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Old Jan 11, 2007, 03:58 PM
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Chantilly, VA
Joined Dec 2006
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Beginner Evolution: From RTF to Scratch

This is my first post in what I hope turns into a series of successful build stories. I really can't say what started this, but once my train of thought got going, it was hard to stop!

My objective is to build an aerial platform from scratch. I have no aerospace background, but I am an engineer so I hope to use systematic and logical methodology in my various development phases. I've been building plastic models off and on (more off than on) for the past thirty years, but my woodworking skills are fairly green.

At first I thought I'd find a discussion site like this, get some ideas, and start carving up balsa. After all, some of advice from the "old school" thinking was to "get to know" your first plane by building it from scratch.

However, I also read a lot of anecdotes where folks spent months working on their planes only to wreck them seconds into the first flight. I could see myself doing that quite easily--and getting a little bit frustrated.

So I subscribed to another, more deliberate path, where I would learn how to fly with an RTF while building my first kit in parallel.

Phase 1: Learning to Fly
Phase 2: Learning to Build
Phase 3: Learning to Design


I found the following links helpful:
Almost all my search results turned up at least one good AEAJR post
Good compilation of Beginner FAQs
Got me thinking about objective criteria for selecting first plane
Good info on tools, the work area, and scratch technique
Post read early in research that inspired me combining build with aerial photography

This thread will be a work in progress, and I'll be adding more links as time goes by. Hope you all find it helpful or interesting!
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Last edited by Controlled Fall; Jan 28, 2007 at 03:52 PM. Reason: Added link
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Old Jan 11, 2007, 04:13 PM
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Chantilly, VA
Joined Dec 2006
213 Posts
Then came the inevitable question. "Which plane?" Hundreds of guys like me must come to sites like this everyday wondering the same thing. The phenomenon of blindly asking for advice without soaking in the vast archives seemed more prevalent here than some other off-topic message boards I've dabbled in over the years (e.g. triathlon, astronomy). And of course, there seemed to be more impatience here for that in a lot of replies…although for the most part, folks are polite.

So I lurked current threads, searched for older ones that suited my curiosity, and got a feel for how best to immerse myself into this project/hobby. After a couple of weeks, I realized, there were R/C options I had not even heard about:
Foam structure,
Electric power!
My perception of R/C flying had always been gas-powered, wood planes.

Electric Pros
Cleaner (I'll take your word on it since I have no gas experience either.)
Cheaper
Appears simpler to install
My perception that it will be more reliable and less complex in operation
And it should be quiet enough for me to use the local parks without incurring neighborhood wrath.

Couldn't find any Cons that affected me yet.

Foam Pros
Crash survivability
Less weight
Easy to repair

Foam Cons
Extends learning curve since I intend to build in Phase 3 with balsa (but we will see how this evolves!)

Balsa Pros
Resources will have more experience
Compatible with existing tools

Balsa Cons
See Foam Pros and reverse wording

I also liked the idea of something durable enough to survive my learning curve so I focused on the more popular models, the Magpie and the EasyStar. It seemed like a coinflip so I went to the local hobby store to see what was in stock as well as get some personal advice.
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Old Jan 11, 2007, 04:18 PM
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Chantilly, VA
Joined Dec 2006
213 Posts
First Trip to Local Hobby Store

Wow, three weeks before Christmas, and the joint is jumping. The inventory did not suit my needs—mostly large-scale aircraft and helicopters.

However, they did have a simulator so I wandered over and took a stab with my rudimentary knowledge of flying. It was configured for four channel, but I pretended I only had three channels.

I had no problem taking off and getting altitude, but then it got interesting. Turning? Landing? Depth perception? Quite challenging. My first flight ended spectacularly. I turned too tightly, stalled, and then nose-dived right into the ground.

"Hmmm," I thought, "that must be lawndarting."

That broke the tie. The rear prop of the EasyStar seemed safe enough to be my first plane. I didn't want to put the hobby shop's kids through college buying props every weekend.
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Old Jan 11, 2007, 09:32 PM
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Joined Aug 2003
2,638 Posts
Sounds like you picked the easystar for your first plane. That isnt how I did it, but that is a very good plane and should almost gaurantee successful learning.

I actually learned on a plane based on plans. I made a fiberglass mold for the fuse and built the wing by printing an airfoil from Xfoil. So, you could say the plans were only for a rough idea of layout of things. It flew fine, but I crashed it by flying in confined space of tree lined backyard and some radio issues. I learned from it. Second plane was another frankenstein creation which started as Free flight. I primarily used the wing from that design and designed my own tail and fuselage. I really learned how to fly with that. That wing eventually broke beyond repair. Then one day soon after I was in the hobby shop and saw an aerobird challenger wing on sale. The wing was bigger span than my original, but almost the same chord. I put it on and alot of things improved. My wingloading went down and stability improved.

Good Luck with whatever you choose and trust your instincts.
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Old Jan 11, 2007, 09:53 PM
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The BA
Joined Oct 2006
309 Posts
Yep, the answer is "easy": Go with the Easy Star, you will be very happy with it.
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Old Jan 17, 2007, 10:51 PM
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Chantilly, VA
Joined Dec 2006
213 Posts
Yep, I went EZ*, and provided a link to my early experiences up top at post #1. I've already had make one pot of Elapor Soup and remove the plane from a tree. But I'm getting the hang of it and having a blast. I've got another battery en route to double my flying time.

In the meantime, I've been looking at what I want to build. I wanted to try a balsa kit and after snooping around the available pdfs, I ordered a Mountain Models Dandy. It was about the right size and (hopefully) the desired level of complexity I would need for the next step. I'll be firing up a build thread in Parkflyers once I get going. Was hoping to start tonight after returning from craft shop with supplies, but I didn't slip down to the "bunker" early enough. Tired modeling, I have learned, usually doesn't go well.
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