Learning to Fly

Learning to Fly

There is a lot of information to absorb both here and elsewhere on the internet. Please feel free to supplement what we have provided in these ‘Learning to Fly’ pages by visiting the guys at the field, who will be more than willing to answer any questions, and by coming along to our monthly club meetings. You don’t have to be a member to come along to our club meetings and it is a great way to meet the other members and learn more about the club and its activities.

Refer to the ‘Introduction’ page below for more details about where we fly, flying times, club meetings and how to join the club.


Frequently Asked Questions

Contact an Instructor

Pre Field Checklist

Pre Flight Checklist

Useful Links and Documents

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Learning to fly aero models can be an exciting start to a fascinating life-long hobby, or it can be a costly and frustrating exercise if the beginner does not get on the right track. As with most hobbies and sports, the key to success is getting the right gear and advice from the word Go!

The best way to get this is to join the club, you will receive a warm welcome, will get lots of free helpful advice, and you will enjoy free instruction with a certified instructor. Go to our ‘Join Us’ page for more details on how to become a club member.

We will advise you on the right type of model to start with (VERY IMPORTANT!), the right type of power (glow or electric), and recommend radio gear appropriate to your aims and your budget.

The main purpose is to stop beginners from wasting money buying unsuitable equipment and ending up frustrated. So don’t be shy, come and see us before purchasing anything. This is doubly important with second hand gear.

The best time to visit the field if you are wanting more information is on a Sunday. Mid morning is usually a good time, but if unsure contact us on learningtofly@wmac.org.nz to make sure someone will be there to meet you. Being an outdoor activity, flying is of course a weather dependent activity. You can check the weather at Trentham and if anyone is there here

Note that our main flying site is Seddon Field rifle range at Trentham and we share this facility with a number of rifle clubs as well as the New Zealand Army. This means that from time to time shooting may take place on the range on Sunday’s meaning that the club cannot fly on those days. So it pays to check the ‘Events Calendar’ on the club website to make sure we are booked to fly before you visit the range. Also under “Quick Links” click on Trentham Weather Station, scroll down and you will find a live camera picture of the field. If we have a field booking and there are vehicles down by the white hut on the right hand side, then there are flyers there.

See the ‘Where We Fly’ page on our website for details of the location of Seddon Field and how to get there.

Another option for finding out more about the club and learning to fly is to attend one of our monthly club meetings. The Club meets at 8pm on the last Wednesday of each month (except November and December) at the Belmont Memorial Hall, Lower Hutt. Meetings are informal and usually have a particular focus, a guest speaker or workshop session. Belmont Memorial Hall is situated adjacent to the eastern side of State Highway 2 (Western Hutt Road) and next to Belmont School.  Please note: Vehicle access to the hall parking area is from Fairway Drive, not SH 2.

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Frequently Asked Question’s

How much does it cost to fly a radio controlled model?

Although some models can be expensive, the availability of good, inexpensive radio gear and models means that the cost of entry into the hobby is cheaper than it’s ever been.

Some models, such as helicopters, are more expensive to purchase than say an electric powered trainer and take more time to acquire the skills needed to fly them safely.

Set out below is a rough guide to the breakdown of costs to own a basic electric powered fixed-wing trainer, radio, charger, batteries etc.is:

Trainer (Plug and Play)*1 $150 to $300 <insert photo’s of Bixler & E-Flite Apprentice>

Transmitter & receiver*2 $150 to $350 <insert photo’s of Orange T-Six and Spektrum DX6>

Batteries *3 $60 <insert photo of 3s 2200mAh LiPo>

Battery charger *4 $60 to $200 <insert photo of Imax B6 & Hyperion 606 chargers>

So a total cost of between $420 and $910 to get started flying an electric powered trainer. In addition to the above you will need a few basic tools such as battery checker, scalpel, tape, glue, screwdrivers etc., many of which you may already have in your tool box.

A small hobby-grade quad-copter can be built for around the same dollar outlay, but expect to pay much more for an entry-level helicopter.

*1 ‘Plug and Play’ models arrive complete with motors, speed controllers and servos pre-installed. The modeller just needs to add a transmitter, receiver and battery and the model is ready to go!

