THUNDER BAY, ON ---- June 2nd 2013 ---- Prima Vera! The first signs of spring might be the greening of the grass, the first leaves on the trees, and for aero-modelers the first flights of the season. One Sunday many members of the Lakehead Aero-modelers club met at their flying field south of the city. In many ways this is the perfect location for a model aircraft “airport” but the wind was stiff and gusty making flying conditions difficult. Only the most experienced modeler's or those with well worn training aircraft took to the air during the short periods when the breeze abated.
In the photo Greg is shown landing the popular “Bixler” RC aircraft. He has been flying for about a year and is now firmly hooked on flying model aircraft. A close look at his airplane shows that not all of his flights went as well as his flight to-day. “These foam planes can take a lot, and keep coming back” one member told me. “They make excellent training aircraft” says Steve, owner of Lakehead Models on Bay Street.
In the past modelers would spend the winter months building their models from balsa wood, it could take them one month to build the airplane followed by two to three times the build period detailing the airplane to make it look as good as possible. Some members like to build to fly, some like to build models to show. When spring arrived, club members would bring out their new airplanes for first flights and show and tell.
Steve tells me that these days people want to spend their time flying not building, so his shop comes equipped with many planes that are labeled RTF or BNF which means ready to fly and Bind and Fly respectively. Modern radio transmitters can bind themselves to a particular airplane and the airplane will recognize signals from that one transmitter alone. Considering the most airplanes fly on the one 2.4 Hz frequency it is important that each model has a clear set of instructions.
Most of the ready to fly planes are made from foam, and they feature powerful electric motors driven by Lithium based batteries. There is no fueling equipment needed, no electric starters, and no glow plugs to heat up and no temperamental engines to deal with. The pilot simply plugs in a fresh battery, secures it on the plane. The engine will power up when it receives the instruction from its transmitter to begin flying.
Models such as Greg’s “Bixler” are popular because they make radio control flying fun, easy and affordable. A complete package for the RTF model will include an airplane, radio transmitter, batteries for the transmitter and airplane, and a charger for the aircrafts lithium based battery. All this can be had for under $175 or about 1/3rd to ¼ the cost of a home built balsa model. Planes like this are the perfect recipe for modern men who do not have the time or the shop space to spend 6 weeks and a small fortune building a traditional wood airplane. They can go directly to developing their flying skills.
Members use the flying field whenever there are good flying conditions. Tuesday and Thursday evenings are reserved for novices like me to come out and learn how to fly. If the flying bug has taken hold of your imagination, come out some evening and turn your imagination into reality.