Friday, May 22, 2009

My first plane

A few weeks after I had my simulator and being hooked on watching all the YouTube videos by folks like RCSuperPowers and NightFlyyer, I mentioned my new obsession in passing to a senior co-worker at the office. It turned out that he is also into RC - but only helicopters now - and that he had an old plane lying around which he didn't want anymore and had only flown six times.

To say that I jumped at the opportunity to acquire this plane is an understatment. I had no idea what it was of course - and I didn't care. I had to wait though, as me and the family were heading off to Tasmania for a week. I would say the wait was hellish, but I do actually like spending time with my wife & kids. So anyway when we were back home later that week I dropped around to my co-workers' place to pick up the plane.

It was not what I expected, to say the least! I had an image of a light, foam-bodied plane in mind, but what I got was a large, 55-inch wingspan Aerobird Xtreme, with a fibreglass tail boom and a V-tail, activated by a combination of fishing wire and rubber bands! The thing is huge, and very imposing. I was immediately scared to the fly it too, since it came with a Mode-1 radio that has a slider throttle on the back of the radio.

My co-worker had been advised by folks at his local club that it was a good plane to learn on. "Teh Interwebs" disagreed - most folks said it was a great plane, but not good for a learner. Again I figured they were full of it, but as time has worn on I can see why they were right. I am being completely truthful when I say that you want you first plane to be light, easy to handle, but also to have fast responses to control inputs. Let's see - the Aerobird Xtreme is heavy (with a big 6-cell Ni-Cd or Ni-Mh battery), handles slowly (great!), but has slow response to control inputs, so when you get close to crashing, it's hard to recover.

I took this plane down to the local club, looking for help with getting flying. The interest in helping me was there, but the enthusiam to do so was definitely low. Most folks saw this as a "toy" and nothing more, because it was electric. Once again, my enthusiasm for flying was beginning to be curbed by a bunch of too-serious close-to-retirement old buggers whose opinion was the only correct one. In the end I left feeling a bit dejected, because I was really keen to see the plane fly and be helped out. Since the result was basically "come back later", it just made me feel like when I was a kid - regimented rules on when stuff can be done, dictated by someone else.

I also wasn't impressed with the responses from the club members on how to get into the sport. "Minimum $600 to get started" was common. Oh really? A Hobbyzone Mini Super Cub will be delivered to your door in Australia for less than $200 - including radio, battery, charger, and everything. Please explain how this is somehow NOT an acceptable means of getting into the hobby? It was more narrow-minded, blinkers-on bollocks!

The weekend after my trip to the club was Easter, and our family traditionally travels to a friend's farm out near Maffra in Victoria (Bushy Park to be exact), and they have a few hundred acres to play on. I did some more Internet research and discovered that according to the CASA regulations (Part 101) you don't have to fly at model clubs; as long as you maintain good distance from houses and people, stay below 400 feet, and don't go within three miles of an airfield for real planes, you're good to go. So before we left, I packed the Aerobird into the car and planned to bust my flying cherry over the Easter weekend.

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