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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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The Radio Controlled Helicopter Pilot's Mindset


How to avoid disappointment building and flying your own RC helicopter

For those of you who are truly new to the hobby (or helicopters, at least), I'll get this out of the way first. Heli builders must possess a special mindset, which is governed by two basic principles....

1) You must have patience as well as mechanical and technical dexterity to build a heli. Helicopters are, more so than aircraft, terribly unforgiving of shoddy craftsmanship and thinly-lined wallets. I waited 10 years from the time I first saw a heli and said "Hey that's COOL!" to the time when I believed I was financially and mentally ready to handle the task of building and flying one.

2) You must be willing to accept the financial and emotional implications of a crash, as crash, you will--especially if you don't buy a good helicopter simulator. I have yet to experience my first crash but the possibility for one was the single biggest factor that kept me away from the sport until now. I simply couldn't justify the impractical nature of it all; you can spend a lot of time and money on a ship only to see it uncontrollably hurl toward the ground at 70 MPH and break into a million pieces. The chaotic nature of wind gusts, metal and plastic structures, and the NiCad battery suggests if you have a machine with all-original parts in a year, lucky you are: nothing else. Even the best guys crash, though I will admit the best guys crash less on average, however, because they learn (perhaps through word of mouth, perhaps through personal experience) the common causes of crashes and how to avoid them.

After reading my pages, you'll probably get the idea that I'm rather attentive to detail. Believe it or not, this attitude (or the lack of it) can have a bigger impact on your success or failure in RC helicopters than the amount of money you have (though if you have enough money, I suppose, you can more easily recover from crashes!)

Generally speaking, RC helicopters are not for those who want to spend the absolute minimum amount of money possible, slap something together, and go fly (which, unfortunately, describes most novice plank pilots I've known). Remember to consider the cost of the right tools in your financial investment estimates. Helicopters are precision machines and, appropriately, require precision tools which can easily add several hundred dollars to your ticket when all is said and done.

The bottom line is I've found building and flying my RC helicopter a rather satisfying learning experience and a ton of fun as well. Provided you can appreciate what I've said here, I'm sure the same can be true for you. Now that I've put you in a completely practical mindset, go back and start reading!