Winter 2006 Issue

Airborne Radio

Getting Started

By Del Schier, K1UHF

For your first model-aircraft flight you need to choose the right equipment and do some homework. This time I will help you pick your first airplane, and in the next few installments of this column I will talk about radios, motors, props, setting up an airplane, and learning to fly.

Sometimes people get their ham license, buy an HT, get on the local repeater, and then quickly become bored. They give up the hobby before they really figure out what amateur radio is about, and go back to surfing the web. You also can easily get turned off by an RC (radio-controlled) model. Some people go out and purchase a poor, ready-to-fly model airplane from a toy store instead of an RC shop. Their first flight is in their back yard with 20-mph winds. Their involvement with RC lasts about three seconds—the duration of the flight. Hopefully, I will not be giving you a “crash” course in RC!

My first RC model was a sailplane called a Gentle Lady. It was a $17 kit glider with a 2-meter wingspan. The Gentle Lady was a very good first choice. I learned with it and flew it for years. Twenty-plus years later, I gave it away so someone else could get started in the hobby. It may still be flying today.

RC airplanes can give years of pleasure, but eventually they are bound to crash or somehow get lost. I personally have damaged more models in transporting them than flying them, but that’s not to say I haven’t had a few bad landings and other mishaps. With RC, like ham radio, there is always a challenge. Both involve building or setting up, and operating (flying).

You will find that many airplanes are dubbed “trainers,” “easy to fly,” “perfect for beginners,” or some such term. You will find that you get a different opinion from each seasoned modeler with whom you talk, the same as with ham equipment. I will tell you what I think you need to learn and consider before you purchase your first plane.

A beginner airplane needs to be docile. By docile I mean that it should have controls that are not very sensitive and it should like to fly straight and level. To achieve this, it helps to have a top-mounted wing, called a high-wing or parasol wing. A wing on top gives pendulum stability, just like it sounds.

Another thing to look for is a fair amount of dihedral. Dihedral is the V bend in the center of the wing that causes an airplane to roll back to level flight with no control input. Airplanes are controlled in three axes: yaw (left right), pitch (up and down), and roll (rotation around the fuselage center line).


This is Not what you want—a 150-mph pylon racer!


The simple, slow, and good-flying EZ 400G, which is great with brushless

Click here to return to Winter 2006 highlights

Click here to subscribe to VHF


© Copyright 2006, CQ Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced or republished, including posting to a website, in part or in whole, by any means, without the express written permission of the publisher, CQ Communications, Inc. Hyperlinks to this page are permitted.