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Learning to Fly - Getting Started

If your new to radio control model helicopters, here is a guide to items you will need to start learning to fly.

So you want to fly model helicopters . . . good move!!!

First thigs first, it's going to cost a little money to fly radio control model helicopters, but far less than the fun you'll get out of it. Allow about £600 to get started, then you need at least another £150 to £300 to cover your first year. With the only negative out of the way - assuming your other half doesn't mind the time aspect - it's now time for the positive sides to learning to fly a radio control model helicopter;

It's a great hobby, with lots of great people. Model Heli's are the most addictive fun you can have, there is always something new to learn and another challenge to master. There are many parts to the hooby; radio setup, radio programming, model building, model setup, engine setup, flight trimming and last but not least the flying. Few people become masters of all these areas, but the hobby accomadates them, because which ever areas you find natural ability in, you can easily focus on that part without detriment to the others sides.

Before diciding on your first model, you should take a broad spread of opinions, not just the first advice your given. Go and visit some clubs, talk to the people learning, see what they are using, ask them what they think about it. Then talk to the club expert ask his advice, because chances are when you buy your first model these will be the ones who actually help you set it up and teach you to fly.

To get started you need the following items; 5 channel Helicopter Radio, 5 Servos, Receiver and flight pack, Gyro, Engine, Starter Motor, Starter battery, Glo-Plug heater, Fuel and Pump, and lastly the helicopter kit.

Which Model
In my experience the Raptor, Nexus, Caliber 30 and Shuttle/Sceadu are the best helicopters to buy. Due to the mixture of low cost, high quality and great flight performance. You can cut corners on the engine but personally speaking I would always try to go for an OS.

Radio gear is down to personnel preference with Sanwa, Futaba and JR making excellent sets for beginners with enough features to get you into 3d and beyond. I would suggest a radio with 5 point throttle and pitch curves. I would also not learn with a heading hold gyro (or at least not set to heading hold mode). And unless you have strong reasons not to, use mode II, whereby the throttle and tail are on the left transmitter stick and the cyclics (elevator and airleon) are on the right - I wasted two years trying it the other way, having intially dabbled with mode II but then buying my first proper heli from a shop that used mode I. Once I'd re-wired the radio I was hovering in 2 hours.

Once you have the helicopter, radio and engine you will need starter equipment; fuel, starter motor, power panel or glow plug battery, 12v starter battery, fuel pump. My personal preference is for simplicity here. I hate all the extra little bells and whistles, and prefer simple bits, like non-electric fuel pumps.

Als Hobbies has a great deal for a raptor 30 with Sanwa radio - check it out.

Building your Model
It's a hard one to teach in an article, so the two best tips are; 1) follow the manual very carefully, reading through each section before building, 2) get an experienced helicopter modeller to check your work over before you try to start it.

Of a more general nature you should make sure everything is smooth and free to operate correctly, but not lose. No controls should be tight, including head linkages and moving arms. All wires should be neatly held out of harms way, you wouldn't want a servo lead connecting with the spinning main gear. Make certain the fuel tank and line is assembled correctly. Follow any instructions for finishing blades very carefully - thankfully on the kits suggested above this is done for you. Ideally for learning to hover a pitch range of 0 to 9 is best.

Ideally the person checking your model out, will make sure of the above as well as checking the correct direction of all controls including the gyro. He/she, might also test fly your model to trim it and check the engine is running sweatly. It should be rich at this stage, to keep the engine cool and lubricated during the running in period - it may use a little more fuel now, but it will pay you back in the long run.

Our next section describes how to take you first flights and progress to nose in and circuits.


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