New To Models?

New To Models?

Radio Controlled Model Aircraft: A Novices Primer

We at Langar give our time freely to teach newcomers to fly. We always use the ‘buddy-lead’ system of dual control, and in doing so have had very few accidents or damaged models as a result. We can usually give trial flights on our club trainer, but recommend that trainees build their own models for long-term tuition. No fees (apart from club fees!) are charged for tuition, those who wish to show their appreciation for the time given by the instructors usually buy some fuel for the club trainer or stock up the tea/coffee and biscuit stocks! Newcomers to the hobby frequently ask for advice on what to buy if they want to learn to fly a model aircraft. The advice given below is based on experience gained in teaching people to fly over a period of 20 plus years and whilst not guaranteeing success will help you avoid unnecessary expense or heartache at the start of what will hopefully develop into a lifelong pursuit.At this point I must point out that I have no particular affiliation to any model shop and/or manufacturer and that the opinions expressed are mine alone but have been endorsed by the committee of LangarMAC. A local model shop is Gliders at Brunel Drive, Newark

There are three major items that need to be bought as a minimum and these are (1) a suitable trainer type model aircraft on which to learn to fly (2) a compatible engine to power the model and finally (3) a set of radio control equipment. Suitable examples are outlined below.

My advice to a newcomer would be to purchase all of this equipment new if financially possible. At current prices (circa. Feb 2019) all of this can be purchased for between £250 to £300.

There is a danger in buying second-hand equipment in that it might not be suitable for learning with i.e. radio equipment unreliable, engine seen better days etc. Leave the fun of bartering to when you need to purchase your next model.

If however you decide to proceed via this route try to get the help and advice of a knowledgeable colleague before you part with your money.

Finally you will need to get help in learning to fly. NEVER be tempted to have a go on your own.

Most model flying clubs have a policy for new members to get them up in the air as quickly and safely as possible. If you want to learn to fly at Langar all we ask is that you join the club and become a member of the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) in order to avail yourself of the insurance cover they offer.

On a philosophical note: when you are learning it is not a question of if the model is going to crash and get damaged but more of when! If this offends your sensibilities then maybe you should consider cross-stitch! It can happen to the best of us, myself included, but in a perverse way is one of the attractions of the hobby.

The Model

 There are several suitable high wing trainers available that are idea for learning to fly. This type of model is perfect for the beginner as it is stable and forgiving to fly.
Do not fall in to the trap of thinking that a scale Spitfire or sleek aerobatic model will enable you to learn to fly. This type of model will come later when you have gained some flying experience.
The recommended engine size for these trainer aircraft is usually around 0.40 cubic inches (6.5cc) so this dictates the size of engine you will need to buy (see later). These aircraft are designed to fly using a minimum of 4 functions so this again dictates your minimum requirements for radio. The 4 functions are aileron control (roll), elevator (pitch), rudder (yaw) and throttle (engine speed).My suggestion is that you obtain an almost-ready-to-fly (ARTF) model. These days the standard of what is available is very good and quite reasonably priced (around £60 to £90). It is unlikely that a newcomer would be able to put a model together as well and for any less by building one from a kit. The intense building projects can come later when you have gained some experience. Another tip, avoid models with too many plastic components. A traditional built balsa an ply model will be easier to repair down the line when it gets subjected to the inevitable dings of learning to fly.
The Motor

 We will only consider 0.40/0.46 cubic inch two stroke glow motors as these ones are the most suitable for the normal trainer models described above. This is by far the most popular engine size range used by the average sports flyer and there are a number of alternatives that are suitable for our needs.
Quality costs but there are a number of alternatives that will suit all pockets. The reality of the situation is that there are no ‘duds’ out there but it is only logical to expect that the more expensive motors will, undoubtedly, be more reliable and have been subject to more stringent quality control. Hence these will be easier to set up and operate and would be expected to last longer than a cheaper alternative.

Expect to pay between £50 and £100 for your motor depending on size and manufacturer.
Personally I would go for an Irvine 40-46 or an OS 46 FX but try to avoid the blue coloured OS LA series as these, although very reliable, are a little under power for trainer models. When you are learning to fly you want a reliable motor. A motor that is giving you trouble will curtail your flying time and this will unduly prolong your learning curve at best and may even put you off this great hobby all together!
In addition to the motor you will need propellers, buy at least two of a size that are suitable for your particular engine (10×6 is suitable for a 40) plus you will need a spinner to suit the model (if it is not included with your trainer kit) a glow plug for the engine and a gallon of suitable glow fuel. Most good model shops will advise you when purchasing these items.
Additional items that can be purchased later include a means by which to power the glow plug to start the engine and an electric engine starter (a desirable accessory). However , don’t buy these items at the outset as there is sure to be a member at the field who would be willing to lend you a hand in starting your motor.


If you wish to go electric for your trainer, there are many ways of doing that. One way we would recommend is a Wot4 Foam model, These come almost ready to fly, but you will need lipo batteries and a suitable charger. This requires a fair bit of reading to become knowledgeable with the use and maintenance.

The Radio
 The choice of radio equipment is relatively straight forward. There are three major brands on the market and these are Futaba and JR and Spektrum. A complete outfit suitable for beginners will cost between £110 and £180. In terms of reliability it is not possible to separate the two so the choice comes down to personnel preference.However there are a few things that you should consider before making your final choice. First is that the majority of Langar flyers use Futaba radio and should you choose a JR system or another brand all together then this would severely limit you to who would be able to buddy up to your system as the buddy box system only works between transmitters of the same brand.The next decision is which ‘mode’ you have your transmitter configured to. There are two basic modes 1 and 2.
Mode 1 has the engine throttle on the right hand stick along with the ailerons thus leaving the elevator and rudder on the left hand stick.
Mode 2 has the engine throttle on the left hand stick along with the rudder this time thus leaving the ailerons and elevator on the right hand stick.The final choice is what level of functionality your transmitter has. At the beginners end of the market are the basic 4 channel sets that are very capable of getting you through the training stage and into your second model. At the top end of the market are the multi channel computer radios that do every thing bar wake you up with a cup of tea in the morning! In the middle there are a range of 6,7,8 and 9 channel radios with varying level of function and sophistication. As most flyers gain experience they will progress to one of these radios but it may be worth your while considering investing in one of these sets to start with.Finally, it would be well worth your while talking to us before making your final choice or if you would like to discuss anything from the above