Learn to fly

Learning to fly
Learning to fly

Model aviation is a fascinating pastime and is often the starting point for a career in aviation with many options: pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers etc. The cost of models, radios and other equipment has dropped greatly in the last few years. Technology has improved dramatically so that electric models can offer as much excitement as you want.

While it is possible to learn to fly on your own, we don’t recommend it. It’s not as easy as it first appears, and it takes a lot longer. You’ll be at much greater risk of crashing along the way, and there are very few locations in Sydney where it’s permitted. Additionally, you will almost certainly pick up bad habits which rapidly become obstacles to further progress. Our approach is to start the right way: with an instructor to teach the correct techniques, often using a “buddy box” to enable easy handover of control. With this method we have taught many beginners over the years.

We provide what you need to start: friendly instruction, advice on what to buy and how to set it up, advice on the current government regulations, insurance coverage, camaraderie and the only decent flying field in Ku-Ring-gai.

In summary,we have many senior members who are happy to help beginners learn to fly – and several qualified Instructors who can help more experienced pilots hone their skills and undertake the AMAS Flight Proficiency badge tests. There is no tuition fee – just be a member of the club.

Downloadable Training Booklets for Beginners

Government Regulations relating to flying model aircraft

CASA (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority – the Commonwealth government body that regulates all full size and model flying in Australia) have issued a booklet covering safety guidelines and regulations relating to flying radio control model aircraft in Australia which every pilot should read.

Basic principles of flight

This six page booklet is a great introduction to the basic Principles of Flight, put together by our own Martin Bradley with help from Peter Smith, Andrew Baber, Barrie Hill and Tony Brown.

Explanation of “Trimmed Speed”

This two page document written by our Chief Pilot Glenn Bridgland explains the dynamic effect of airspeed on the trim of the aircraft, and vice versa. It is important for both new and experienced pilots to understand how they affect each other in flight.

Electric Up and Away – BMFA guide for beginners

We are delighted that the British Model Flying Association has given us permission to reproduce their very comprehensive 40 page beginner’s booklet on electric flight.

Please note there are a few important differences to keep in mind when using this document as a training guide:

  1. The biggest difference is that in Australia most pilots fly “Mode 1” or “Throttle Right” (see the Electric Up & Away booklet for an explanation of what this means). It will make your training simpler, especially when using a “buddy cable” – a dual control cable that allows your instructor to take over if you get in trouble – if you follow this convention, since very few people (or instructors!) are able to master both Mode 1 and Mode 2. Most transmitters sold in Australia are Mode 1 – and most instructors at Sunset Soaring Club fly Mode 1.
  2. In Australia the frequencies used for radio control aircraft are mainly in the 36 MHz or the 2.4 GHz bands. We may NOT use 35 MHz (UK) or 72 MHz (US) radio control equipment in Australia. We can advise you about suitable brands and models.
  3. In Australia we do not use the BFMA “A” and “B” Electric Flight certificates. The Australian Miniature Aerosports Society equivalents at ‘Solo’ and ‘Advanced’.

R/C Flight Simulators

A great aid to flying at all standards is a radio control Flight Simulator. They are available online and from most model shops – and although somewhat expensive, they are cheaper than a crashed model! The Club has a copy of the excellent “Aerofly” simulator which is available for both Apple MacOS and Microsoft Windows based computers. The Mac version can be purchased via the Apple App Store – search for ‘aerofly rc’. The Windows version can be purchased online from the Ikarus web store.

A free alternative for Microsoft Windows computers is Flying Model Simulator (‘FMS’) which you can download from the internet, but you will need to purchase or make an interface cable to connect your computer to your transmitter. Make sure when buying a Transmitter that it has the relevant buddy cable socket to permit use of a simulator or a “buddy cable”. Cheaper models may not include the buddy cable socket, and sadly all manufacturers use different socket standards.

Recommended Beginner Models

Your first model needs to meet some specific needs. It should be stable, easy to fly, and easy to repair when the inevitable bingles occur. Most of our members started on electric-powered foam models, which satisfy all the above. Once that is mastered, you can gradually progress to more ambitious types.

At present we recommend the Multiplex Easystar or a HobbyKing Bixler as a beginner ‘s first aircraft – from which you can graduate to either gliders or powered aircraft. We DO NOT recommend buying the sub-$50 “Ready-to-Fly” models with included transmitter that you may see in chain stores – while they are cheap, they are fragile, they tend to use 27 MHz transmitters which we do not allow at our field, and they often do not fly very well.

Most foam trainers are launched by a simple toss from the hand. Higher performance models will have a wheeled undercarriage, or make use of the club’s catapult system. For the gliding purists, we also have a selection of rubber bungees.

Choosing a Radio

The best choice these days is one of several systems which operate on 2.4 GHz. Popular brands include Spektrum, Futaba, RadioMaster, Turnigy and FrSky. Before you purchase a radio, visit the club on a flying day and speak to one of our instructors or senior members.

It’s possible to be up and running for an outlay of only a couple of hundred dollars. But our most important advice is to come to the Club and discuss your requirements before parting with your money! You can also see first-hand what sort of equipment is in use by our members.