So you want to fly R/C Gliders…

For whatever reason you think you want to fly r/c gliders. Maybe it was peer pressure. Maybe you saw a post or video on social media and here you are. Well, this page is for you. You are in the right place.

How to Begin

Before you spend any money, come out and watch someone fly. Flying R/C gliders will be a commitment of time to learn, money to buy a glider (used or new) and patience. Unlike other hobbies, this one is best learned by being around others. The flying “bug” or “virus” is picked up by contact. Many of us were born with it, a member of our family flew. Many of us happened upon it. We drove by a flying field and – wow – “how can I get started?”

The best way to get started is by coming out to a field as a guest or volunteering at a contest. Volunteering is easy. You can serve as a timer or as a hi-start retriever. Since we fly on privately owned fields, the first thing you’ll need is an invitation from a club member. Fill out a “Contact Us” form and we’ll make time.

Step 2: You’ll need a plane

Step #1 – Don’t spend a lot of money. This first plane will probably take some abuse as you learn how to fly.
Step #2 – Ask around the club and see if some one has a starter plane to sell you.
Step #3 – Go fly with a club member. Often they might let you fly their plane. This is a good way to get “stick time”. Ask and they will teach you how to fly. As you become more comfortable – fly your own plane.
Step #4 – Learn about the R/C airplane tech. This is important but secondary to learning how to fly. People can argue the fine points of this but basically the plane is controlled by a “Transmitter” (TX) you hold in your hand. When you move the “Sticks” on the Transmitter they send a radio signal to the “Receiver” (RX) inside the plane. The Receiver chooses which “Servo” to send the signal to based on the stick movement on the Transmitter. The servo will move a “Control Rod” to change the angle of a “Control Surface” which will cause the plane to change how the plane is flying. This is the rough picture.

What we fly

HL – Hand Launch: These planes have a 1-1.5 meter wingspan and are launched by had.
2M or “Two Meter”. Of all of the classes, these tend to be the most affordable and are often used as beginner or trainer planes. This class of plane is called by it’s wingspan – wing measured from wingtip to wingtip. In competition they can be launched with a hi-start, winch or on-board electric motor.
UNL – Unlimited. These gliders have wingspans between 100 inches and 4 meters (about 14 feet). These are the largest and often most complex planes we fly at our club. The control surfaces can be as simple as rudder and elevator and as complex as rudder, elevator, flaps and ailerons.
ALES – Refers to the competition rules of the class. Typical ALES competition involves a group launch, 10 minute duration task + landing points. The launch is made using an on-board electric motor and “CAM” which shuts of the motor at a specific altitude.
RES – “Rudder, Elevator and Spoiler”. A spoiler is a moveable control surface on top of the wing designed to disrupt the wing’s lifting capabilities. The spoiler is deployed during descent from altitude and to slow the plane for landing.

Step 3: Join the club

We fly on private fields and only allow guests out there 2 times before pushing them to join.

Question: Why join a club?

(Short answer) It’s cool.
(Long answer) We believe we have great places to fly safely. We fly in the National Airspace (NAS) of the United States and our flights are in accordance with the FAA rules for recreational flyers at Community Based Organizations (CBO) and the AMA (American Modelers Association) code of conduct. As model flyers in the US NAS we comply with the FAA rules and each carry an AMA membership that provides supplemental insurance in case of property damage. We require all of our members to be current AMA members and follow the FAA’s current registration of model aircraft.

We follow AMA and FAA safety protocols at our fields anytime we fly. As users and stewards of the NAS we believe in a safety first approach. This is one of the reasons why we fly far away from the city. The bottom line is – we want to enjoy our hobby in a safe manner.

Step #4 – Practice, Practice, Practice

We have a club Google Group used for member communications. It is common to see posts about members going flying. We like to fly together. We like to learn together and we like to compete together. Every flight is a learning opportunity as well as a competition against one’s self and other flyers. Go flying.

Step #5 – Compete in a Contest

They say a sailing contest happens whenever there are two or more boats on the water. At the field, one flyer might ask another flying, “How long was your flight?” Like children building towers out of blocks – this can lead to competition.

A flying contest is fun and is competitive as you make it. You could come out and help set up the field before the contest, offer to get a hi-start line or run the winch. You could also offer to make us lunch (one can only hope). You can also compete.

How do we compete – simple – fly for a set length of time and land on a point on the ground. That’s all you need to know for now.

Step #6 – (Optional) Go to the NATS

You might ask, like in Alice and Wonderland, “just how far does the rabbit hole go?” Pretty far. The NATS, or Nationals, is the annual AMA competition for r/c flyers. It is held in Muncie, Indiana and contests usually include upwards of 100 flyers. Flyers will talk. Videos are made. Legends are strewn. The only way to really know is to go.