Need Recommendations for ARF RC Model Airplane

After attending the TopGun RC plane meet in Lakeland, Florida last month I've got to buy an ARF RC plane trainer. When I was a kid I did pretty good with U control model planes. Remember
them? My brother sent me a link for a trainer but I want to get the best, ideally one that'll grow beyond a trainer. I'm willing to spend several hundred bucks maybe more.
link to trainer recommended by my brother
http://www.hobbiconexstar.com/nexstar-select/features.html
Link to Top Gun Meet
http://www.franktiano.com/TopGunFrameset.htm
Tom
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Here is the correct link for the trainer suggested by my brother.

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If you have average hand/eye coordination and correctable vision, go buy the GP Big Stick in the .40 size. This plane will take you past basic training and well into advanced aerobatics. Power it with any of the popular .46 to .52 sized available engines from OS, Thunder Tiger or Magnum. Buy a radio system on 2.4 GHz with at least eight channels and ball bearing standard servos. May as well pick up a flight simulator program while you are at it.
The most difficult thing to find is an instructor that is competent with a model that does NOT have a flat bottomed wing. Those models are intended for folks who have poor vision and atrocious hand/eye coordination. Most of the intended target audience for this type of model will never get past the flat bottomed wing stage.
If you are "normal", you'll get past that stage in ten flights or less.
Finding an instructor thusly qualified will be rough. It appears that not having the "flying gene" is a marker for attracting those folks to wanting to be full time instructors.
Make a deal that if your instructor crashes your plane, they have to replace it with a brand new plane, radio and engine. If they refuse to comply, find someone else to teach you to fly. Or, better yet. Teach yourself how to fly using the computer simulator. Then all you'll need is a check-out flight when you get to your flying field.
Ed Cregger
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Ed Cregger wrote:

There's nothing wrong with a flat bottom wing. I've been flying since 1990, and I still enjoy flat bottom wings along with planes that are supposedly more "advanced". I like three channel planes, too. It's too bad some guys think of flat bottom wings as something that you grow out of. They're missing a lot of fun. Try putting a Kadet through the contest pattern some time, and then tell me how good of a pilot you are. Come to think of it, lots of people enjoy the Telemaster, even if they've been flying for years.
The question was how to get started for "several hundred dollars", which I take to mean significantly less than $500. Most of the ARF trainers from the major vendors are good enough for you to learn with. Isn't the Nexstar the one with fancy gyro driven autopilot crap in it? If so, just get a regular plane instead and learn to fly it. About the radio, just get a regular 4 channel 72MHz radio for less than $150. These will be around for a long time to come, and if you stick with the hobby you'll always find a use for a basic 4 channel radio. I have 4 or 5 of them, plus a 6 and a 7 channel that I use for specialty projects, although not very often. Most guys go for decades without ever flying anything with more than 4 channels. I can count on one hand the number of planes I've built with bomb doors, flaps, or other accessories. (I always wanted to build a glider tug with a tow release....) At any rate, any 4 channel unit from JR, Airtronics, Futaba, or Hitec will do just fine. Your main concern will be that if somebody is nice enough to teach you to fly, you may want to get the same brand they have and hook up with a trainer cord. There's a lot of good stuff on the market today. You can't go too far wrong.
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Get the Nextstar but don't use the gyro! It comes with a computer simulator where you can 'learn' to fly the airplane before ever going to the flying field. This helps tremendously. the engine and radio comes already installed.
The Nextstar is not a bad flying airplane beyond the trainer stage because you can remove the air dams/spoilers, etc. JUST DON"T USE THE GYRO!

