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Dec 16, 2002, 03:40 PM
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Jack Gross's Avatar
Thread OP

Teach yourself to fly

Resulting from a long thread discussing Bob Kopski’s January column in Model Aviation, I am interested in the growing trend of teaching yourself to fly using electric power and a convenient park or school field. I would like to do some research on this subject for a proposed article. If you have taken, or are taking, an alternative route – bypassing the traditional method of a club instructor and a gas powered, 40-size trainer – in learning to fly radio control airplanes, please tell me about it: why, what plane/equipment, results and anything else you think might be helpful. You can reply to this thread or e-mail me directly If you have chosen the more traditional method, using a wet powered plane, and feel that’s a better way to learn to fly, please toss your 2 cents worth into the discussion.
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Dec 16, 2002, 04:19 PM
Registered User
Duf's Avatar
I have taught myself. I started with a 2 channel Firebird XL to get the hang of basic control. I now I have a Sky Scooter Pro II which is a 3 channel. This forum has been a big help as far as pointers and what to do or don't do. I also have a friend (Cactus) that is an avid RCer who pointed me in the right direction. Don't be afraid to crash it's how you learn.
Dec 16, 2002, 04:32 PM
Registered User

Taught myself to fly

I started with the Lite Stik. Then went to the Mini Max. The the GWS Tiger Moth. Then the Ezette. Then to a Sig Rascal-E. Then to a Crazy Max. Then a conversion of the Sig LT-25. Finally, now flying a converted Sig Rascal-40. No instruction along the way. Watched a few videos. Crashed many times. But finally flying o.k. All electric -- step by step -- no instructor.
Dec 16, 2002, 04:34 PM
Registered User
tekochip's Avatar
I taught myself to fly with a Sky Scooter and a tube of glue.

The first few flights netted the expected gravitational results and damage to the plane. I was white-knuckled every time I made the trip to the field, and I could feel my pulse race every time I rounded that last turn to park my car. I only flew when the field was empty, so I could make my "walk of shame" alone.

I remember picking up the pieces after one sortie, and my son said, "Dad, why are you smiling, you wrecked your plane again"?

"Yea, but this time I made a full lap"

I don't remember how long it took to handle the field, and I used a BIG field too, but soon I was battling winds and landing in much smaller fields. One time a retired guy came to talk to me. He used to belong to a club, and he just kept shaking his head, "you taught yourself to fly, you taught yourself to fly". I think it bothered him that I had received my wings without humiliating myself in the time-honored tradition he was forced to endure.

Anyway, this hobby has been a very humbling experience, and it is one with a STEEP learning curve. Yea, the last time I CA'd my fingers together in front of my wife I cursed, "It's a [darn] good thing I do this to relax!!!
Dec 16, 2002, 04:36 PM
Registered User
I don't want to sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet but I'm completely self taught and have never had any help (apart from this forum)

Started with a R/C gas helicopter which I built, trimmed and flew although I didn't get further than the hover. I lost interest and sold out after a couple of crashes.

Progressed to clean, quiet and and simple gliding in the form of a balsa Gentle Lady which disintegrated during a bungled test flight as I was trimming the model. Forgot about R/C for several years.

This summer I built a scratch-built Depron foam slope soarer. On this model I learned more than I ever had previously. At last a $10 plane that I could slam into the ground without any damage whatsoever! Highly recommened However I eventually got fed up of trekking to the slope only to find that the lift conditions were no good.

I found the solution in this forum!!!

I Recently bought and assembled a GWS Slow Stick. Now I can fly right outside my front door whenever I feel like it. To date I have had 6 successful flights and am able to impress myself and my girlfriend with my flying prowess

All this was achieved solo although my latest exploits wouldn't have happened without the help of this forum

Don't believe anybody who tells you it's not possible to learn R/C flying without help from a traditional instructor or club All you need is internet access and R/C Groups membership
Last edited by konaboy; Dec 16, 2002 at 04:46 PM.
Dec 16, 2002, 04:39 PM
U.City Flyer
bmizes's Avatar

I didn't have the time to join a club, drive 45 minutes to their field, spend all afternoon, and drive back another 45 minutes. Given the responsibilities of work, home, family, and kids, that just doesn't work very well. After reading many posts in the Parkflyers forum, and asking lots of questions, I bought a GWS Slowstick. I was able to fly it the very first time, and any questions or problems I had were quickly resolved by many helpful forum members. So, while I didn't have the traditional club, buddy box learning experience, the combination of an easy to fly plane like the Slowstick and the unlimited expertise of forum members is every bit as good. Since then, I have bought a Minispeedwing and built 3 fanfold foam planes. While I've done all of the actual work myself, I couldn't have done any of it without the support and help of various forum members. I look at these forums as the modern day equivalent of, or improvement upon, the club experience.
Dec 16, 2002, 04:45 PM
Pedal Power!
lakedude's Avatar
I learned on a Firebird2 which was my second plane. My first was a Sky Wizard. A combination of lack of skill with an on off only throttle made the SW die in a hurry. RealFlight and the Firebird2 made learning pretty easy. I avoided the only club I knew about at the time due to cost, distance and the predomance of gassers. I also avoided clubs because of all the rules I had heard about and didn't think I would have the skill to comply. Turns out there was another much closer club and the rules are just common sense. They don't expect a beginner to fly perfect. I am now a proud member of the Ozark Fliers and the AMA.

