A friendly warning: This might get addictive. It might eat up a lot of your spare time and a lot of your spare cash. Don't say you weren't warned!
Join a club and get instruction
The best way to learn to fly RC is to join a club. Whether they have an organized flight school or not, there will be instructors or more experienced pilots who can help you learn. This is the best approach, for the following reasons:
- Clubs have desgnated spaces and safety rules
- You'll be covered by MAAC (or AMA) insurance in case of personal injury or property damage
- You'll be learning to fly the correct way from experienced instructors
- Starting with the basics and progressing to more advanced aspects of flight is conducive to keeping your airplane in one piece
- You'll be in the company of people who share an interest in the hobby and helping others get into it
- You'll have a choice of power sources including electric, glow, gas and (eventually, and depending on the club) turboprop or turbine
Find a club
Finding a local club is as easy as an online visit to MAAC (or AMA).
Club listings will have contact information.
Contact the club
Talk to the Chief Flight Instruction (CFI). If the club doesn't have a CFI, contact the president or a member of the executive. Ask a lot of questions, such as:
- Can I attend a club meeting?
- What is the cost of membership?
- When is flight instruction available?
- What kind of plane should I buy?
- What kind of radio equipment should I look for?
- What sort of support equipment will I need?
Your local hobby shop
Your local hobby shop (LHS): patronize it. Your business will help them stay in business, and that's something you want. A local supply of parts, components, materials, hardware and advice is an invaluable resource. Yes, their prices might be slightly higher than the deals you can find online. It's worth the extra pennies. I am a satisfied patron of two local hobby shops who work very hard for my business.
Learning on your own?
You might be wondering if you can teach yourself to fly an RC airplane. The answer is yes - many have and no doubt many will continue to do so. In my opinion, however, it's not the best approach, for the following reasons:
- Parks and public spaces often contain other people... taking off and landing among them is an invitation to injury
- You'll be on the hook, legally and financially speaking, for any personal injury and property damage that may occur
- Flying in parks or public spaces may be prohibited by bylaws in your area
- Jumping straight into takeoffs and landings is a good way to break an airplane
- You may be learning bad habits and reinforcing them with practice
- You'll be limited to electric-powered flight
- You'll miss out on the camaraderie of the hobby
For folks thinking of starting in RC flight, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, "How much"? The typical answer, "Not much", isn't especially helpful, so here are some approximate numbers:
|Trainer airplane, ready to fly||$250 to $500|
|Field equipment and fuel||$50 to $200|
|Club membership||$50 to $150|
|MAAC (or AMA) membership||$0 to $90|
|Total||$350 to $940|