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OK, a vote for NextStar. I just got back from the Hobby TownUSA shop in Glen Burnie, MD. They told me the NextStrar models are very good trainers. What's up with the gyro?
Tom
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Radio control models started out/began using converted free flight models. Models that used flat bottomed wings. As long as everyone was using the radio control to merely interrupt the flight of the free flight model, flat bottomed wings worked fine.
When more control channels became available, things changed significantly. You can see this by looking at deBolt and Goldberg models of the early sixties. They began using semi-symmetrical airfoils. It wasn't long until the deBolt Jenny and the Goldberg Falcon 56 became the defacto trainers of the era. Neither possessed a flat-bottomed wing.
So what IS wrong with a flat-bottomed wing? They "zoom". That is, the model can be trimmed to fly straight and level at one speed, but if you point the nose downward, the model will build up speed and will end up in a zoom (climb). If severe enough, the model will then stall, drop the nose and proceed to build up speed again, only to zoom and stall again. This can be very disconcerting for the new pilot, who has enough to learn without trying to figure out why the model is doing what it is doing.
To further add insult to injury, most of the trainers designed and sold as ARFs today have been designed by folks with little flying experience. Trimming is as much of a mystery to them as it is to the new student pilot that bought one of their ARF models. Not only do these models come with wings that are guaranteed to zoom, but the design many times sees fit to add a couple of degrees of positive incidence, further dooming the model to zoom.
Models that have odd trim arrangements are more affected by winds and gusts. Models that are set up to be symmetrical wing equipped trainers generally fly with little or no positive incidence, making them less prone to changing course when encountering a crosswind or turbulence. One's advancement in flying skill is directly related to how many flights one obtains in as short of an amount as possible. Windy days occur much more often than perfectly calm days. The student pilot needs a model that can fly well even on windy days.
In the early Seventies, most designers of training aircraft had moved away from using flat-bottomed airfoil equipped trainers for just the reasons that I have stated. The emphasis was placed upon accumulating as much flying time as possible with a model that did not fly itself. What can you learn when the model flies itself? Not much. Besides, most of what you can learn with a model that flies itself can be learned while flying a computer simulator.
If money is precious, don't tie it up in a flat-bottomed wing trainer that can only fly satisfactorily on calm days. Get that Big Stik or Avistar and get out there as often as you can. These models are not difficult to fly when set up properly. The difficulty is in finding an "instructor" that is skilled enough to set it up for you.
To me, flat-bottomed winged aircraft fall into the same class as cheap Asian engines. Both can be a hoot to own and fly. Neither should be bought and used by a rank beginner. Buy OS for your first engine and do buy a .46 ball bearing, non ring equipped engine.
Asian engines (Chinese mostly) are not plug-n-play for the most part, at least not yet, and the beginner lacks the skills needed to break them in and operate them successfully.
I've been flying R/C since 1966 and control line long before 1966. Not a single day goes by that I don't learn at least one new thing about model airplanes.
Good luck with yours.
Ed Cregger
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SNIP .
SNIP
Sorry Ed, but I disagree pretty strongly with several of your statements.
The instructors JOB is to teach all aspects of flying, from safety to different flight conditions. That means the very first thing *I* teach is where I do not want the student flying with an explanation of why and what is at risk concluded with a statement of what my actions will be should those parameters of the flight be violated. Hopefully the airframe will survive the students attempt at outfoxing the instructor, but they have been known to find new and different ways to plant balsa no matter how hard you watch them.
The second thing I teach new candidates is how to safely prepare the aircraft. CG checks, battery checks, control direction checks on the primary radio and buddy box and how to fix them as necessary. We also check the control neutral trims, wing centered and straight (for rubber banded wings), and control throws. It is difficult to teach someone how to fly if the CG is whacked up or the controls reversed on one box or the other, or the batteries don't have an adequate charge and generally that also means it is unsafe. During this phase we also address the issue of long idles and fuel feed at full throttle. As per many of conversations with George Aldrich, I aim for 5 minutes at idle and no stumbles when slammed to WOT. I teach them how that is accomplished so they can do it themselves on the second engine. There are adjustments to standards that can be made but those are determined on a case by case basis with the airframe/power plant presented.