I strongly advise new pilots to get help from somewhere. If nothing else have someone look your craft over and let a skilled pilot fly it first to get the bugs out. Flying is hard enough without having to deal with an out of trim plane. You don't need to belong to a club to go to one and get help. I was stupid and had to learn the hard way how much wind is too much (crash), how small an area is too small (crash), what is too crowded with trees and poles (crash), what a spiral dive is (crash), not to fly at night (hey where did my plane go?), how much play a rudder hinge can have before it don't work right (hey how come my bird only goes left?).
Dec 16, 2002, 04:58 PM
Clinger, MAGA
rclark's Avatar
My story starts back in July 2001. I always wanted to get into flying; but felt it was always to expensive and time consuming to learn -- so never persued it. Then my oldest boy 12 at the time got interested. Didn't want to go glow as we were looking for something to fly at local parks/ball fields. So we found a plane called a Zoom Pilot that looked (recommended by LHS) like it would work. NOT. Had two batteries for about 1 minute flights each IF you got it trimmed right. We were bummed; but I ran on to this other plane called the Firebird XL and decided one last time to try to fly. Went to the club field when no one was there and put up the XL. WOW. Flew like a dream. Spent 2 months flying it a local ball field; adding mods to it, fixing, learning, etc. Also then got an E-GULL for the kids to fly which flew well. Okay we were hooked!

What to get next.... Found the Sky Scooter Pro. Looked like the plane for me because it was RTF with TX I could reuse and it had ailerons. My goal was acrobatic flying.... Tried to fly it stock and my first 2 flights were 5 seconds, 10 seconds. Then moded the plane for 3:1 gearbox and 9x6 and next flight was ---- 20 seconds (broke prop and spun off the nose -- easily fixed. Started calling plane Pig Nose . But now I knew I could fly this thing; because the problem this time was not enough up elevator trim (the plane wanted to dive badly all around the field). Sure enough next time out with more up trim this plane FLEW and landed without breaking anything. Man I was on top of it -- yeeee haaaa. Spent all last winter flying that scooter in any weather -- even -15F . I didn't care -- I was flying. My son got is scooter about 2-3 months after me. I trimmed it for him and he flew it great right off the bat (kids I guess ). Course we had a simulator (CM Backyard Edition my this time to practice on). We did about every mod you could to the scooter except put bigger motors on it (flattened wings, RS batteries, different gearings, props, etc.) I logged about 200 flights on that Scooter. BTW lots of suggestions from here on E-ZONE -- great resource!!!!!!

Joined the local R/C club (Butte Plane Nutz) in January 2002 and AMA, so we could fly full time there. We were the 'only' electrics in the club. Oh, others had dabbled; but we were the first to get anything to fly decent. Again no training from the club as they saw how we flew. Just the usual -- heres how to fly the pattern and call landings and take offs, how to use the freq board, etc.

About March 2002 I got a GWS Zero and Laser 6 Radio; because I wanted to ROG (4 channels) and learn more acrobatics. Turned out the ROG was great (learning to use the rudder); the plane flew fine; but the acrobatics of this plane was not what I was looking for. Search continued.

My son got a Wedgie about Feburary which flew very well using his SS Pro Tx. Very touchy; but easily managed without dual rates or expo (still don't use expo on anything I fly -- yet).

Found the Switchback 3D in May. Liked what I saw and built that. Wow this was THE plane I was looking for. Inside and outside loops no problem. Stall turns, snaps, it did ALL the basic manuevers and more. Then 'Retracts'!! Wow. The IC folk all had to come over and look... Cool. Then went brushless with the miniAC motor due to wearing out a 370 motor just about every week. Now even more acrobatics was possible like the humpty bump that required good vertical. Have been flying this plane all summer, fall, and now winter. Have over 400 flights so far on it. Even got to fly it at a general funfly last summer -- fun! I now have a Flashback with a Hacker B20L/15 4:1 ready to maiden, A simple P-51 being built and a miniFlash waiting to be built. My son is now finishing a CAP232 S300 to fly.

It has been a super journey and all self taught (ezone though has been a GOOD helper so can't take all the credit -- just ask a question and you get answers -- its great! Who knows where we'd be if we had to rely on just club member help.... ) .

