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Created by Member Bubblefish777 on October 24th 2007
This is a small guide for anyone asking several common questions when joining this board…
What Helicopter should I buy ?
What’s my progression path ?
I have a budget of ‘X’ what do I go for ?
When first deciding you want to be involved in RC helicopters it’s very tempting to buy the best one you can afford. This is a bad move for several reasons. Firstly bigger does not necessarily = better. RC Helicopters can be relatively cheap (£100 or so) to very expensive (£1000’s). However they all have some basic skills requirements which can be self-taught and regardless of your income, you’ll want to acquire these cheaply and easily.
The first thing you need to acknowledge as a ‘would-be’ RC pilot is you WILL crash. There’s no ‘If’s’ ‘But’s’ or ‘Maybe’ about this. You will crash. Just take that as a given for the moment.
What will kill this hobby for you will be the cost and complexity of your crashes. Again, this can be a 5 minute repair job costing £5-£10 or it can be 3 or 4 hours (even more in some cases) costing £100’s.
So the simple truth I am trying to impart is … even if you can afford to blow £1000’s on your first Heli your progression path starts the same as everyone’s….with the basics.
The first ‘real’ and basic helicopter you should buy is a co-axial fixed pitch Helicopter. One of the most popular is the Blade CX2 and retails for around £110. There are many similar Heli’s such as the Lama v3 and v4. You may hear of the ‘Mash’ Helicopter. (This is actually a medivac… seen in the comedy "MASH" about the Korean war). However I’m going to talk about the CX2 as it’s what most of the new folks on here have bought recently. For this you will get a CD of how to basically set-up your CX2, a simple 4 channel transmitter (Throttle, Yaw (Rudder), Elevator and Aileron), a battery pack, charger and of course the CX2 helicopter. When you go to buy your CX2, you’d do well to buy the following spares as well :
1 pack of upper rotor blades
1 pack of lower rotor blades
1 or 2 battery packs
1 Inner shaft
1 Fly bar
1 set of landing skids.
The spares are about £20-25 the batteries around £25-30
The CX2 is designed as an indoor helicopter and requires reasonable space. An empty garage would be ideal. A sports hall or church hall would be brilliant. DO NOT fly the CX2 outdoors until you have had a lot of experience AND it’s calm if not still. The SLIGHTEST gentle wind will generate huge amounts of lift and your heli will shoot up and out of control before you can react. Your only choice will be an immediate power off and hard crash. Consider yourself warned J.
The CX2 is a co-axial design meaning it has twin rotor’s with the torque of each rotor cancelling the other out as they counter-rotate with respect to each other. In other words it’s very stable and doesn’t have a tail rotor. The receiver in the helicopter also acts as a Gyro and will help keep the helicopter facing the same way, leaving you free to keep the helicopter in a hover without worrying about the aspect the helicopter is in. .
The CX2 is initially flown with the nose pointing away from you or what is known as ‘Tail In’ … the tail obviously pointing towards you. The is the easiest way to fly as the bank, and pitch controls reflect directly in the behaviour of the helicopter. i.e. Push the stick forward and the heli moves forward.
The CX2 is also what is known as ‘fixed pitch’. This means the rotor blades do not change their pitch depending on what the throttle is doing. This again makes for a very simple model , but is sacrifices manoeuvrability for this. It also keeps the mechanics of the rotor head simple and cheap.
On average the CX2 will take most people around 3-4 flights before they can maintain a vague hover. Given the cost of the batteries (around £15 each) buying 2 or 3 will increase your fun and flight time. It’s unlikely you’d fly more than 30-40 mins a day to begin with… it is taxing and will require some practice !
Once you have got the hang of the basic hover you’re probably going to want to start trying to zoom around. Don’t !
All flights begin and end in a hover or will for the next year or so. Therefore it’s important to get the hang of a good solid hover to being with. When you feel you have achieved this then progressing to forward flight out of a hover and a stop back into a hover is your next step. It may seem easy with a CX2 but later as you move up to larger heli’s the inertia of a heli will make this more problematic as you need to ‘flare’ to break your forward impetus and come to a halt. Get the hang of this now.
By now you’ve probably hit a few things and chipped your upper and lower rotor blades and when you do, they will need replacing or they will effect your flight performance. There’s a chance you’ll bent the rotor shafts, damage the canopy, damage the landing skids etc etc. These will all cost £5-£10 a time to fix. After a few weeks you will also want to increase your performance of the Helicopter and ‘soup it up’. This can be done with aluminium parts that provide sharper response and indeed motors and batteries are upgradeable as well. This is a great place to mention that by now you’ve probably spend £150-£200 on parts and upgrades. So if you started looking at £200+ to spend … don’t spend it on a £250 Heli. It will cost you double that in crash repairs etc.
So lets say you feel you’ve got the CX2 weighed off … really ??
It’s time to keep learning the basics….while it’s still cheap to get it wrong.
Try to hover Nose In. All of a sudden the heli response appears reversed. Input right stick and the Heli banks right ... but in 'Nose In' it drifts to your left ! Obvious stuff but very disorientating and difficult to master. For a lot of pilots this takes a while to get sorted. Try Hovering Side On to you. Again orientation is difficult. (at this stage check the BMFA A certification requirements ... similar to what you practice here is needed to pass.)
Can you move around in a square in all different orientations ? Can you move around in a square while maintaining a slow pirouette ? It will be a long time before the CX2 has outlived it’s teaching abilities. Remember….upgrading simply increases complexity and cost of crashing.
Sooner or later money will burn a hole in your pocket and you’re dying to spend it. OK. STOP ! Don’t go and buy that super duper heli you saw in the magazine… at least not till you’ve flown it. What do I mean ? Well the next purchase you should make is NOT another Heli. It’s a good quality Heli simulator and if you have oodles of cash….buy a good transmitter to use with it…preferably the TX you’ll use on your first ‘proper’ heli. Something like a popular DX7 or DX6 would be good. As for simulators the Phoenix at around £80 is excellent and a favourite of many pilots. The Phoenix even has a model of a CX2 now available ! The phoenix simulator will allow you to acquire the feel (and shock) of a larger more complex helicopter without the immediate expense of crashing it. For example buy the phoenix, set it up and then fly the Align T-Rex 600n helicopter. You’re looking at around £1200 of Heli there. How long did you last before smashing it ? 20 seconds ? That smash will almost certainly have involved those cool looking rotor blades smacking the ground. They’re £70 a set in the real world….. 20 seconds…£70.. getting the picture yet ? Practice and practice and practice some more with the IC and electric training helicopters that come with the package. Use the CX2 and simulator to get as proficient as you possible can. Once your craving for a large heli can no longer be controlled use the simulator and this forum to help you select your first Mini size helicopter such as a T-REX 450 or maybe a Mini Titan…. Consider the power train as well…. IC or electric Heli ???. This will probably cost around £500 to get you flying happily but again….. don’t buy cheap….you’ll make the mistake many of us made by buying weak, poor flying and accident prone helicopters that will cost you a lot more in the long run. Finally if you really do have money to burn, the next best investment you can make is lessons. Get a professional tutor to get you to a good flying standard and also teach you about set-up. It takes years of dedication to build, set-up, fly and diagnose all aspects of helicopters.
It’s a long road but immensely satisfying. Welcome to RC Helicopters J