*2 The cost of a 6 channel computer radio. This is the minimum level of transmitter that new flyers should buy and will contain features that will be needed for more complex models.

*3 For two standard 3 cell LiPo battery packs.

*4 For a good basic charger capable of charging up to six cell packs, so will be of use as you progress in the hobby to larger models.

What other choices do I have other than flying radio controlled models?

We have members who built and fly ‘free flight’ and ‘control-line’ models and can arrange for you to chat to these members if you are interested in these model aeroplane categories.

How do model aeroplanes work?

Model aircraft fly in the same way as full-size ones do. The big difference being that radio controlled models are controlled from the ground with a radio transmitter. Power can be by electric motor, 2-stroke or 4-stroke glow or gasoline engines, or in the case of an unpowered glider, by using gravity!

In the model is a radio receiver that receives instructions from the transmitter and in turn runs electric motors called servos. The servos move the control surfaces of the plane causing it to react to the pilot’s inputs from the transmitter on the ground.

Are they dangerous?

When not treated with due respect and caution, any machine can be dangerous. You must always keep thinking “safety”. Our club has strict rules and regulations governing the flying of model aircraft at our flying sites. We comply with the rules and regulations of Model Flying New Zealand (MFNZ) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and are a sanctioned MFNZ club. Check the links page to visit the MFNZ website and to understand it’s function within the hobby.

How do I learn to fly radio controlled models?

Check out our ‘Wings’ training program viewable from the ‘Learning to Fly’ page. Another good tool is a flight simulator to practice on and to get a ‘feel’ for what it’s like to fly a model. Simulators include a number of built-in’ models and most include planes, helicopters and multi-rotors.

A flight simulator will cost around $200, but if you crash it won’t cost you any money, saving you plenty in the long run!

Can I learn to fly without an instructor?

A small number of lucky modellers have taught themselves how to fly remote control airplanes, but they are few and far between. More often than not, a novice pilot will crash and totally destroy his or her airplane without the assistance of an instructor and they won’t be able to recognize what went wrong. Many hours of work can be involved in the construction of a model and it will be lost in a moment of beginner’s indecision. A skilled flyer can help you get past the first critical test and trimming flights without damage to the airplane.

Do I have to build my own model?

Part of the intrigue of radio control modelling is the construction of your own flying machine, either from a kit or from plans. Seeing your creation in the air adds to the enjoyment. There are, however, other ways of getting into the air. In the past few years, manufacturers have been selling ARF’s (Almost Ready to Fly) airplanes. They come complete with everything needed to get into the air,( a few manufactures include the radio and engine also). The major structures have already been built and finished and it only takes a few hours to put it together. The Quality and functionality of these models has gone up greatly in the past few years, while the price has come down.

Are the models hard to build?

Most of the kits available today can be built with little fuss. If you are capable of following instructions, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all. The instructions that come with the kit usually have pictures and diagrams showing you how the parts should go together. Modern model kits are precision cut (laser) and use the best materials. If you have questions about building a kit, there are many experienced model builders in the Club who would be more than happy to lend a hand.

ARF’s and PNF’s (Plug and Fly kits that have motors servos, and in the case of electric models speed controllers already installed) can be operational in just a few hours.

What kind of tools do I need?

If building a kit or ARF the basic tools needed will include a flat building surface, hobby knife, pins, sandpaper and glue. As you progress in the hobby, you will acquire other tools that help you in your endeavours.

If assembling a PNF model plane little more than a screwdriver is required and quite often these are included with the model!

If assembling helicopters or multi-rotor craft you will also need a soldering iron and various sized screwdrivers and hexdrivers.

How fast do they fly?

Their flying speeds can range from about 20 mph to over 200 mph for a gas turbine powered jet. The speed of an average sport model is between 20 and 50 mph.

How big are they?

A typical sport model or trainer can have about a five foot wingspan and weigh from four to eight pounds. There are single and multi-engine models that can have twelve foot wingspans and weigh twenty pounds or more.

How long does it take to fly on your own?

That all depends on the student and how much time an individual can spend with the instructor. A good guide would be four to six months on the average. The more time a student can commit to training, the shorter the period before (he or she) can fly solo and receive their “wings”. Practising on a flight simulator will also help reduce the timeframe.

