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Plane Interests

INTERESTED IN FLYING?

If you are, then maybe we can answer a few questions you may have about Radio Control (R/C) Model Airplanes.

Is it hard to learn to fly?

No.  It's easier to learn to fly than you might think....with the right instruction of course.  We have several certified instructors available to assist you.  We also HIGHLY recommend practicing on a computerized flight simulator.  There are several available on the market, and they are the safest and quickest way to get practice.  Believe it or not, the initial cost of a simulator will more than pay for itself, by helping you to learn how to fly before you attempt to fly your model and thus avoiding crashes.

What do I need to begin flying?

Insurance

We require that you join the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).  The main reason is that you will have  annual liability insurance, in the event that you cause injury to any person(s) or cause property damage due to your R/C model aircraft.  The annual dues for AMA can be found at www.modelaircraft.org  The Kankakee Valley Park District, which controls the field where we fly, requires AMA membership for anyone flying. As a member of AMA, you also receive a subscription to Model Aviation Magazine that will provide valuable information about R/C modeling.

Airplane

We recommend a trainer model airplane with a top mounted wing.  The wing should have a flat bottom, some dihedral (V-shape), and a length of four to six feet.  The airplane should also have a nose wheel (not a tail wheel).  These features will make the model more stable (more forgiving of small errors in control) and easier to takeoff, fly, and land.  Trainers don't always look exciting or beautiful but do help learn the basics of flight control a little easier.

There are three basic types of model airplane kits: Ready to Fly (RTF), Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) and full construction. RTF packages are new to the market.  They contain a 100% prebuilt model with a complete radio system installed and ready to charge. You can fly the model as soon as the radio system is charged.  While charging, you can even practice flying on your supplied computer simulator (optional on certain manufacturer's packages only).  Incidental parts like the wheels, landing gear, fuel tank, battery, etc. are supplied and installed.  This is by far the fastest way, and often the cheapest way to get started.  These modern packages fly incredibly well.  There are a few packages that even offer a successful flight training warranty: if you crash, they will replace your model, restrictions do apply.  A RTF package can run from $300 to $600.  ARF trainer kits take about 10 to 15 hours for assembly and cost between $100 and $150.  ARF kits generally come with most of the construction and covering already done, but no radio components are included or installed.  Incidental parts like the gas tank, wheels, and linkages are generally supplied.  Full construction kits require you to construct the framework of the model and then cover it and will take around 60 to 80 hours to complete, and incidental parts are generally not supplied.  In addition, you must buy covering for the model.  One advantage to a full construction kit is that you will be better prepared to fix the aircraft after a poor landing or transportation accident (It's amazing just how easy it is to have a door close on your model as you enter or leave your home.)  No matter which type of kit you purchase, you will need assembly supplies (razor knifes, pins, and glue/epoxy).

The newest and fastest growing segment of this hobby is electric powered models.  Battery technology advancements and component miniaturization has opened the doors to successful and affordable electric flight, which was typically only dreamt about in recent past.  With quiet and clean power, these models can be flown indoors and outdoors.  Any airplane can be converted to electric power with the right motor, battery, and electronic speed control combination.  There is no exhaust oil to clean off your model, no engines to start, less vibration to cause wear to your model and electronics, and much less noise.  A lack of power is no longer an issue with the right components.

Electric powered models are typically categorized by size and/or flying speed: sub-micro, micro, indoor, slow-flyer, park-flyer, and sport.  It is important to choose the right category for your intended flying site.  The smaller and lighter the plane, the more it will be affected by wind.

Electric planes require the use of high capacity batteries and a charger dedicated to charge the chemistry of battery you are using.  Batteries can be Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride, Lithium Ion, and Lithium Polymer.  The Lithium batteries are the lightest weight and most powerful per unit of weight, and therefore offer the best flight performance and longest flight times.  Lithium batteries are gaining popularity, but must be handled and charged with extreme care and caution due to their risk of fires.  Consult an experienced modeler for advice on the proper choice of battery for your application.  Most importantly, you MUST choose the correct charger for your batteries.  The wrong charger, or even the wrong settings with the right charger will likely result in a fire.

Electric motors come in several designs as well: brushed (cheapest), brushless (most expensive).  You get what you pay for in electric motors.  The brushed motors have a short life span, and brushless motors will last a long, long time.  Brushed motors are about 20% to 60% efficient at converting battery power to propeller rotation. Brushless motors are typically 65% to 95% efficient.  Consult an experienced electric powered pilot for advice, as the choices are varied and critical to success.