Now training my second boy (have 3 boys) 11 on a T52 using my SS Pro radio; which is going really well. He hasn't needed a buddy box either. Did the transfer of Tx back and forth. Now I can just walk away after launch and just watch. He now has 15 flights logged (more than a couple of .40 trainees got all summer waiting for instructors I might add).

Oh, started flying at a local park again; due to the club field being snow covered. So I have a secondary field . Club field is prefered choice.

Plan on staying with electrics due mainly to there convenience and ease of use. I don't (at this time) see a 'need' to go wet. From what I can see I can accomplish all my goals with electric flight and motors and batteries are only going to get better. My goal is learning acrobatics -- not for competition -- just for my own enjoyment. Want to fly more scale airplanes later (WWI, WWII, etc.) which are well within electric's capabilities. Flying jets may force me to go wet; but that is aways off and who knows what technology with bring by then.

After rereading this, I noticed how much stick time we got in one year.... LOTS. I've got over 800 flights so far from when I first started (not counting the many XL flights and some scooter flights that I never logged) .....

Update June 11, 2003

Still flying EP and see no need to go IC. Flashback, miniFlash, Simple P-51 are all built and flying on BL motors now. Have HOB 52" electric acro-cub waiting to be built. HOB P-51 43" on order for conversion to EP (will be AXI powered). Want to fly more 'scale' stuff now rather than straight Acro planes . Like the balsa building and balsa planes. My GWS Zero was probably the last 'foamy' for me (still flies BTW) ...... The SB3D has been mothballed for a while as my oldest son is using the miniAC motor setup in his SB3D now.... My second son is about to start building his own SB3D.....

Update Sept 26, 2003

The AXI2808/20 powered HOB acro cub has been flying for a few months now. The P-51 is waiting for a winter build. Eric is now hovering his Tantrum after flying the SB3D for most of the summer also flying the Ripmax Alienator and miniStarJet. Alex is flying his SB-Sport and is about ready for the 3D wing. I am about to start building the new Flashback 2. Also flying the Funky Chicken for 'fun' - lots of chicken jokes at the field .

Update Nov 8, 2003

Flashback 2 is now flying and flying well. StevensAero Groove is on the board. P-51 will come later...

Update December 4, 2003

The SB3D is back flying now (has been for awhile). Bought another miniAC/16 for it. Still flys great. Well over 500 flights on it. Oldest boy is flying the Tantrum and is getting very good with it doing hovering and such...... Have a 2808/24 on bench for the Groove. Start building it maybe this weekend.... A StevensAero .40 CAP has been requested (going bigger -- EP ) .

Update March 22, 2004

Flew the 52" AcroCub on skis this winter. That was fun .

SA G480 Groove has been flying for the last couple of weeks now on a 2808/24 -- sweet flyer . SA CAP .40 has just been ordered finally.....

Update August 25, 2004

SA G480 broke a wing last month in a hard turn. So no longer with us . The SA CAP 40 however is flying very well now.

Updated July 12, 2007

Yep no reason to go glow. Nope .... Notta.... Lost Groove #2 to a dumb thumb... Again flying the SA CAP a lot . Still have several planes to fly.


BTW, I doubt I'll ever fly glow -- EP appears to do it all (slow fly/ scale/ acrobatics/ Pattern/ 3D/ speed/ big planes/ small planes/ unique planes) -- quietly and no mess -- gotta love it .

Keep them flying! And fly safely (follow the AMA safety guidelines) so we all can continue to enjoy this wonderful sport/hobby!
Last edited by rclark; Jul 12, 2007 at 08:21 PM.
Dec 16, 2002, 05:09 PM
Great Topic,

I originally tried to learn to fly years back when I was 18~19. I built the usual .40 size trainer (6 wks of work) and spent 2 sundays in the pit area of the local flying club waiting for the 1 or 2 short "Instructor Assisted" flights per trip (I had an un-broken in K&B motor that would net 2~3 minutes of in-air power before going deadstick). I got to the flying field the 3rd sunday way before anyone else and impatience took over. Taking off and settling into a big right hand circuit was no problem but about 5 minutes into the flight (I ran 3 tanks of fuel through the engine in the garage before the 3rd sunday, K&B's must like a long break-in period) the engine quit. Brought it in fairly well but stalled it a few feet over the runway. The plane fell on one wingtip, breaking a few rib's, nothing that could'nt be fixed but my enthusiasm for it dropped 95%, mostly out of frustration over the nitro motor but also the "Crash Fear".

My college/work schedule soon took over and the plane gathered dust (I eventually sold it for books).

Fast forward 14~15 years. Decided I wanted to fly again. After going to the local Hobby Shop and being told I shoud get a .40 SIZE TRAINER and get with an "INSTRUCTOR" I did alot of websurfing and found EZONE. Then found FMS (Free flight simulator). Started working with the flight simulator and purchased a BMJR UGLY-30 (After reading a review here on EZONE).

