I’m keeping this informal, informative and sharing insights, mostly RC related. There is much to talk about along the hobby, this world for that matter and I also like to bring up some common questions, concerns, and the rest my customers as well as just general other hobbyists have discussed as well.

Starting this first topic out, it’s rather a two part subject when it comes down to it, is gauging the individuals skill level, both for the customers that buy my kits, but also for giving advice and direction in general.

We all tend to have our own story and nuances along how we learned to build and fly RC, even after some experience, we tend to go off into our own version of the hobby itself, with emphasis on one area, while not being particular too involved with others. I think time constraints to take their toll on many, but also, such as putting together a kit or scratch build, it’s not so much the destination as much as the journey, a little tidbit here and there once in a while adds up over time and before you know it, it’s time to start thinking about the next one because your therapeutic time putting something new together has came to an end. When you are building, it tends to take you into a new world all together, away from the rest of the distractions of this world, something many people are in need of with our fast paced, modern way of life most live these days.

So far with my kit’s, I admit I’m keeping them more along the minimal side, and it’s enough to suffice most builders well enough, yet I never assume someone brand new is going to understand so I go out of my way to make sure they know I can be reached and asking questions are encouraged. Still, there are many things I wish I could add, things that are found on google or youtube easily enough, it doesn’t make sense to create yet another redundancy of those. Still, more additions are being added and revised as requested and there will come more formal formats down the road as well. Each element itself, based upon what people really are asking questions upon, not just what I see fit to include. Some things though, such as covering is something I feel I can help regardless, if not just a different presentation from what’s been done before.

With someone new to the hobby, it’s a great time for getting involved with, there are many options and ranges to get started and it’s became extremely inexpensive to be regularly involved with. I’m big on getting a regular, economical transmitter and receiver system, some basic gear and take your aspirations from there as to where you want to go on the airframe rather then an RTF, “Ready to Fly” format in general. If I ever offered an RTF version of my lines, it would come with a mainstream TX “transmitter”, and gear, and there are some manufactures that do, it’s just not the standard or norm in the industry for the RTF market.

With someone more advanced, there are by the book kit builders, this must be to this exacting and no deviation from the plans and format and there are more scratch or kit bashers that are big on customizing and making revisions along the way. I tend to keep in mind a little bit of both perspectives and try to take things further by loosening things up a bit, knowing human hands are going to be assembling these kits, so some tolerances for slight imperfections are not going to ruin the kit they put together. Still, I do urge people to look at what I have put together as a general direction and platform to build upon regardless, they way I perceive it, I’ve only started the build, it’s up to them to finish it.

I’m still old school along the extra’s, such as SAFE or the equivalent along trainers, giving advice for those new to this will come across as from a bygone age, where the air-frame has to be worthy rather then rely upon computer control adjustments, the new pilot comes out ahead into more advanced lines with a much easier transition since they have been in full control of their planes from day one. In addition, don’t be afraid to help direct these new to this into just getting some simple gear, foam board if you may and bust out something basic to fly to just free flight for that matter. Make their experience affordable and fun and don’t present these big, time consuming and expensive obstacles ahead of them.

Covering the covering, part one.

If you are new to covering I suggest practicing with simple dollar store tissue paper. You can use some scrap balsa to cardboard for that matter, a glue stick and/or wood glue to adhere it and mist it down with water to get it to shrink. Google up the many ways people tissue cover planes. It’s less then ideal then hobby grade tissue and the compounds required for working with it, yet it teaches you the fundamentals along how to generally cover without trying to learn covering on your new build. Moving onto plastic film coverings after even rudimentary tissue covering skills gained, you will be pleasantly surprised how much easier it is to get high quality results. There are plenty to google or Youtube up along covering in plastic films too.

For more experienced along covering, if you have not used Doculam, as supplied in a few of the kits I produce, I have some tips to share along how to adjust to it’s nuances.

I supply/work with 1.5 mil “not mm”, it’s very close to the same weight as Ultracoat Parklite, it also tends to be more akin to Monocoat along how it stretches and shrinks. The first thing you will notice is that it requires extra heat to adhere and shrink. An industrial heat gun rather then a hobby grade may be used on it for the tough to contend with spots. It doesn’t smooth out like Ultracoat or Monocoat as well around difficult areas, so even the best of us along covering perfection need to lighten up a tad bit and accept a minor wrinkle here or there. Luckily it being clear by stock/default, patching is rather invisible, which helps when one tries to work it too hard or should the aircraft get damaged afterwards.

The advantages though on using Doculam compared to expensive traditional coverings are both price, with it being a small fraction in comparison, and the fact it requires such higher heat to adhere, it will require the same from the elements when it’s warm out to affect it.

An additional tip as well for both, new and experienced. I’ve found using heat shields helps to keep where the seams are at cool, while heating up the areas to shrink to be a good way to go. Shielding key areas also helps you more tactfully shrink the covering with the iron and heat gun, aslso can be used for tissue covering by misting only through key areas in the shielding/openings.

Part two coming later.

My story and personal experience getting started with RC aircraft.

Years past if someone wanted to get into the RC hobby, their first task was to build their plane. It was rather a right of passage and it was common for Dad or Grand-dad to be there to help and guide their children along the build table, even some hobby shops would offer this service as well. It wasn’t merely about pulling some RTF off of the shelf and go flying. Also, the amount of time you are flying are limited, building can be done year round regardless of the weather or other constraints. It was also pretty common for those first builds to be some simple free flight planes, it kept things simpler and helped the new hobbyist gain valuable skills.

During my youth I was only able to afford cheap, some times extremely crude, free flight kits and it was outside of one of my friends that I grew up with into it, on my own entirely so I made a lot of mistakes. Even though not everything flew well, the ones that did were joyous memories of my youth that I am glad to have had, still, on the build table with the ones that did not fly well, I thoroughly enjoyed the time, to take something that was just a pile of wood and some paper plans and turn it into a fully functional aircraft with my own two hands. I can look back and laugh now too even with the absolutely most crude, cheap, off name brand kits using #3 and #4 grade balsa that you had to cut from a printed sheet of balsa, hopeless to begin with, but at least some skills were gained, be it, pushing ones limits as to how to work with that low grade of material and system.

Fast forward to around 2003, I felt it was time to finally follow my childhood dream of going full blown RC. I started out just checking out the RC forums, back before social media they were the go-to along that matter to learn. A decent amount of frustration too though, having to learn all of this new terminology, expected to know what they are talking about with the abbreviations of them, like deciphering some alien language. Being told that I need to join a club, otherwise I didn’t stand a chance of learning how to fly on my own, and that I needed to invest many hundreds of dollars just to have a basic set up and to only purchase all things through the local hobby shop, and that the local hobby shop will always give you good advice….

I ended up buying what the hobby shop recommended, a Parkzone RTF Cub, it wasn’t talked about much on the forums, but hey, the hobby shop said it’s a good starter plane, the box too said it was… That was a pretty big investment for me to justify only for a hobby at $200, but I figured I got over the hill/hump along this entry into it so it’s not going to be so much to have to shell out money wise later since I’ll be able to use the electronics for it in other planes down the road.

The brushed gear it was using was severely under-powered and the plastic and specialized foam parts, breaking easily were not cheap to replace either. Even though I have plenty of building experience, I still wanted to keep it stock, like some classic car or something…. that ended up having me almost buying the equivalent of a second airplane in parts costs, and it never flew, only crashed attempting to take off. I ended up turning it into a Frankenplane eventually, just busting out parts and Jerry rigging it back together, and finally reached the point of just tearing out the gear for use with something else I put together.

The components were so crude and off the wall, in their own world, nothing comp-table with anything else, and the power system being so weak only showed me I can’t continue with this cheap, RTF transmitter/receiver/servo’s/etc., that it’s time to buy something legit, so I ended up around $175 later with a 4 channel Futaba radio, receiver, and another $100 for some servo’s, battery and motor. Those eventually went into something that actually flew, but not before I bought a quality balsa ARF, something overkill along being a simple trainer called the Butterfly. Another $150.00 later upon. I was also sold a Multiplex Microjet from another hobby shop, their recommendations… That was another $75.00, lawn dart, same problem with the power, and certainly way out of my league to be trying to fly.

I still brought something free flight to the fields while I tried to learn, often delegated to just those after I lawn darted what I was trying to fly, but getting that Butterfly up in the air, and able to control it, my heart beating out of my chest, finally, finally success, that determination paid off. Still, if I joined a club I could have saved myself a ton of trouble and expense, for indeed, it was several hundred dollars to get started and indeed, joining a club to learn is the best chance at success.

Beyond this though, it was then opting into building my own RC planes, and now that I have one in my hands to review more closely, see how they did the electronics, format, COG, weight, etc., certainly one is thinking a decent amount differently compared to free flight which is not having to deal with the additional elements of gear and moving control surfaces. I still picked up a couple of other ARF’s from the same manufacturer, a Cub and a Curtis Jenny, those remained grounded until I was ready for them, they were great quality, old school balsa and covering too.

It took a few months after that first flight with the Butterfly to get up to speed, I even successfully scratch built a flying saucer plane from EPS foam that flew nicely and got around to those ARF’s which also flew amazingly. Several months afterwards, I also dragged that Microjet from the rafters I stored it at, crash damage scars to boot with lawn darting it from time’s past, and replaced the gear, upgraded to brushless and lipo, it was a shock seeing something fly so very fast, basically a matter of launch it and grabbing the controls fast enough since it’s at the opposite side of the field by the time you have your hands on them.