Radio

You will need a FCC approved 72 MHz narrow band radio (transmitter and receiver) or a 2.4 frequency radio system.  R/C model aircraft are flown on 72 MHz frequencies.  Model cars and boats use 75 MHz frequencies. However, the newer technology uses 2.4 and eliminates frequency conflicts with other flyers. 
New radios are “narrow band” (20 kHz band width).   If buying an older radio, check for a gold sticker on the transmitter that signifies narrow band compliance.  All odd number frequencies are narrow band.  

Check this radio frequency table to match a radio's frequency and channel. Note model aircraft use only.

Channel No.

Frequency

11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60

72.01
72.03
72.05
72.07
72.09
72.11
72.13
72.15
72.17
72.19
72.21
72.23
72.25
72.27
72.29
72.31
72.33
72.35
72.37
72.39
72.41
72.43
72.45
72.47
72.49
72.51
72.53
72.55
72.57
72.59
72.61
72.63
72.65
72.67
72.69
72.71
72.73
72.75
72.77
72.79
72.81
72.83
72.85
72.87
72.89
72.91
72.93
72.95
72.97
72.99

2.4 GHz (utilizing spread spectrum CFR 47, Part 15)

For Model Aircraft and Surface Model Use

2.4 GHz-2.485 GHz

You can buy either an AM radio or an FM radio.  One clear advantage of an FM radio system is that (on most radios) a "buddy cord" can be used to allow another control box to be used.  The instructor can then pass control to the trainee or take control from the trainee by simply toggling a switch.  This reduces the probability of an accident occurring while trying to hand the transmitter back and forth between instructor and trainee.

You should get a radio with at least four channels.   With a four channel radio you can control the plane's rudder (left/right yaw), elevator (up/down), throttle (engine speed), and ailerons (wings bank left/right).  Each control that you will use will require a servo (a small motor that mimics the transmitter stick movement).  Additional channels, such as a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or even 10 channel radio will be used for more advanced functions such as flaps, spoilers, retractable landing gear, gyro gain, collective pitch for helicopters, and various programmable mixes.

A general rule of thumb for choosing your radio is to buy a radio that other club members can help you with.  If the people you will receive instruction from fly Brand X, then buy Brand X.  If they use Brand Y, then buy Brand Y.  Also, buy as much radio as you can afford.  It is very easy to outgrow a radio, and they are too expensive to buy each time you need a new feature.

The batteries of the transmitter and receiver must be properly charged before any flight.

Engine

The two-cycle engine has been by far the most common airplane engine in use for beginners.  You should choose one that is sized for the model you have purchased.  Generally, it will be between .40 and .60 cubic inches for most trainers. Four-cycle engines are becoming more affordable and user friendly, too.  They provide more torque, swing larger props, idle great, and sound pleasantly realistic.

Field Equipment

Finally, you will need glow fuel, a fuel fill  pump, a 1.5 volt battery with glow plug connector and a “chicken stick” (for turning the propeller without losing a finger).

How much will it cost to get started?

The average cost for buying all new items is between $400 and $500.  This is for essential items only.  As with any hobby, there are always lots of nice items that can be purchased.  While these items are not vital, they tend to make specific jobs easier.  A field box with an electric starter, an electric fuel pump, and any of most specialized modeling tools will add to the final bill.

How can I tell if I would like flying R/C model airplanes?

If you want to see if you will like flying R/C model airplanes, come out to the field and talk to the flyers.  Several members are happy to allow people to "fly" some of their aircraft for a little while.  Of course not all aircraft will be available for test flights.  It is best to try to arrange for trial flights. Come out and talk with the flyers so that they can bring out a more stable aircraft on your next visit.

Can I learn to fly by myself?

We strongly recommend against this.  It is possible to learn on your own, but it will probably take longer, be far more frustrating and far costlier.  Most people who try to learn on their own get frustrated and quit.  An instructor will help you properly setup your R/C model airplane, before its first flight, so that it can fly and be controlled safely.  The instructor will also teach you how to safely fly your airplane.

Is there a fee for instruction?

There is no fee for instruction.  You should be a current member of the A.M.A. (as discussed earlier) for the liability insurance.  Our club has members who will help you with all aspects of building and flying.

Who are you?

We are the Kankakee Valley Model Flyers, AMA chapter 257.  A club dedicated to the enjoyment of building and flying R/C model aircraft.  We meet on the second Tuesday of each month, at 7:30pm at the Bird Park Field House (off Wall St. just east of Court St.).  Annual dues are $50. Questions can be sent to kdlmml@comcast.net or 815-939-0374.

Where and when do you fly?

Our flying field is located off River Road just east of the Kankakee Community College entrance. The entrance to the field is from College Drive just before the parking area for Ice Valley Ice Arena. Generally members will be flying any day of the week weather permitting.  The best time of the day to find someone there is generally between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekends, and 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays.