So you want to learn to fly, but no one is around to teach? Don't want to do the club thing? Well fear not, it is possible to teach your self to fly! All it takes is the stubbornness of a mule, the bank roll of Bill Gates, and all your spare time. Well, not quite, but at times that's what I thought.
Ill give a few tips learned from the University of Hard knocks (Wyo campus) to help get you on the right track.
The Plane - Everyone, and I mean everyone, will have advise on what trainer is best. Well I have flown a lot of trainers and from the stand point of crash resistance, and sheer ugly (I'll elaborate in a minute), the Sturdy Birdy from Hobbico, or Duraplane Are probably the best bets for surviving long enough to learn the basics of flight. It has been brought to my attention that The Dura Plane Trainers have a thicker airfoil than the Sturdy Birdies, making them slower and more forgiving. I still maintain that modifications be done as out lined later and save the stock wing for later. Another choice would be one from www.spadtothebone.com . These are not ARFs (Almost Ready to Fly) but are are so easy and cheap to make they make great first glow powered planes.
With the advances in electrics the last few years, the most economical is probably an electric trainer. Light weight, relatively slow and inexpensive to fix. They also have the advantage of being light that if you prang one, the damage tends to be less than a larger plane.
Advantages of these types are, they are tough. I have pranged one, straight in at near full throttle on hard dirt and rubber banded the wing back on, changed the prop and flew again. If you do break something you can buy some of the major parts from a Hardware store, they' re cheap, and are about as simple as they come. They are ugly as a mud fence in the rain, which is good. You won't be worried about ruining its good looks by thumping it a few times.
disadvantages of these types are, well, they fly about as well as somewhere between a brick and a 2x4. The one thing a novice needs is time. Time to think so they can react to what ever is happening. The slower the plane flies, the more time you have. These types, built stock, will not "float". They land fairly fast (at least it will seem fast). They also have a flexible tail boom, good for surviving thumps, bad for flight characteristics.
Modifications to make them fly them fly better may cost a little but will pay off big in performance. I suggest doing what I did (eventually), buy another wing. There are places you can order foam wings from for fairly low cost, Dynamic Balsa is one place. I suggest a wing of around 70" or so. It turned our dirty birdy into a flirty birdy, and really made a difference. Depending on the kit you choose an increase of the tail area, or at least the elevator and rudder be increased by 20% or so. One final thing I would strongly urge is adding ailerons to the wing if not already included in the kit. They will allow you far more control that rudder alone.
engine - I know a lot of people who
start out with a .40 size engine
I never have figured this out, flying an under powered
plane might be fun for
veteran flyer, but is absolutely not for a rookie. I would recommend any good reasonably priced .46 size 2 stroke, Thunder Tiger, is probably the best bang for the buck right now. Do not use the recommended .25 size on the Sturdy Birdy. The little extra power you get might help pull your bacon out of the fire, and you can move it up to a better performing plane (assuming it survives). In most cases these days the price difference between a ball bearing .46 larger fire breather and a plain bushing .40 toad is negligible. Some have said that a engine will just increase speed not enhance the learning curve. I have found at our altitude, the larger engines are not overpowering these planes. . The throttle needs to be managed, just like the rudder, and it is best to learn it early on. It is also advisable to use a lower pitch prop, like a 11x5 to keep airspeed down while providing a maximum of thrust.
Simulators - They are great tools to help you along your way to becoming a full fledged RC Pilot. I personally like Real Flight from Great Planes, but almost any RC sim, that uses a RC type controller will work. These will help train you by letting you repeat over and over things you have to do to stay airborne. They give you muscle memory so you dont have to think about moving your thumb to roll the plane, it just does it. Unfortunately they ingrain the bad habits too, so try to treat the sim as the real thing, as much as possible. I guarantee, you won't laugh as you crash your pride and joy, because it will not magically appear on the runway ready to go again .
A good read on how to go about the actual flying and beginners info is at www.hobby-lobby.com/howto.htm & www.easyrc.com Some familiarization on basic aircraft aerodynamics, and flight characteristics is mandatory. You must know what to expect, but that's what the simulator is for, right?
The last piece of advice I give you is to not give up. It takes real determination to do it this way, you have chosen the road less traveled. You can expect some very bad days, just put it down for a bit, you can gain nothing by forcing it down your throat, except burn yourself out.
There are few things we can do that are as rewarding as RC. Think thats just cliché? Let me ask how you feel about it after your 1st successful flight!