Thursday, May 10th, 2012 10:30 am GMT -6 Thursday, May 10th, 2012 10:30 am GMT -6Thursday, May 10th, 2012 10:30 am GMT -6
Cute baby dressed as a pilot

Why are you into RC airplanes? Is it to fly, build, or design?





Let me get the obvious comment out of the way first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking radio controlled model airplanes and being into it just because you like to fly them.

Old timers (the folks, not the airplanes…) are always reminiscing about the old days of model airplane flying. The days when you could not fly if you were not also a builder. Guess what? Those days are long gone. Get over it.

I say the more the merrier. Everybody that is into the hobby brings something different to it. The more people that are into model airplanes, the more interesting the hobby becomes.

Today anybody with $100 to spare can walk into a toy store (what used to be called hobby stores) and walk out with a reasonably well flying RC model airplane. Learning how to fly such an airplane is another matter entirely. I’m always running into these folks at local parks. At the point I meet them is when they are just realizing just how far in over their heads they are.

It is not always a hopeless situation. If they were smart and had the budget for it, they also bought an RC flight simulator with their ready-to-fly airplane. Those folks have a decent shot at flying their airplane without any help. I try and gently persuade the other ones to get some help before they make an expensive mistake and we lose them from the hobby.

Most folks that are into RC are in it primarily for the flying, whether they are willing to admit it or not.


A lot less common than the pilots are the builders. These are the club members that only go to the meetings once in a while. But when they do, it is always to showcase their latest masterpiece. If it is not a scale project, it may not look like much to the untrained eye. Rest assured, the model has been meticulously built. The devil is in the details, and the builders take special pride in getting those right.

Problem is, your flying skills are bound to be a bit rusty after spending a few months in the workshop. They go and try to fly their masterpiece when their flying skills are simply not up to the task. These are the saddest crashes to witness, and I have seen more than a couple of them over the years. Countless hours of work gone within a few minutes of the start of its maiden flight.

To a builder, the joy is in the execution. They are always refining their construction methods. Easy and inexpensive are pretty far down on their list of priorities. High quality, consistent results are what it is all about to them.

Builders love to talk about building tools. They are also always sharing building tips and tricks. These are the folks that love to build from plans. There is great joy in their craft.


Yeah, I see myself as a designer. To me, building and flying are secondary. I enjoy both, but they are definitely not what drive me.

I am driven by the challenge of the unknown. The dream is always to create the ultimate airplane. But we are willing to settle for a more realistic goal. We are happy if our creation is interesting and better than the others that came before in at least some ways. Of course, we get to define what “interesting” and “better” mean!

Our lives are defined by a never ending series of “what if” questions. The better designers leave no stone unturned in their quest to push the boundaries of the unknown.

If you want to impress me, tell me about your latest wacky experiment. I’ll be impressed by the fact that you tried it, not whether it was a success or not. Telling me how much money you spent on your new airplane will only get yawns.

Do you agree with my categories? Am I missing any?

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