R/C airplanes

anyone play with R/C airplanes as a hobby? I’ve thought a little about getting one but am compleatly confused about a couple of things. I’ve looked in a couple of mags and on some web sites and have seen that you need a license!? huh? do you really need a license to fly one or is it just for certain things. Also I’ve seen that you can only fly them in certain places and that you need to be a member of a national club to get access to these places. Can’t I just go out to my local school yard, which is huge and fly it? so can anyone give me some help on this subject, I’m kinda intersted in it.

Eddie, who now works for the FAA and knows nothing about planes.

      • I live in the middle of the United States, seven miles from a major military airport. They’re not my hobby, but as far as I know you do not need any license of any sort to use RC planes; just a fair bit o’ cash. What country you in? (you do get response from all over on here) - MC

oh oops, I keep forgetting to tell people where I’m from. I’m in the US, Maryland to be specific.

I used to be into it when I was in high school. AKAIK, you don’t need a license. (Certainly not a pilot’s license!) As long as the transmitter is below a certain wattage, I don’t think you need an FCC license.

Look for a big, open place. There might be local laws that prohibit flying R/C planes in the park. Generally, don’t fly near an airport. (Although VNY has an R/C field not too far from the departure end of its runway.)

You might want to try an electric R/C plane as they are less messy and are quieter than gas-powered ones.

If you go to your local hobby shop, they can tell you where you can fly your R/C plane.

Whoops! Co-worker says it’s time for coffee!

My brother is into these. In NJ where we live, you do not need a liscense. But you might want to lok into joining a club. My brother is in a local club and they give him access to private property to fly on as well as discounts on insurance. Yes, liability insurance is a good idea since these planes weigh a few pounds and can cause significant damage if they crash into a car, house or person. Ask at your local hobby shop for information.

Also, if you do get started, be prepared to crash a few planes before you get good. When I see my brother I always ask if he crashed anything today, and if he has been flying he probably has.

Good luck,



I used to be active in the hobby and can perhaps spread some light.

There is no “licence” required. There is however a national organization called the “Academy of Model Aeronautics” or AMA. This organization issues “licence numbers” which can then be applied to the models. The major benefit of this organization is a large insurance policy that indemnifies, I think that’s the term, you in case the model causes damage to someone’s property. Imagine you losing control and crashing into someone’s car as they drive by. They then lose control and hit two parked cars. I can see a big bill in someone’s future. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover it, but for the cost of membership it’s not too bad a deal. Membership also brings benefits such as a nice monthly magazine with lot’s of good information. Here’s a link to their site http://www.modelaircraft.org/

You could buy and fly with out, but most property owners are worried about liability these days.

If you choose to join a local club, membership in the AMA would likely be required.

What types of models are you interested in? There are some neat electric powered models called “park flyers”. These fly really slow and can even be flown in a gym. Here’s a link to one of these http://www.hobby-lobby.com/bleriot.htm What ever you do, do it safely!

A buddy of mine used to fly R/C helicopters and those things are EXPENSIVE! I’m certain you don’t need a license and I would be surprised if anyone even makes a unit that is so high in wattage you’d have to inform the FCC. Oh, and if they do and you don’t have one…so what? Oh God, I’d hate to get busted by the roving R/C police enforcement van!
(yes that’s sarcasm)

I would, of course, not recommend flying them near an airport, and I guess my biggest note of caution is, plan on spending a fair bit of money because when you crash (and you WILL), depending on how high up the plane is at the time, you will likely destroy the thing, so I’d recommend going as cheap as possible on your starter plane.

Other than that, enjoy. I’ve never heard of getting liability insurance for these things as was suggested, and I only recommend joining a club if you get really into it. Otherwise, like car clubs, it just ends up making you spend more money so you can be cool and fit in with the latest, greatest plane.

You don’t need a license unless you buy a radio in the ham frequency band. There is a national governing body for model aircaraft in the US, the AMA - Academy of Model Aeronautics. You don’t have to join but it’s an extremely good idea as it provides liability insurance as long as you fly within guidelines. A model airplane colliding with a person can be fatal. Don’t just go to the schoolyard to fly.

That said it’s expensive. More expensive than you can predict. You will crash airplanes. If you cannot fly with the attitude that every airplane is eventually doomed it may not be the hobby for you. Radio equipment and engines are usually not destroyed in crashes but you’ll need to do repairs on the plane. It may be convenient to start with a ready to fly plane but IMO if you build your own you’ll learn how to repair in the process. I enjoy building, some folks don’t.

There are ways to learn that keep the crashes to a minimum. Find an R/C club and see if they have any designated instructors. If you get the same brand of radio as your instructor you can probably fly in “buddy box” mode, literally dual controls with two transmitters conneted by a cable. The instructor can take over by merely releasing a switch. If not buddy box you can hopefully hand the transmitter to the instructor. Unfortunately that’s how I lost my first plane. I kept banking too much in a turn and was in a death spiral before I knew I was in trouble. When my cadet augered the instructor said, “huh, I probably should have taken over.” I didn’t bitch, I just gathered the mangled remains and started over. As Hyman Roth said in The Godfather Pt. II “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

It’s fun, and harder than it looks. I have a little time in full size aircraft which did not prepare me for R/C much at all. You need to learn to watch a speck in the sky and always know what it’s attitude is. If you’re flying toward yourself you must orient your flying mind to the plane’s right and left, not yours.

Go hang around a club and ask more questions. You’ll get feedback on what radios and engines to get. What’s a good plane, etc.

…Also, if you do get started, be prepared to crash a few planes before you get good. When I see my brother I always ask if he crashed anything today, and if he has been flying he probably has. … - Thing 1[\quote]

      • Some years back a pal of mine watched his neighbor fly a brand-new RC helicopter into a tree, totally demolishing the helicopter. - MC

I can’t find the link but look up real jet scale models! I don’t think “R/C” does them justice. IIRC, they run around $12-15,000 and some licensing is required. TOO COOL!!
The site I saw had some pretty intense theoretical discussions going on. It looks like a hobby of airplane people (engineers, pilots, etc.)

My brother bought one in the late 1980s. It says right on the outside of the box that an FCC license is required to operate R/C model airplanes. The plane came with an application. There was no test, and no fee to get the license. IIRC, he never actually did send off for the license, treating it as a “do not remove this tag” or “55 saves lives” sort of thing. The law may have changed since then. The frequency of the transmitter was 75-76 MHz, if I’m reading the manual right.

Twice, a year apart, while umpiring a game, I saw two R/C aircraft crash into each other in mid air. They both fell like stones after that. The people just loaded up their stuff and went home like it was no big deal.

So, what gives? Is part of this hobby supposed to be enjoying the aircraft building as much as the aircraft flying?

Just wondering…

Yep. A friend of mine is a serious R/C helicopter “pilot”. He’s actually sponsored by one of the major manufacturers. I know this because we were just talking about him switching sponsors. Anyway, a big part of the hobby is just building the things. One or more of his helicopters is always “in the shop” due to crashes. He seems to enjoy building and repairing as much as flying. It’s a very expensive hobby, from what I understand. I don’t know how he got into the sponsorship deal.

Kevin B.