CHOOSING A MODEL CATEGORY
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
- Yogi Berra
In the introduction to this work it was suggested that beginners may
wish to skip to Chapter 6 to begin their first project. If you have
done so, it's now time to back up a bit and read chapter 3. It's
about the many categories that exist.
In chapters 6 and 7 we looked at early familiarization projects.
At this stage of development specialization comes into the picture.
Your choices may be narrowed or channeled by many factors. A
partial list of those factors follows.
8.1 Building Area Requirements
In a small apartment you can pull out a drawer, turn it over,
reinstall it part way and build a small model on it. A very large
model may require a basement shop. Consider air contamination with
sanding dust and fumes from glue and paint. Good ventilation is
8.2 Flying Site Access
A city dweller may have easier access to indoor flying in a gym than
to the open fields required by outdoor models flown free flight or by
large gas-powered R/C models.
Flying site availability is also dependent on the noise level you
generate, the proximity of housing or farm crops, and your relations
with the property owner.
Although you will find exceptions, some examples of project cost follow:
- Low - Up to $100. Small rubber or electric-powered indoor and
outdoor models and hand launched gliders.
- Medium - $100 to $200. Small gas free flight, high performance rubber
or electric power, and large free flight gliders.
- High - $200 and Up. R/C gas or electric conventional models. Gas or
electric helicopters, medium and large R/C soaring gliders.
8.4 Transportation Limitations
Consider model size vs the size of your vehicle. A large soaring
glider may not fit in a Volkswagon. Designs that can be disassembled
for transport will increase your options.
8.5 Skill Levels Acquired vs Required
You have learned to "read" technical drawings (plans) by actually
building your model on them. As you face more complex drawings and
instructions you may need to get assistance with their
interpretation. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you have no
one to ask locally, go on the Internet to related Mailing Lists or
Forums, see Chapter 4 at 4.2.
Your success with electric-powered and radio-controlled models will
depend on your understanding of basic electricity. Check out a good
book from your local library.
As your models get more powerful and complex you will need to apply
the lessons learned about basic aerodynamics and flight trimming.
You have developed manual dexterity working with one sixteenth inch
square sticks of balsa. You will need it for cutting, forming and
machining a variety of the materials found in say, a plastic foam
cored wing, a fiberglass fuselage or a carbon fiber reinforced
Working with drawings and trimming models has helped you improve your
spatial visualization (your ability to turn things around in your
mind). As you begin to control a moving radio-controlled model in
"real time", you must instinctively know that when a model is flying
toward you that right is left, or right is right if that same model
is upside down. You will need that elusive skill you have developed
to pilot successfully from the ground.
It's interesting to compare the experiences the U. S. Air Force has
had flying unmanned drones, to hobbyists flying R/C models. The
following is taken from Air and Space magazine, May, 2001 in an
article about the Predator reconnaissance drone, page 54. At first
the manufacturer tried landing "the thing" remotely by watching the
aircraft from the ground, as hobbyists flying radio-controlled models
do. "The attrition rate was much higher when we flew the aircraft
externally for take-off and landing. We found that involves a
different skill set, and it was much more difficult to train someone
to do that.' A pilot inside a ground control station flies the
Predator as if sitting in the seat of the aircraft. And you thought
flying R/C was going to be easy.
One way to narrow your choice of model is to purchase an "almost
ready to fly" kit (ARF) for a category under consideration. This
will permit some flight experience before your building skills "catch
up" or time becomes available for building.
An example of available ARFs is the series of indoor rubber models by
Ikara Ltd. Although made in the Czech Republic, they are available
through U. S. suppliers. The series is designed along the lines of
various indoor contest events such as the Mini Stick. See: www.faimodelsupply.com/fai-ikara.htm
Also, see Chapter 2 at 2.2 for the reference to electric-powered R/C "Slow Fly" ARFs.
8.6 Enjoy Your Choice
In view of all the above, or in spite of it, you will choose a
modeling category that appeals to you. If you are a history buff,
you will be attracted to scale models of aircraft flown in certain
time periods. Examples include World War One or Two, or perhaps a
You may enjoy competition with non-scale models or "laid back' boring
holes in the sky just sport flying. In any case, have fun with it,
that's what a hobby is for.