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Old Feb 10, 2013, 09:08 PM
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United States, CA, Livermore
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Roadmap for learning to fly RC helicopters

Here is my condensed version of a road-map for learning to fly RC helicopters. This is a process I went through myself starting about a year ago. This road-map is based on using Blade brand helicopters at first and then switching to Align. Blade is part of the Horizon Hobby conglomerate. HH is a dominant force in the RC hobby world and is oriented toward beginners. While not perfect, they have huge market penetration, great customer service, and parts are very easy to get.

1. Educate yourself. Go to rchelicopterfun.com and read everything there. It is one of the most useful resources I have seen.

2. Buy at least a Spektrum DX6i radio. If you can afford it, buy a DX8 or even a Dx18, but you can fly any size electric helicopter with a DX6i.

3. Buy the Blade mCX2 4-channel coaxial helicopter. This is really only good indoors but you can learn a lot of basic skills quickly with this model.

4. Buy or download a simulator. Simulators are helpful but less fun than a real helicopter which is why I suggested getting the mCX2 first. The leading simulators are Phoenix and Real-flight. Clearview is less expensive and there are some free ones for downloading if you search around. I have Phoenix.

5. Skip any form of Fixed Pitch (FP) helicopter. I tried the Blade 120SR and the mSRx. Neither is very useful in progressing. I found the 120SR particularly bad. Quirky would be a nice way to describe either one. They do poorly outdoors if there is any wind at all.

6. Time to move to Collective Pitch (CP) helicopters. If you are following my roadmap two things are critically important at this point. To succed with a micro CP:
1. You must have a DX6i or better with true beginner settings. You won't find these in the manual. This video helped me a lot
Mcpx as a more beginner friendly FP heli (9 min 28 sec)
!
and this sticky is loaded with info on mCPx beginner setup
http://www.helifreak.com/showthread.php?t=399727
2. You must only fly outdoors with plenty of room and over soft grass (think soccer field) and bring a smooth surface for a take off pad. I use a sheet of Styrofoam from Home Depot.


This is where real RC helicopter flying begins. Don't be scared away by the hype. If you are thinking about getting an FP, don't and get a CP instead. I learned with the mCPx V2. Now there are other choices available like the Blade Nano and the Blade mCPx BL (brushless). If you had to pick one, go with the mCPx BL. Research beginner settings and do not even consider flying it indoors. Fly it only outdoors over nice soft grass and pick times when there is little or no wind. Use a smooth surface like a piece of foam for a take-off pad. Try to land back on the take-off pad but you can land in the grass. Crashing and repairs now become an important part of the hobby. If you stay outdoors and over grass, crash damage will be minimal. Stuff will break, but the mCPx models are simple and easy to fix.

Still want to move on?
7. Time for a 450. You can get 450's that are pre-built and also as kits. I suggest getting at pre-built one first. Learning to build and setup a 450 helicopter is a lot to take on if you have never flown one. I suggest that you not even consider one of the older Flybar (FB) designs. Only consider Flybarless (FBL). The obvious choice is the Blade 450x. With this model, you can learn to fly without having to learn building and setup. It comes with the AR7200BX receiver and FBL controller combo. You can use this controller on other kits you may buy later so the 450X is a great platform for learning the setup process. This is a serious helicopter and you have to have an adequate place to fly it. Any crash will require substantial repairs and setup skills. Use one of the online flight schools to start slow.

8. Change the servos on your 450X. If you have already crashed your 450X and got it flying again, you have been through the repair and setup process. Either way, the 450X does not come with the world's best servos. Changing them makes a nice little project without having to build a complete kit. You will have to learn how to do the AR7200BX setup. Once you know this process you can confidently build a 450 or larger kit.

9. Build a 500 or 550. Every thing you read about bigger helicopters being more stable and easier to fly is true but it's an awful big jump from the mCPx or Nano. Align and others make good kits in this size range. Even Blade is now selling a 500 size. Right now I am very happy with my Trex 550. I use the AR7200BX with it. I may build a 700 in future but the 550 is a lot of helicopter.