The third thing I teach new pilots is how to trim an aircraft up so that it flies hands free straight and level at some selected airspeed. Part of that lesson is selecting the speed to trim the aircraft for which does vary according to the tasks they wish to accomplish with the given airframe (which have been known to change) When they are on their own and get their second or third plane SOMEONE has to do it and MY job as an instructor is to make them capable of that task. The hidden agenda here is that if the airplane is not trimmed at the speed we are going to be working at, they cannot learn what or who is making it go where it is going nor can they have an expectation of a definite result when they make specific changes to control or power settings.
The fourth thing I teach new pilots is how the aircraft responds to changes in the power setting. This is the one place where the flat bottomed wing demonstrates what I am trying to show better than the other wing types. The other thing the typical flat bottomed wing presents the new pilot that I like is a significantly higher tendency to allow them to effect unusual attitude recoveries without too much of my physical input. They learn more from instruction by doing and less from watching when I have control. Of course since I had a student with long arms dive a bird it, I only teach with buddy box so I get deeper into the realm of airframe breaking than box passers.
Ed none of this said a thing about the residual value of the airframe using a flat bottomed wing. Someone else already grazed on that subject but I will tell you that many of us enjoy playing with all sorts of aircraft and don't really have a snobbish approach to an airframe just because it has an XYZ airfoil. If flies and I like flying, and I promise you I can find a way to have fun with it. Ever try some serious touch and goes in a good cross wind with a flat bottomed three channel bird? Now THERE is a challenge to define what kind of a pilot you are. Oh, I forgot to add that to my 'lesson plans'. I fly students when I am there and the student is there with the ONLY stipulation being we don't buddy box in the rain. Wind is always with us so I teach in the wind.
Sorry sir, and no offense intended, but I think you took a look through the wrong end of that set of binoculars.
Jim Branaum AMA 1428
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If you reread my post(s), you'll find that we do not disagree on a single, solitary point, Jim.
I made exception for flat bottomed airfoiled wings by stating that they are more suitable for experienced pilots than for rank beginners. I compared them to Asian engines in that they required more skill and thought to fully appreciate them. The student pilot is not ready for this kind of behavior (zooming) from a model yet.
If one flies a heavily wing loaded trainer with a flat bottom airfoiled wing, one will immediately notice the zooming that I have mentioned previously. Most bargain trainers fall into this category. Zooming is a PITA for the student pilot and the instructor.
If one flies a lightly wing loaded trainer with a flat bottom airfoiled wing, they are then at the mercy of the wind and they would be wise to wait for calm days to fly.
The symmetrically airfoiled wing, with a minimum of dihedral, does not have either problem and they can be set up to fly every bit as gently as a flat bottom airfoiled wing, but with a slightly faster, but far broader and gentler stall.
I have a garage full of Telemasters, R/C assist old timers, etc., with flat bottom airfoiled wings, so I'm not against this type of airfoil. I just don't think it is the best choice for trainers.
Ed Cregger
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I live in the Lutherville, baltimore, MAryland area. Do you know of some clubs that might have instructors avialble? What about buying used equipment? Is that a no no?
Tom
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Very thought provoking reply. What do you think of four cycle engines? I'm thinking I'd like a four cycle engine. (When I was kid I did a lot of control line flying. My favorite planes was a model of a Pitts Special biplane. Very tough to fly that little sucker. At one point I had a Madewell one cubic inch engine which, I think, was four cycle. I never used it just picked up from a friend of my father.)
I'm beginning to form a picture of what I need.
Tom
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4 cycle engines are more to fiddle with, heavier per unit power than a 2 stroke. More expensive, usually.
They do swing a larger prop, and sound cool.