After about 3 weeks (While completing the model) of practice with FMS to get the hang of reverse controls I went out to the local schoolyard. Double checked everything and gave the plane a toss and much to my surprise it was flying.

The plane's stability went a long way towards keeping me out of trouble. After 2 battery packs I took the plane home in new condition (in the couple of years since then I have managed to crash several other quicker planes, of course all due to "Radio Glitches", really).

Simple and Slow are the two key issues to look for in a trainer if you are going it alone. Also, getting that reverse control thing down is a must (Flight simulator is invaluable)

Just my $.02 in opinions. Sorry so long!

Dec 16, 2002, 05:24 PM
Clinger, MAGA
rclark's Avatar
Maybe we should post these experiences in the training section where another thread was also started? Nice to keep in one place . just a thought!
Dec 16, 2002, 05:30 PM
Registered User
Hankstone's Avatar
I learned to fly by myself with a Slowstick and Realflight G2. If you add some wind to RF it will really help with perspective, as well as learning to use a little "touch" when flying. The Slowstick has got to be THE easiest, cheapest, most simple plane to fly out there...

Builds in a couple hours tops and flys SO slow you won't believe it... The one change I made (from tips here) to use an 8 cell AAA pack, oh and a 12x6 prop. Plenty good climb.....

I learned well enough to jump to a RareBear for about 6 flights (it's real fragile), then I moved to a Zero, which is supposed to be difficult to fly, but I've flown it probably 15 times now with very little damage (did have one crash that needed glue).

So to those who say you need an instructor I say, it ain't necessarily so.... Not that it wouldn't help!

Dec 16, 2002, 05:42 PM
Registered User
Jack Gross's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks Guys,
I am getting the kind of information I need – please keep posting. Also, any comments or experiences concerning WHY you went (or, are going) the “self-taught” route? And, what is your final objective in the hobby? To eventually fly wet power? Stay with EP - only bigger and faster and more aerobatic? Just having fun flying in the park?
Dec 16, 2002, 05:52 PM
Registered User
I can't say that I have learned without an instructor but instructor led flights would be limited to 5 or 6 over 2 years. I had problems being at the field at the same time as instructors.

I purchased a Duskstik which I have flown by myself since (about year). The Duskstik has allowed me what I consider the most important thing in learning to fly, stick time. I have put in around 100 flights averaging 10 minutes over the past year on the Duskstik alone.

Dave brown flight simulator was a great help.

Another thing I found extremely helpful was the instruction manual that 1st rc school sells. It explains with pictures and text how airplanes fly, the skills that are needed for successful flying.

mike i.
Dec 16, 2002, 06:13 PM
Sloping off....
leccyflyer's Avatar

I've merged the threee separate threads with the same title which you had started in the Open Discussion, Training and Parkflyers forums- as RCClark says it is best to keep the discussion of each topic in a single thread and as this forum is the appropriate one, with the most active replies I've left the merged thread here.

Dec 16, 2002, 06:15 PM
Registered Snoozer
Neil Morse's Avatar
In January of 1999, I saw an ad in the Hammaker-Schlemmer (sp?) catalog for a gas-powered free flight plane with a camera attached that would supposedly enable you to take aerial photos. It cost $150.00. Fortunately, I thought about it for a few minutes and decided that this thing would probably not work! (Knowing what I know now, I'm amazed that they tried to market this plane. It was powered by a Cox .049, and supposedly you could launch it, take photos with a Kodak disposable that was attached to it, and then wait while it "circled gently back to earth." Whatever!) In any event, this was what got me started thinking about RC.

I bought a few RC magazines, and considered my options. The idea of electric flight really appealed to me -- no mess, no fuss, and it didn't seem like there were any restrictions on where I could fly. I saw Hobby Lobby's ads, and bought the "turn key" Wingo package. I had never seen an RC plane fly, gas or electric, had no idea about "instructors," .40 size trainers, club fields or anything else. I got the Wingo and put it together. I was a bit apprehensive, so fortunately I located a "friend of a friend" who was into RC gliders who was nice enough to do a maiden flight for me at a high school football field near my house. I was blown away by the way the plane flew. This person was far from an "instructor." He gave me a few tips, assured me that the plane was properly trimmed, and then left me on my own.

I taught myself to fly over the next few months. I crashed a lot at first, and also got the plane stuck in a few trees, but within about four months I was able to realize my dream of aerial photography. A few months after that, I ran into a few people who were into RC and were willing to really teach me how to fly correctly. Since then, I've just kept flying and moving up to more challenging planes. I've gotten involved in a local electric club, and have met many friendly and helpful folks along the way. I also rely on the E Zone a great deal for information. I'm very happy with electrics and have no plans to fly gas planes.


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