Saturday, February 4th, 2012 10:25 am GMT -6 Saturday, February 4th, 2012 10:25 am GMT -6Saturday, February 4th, 2012 10:25 am GMT -6

Looking for a new radio-controlled model airplane challenge? Wanting something different to try in the new year?




1. Indoor

Indoor flying is hard to beat for cost and convenience. They are surprisingly sturdy, too. A good indoor trainer is always my first recommendation when asked about the best way to get into the hobby. The costs have dropped dramatically from where they were 10 or even 5 years ago.

2. Rotary Wing

Give helicopters a try. You know, those funny looking things that make all the noise. They require a different set of skills than airplanes. The good ones get expensive, but a small trainer is no more expensive than an airplane trainer.

If you want to grab some attention at the field, scratch-build yourself a tricopter or quadcopter. In fact, this is something I have been messing around with myself. I did not like the tricopter designs I could find, so I went ahead and created my own simpler design. Any interest in a series of construction articles? Let me know in the comments.

3. Aerial Photography

A tricopter or quadcopter makes an excellent aerial photography platform. I once bought myself an inexpensive $50 micro camcorder and mounted it on a motorglider I had designed. The video quality was terrible, but I had a great time shooting footage of me and the surroundings. It was a hoot!

4. Gliders

I’m a licensed full-size glider pilot. Regardless of whether it’s a model or a full-size sailplane, thermal soaring takes a lifetime to master. Good equipment helps, but the rankings at a competition are pretty much determined by the skill level of the pilots that competed.

An entirely different experience from thermal soaring is slope soaring. This is just about the pure fun of flying. The glider is always easy to see and you can fly for as long as you want. What’s not to like?

5. Scale

This is hugely popular, and I don’t blame them. A dream of mine is to design a two pound electric Mustang park flyer. There’s no shortage of interesting scale subjects to tackle.

6. Club Officer

If your local model airplane club is anything like the ones around here, there’s always more that needs to get done than people to do it. Being a leader is a skill like any other that gets better with practice. After a couple of years of experience being a club officer, consider becoming a club president. The responsibilities are greater, but so are the rewards. I have held just about every board position in clubs, and have never regretted the time investment.

7. Club Meeting Presentation

I don’t know who you are, but I can pretty much guarantee you two things. First, that you have something of value to share with your fellow club members. And second, that you don’t like the idea of standing in front of them and telling them!

For me, the best way to master a subject is to volunteer to give a presentation about it. It works every time. I hate the thought of looking silly in front of a lot of people, so I learn everything I can on the subject beforehand. I never need to use prepared slides–by the time the meeting comes around, I know what I want to say by heart.

8. Volunteer at a Contest

The clubs around here are defined by the quality of the contests that they put together. That is also how they make most of their money. I make it a point of volunteering at a major contest at least once a year. I get to spend a lot of time watching other pilots and learn a lot every time.

For the ultimate thrill, become a contest director. I did that myself last summer. I will be CDing my first contest this summer. I expect it to be a lot of hard work and a lot of fun, too.

9. Seaplanes

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this one because you don’t think anybody near you is doing it. Ask around. Check the AMA event calendar. All you need is a lake or pond and the willingness to get wet! I have even seen temporary indoor shallow pools for indoor seaplanes. You probably already own a model airplane that would work great with floats.

10. Scratch-building and Design

Okay, so I’m a little biased on this one. I love airplane design! You should learn how to build from plans first. Then experiment by building some custom-designed parts. Then go whole hog and design, build and fly your very own creation! It may not be the best flying airplane around, but you won’t care. Even before the maiden flight, your head will be filled with ideas on how to make it better… welcome to the madness!

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