How can I find out more?

First off, read the rest of the material included in the ‘Learning to Fly’ section of our website and if you would like to know more about joining the club email us on treasurer@wmac.org.nz or learningtofly@wmac.org.nz to contact us about receiving flying training. Alternatively, visit us at the field on a club flying day or come along to one of our club meetings. Refer to the ‘Introduction’ page in the ‘Learning to Fly’ section for more information about club flying days and club meetings.

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Contact an Instructor

The club has instructors covering fixed wing aircraft (powered and gliders), helicopters and multi-rotors. If you wish to receive flight training contact our instructors by:

  • Emailing our instructors at learningtofly@wmac.org.nz with your contact details and what type of model(s) you are interested in flying and someone will be in touch.
  • Visit us at the field on a club flying day, or;
  • Come along to one of our club meetings

In addition, when at the field and needing assistance, do not hesitate to approach any of the members there. Most all will assist new flyers to become proficient pilots

See the ‘Introduction’ page in the ‘Learning to Fly’ section of our website to find out where and when we fly and for details about club meetings.

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Pre Field Checklist

Done at home before going to the field)

This check list applies to fixed wing aircraft but much of this is also relevant to those flying helicopters and multi-rotors.

  • Wings and tail are properly aligned.
  • Wing panels are not warped.
  • Hinges are properly secured and of sufficient quantity. Pull on hinged surfaces gently to check for loose hinges.
  • Servos are securely mounted to plywood or servo tray and servo tray is securely mounted (servo tray is not made out of balsa or other soft material).
  • All necessary screws are in place and tight (servos, engine mount, landing gear, wheel collars).
  • Push rods do not bind and allow no slop. Should not be able to move control surfaces more than 1/16″ before servo moves.
  • CG (center of gravity) is correct. For glow or gasoline powered models if the CG is located behind the fuel tank, check the CG with the fuel tank empty. If the CG is located in front of fuel tank, check the CG with the fuel tank full.
  • Fuel tank on glow or gasoline powered models is secure and plumbed correctly. The centre line of the tank should be located on the same line as the carburettor.
  • Covering on ‘built-up’ models is tight and properly applied and no bare wood is showing. Bare wood will absorb fuel, weaken airframe, and add weight.
  • Wheels turn easily. Use a couple drops of oil or fuel to loosen.
  • Battery and receiver are wrapped in foam and secure in glow and gasoline powered models.
  • Receiver antennas are routed properly (at 90 degrees to each other more maximum signal diversity).
  • All electrical servos and battery connections are tight.
  • Control surfaces and throttle move in correlation with sticks on transmitter.
    Aileron stick moves right – right aileron moves up.
    Rudder stick moves right – rudder moves right.
    Elevator stick moves down – elevator moves up
    Throttle stick moves up – carburettor opens, or motor spins on electric models.
  • All control surfaces have proper control throws.
  • Propellers are balanced.
  • Receiver, flight battery and transmitter battery packs are fully charged.

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Pre Flight Check List

(Done at the field by the instructor with the student following along)

Note to Instructor: Check new or rebuilt aircraft very carefully. The student is depending on you to help identify problems before flight and to bring the aircraft back in one piece.

  • Observe Transmitter Impound Rules if not using 2.4 GHz radio
  • Check for warps.
  • All hinges are secure. Pull on control surfaces.
  • Wheel collars are tight and wheels turn freely.
  • Engine is mounted securely and there are no loose engine parts.
  • All servo screws are in place and tight.
  • Servo connections are secure.
  • Receiver and battery are wrapped in foam and secured (glow .or gasoline powered models)
  • CG is correct.
  • No slop in control surfaces.
  • Proper fuel tubing is used (gas or glow).
  • Check clevis’ for keepers (pieces of fuel tubing work fine)
  • Check condition of propeller.
  • Check trim on transmitter and aircraft.
  • Proper for proper direction on control surfaces.
  • Check receiver antenna for proper routing and transmitter antenna is fully extended and tight.
  • Steering gear is OK
  • Check engine for reliable idle and high end adjustment (glow .or gasoline powered models).
  • Range check radio.

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Useful Links and Documents