I rather at that stage was busting out new air-frames for RC back to back, even taking Guillows kit plans, blowing them up to make larger RC plane versions of them. Gear was still much more expensive then it is today so often I would just transfer the gear from one plane over to the other.

It wasn’t long after this I had enough skills under my belt to confidently scratch build most, if not anything that’s out there, with, or without plans. The free flight building of my youth was a great asset towards now, these more refined and and versatile counterparts. Trust me when I say, there is nothing like it in this world to bash together your own plane and have it take to the air, especially for those newer to RC flight but have only flown ready made creations too. There is a great deal of freedom to choose from along what you want to fly next, free from the tether of what is being made, at what scale and cost you don’t have control over.

Over the years I continued in tangents as I had time and inspiration, not as intense as those earlier years, yet enough to know that arsenal is always around, any time, and I opted for 2019 to just make more time for this hobby, bringing that arsenal back in force because life is just too short not to. That we deserve some time to ourselves with a simple hobby like this.

I can say now, adding the laser cutter into the mix has certainly changed things dramatically now along building and hobby for me, even though I would still bash together kits from time to time between scratch builds, it’s now it’s own layer to hobby with, a digital set of hands I suppose. It was more logical going that route since I’ve started to commit to the computer anyway, for new builds in graphical format to print out and scratch build from, the laser being the next logical step so it can achieve that and actually reproduce them into kits and plans. My goal being, what is the point of simply bashing out some new plane if it’s a one time thing, make it sharable so others can make their own.

I can say now though, certainly one can learn on their own, but it’s helpful to learn on the computer simulators first, no club is needed technically, yet it’s great for another reason, friendship and access to quality fields. I can say too on the expense, you can get a decent, entry level set of gear for around $120.00, that’s everything you will need to attach to most aircraft configurations, just chose the air-frame from there. In addition, alternative materials such as EPS foam, foam board, Depron, etc., are fun to work with and utilize for some quick, cheap bashes. I can say too, there are options for making your own, from kit or otherwise in traditional stick and covering for a more refined trainer or otherwise itself, as was done in the years of old.

My system for teaching first time pilots to fly

Years ago I came up with a system for teaching new pilots how to fly for the first time. It’s simple but effective and works with people that have not prepared an iota upon what so ever.

I call it the fly by command system. You show the new pilot how the controls work and what they do on the plane, while it’s plugged in resting on the ground. The prop being removed of course, you call out each movement, up, down, left right, more throttle, less throttle. You mix it up and start out slow, increasing the speed between them as the person is able to keep up. You then move onto random, intervals between the each calling out on the sticks, simulate real flying conditions and a bit more type of thing.

When they can prove to be able to follow the commands and not make any mistakes, they are ready for real flight and technically don’t even need to look at the plane in order to fly it since you are still calling the commands as needed for them to adjust the sticks. Just as on the ground, you take note of the persons efficiency along, but also, can let them take it on their own from there in partial or full as they advance.

It’s best to have the plane perfectly trimmed and make sure it has a decent dihedral so it basically fly’s itself with the pilot only bumping, or tapping the the controls so it all remains at neutral for the flight most of the time. You can keep it in simple, tapping/bumping mode, just add onto the commands, left, left, left, right, right, right, etc., and they are merely bumping the control surfaces to change for a short period of time. This prevents over-reaction when it’s needing input on the sticks.

New pilots are going to be a pile of nerves on their first flight, understand though, along with is a sports like adrenaline rush and this is something of a reason why people fly performance RC, for it’s also a rush of sorts, a sport for that matter. You will get over it soon enough as a new pilot, but it’s a sickening feeling, putting all of this money, time and effort and toss it into the air hoping it comes down in one piece, of course you are going to be nervous. If you are teaching, regardless of system, always keep this in mind and take it into account, baby steps, keeping it slower at a pace then what you personally go at it for yourself. Also, make sure the new pilot knows they can just look down at their controller and simply follow your commands to keep the plane air-born, it will relieve a ton of anxiety for them.

We do have the sims, to SAFE and other flight control systems to learn and practice upon, which if you have access too, great, but none of that is technically needed, nor has it been around that long, so many you have talked to never used them in the first place when they first started out with it all. It’s still, my gut and experience is telling me, these add on’s are just not necessary though, that someone can jump right in and fly regular RC without easily enough.

Free flight, essentials to learn as well as to pursue with more advanced skills.