Resources:
http://www.rchelicopterfun.com/
DX6i: http://www.horizonhobby.com/products...ode-2-SPMR6610
mCX2: http://www.horizonhobby.com/products...2-bnf-EFLH2480
Phoenix: http://www.horizonhobby.com/products...r-v4-0-RTM4000
Real Flight: http://www.realflight.com/
mCPx BL: http://www.horizonhobby.com/products...bl-bnf-BLH3980
450X: http://www.horizonhobby.com/products...-x-bnf-BLH4380
AR7200BX: http://spektrumrc.com/Products/Defau...ID=SPMAR7200BX
TREX 550: http://www.performanceplusrc.com/ser...550/Categories
Cheap charger for micros:http://www.amazon.com/Thunder-Balanc...ds=thunder+ac6
Serious chargers and cables: http://www.progressiverc.com/
or
http://epbuddy.com/
Batteries: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...nano_tech.html

parts and tools:
http://www.amainhobbies.com/
http://helidirect.com/
http://www.ampdraw.com/index.php?usecookie=true
and many others.
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Last edited by rhodesengr; Feb 20, 2013 at 04:33 PM. Reason: addition
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Old Feb 10, 2013, 10:39 PM
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United States, NV, Las Vegas
Joined Aug 2012
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Very good write up for those just coming into the hobby. +1
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 01:46 AM
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Canada, BC, Port Coquitlam
Joined Apr 2012
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Uncanny that I was going to search for beginner's tips....and viola, here was your thread. Thanks for the good read.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 09:30 AM
R/C newbie
United States, TX, Austin
Joined Mar 2008
181 Posts
Interesting that you suggest to skip the FP helis and go to the CP ones.

Right now i am learning a FP heli indoors (V911). I feel that at-least 20% of the heli flying involves not freaking out when the heli makes crazy moves. I think the FP heli is slowly giving me that confidence. It is my 3rd day with the FP heli and I am now a bit more confident about flying it and not freaking out.

I guess the bigger problem is that if i want to learn CP heli, I have fly outside in a soft grass field with little or no wind. With family and work, I am finding that a bit hard to do

But thanks for the road map. I know that my next heli is definitely gonna be a CP one.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 10:36 AM
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Joined Jan 2012
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well there are many opinions and skipping FP is a hotly debated topic. Cost is no longer a real issue because the mCPx V2 is now the same price as the 120SR.

Honestly, I have never flown the V911 so i really can't say but if you are having fun with and learning something then thats fantastic.

There is more to the shipping FP argument then I wrote up but it gets a little technical. maybe I should add an addendum.

You can set a CP to be FP. Simply set a flat pitch curve in your TX but you have to have a programmable radio to do that. Howeverthe tru advantange of CP is being able to run at constant rotor speed and vary the up/down by only changing pitch. This is known as "idle up". When you change the rotor speed the tail must also change because the torque balance changes. Once off the ground most CP pilots flip a switch so the rotor RMP stay constant. High rotor speed is also more stable. Think of a bicycle wheel. It works better when rolling fast.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:06 PM
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United States, NJ, Union
Joined Sep 2012
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Any particular reason to go for the 450x over the 300x?
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:13 PM
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Marysville, Ca., US
Joined Jan 2007
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I respectfully disagree with your suggestion to buy a pre-built 450 over assembling a kit. Building the heli from a kit gives you first hand knowledge of how everything goes together. You also will know for certain that all screws that should be threadlocked are actually threadlocked. It has long been a "rule" when buying a pre-built heli that you take it completely apart and use threadlocker on all screws going into metal anyway, so you might as well build a kit. Never assume that the person who assembled your "RTF" heli did so correctly, and with the same care you would take yourself. Besides, after your first crash you will essentially have a kit again anyway, only now with broken and bent bits you have to sort out.

(Also, there are a few of us that don't agree with John Salt's settings for CP helis. They essentially "cripple" the heli for the sake of "taming it down".)
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jersey Crewmax View Post
Any particular reason to go for the 450x over the 300x?
I have not flown the 300X but they have the same FBL controller. The logic of flying a prebuilt first is the same for both. Bigger is more stable though and easier to see in the air. I also have a Gaui X2 that is about the same size as the 300X and I use the same AR7200BX on it. I don't notice a big stability difference between my X2 and my 450 but my X2 is harder to see when I get up to flipping altitude. The smaller models have smaller everything. The screws on my X2 are tiny. Everything on the 450 is a little bigger.
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Old Feb 11, 2013, 11:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by norcalheli View Post
I respectfully disagree with your suggestion to buy a pre-built 450 over assembling a kit. Building the heli from a kit gives you first hand knowledge of how everything goes together. You also will know for certain that all screws that should be threadlocked are actually threadlocked. It has long been a "rule" when buying a pre-built heli that you take it completely apart and use threadlocker on all screws going into metal anyway, so you might as well build a kit. Never assume that the person who assembled your "RTF" heli did so correctly, and with the same care you would take yourself. Besides, after your first crash you will essentially have a kit again anyway, only now with broken and bent bits you have to sort out.

