August 7, 2013

Getting Started In Radio Control

So I guess it was about a year and a half ago that I was at my shop bench, trying to complete a plastic model kit I had been working on for months, when it hit me. Why do I spend so much time and energy building planes I can only look at? Why not learn to actually fly planes? Just imagine...I could put a plane in my car and spend the hours flying something instead of looking at it and pretending!

Within days I was at the local hobby store, gawking at the planes hanging from the ceiling, making note of prices, pestering the clerks for information on things like radios, batteries versus gas engines, foam versus balsa, etc., etc., etc. My head was swimming! But this was the beginning of my journey....there was no going back. I was going to be a pilot of radio control planes. I didn't know how yet, or what kind, or where, but it was going to happen.

I think there are a lot of guys like me. They just have this "thing" about airplanes. you can't explain it (especially to your wife), but there's just this magic about planes that soar and swoop and roll and yes, land and take off! I knew a guy who was a Navy pilot , just getting out of the service. He had been flying the S-3 Viking, and was hoping to get on with the airlines. I mean this guy had done night carrier landings and flown the A-4 Skyhawk and on and on, and yet when he talked about planes his eyes lit up like a kid and he was as excited as anyone I had ever seen! He built models, and flew little Cessna 150's in his spare time...the guy couldn't get enough, and he was a Navy pilot! I realized then that the addiction was real!

All of the guys I have come to know through RC are like that too. They love planes. They love flying. Some like building, others just want something out of the box, but there's this attraction to the whole mystique of flight. But I digress....

I had a friend who I knew was into RC planes, and I decided to start with him. I met him at his office, and he turned on his computer, and opened a flight simulator program. Then he handed me a radio that was hooked to the computer, set up a plane on the airstrip and told me to go for it! It was hard. Much harder than I expected! I crashed about every minute, but I was undaunted. He gave me some basic pointers, but this was my first important piece of advice...START ON A SIMULATOR! He explained that the frustration of trying to keep the orientation of the plane as it was flying towards you, and the confusing aspects of getting used to which stick controlled the ailerons versus the throttle, would take time to master, and it would be much more cost effective to learn those things (and make those mistakes) without the expense of crashing every time.

I resisted this new revelation as I wanted to jump right in and get going, and I certainly was not counting on the additional expense of a simulator. But by "throwing me into the pool" so to speak, he had made his point, and I realized the wisdom of learning without risk until I had achieved a basic level of expertise.

I'm sure that for everything I share there will be someone out there to contradict me, but this is my experience, so I'll just get that out of the way right now! If you ask 10 devotees of RC what they think, you're sure to get 10 different opinions, and that's part of the fun of the hobby too. But this is my story, and hopefully my experiences will help you too.

Next time I'll talk about simulators...what kind I got, what is good, and what can be dangerous about them. In the meantime keep dreaming of the day you will be a pilot and not just a pretender!

No comments: