Chapter 8

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 necessary.

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.

8.3 Cost
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 structure.

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:

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 modern jet.

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.

Return toChapter 7

Proceed to Chapter 9

Copyright 2002, Robert S. Munson. All Rights Reserved