(Also, there are a few of us that don't agree with John Salt's settings for CP helis. They essentially "cripple" the heli for the sake of "taming it down".)
well you are free to disagree but you didn't address my logic. I don't disagree with anything you said. However, coming from a micro, I think it is too much to learn how to build, set up and fly all at the same time. If you build a kit and don't know how to fly, you'll have no idea what is going on when you fire it up for the first time. Most people find the 450X comes out of the ready to fly so you can learn to fly, then go back and learn setp (by changing the servos) and then build a whole kit.

John Salt is not the only one out there with beginner settings but crippling aheli for a few batteries is not such a bad idea. At the very beginning phase, anything you do and not destroy it a success. If you spool it up and shut it down, thats pretty good for a first try. If you get it a few inches off the ground on your second try that is also a huge success.

Salt's flight school is not the only one that starts very slowly. The other popular lesson plan, RADD, is very simlar
http://www.dream-models.com/eco/flying-index.html

I am trying to guide utter newbies so they don't trach a $400 model in the first 30 seconds. There is plenty of time later to un-cripple it.
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Old Feb 12, 2013, 07:22 AM
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United Kingdom, England, Bradley Stoke
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The only thing i would disagree with is the surface choice. I was one of those idiots that went and bought a 450 expecting to be able to fly it from the off, something i quickly discovered was it was much less expensive learning to hover/takeoff/land over a smooth tarmac surface.

Why? because the heli will be able to slide around and isnt so prone to tipping over. Also, when you clip a rotor on the tarmac it doesnt get pulled in like if you do in on grass which means alot less money for repairs.

Just my 2 cents though...
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Old Feb 12, 2013, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by bulldog5046 View Post
The only thing i would disagree with is the surface choice. I was one of those idiots that went and bought a 450 expecting to be able to fly it from the off, something i quickly discovered was it was much less expensive learning to hover/takeoff/land over a smooth tarmac surface.

Why? because the heli will be able to slide around and isnt so prone to tipping over. Also, when you clip a rotor on the tarmac it doesnt get pulled in like if you do in on grass which means alot less money for repairs.

Just my 2 cents though...
Well you are correct and I fully agree with you. The grass is for crash damage reduction but you need a smooth surface to take off for sure. I use a piece of foam from Home depot



With my helipad, take off's are a snap. It a challenge to try to land back on the pad but I find I can land in the grass with out problems. The blades get a little grass stained though

I'll edit my roadmap accordingly as I didn't include that tidbit. There is a lot of detail I didn't include. Settings are very important for example.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 12:51 PM
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Just wanted to add my 2 cents. I've been working on flying my MCPX for about a year, no 3D at all. But I built 3 450s. Still in the hover stage with those, waiting for spring before actually flying them. But I found the build and learning stage as much fun or enjoyable as actually flying. Something to think about. Plus learning all the hows and why they work the way they do.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 12:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by norcalheli View Post
I respectfully disagree with your suggestion to buy a pre-built 450 over assembling a kit. Building the heli from a kit gives you first hand knowledge of how everything goes together. You also will know for certain that all screws that should be threadlocked are actually threadlocked. It has long been a "rule" when buying a pre-built heli that you take it completely apart and use threadlocker on all screws going into metal anyway, so you might as well build a kit. Never assume that the person who assembled your "RTF" heli did so correctly, and with the same care you would take yourself. Besides, after your first crash you will essentially have a kit again anyway, only now with broken and bent bits you have to sort out.

(Also, there are a few of us that don't agree with John Salt's settings for CP helis. They essentially "cripple" the heli for the sake of "taming it down".)
-Well said...
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 11:47 AM
Newbie but coming on fast
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United States, KY, La Grange
Joined Jun 2012
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While this is well writen and thought out, it is only one person's opinion and there are many other ways to go. I for one certainly learned a lot from my FPs, including the 120 SR and there are certainly many other choices for starter CP helis from other brands.
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 03:48 PM
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I would also add that the Msrx is very good as beginner heli and also allows the noobie pilot to jump into CP helis once ready. Paring it to atleast a DX6i and up radio will allow you to tame it to fly almost like the mcx2 but agile enough to behave (kinda) like the Mcpx.

It actually has the best of both worlds: a FP and a flybarless set up. I have tried and flown almost all of the Blade micros coz the LHS near me has on display micros ready for trying by potential customers and every time I go there to buy parts or visit I'd try a couple. That's how I learned how the Msrx bridges the gap between FP and CP while the Mcpx bridges the gap between the CP micros to bigger helis.

Adding my 2 cents
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Last edited by Sakuji; Feb 22, 2013 at 03:49 PM. Reason: typo
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