So many questions can be answered for the new pilot or those with experience wanting to try out additional types of aircraft to fly by going the free flight route. The whole prospect of air-frame to systems, powered or otherwise can be fully explored, from simple small chuck gliders to powered free flight. If you have an idea at 3 am, just to see if some random concept is viable with some thin sheets of foam and hot glue gun to deciding you want to commit to what ever style you are interested in that’s not part of your usual line up of planes, this is a great way to go along experimenting upon. I like the low tech, hassle free approach along this avenue, but there are some serious competitions that involve this gambit of flight, quite worthy to pursue and enjoy.

Keep a stack of foam sheets, to thicker stock to carve away, simple paper will do when it comes down to it, for just these reasons, and one may find themselves rather amused at times with the results, much less a little bit of extra exercise chasing them down in the process.

Finding the time for the hobby

I have my own personal rather seasons I am just overboard upon and enthralled with it, and also, time I simply have to take step back to take care of other matters. From building, to just research to, or flying itself only, each has it’s own time to do and it’s hard at times to pull away from ones latest creation mid build, to do this pesky thing called adulting and all it requires.

Take it in stride, as you have time, a few minutes here or there, a little bit of progress at a time adds up nicely. On the other side, one can take it too far and it’s taking away from the duties and enjoying other activities too, so one should find that healthy balance. That production, kit, or fly in shouldn’t be some added task, a piece of production, a job duty, or the rest, this is supposed to be relaxing, letting you create, build, be free and enjoy and entirely on your time table as you see fit.

Finding time for the hobby is not limited to just one buys some kit or starts on a scratch build, there is a great deal to be gained just seeing some plans, a photo or the rest and busting out or a simple chuck glider to toss around. In addition, some research into many areas the hobby is about, equipment, air-frame, power systems and the rest, take it i stride too as one so finds interest in. This is just a very neat hobby that has many avenues to explore and participate in and what I enjoy is this mixture of engineer and artist crowed, people that would not normally get together, combine efforts at time to along creating the planes, but also, one leaves their largely media controlled sadly these days, biases behind them and find some common ground, making friendships that would not happen otherwise.

The groups you get involved with, off line such as clubs and fields, and mostly online too, are upstanding, respectful, and honest people to dialog and interact with. We all in this hobby benefit from this element and it’s with very few exception, instant friends when you run into some stranger on the street or otherwise that’s into this hobby.

Keeping the RC gear affordable.

I’m sharing a screen shot of a shopping cart of what I would buy if I wanted to get into the RC plane hobby and was on a budget. I went with Amazon since it’s very easy for most people to access, not by far the cheapest option for most if not anything in the cart shown, but it’s a safe way to shop, which is why I use E-bay still and will continue to, to reach out to people that require that additional buffer of protection for their shopping needs.

I prefer the XT60 connectors for many reasons so some soldering skills are going to be in order be it pretty lightweight. For the new pilot, having those cables so they can plug in and practice flying on their computer, a very good learning tool not to mention, entertaining regardless of skill level is a good thing to include. The software wars over the RC sims has Real Flight rather monopolizing it, still, there are cheaper alternatives such as Clearview, rcflightsim.com is their web site, or Phoenix, rc-thoughts.com/phoenix-sim/ the download for it.

Beyond this, it’s a good enough combo to keep around, going through the ropes for most of your gambits and upgrade as one see’s fit, not as a mandate just to get started with the more expensive set up.

New HappyRCFlyer Facebook group.

I’ve launched a new Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/HappyRCFlyer.

Making friends on and off line with this hobby, quality people and so much to share. This is more of a blog extension then some kind of marketing type of thing. Building community is first, my lines and the lot, secondary. It’s good to have a common home turf to chit chat with and also support for my lines is certainly extended through it as well and there are many ways to reach me outside of the group. Showing it through my super powers in Admin mode upon to keep it safe and family friendly.

I’ve added some new colors for tinting Doculam, these will be an option for those that want to upgrade their coverings when they order a kit from the stock clear Doculam which is supplied with them, to have added color, an inexpensive alternative to the name brand expensive tinted coverings on the market. Sharing the selection and being transparent in the process, exuse the pun as to the nature of this option being rattle canned, not machine based, with the final results shown in the Jenny in Orange, and the two wings shown below with the graphics post.

Sometimes Google isn’t going to be all that helpful at all when it comes to trying out new things, in this case, asking about using a laser cutter for cutting Monocoat being doable didn’t provide much at all, so one is left to experiment and figure out the answer on their own. In this case I laser cut Ultracoat and am quite happy with the results. You have to set the power down pretty low, and in my case using a diod laser works just fine so nothing fancy is needed. Since Ultracoat adheres at a much lower temperature there were no worries along it shrinking the Doculam that it’s applied to, I even did one up with just applying the graphic onto a piece of clear Doculam for those that want to apply it without needing to technically use heat to apply it, one can just use contact cement. An added bonus, you can apply the whole graphic at once and peel away the excess afterwards so no need to have to line up and apply each individual piece and section.