While ball bearing OS engines will last longer, and make a little more power, the non ball bearing OS engines are still fine running engines.
My experience is, that with fresh fuel, an a good initial carb set up, any of the OS's will run without fiddling. It is rare that I tweak the mixture more than 2 clicks (about 1/32 of a turn) on my plain bearing .15, and then just run it.
I have a .40 Fox ball bearing ABC, and it has a two needle carb. One guy gave me his, because he could not get it to run without it quitting mid flight.
Fox has some special instructions about sanding the shape of the high speed needle to a profile that will make consistent runs over the whole RPM range. I took the time to understand it, and fiddle with it, and finally got it right. It now runs very well.
My point is that there are some brands of engines that will need an experienced hand to make run consistently. OS does not need to be fiddled with.
My opinion about the right equipment is to go with relatively cheap stuff. The engine does need to be easy to set up and run. You may well break some of the servos and other stuff in the first year or two, or you may lose interest and quit. If you stay involved, and get some skill, you will know what kind of good stuff you want to buy to move up.
--
Jim in NC



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wrote

That's a fair comment. However they rarely need fiddling with, will idle for extended periods without problem, transition immediately to power, have lower fuel consumption (for a comparitively sized 2 stroke), and sound better (subjective but applicable to scale aircraft).

They sound way cool. Of course, some planes just demand a screaming two stroke.

Nothing wrong with plain bearings other than they'll eventually have some oil seepage from the front of the engine. Of course, it takes quite a few flying hours to get one that worn.
If an OS 2 stroke is your choice, simply determine whether you want a low cost, medium powered, engine that will last forever (say a 46LA) or a higher cost, high output, ball bearing engine (say a 46AX). There's not much price difference between the two now but the 46AX may be better if you wanted to move that into sport planes later on.

I've had similar experience although brand new 46AXs did tend to have a flat spot during transition from low to high. If you lived with that for a while it would eventually go away as the engine ran in.

Take GMS engines, a lot of people hate them but I've found them very powerful, cheap, long lasting (my 47 outlasted a 46AX), and they ran well (at speed). They aren't an engine designed for puttering around the sky, they like throttle.

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Sorry, I was unclear.
The "fiddling with" I was talking about this time was things like adjusting valve clearance.
--
Jim in NC



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| There's nothing wrong with a flat bottom wing.
They don't go fast efficiently. As your speed goes up (and you put your angle of attack down to keep the plane from rising), the drag goes up even more than it would with many other airfoils, because you have to fly at a negative angle of attack.
Not a big problem for a powered plane, especially one that's meant to be a trainer, but for a glider it's a big drawback, especially if there's any wind, because it makes it hard to get your speed up between thermals.
I'm not saying that flat bottom wings are bad, but there is at least one thing `wrong' with them :)
| I've been flying since 1990, and I still enjoy flat bottom wings | along with planes that are supposedly more "advanced". I like three | channel planes, too.
I concur ...
| About the radio, just get a regular 4 channel 72MHz radio for less | than $150.
Even better, if you have a friend who knows R/C gear and can help you shop, pick up something used from somebody who's going spread spectrum, and buy your low end 72 MHz radio for less. You could probably find something for $50 that works well, and for $150 you could probably get a nice computer radio that you probably won't ever outgrow.
If you're going to spend $150 for low end 72 MHz gear, you might as well spend a little more ($220 or so?) and get spread spectrum gear with a low end computer radio. A Spektrum DX6i or Futaba 6EX comes to mind.
| Your main concern will be that if somebody is nice enough to teach | you to fly, you may want to get the same brand they have and hook up | with a trainer cord.
You can get converter cables to go between most vendors, but it's certainly simpler if you stick to the same vendor.
As for what plane to get, Tom might also want to consider an electric plane line a Slow Stick. Small, very slow (so not much good in wind), much more forgiving of mistakes (but if you have an instructor, there should be no mistakes.) Not much noise or glow smell (even though I mostly fly gliders and a few electrics now, I still love the smell of glow. Don't love the mess, however.)
--
Doug McLaren, snipped-for-privacy@frenzied.us
"I had a fortune cookie the other day and it said: 'Outlook not so
  Click to see the full signature.
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wrote:

