field and said "OK dad, you see this plane? It's for you.

Enjoy watching it from up there OK? I love you", and I took off for the first time

in 15 years, (with a little help from a buddy of course)." I knew my dad was

watching, and for a little while, it seemed like he was still at my side.

From this point on,  I'll know that I'll never be alone flying,

my Dad will always be there.


Love, Listen, and Obey your father, he can teach you things no one else can.

When he leaves, no one can take his place. - Joe Carlson