The complete radio control model airplane FAQ.  


Joey Litch asked the rec.models.rc.air newsgroup this question on 11-15-2000:

I was wondering how many people actually taught them self to fly...no help what-so-ever??

Needless to say, there were quite a few responses--here are the first dozen or so responses...

    But first, here's an article on Self Taught Flying

I did, about 17 years ago. I started with a glider, and I already knew how to fly full scale gliders and power planes. Still, I crashed all 3 before I could fly reliably. It's definitely not the way to go, and if you're starting out, I highly recommend getting an instructor.

John Likakis:

I taught myself using a Cox single-channel foam glider that I modified to 2-channel operation with a powerpod. Happily, the glider was pretty crash resistant. But it flew so gently that it was easy to learn with. Flew that thing for almost 2 years before it suffered an inflight breakup during a loop.
    That powered glider was a good enough trainer that transitioning to high-performance 1/2A planes was no problem. And here I am, 22 years later, designing and scratch-building my own electric-powered planes and HLGs.
    Can you teach yourself to fly? Most definitely! However, you must have a truly gentle and forgiving airplane that is very crash resistant--AND YOU MUST HAVE A NATURAL APTITUDE FOR FLYING R/C! If either of those prerequisites are missing, you're much better off with a good instructor.

Jeff Fremder:
I tried the first time in 1984-5? with a GP Trainer 20 that I reduced to sticks. I even lost the plane for about a week until I found it in a corn field. Tried again with a Goldberg electric Sailplane, that one lasted about 6-7 flights. Got back in the hobby last year and taught myself to really fly with a .15 powered Butterfly. Then a .061 Herr Seaplane, .46 Tower Extra Special, Zagi 400, Ace Seamaster and I'm building a GP 90/120 Sportster kit from 1980's! (I guess I'm hooked) They're all still in one piece. The simulator helped me learn Heli's, but didn't help me with planes.


Ed Cregger:

My first R/C flight was in 1966-67. I flew Ed Thompson's (former Technical Editor for RCM - now deceased - dang it!) Ugly Stik around after he took it off. Then, in 1969 I bought a Testor's Skyhawk, single channel (rudder) RTF model and taught myself to fly it. I then built a Goldberg Senior Falcon (four-channel conventional) and taught myself how to fly that one too. No crashes. No instructor. No one to trim out the model.
    Looking back on it, I was extremely lucky. It can be done, but if there is a club nearby with a good instructor, I'd recommend taking advantage of it.

Jim McIntyre:

I taught myself to fly using 2 channel hand-launch gliders over a grassy hill as a pre-teen. I did eventually learn to fly and even flew powered 4 channel planes.
    I must have trashed a dozen models before being able to reliably get a powered plane in the air and back on the ground without damage. Probably would have taken several more to stay out of a no-fly zone..... luckily I had 100 acres of open land to learn on.... I *landed* after ducking several times, not exactly safe.
    When I returned to this hobby, I went through the training program and STRONGLY recommend it to everyone.

Rob Plourde Jr.:
I bought Version 1 of the Aerochopper flight sim and learned to fly on that. From there I built a plane from RCM plans called the Bumble Vee, which was an .049 V-Tail and tried to fly that.
    The wing fell off on the first flight because I did not realize you needed more than one rubber band on each side.
    Then I got a trainer type plane from someone and flew that pretty well. Of course, I always seemed to get into trouble and not sure what to do to get out, but, in the end, I learned to fly on that plane. When done, it was too heavy to fly from all the epoxy.


Tony guits_boy:
I'm still teaching my self to fly. Got a sim. Got a flying plastic cinder block. Drove it into the ground and / or things attached to the ground for a few weeks. Took me 6 props, and 4 nylon bolts, 2 applications of JB Weld to the carb body, a dollars worth of miscellaneous hardware, and roughly half a gallon of glow fuel before I could land without busting the prop at least semi-consistently. Been on the same prop for almost a dozen or so flights now, which i think is pretty good for a self taught newbie, especially considering the pitted grass field I fly off of. The real danger to my props is hitting a pothole. :) All in all, I think the hardest thing was to learn to trim digital trims on my first flight. In my case, I didn't get it right till the third crash. :) I also used flaperons to slow down the landing, They do help a bit. Much thanks to this news group for all the help.
    As for the reason why I didn't get an instructor? I have Instructorphobia. I'm like that with everything. No real reason, everyone I've ever talked to in the hobby has been nothing but helpful, I just cant deal with instructors... its not a problem with authority or anything, I just enjoy learning on my own. Now had this been a full size plane..... :)
    By the way, I'm on my second plane now. A H9 Advance 40. Flies so damn nice compared to my plastic winged anvil (airmadillo). also on my 4th or 5th gallon of fuel, which is about to be depleted. :)


Bill Stanley: 
I taught myself how to fly in the mid seventies and don't recommend it for anyone. There are simply too many things to learn and to discover how to check and maintain all at once. After destroying a Cardinal and then learning how to fly on a Lanier Hawk (large motorized glider) and flying a Little Stik I left the hobby for 10 years. In 1989 I came back into the hobby and shortly thereafter joined a club. I learned 100 times more in six months at the club than in three earlier years of flying. An experienced flier can look over your controls and in five minutes give information that might take years and many rebuilds to discover on your own. Yes I know there are many sources of bad advice.
    Clubs and other fliers assist one in the learning process. Don't try it by yourself. It will simply take ten times as long and cost ten times as much in repair parts. Every time I go to the field I learn something sometimes due to someone else's crash.

I taught myself to fly with a piece of cake trainer. Tower still sells it, its made by Dynaflite. Its a powered glider type plane with an .049 engine. Anyone can teach themselves to fly with a powered glider, but I think most people are in a hurry and want a real (4 channel .40 engine) plane right away, which really needs an instructor.


Chris cgb6810:
I did, no help whatsoever. The first plane, a Goldberg Cub, lasted about 30 seconds. The second, a Sturdy Turdy, lasted about 25 flights, but with many reassemblies. The third plane, some arf trainer, lasted 100 flights. It would have been much easier if I had gone on a buddy box though.

Claude Paradis :
You can count me too. 4 years ago. Remote area - no one around to help out. Right from the start I could take-off and I could fly around. Guess all those video games were good for something. But I'll tell you, landing was a real b#&ch. More than a few rough ones which required repair of the aircraft. The repairing was time consuming, but I made out ok.

 Mark LearJet35x:

I taught myself 10 years ago.... But I already had over 350 hours in full scale plane at that time.

Kenny Dilger:
I taught my self to fly with a JK Aerotech T52 trainer and a Zagi 400. I then got a big stick 40 and went up with a box and instructor once so he could trim the plane out for me. I have been flying for about a year and have not crashed any of my balsa planes yet. Oh yeah, I had a 1/2A extra 300S in there that is also still flying.


Note: I used a T52 to train my Dad, and I also own a Zagi 400. They are good places to start, if you HAVE to teach yourself. The T52 is light enough that even full power-on dives into the ground won't destroy it. It's still not as safe as having an instructor, though...one of those accidental dives may be straight overhead! 


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