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Clubs and instructors

By Andrew Gibbs


Joining a club is very highly recommended, and will give you access to a wealth of experience and also, in all likelihood, an experienced instructor. These benefits will almost certainly save you a lot of money and time in broken models and be a lot less frustrating.

Modellers are a friendly bunch and will welcome beginners into their fold.

Selecting an instructor
The relationship between you and your instructor is crucial for the success of your training, so try and choose with care. One idea is first to visit the club and just watch what goes on. Have someone point out who the club instructors are, and see who you like the look of.

Remember that teaching is an art in itself, and is a separate skill additional to merely being able to fly. Good instructors are much rarer than good pilots. A good instructor will of course be a competent pilot, however remember also that good instructors aren’t necessarily the very best pilots.

The instructor you want is someone who is a steady calm flyer, so you might not notice them straight away. The loud, self-professed expert can seem appealing at first but such characters are rarely the best instructors. Having identified a possible instructor, it’s a good idea to get to know them a bit before deciding if you want to ask them to see if they will help you learn to fly. Chances are they’ll be pleased to share their knowledge.

Instructors are in high demand at some clubs, so you may not be able to secure their attention as much as you would like. However, don’t despair – there’s a lot of learning that you can do merely by observing how others fly. Plus, you can always learn from other modelers by asking them how and why they do certain things.

Instructors are invariably unpaid and are give their services for nothing. It’s not uncommon for students to fail to properly acknowledge their valuable assistance, perhaps in time finding that continued help becomes more difficult to obtain. The wise student who does take the trouble to acknowledge their instructor’s contribution will probably find them maintaining an interest in their progress. What goes around comes around….. Enough said!

The ‘Buddy Box’ system
The ‘buddy box’ system is where the instructor’s and pupil’s transmitters are linked by a special cable allowing the instructor to decide by the position of a switch on his transmitter when the student has control of the model. This eliminates the need to pass a transmitter between the two pilots, making for a less stressful environment and one which is safer for the model. Usually it’s necessary to have an instructor who flies the same mode as you (see below), although a few transmitters will allow a ‘buddy box’ link between transmitters of different modes.

Changing instructors
In the full size world, sometime students who become stuck find that a change of instructor works wonders for morale and the rate or progress. This isn’t necessarily any kind of criticism of the previous instructor, instead it’s more a question of student/instructor compatibility.

The same issue can crop up just as easily when learning model flying, and it can show itself early on or after some time. A good clue that this may apply to your situation is if you still like RC models, but no longer look forward to flying lessons, feel stuck, or find that you’ve stopped making progress.

A good instructor will understand this issue, and should be receptive to the idea of a change. A great one will identify this issue before you do and may mention it first. If you think a change may be called for but are uncomfortable about bringing this issue up, that’s quite understandable. However, don’t ignore the issue - it can be quite impossible to make progress if this issue comes up. You could of course just propose a change for just a few lessons. If you find the new instructor/student combination works better for you, it’s then relatively easy to carry on with it.

This isn’t a personal issue, although some might see it as such. As an example, in my own full sized flying career I had a so called professional school actually suggest I give up flying due to my so called ‘lack of aptitude’. I knew differently and requested a change of instructor. The school’s management resisted, but as a paying customer I insisted and got my wish. With just a few further lessons I’d taken and passed a CAA combined instrument flight test – one of the most demanding flight tests in the world. And if that’s not an example of what I’m talking about, I don’t know what is!

Teaching yourself
Learning to fly RC models is a worthy challenge, and definitely one which is easier with the help of an experienced expert. That said there are a significant proportion of pilots who prefer to teach themselves to fly RC models, so let’s discuss this now.

Learning to fly RC models is probably not something to be undertaken alone unless there is absolutely no convenient alternative. It helps to be very determined and to be willing from the outset to repair models.

It’s perfectly possible to teach yourself, but you’ll need plenty of persistence and a willingness to learn the true lessons from each crash. Making excuses up won’t help you progress very far! You’ll also need to learn a bit about aerodynamics so you understand why aircraft (including models) behave as they do.

If you do want to go this route, perhaps because you don’t want to travel to a far away club, you’ll need to choose your model carefully. Model choice has already been covered and you’ll also have your own preferences to take into account.


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