All good points but I don't believe electric is the way to go where i live where there is usually a breeze unless it's the dog days of August. A club is defintely the way to go for me.
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Tom wrote:

Eletric CAN be as fast as glow or faster..but if you have a good club and link up with good people you feel comfortable with, go with whatever THEY are willing to help you get airborne with.
Round here, that would be electric; the same is not universally true however.
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I fully agree with you! I have a GP Big Stick with a 4 stroke and love it. I've commented to many instructors at our club how forgiving it is YET you can wring it out for aerobatics. Far better low speed behaviour which is ideal for students.

I'd suggest a four stroke instead. Two strokes aren't good for low speed learning. Dead sticks resulting from extended low speed running, dead sticks from emergency recoveries (throw the throttle open and it dies....or wait a few seconds for it to catch up).
A four stroke instantly responds, has plenty of torque for recovery maneouvers, and will happily run for extended periods at low throttle. This is what a student needs, not the latest 'race' ported 2 stroke that fuels up and dies during low rpm trainer flying.

Frequency is your choice. Don't be fooled into 2.4Ghz as being the saviour of all glitches and lock outs. Many 2.4Ghz pilots are discovering it's not the panacea for radio issues, with some worrying trends that defy the marketing.
You don't need 8 channels, very few planes require more than 5 or 6. Go to a club and take a look at the planes there, 90%+ will be no more than 5 channels.
Ball bearings, not necessary until you move up to significantly advanced aircraft (speed, power, size etc). It's like fitting 200mph tires to a VW beetle.

Get FMS, it's free off the web. Buy a suitable trainer cord. If you want to splash out on the better sims go for it but they won't teach you the basics any better.

I'd recommend semi-symetrical as well BUT most students wouldn't be able to tell the difference, nor would a experienced instructor who'd unconciously deal with anything a flat bottom wing throws at you.

Some pilots will get their solo in a few flights spread over maybe two months of Sunday flying, others may take years. Once solo'd and with some experience, you'd be hard picked to tell who took longer with the majority of pilots.

Yep, most instructors take on the job reluctantly. However, in some parts of the world instructors are awarded recognised certifications. It doesn't mean they are a excellent instructor but it means they are competent.
We find most students will try several of the club instructors and then find one that best suits them. Matching an instructor to the student is very important.

Sorry, but I totally disagree. An instructor will do everything he can to prevent a students plane from crashing but expecting them to take full responsibility is arrogant. The same thing applies for those who'll happily ask someone to test fly their plane and then expect the pilot to take responsibility if it crashes.
If you can't trust the instructor, then find another. If you can't find one, you know who's got the unrealistic expectations.

If you believe that you're one of the 0.02 percent that magically teach themselves how to fly without crashing one (or a dozen) planes. Teaching yourself to fly without insurance, as highly recommended or required in most parts of the world, is fraught with risk.
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***Two-strokes do not die during low rpm trainer flying, when the instructors knows how to tune the engine. There is nothing wrong with using a four-stroke engine for training, if the student pilot can stand the financial hit of it being destroyed.

***What some folks are discovering is that even a very modern 2.4 GHz SS radio has some quirks to learn and avoid, such as unshielded spark ignition systems, etc. 2.4 GHz SS is vastly superior to the old technologies we used to use. If you must buy 72 MHz gear, buy it used at ridiculously low prices. I prefer fresh new gear, myself.

***His original post said that he was into scale flying. He will need at least eight channels, if not more. Why waste money on an el cheapo radio when buying what he needs right up front will save him hundreds of dollars later on?

***Yes, ball bearings are necessary. The training phase will not last more than a few weeks, but the ball bearing servos can last for decades.

