Beginners guide to model aircraft

Do you ever see a model aircraft flying around the park?  Nowadays with technology as it is, you would be forgiven for thinking they were a thing of the past. There are plenty of us enthusiasts. We collect them, build them, care for them, and go out when the weather is perfect to let the plane get some air and have lots of fun.

Or not, depending on which type of model aircraft you have gone for. There are flying and non-flying types. The non-flying ones tend to be replicas of famous planes, that could be valuable in the future.

Flying model aircraft

Some of the flying model aircraft resemble scaled down versions of real piloted aircraft. Some are purely for competition while the rest are made purely for fun. There are enthusiasts who prefer the latter, because they are less valuable should they break during flight. However, most model aircraft lovers like them to resemble the real thing. There's a sense of attachment to them, when you know there's a full scale version out there somewhere.

The flying model aircraft can be put into a number of different groups. Here are a few of the main ones:

Gliders - A glider does not generally have any internal power source.  They can be catapulted up using an elastic bungee, or in the style of a discus throw are hurtled up into the air however the most popular method for competition is by hand towing  or by using a power winch.

An exception to this are gliders with built in electric motors that are used to get them to height after which they are turned off and the gliding begins.

Electric Power - In the electric powered models, they have a battery powered electric motor. Throttle Control is carried out through an electronic speed control (ESC), that works to regulate the motor. 

Pylon - or more commonly the "go fast and turn left" brigade. Pylon is the racing side of model aircraft with the course normally being in the form of a triangle and racing takes the form of heats where the competitor doing the fastest time over a set number of laps is the winner. This is the pure adrenaline side of the hobby.

Control Line - this type of flying has the models on a fixed line, again mainly competition oriented and in the form of combat, racing or pure speed.

Other types of competitive model flying include Aerobatics, Scale and Vintage.

To further group the models, there are two general sections, Radio control and free flight.

Radio controlled - The model is controlled by radio where the model has a receiver and servos and a transmitter is operated by the user which allows him to manipulate the movements of the plane.

Free flight - this is where the model is left to it's own devices  and there is no input to it after it being launched.  This is often referred to as the "pure" side of our hobby since it involves a lot of knowledge of aerodynamics and how to correctly trim models so that they will follow a specific flight pattern and return safely back to earth.


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