Some people consider a glider as the obvious choice for the first model.
Although a glider normally flies slower and is supposed to be more forgiving,
that's just a matter of taste. Being a skilled glider pilot doesn't
necessarily mean being also a skilled powered aircraft pilot and vice-versa.
Assuming that a powered model was chosen, the beginner is advised to start with
a so-called trainer. This type is usually a high wing aircraft model with
nearly flat bottom airfoil that produces high lift, permitting slow landing
speeds without stalling. It also has some dihedral angle to give a good
However, a flat bottom high wing with
dihedral is more sensitive to crosswind
gusts, so the first flights should be
done during calm weather.
A beginner should avoid wings with
too sharp leading edges, as it will
worsen the stall characteristics.
A well-rounded leading edge is therefore preferable,
as it better conveys the airflow onto the upper wing surface allowing
higher angle of attack at low speed.
A trainer model should not be too small, as it would be difficult to
assemble and maintain and would be more sensitive to strong winds.
It should not be too large either,
as it would be difficult to transport,
require a larger flying field and
would be more expensive.
A reasonable size is about 150cm wingspan (60 in) with a high aspect
ratio, which means the wingspan being about 5.5 times the wing chord.
A square wing is advisable, as it distributes the weight of the aircraft
evenly over the entire surface of the wing. In order to allow a
reasonable low landing speed without stalling, the wing loading should
not be greater than about 60g/sq dm (19-oz/sq ft). Wing loading is
the aircraft's weight divided by the wing area. Some degree of
wing washout also improves the stall characteristics.
Basic Parts of a Trainer Model
Engine / Motor - provides the power to rotate the propeller.
Propeller - (also Prop) is attached to the
engine's shaft to convert rotational motion into thrust and speed, which
depends on the Prop's diameter, pitch and the Engine's power.
Spinner - streamlined part that covers the end
of the Prop shaft.
Fin - (also Vertical Stabilizer) provides
directional stability (stability in yaw).
Rudder - moveable part fitted to the Fin's
trailing edge, is used to change the aircraft's direction.
Stabilizer - (also Horizontal Stabilizer or
Stab) provides longitudinal stability (stability in pitch).
Elevator - moveable part fitted to the
Horizontal Stabilizer's trailing edge, is used to make the aircraft
climb or dive.
Ailerons - movable parts on both sides of the
wing, are used to make the aircraft roll about its fore - aft axis.
When one aileron moves up the other moves down.
Wing - provides the aircraft's main lifting
One may build a model aircraft based
on drawings (plans). This requires some building skills and also time
and effort to find out and gather the materials needed for the
construction. An easier approach (albeit more expensive) is buying
a kit of parts. There are many kits on the market with different
levels of prefabrication depending on their price. The cheaper
kits have most of parts included, but some pieces come either pre-cut or
printed on sheets of wood, so the builder is expected to do some
extensive job, such as to cut out the fuselage formers and wing ribs,
glue the parts together, apply the covering material, etc.
For those who are not so keen on construction, there are Almost Ready to
Fly (ARF) kits with an extensive prefabrication, requiring one or
two evenings to assemble. There are also Ready to Fly (RTF),
which normally come complete with the power plant and some of them even
with the radio preinstalled.
It's highly recommended to have an experienced instructor beside you
during your first flight, however, it is not impossible to get succeed
by doing it alone. Max wind speed recommended is 5 - 8Km/h (3 - 5mph)
Check the CG location with empty fuel tank by supporting the model with
your fingertips underneath the wings. Find the position where the
fuselage gets level or its nose is pointed slightly downwards.
Transmission range check should be performed on the ground before the
flight. This is usually done with the Transmitter aerial
collapsed. The control surfaces should respond without glitch at a
distance of about 80 meters (263ft). This distance is only an
approximately guide line, as the actual range may vary depending on the
environment. The effective range may only be half of this value if
located at mountain bowl site or close to a public radio transmitter,
radar station or similar. The range may suffer adverse effects if
the receiver aerial is close to metal parts or model components
reinforced with carbon fiber.
transmitters allow the aerial to be totally collapsed inside a metal
case, which also may reduce the radiation. In this case the lower
section of the aerial should be extended during the test. The
check should be repeated with the power system running, alternating the
throttle setting between idle and full-throttle.
The range will be much higher when the model is in the air, normally
about 1Km or as far as one can see the model.
If you hand launch your model, throw it against the wind horizontally
and straight ahead, not up. If you take-off from the ground, taxi
the model towards the wind and let the model gain ground speed before
applying elevator. Once in the air try to climb at a very small
angle, not abruptly upward, which would cause loss of airspeed and
The model is more sensitive to the motor torque effect during the
relatively low take-off speed and may begin to turn left (or right). Use
the rudder or ailerons to prevent the model from turning during the
climb stage, otherwise the model may initiate a spiral dive.
Don't try any turns until the model has gained speed and reached a "safe
altitude". Be very gentle with the controls and practice gentle turns
high in the air before you try to land. To prevent losing altitude
when turning the model, just give little up elevator at same time you
make a turn.
Try to keep the model in sight and do not fly too high or too far away.
You may reduce the throttle while high in the air so you may get an idea
how the model behaves at low speed.
To prevent getting confused about which way to turn when the model flies
towards you, turn your back to the model slightly while keeping watching
it, so you can imagine "right" and "left" from the model's point of
Some trimming may be needed in order to reduce or eliminate roll, bank
and/or pitch tendencies. A flat bottom wing often tends to
"balloon" up into the sky, keeping climbing when full throttle is
applied. This may be reduced during the flight by adjusting the elevator
trim or by reducing the throttle. In worst cases it may be needed
to increase the motor's down-thrust angle and/or decrease the main wings
Reduce throttle to about half so you have to slightly pull up the
elevator to keep the altitude.
model towards the wind and let the model sink gradually towards the
landing area by easing the elevator.
During the last fifteen to twenty meters (45 to 60 feet) of descent,
(which depends on the model's characteristics) you should idle the
throttle. The model will start sinking at a higher rate now.
Try to keep the model in a shallow dive and don't use the elevator to
gain altitude or to prolong the flight at this stage, otherwise stall is
likely to occur. Just keep a slightly downward attitude throughout
the final approach in order to maintain the airspeed. The higher
the wing loading, the steeper the approaching angle may be however, it
is not recommended approaching angles greater than 45 degrees.
If you notice that the model is sinking too fast or is too low to reach
the landing field - just increase the throttle first before
applying elevator to maintain or gain altitude to prolong the flight or
to repeat the landing approach. Pull up the elevator slightly
about 30-60cm (1-2 ft) before the touch-down so that the propeller or
nose gear don't hit the ground.
Be prepared to repeat unsuccessful landings several times, since it's
often a matter of trial and error before one gets used with how the
Don't try to land in a specific spot, avoid turns when the model is
flying low or at low speed. Just let your model glide into the ground
Avoid the proximity of buildings, roads and electric power lines.
Don't fly close to or towards people and animals. The bigger the
field for your first flight, the greater will be your chances for
It's also advisable to join the nearest model aircraft club there you
may meet experienced flyers who can provide lots of useful tips and