***FMS is garbage. It's not worth what you pay for it and it is free.

***I wouldn't have any problem telling who was a natural and who wasn't. In this hobby, you get out of it what you put into it regarding work and serious training. If one is happy making divets in the flying field while yucking it up with the club's other yokels, well, then maybe your approach is acceptable. In my paradigm, those that take longer than several months to qualify to fly solo will never be what I call a pilot. We have Type A and Type B personalities in this world. Guess which group I fall into.

***You missed my point entirely. Perhaps that was my fault for not writing it as clearly as I should have. The vast majority of times (in my experience), the fellows strutting around the field with their chests puffed out and with various labels and stickers on their clothes proclaiming that they are instructors - are not. Normally, these are the guys to avoid. Take a survey and see who packs up their planes in one piece at the end of the day. These are the guys that you want to instruct you.

***Anyone worth his salt will give the student pilot's model a thorough inspection and range check. Both powered and unpowered. Of course the instructor shouldn't be held responsible if the student pilot used inadequate glue in the wing center joint, or forgot to glue the hinges in place. But other than that, they should be held responsible if they screw up and fly a perfectly good airplane into the ground. After all, they took on the job for the sole reason of avoiding crashing/ruining the student pilot's aircraft. It's real easy to be cavalier about wiping out a beginner's set up when you are not held financially responsible. I've seen it happen too many times in my life.

***I've never met a beginner that needed help to trash his training set up. Have you?

***In fact, I did teach myself how to fly by myself without crashing. It just proves that if you are really interested in the hobby and do your homework, you can accomplish nearly anything - but only if you're willing to work.
Ed Cregger
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Come on, a student with a barely run in sports 46 engine (eg. 46AX) will invariably run into numerous engine stalls on the runway and dead sticks when trying to fly at a moderate pace. Sure, good tuning will help with that but it won't go away. The student doesn't need to be worrying that the engine can stall, he needs to focus on flying.

Not sure what your local engine prices are like but the difference between a decent 46 2 stroke and a 52 4 stroke are less than $50. Less than the cost of the trainer.

We've specifically noted at least 2 2.4Ghz radios interfering with each other, yet both tested fine with a technician. We've also seen radios go off the air for no reason plus, some possible intereference from electric setups. These aren't excuses for low batteries and other human factors but demonstrated failures with many people watching.

I don't doubt it's good but people are putting full faith in a technology because it's new. It's not perfect, better perhaps but not perfect.

I like new gear to, particularly when it comes to servos. However, a well checked out piece of equipment rarely causes a problem.

I'm into scale flying and not once have I used more than 6 channels. Sure, if he goes the whole hog with flaps, retracts, bomb releases etc he may get up there but I know I could do that all with less than 8 channels.

Because many beginners tend to spend extra to have something to grow into but then find it's not what they want 12 months later. Various reasons exist for this but it would be more cost effective to buy a decent 4-6 channel radio and then re-evaluate later on. The old radio will inevitably come in useful.

I know of non-ball bearing servos 25 years old that work fine. Hitec sell more 322 and 422 non-bearing servos than anything else yet, I've never heard of one failing except through a crash.
They aren't necessary, but a nicety! Very few pilots can tell the difference (in the air) between a BB and non-BB servo fitted to the average plane.

FMS teaches eye hand co-ordination and control familiarisation, two of the most important things to master during training. If you can't do that, you'll never fly. FMS is good for that.

Fully agree on that point. That's why it should be up to the club committee to determine who is not only a competent flyer but also capable of teaching. In our club no-one with the attitude you describe would be given instructor status.

>> We find most students will try several of the club instructors and then

Agreed.
Agreed
OK. If an instructor makes a stuff up that crashes the plane then most should be open enough to admit their fault. This is different to an instructor trying to recover a plane the student has lost control of (noting buddy cords aren't commonly used in my area).
An instructor should avoid letting the student get into trouble but in some cases even the best will be hard pressed to recover the situation.

Sure, some can do it but they are the minority. Most begineers aren't that disciplined or co-ordinated to master that approach.
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