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Your First Airplane

Control Line flying has many disciplines - Precision Aerobatics (Stunt), Combat, and Racing to name just a few. However, airplanes that are suitable for one of the various forms of competition aren't usually the best planes to learn Control Line flying with. Your first plane should be rugged, to withstand the inevitable crashes. It should be have simple construction so it's easy to build and repair. It should be relatively inexpensive so you won't worry about crashing (because you WILL crash). It should fly slowly enough to give you time to react, and it should be stable, not "twitchy."

The best thing to do is ask people in your club what they recommend. Of course, you may find that you get as many opinions as people you ask. Compare the different planes that are recommended. In general, a thicker wing will allow the plane to fly better at slower speeds. Planes with a longer tail moment tend to be less "twitchy." Watch what other people in the club are flying. How fast are they? Do they fly smoothly? Many clubs have members who keep a trainer or two on hand to let new people try before deciding what to get for their first plane. Something to keep in mind is that you're actually choosing a plane/engine combination. Too much engine can turn the most docile trainer into a fire breathing monster.

Your First Engine

If people have strong opinions about which airplanes are suitable for a beginner, opinions about C/L engines can be even stronger. For this reason, the best brand of engine to buy when getting started in Control Line flying is whatever brand the person helping you learn to fly likes. When you run into tuning problems, it will be much easier to resolve them if the person helping you likes and is familiar with the engine you are running. If your mentor happens to NOT like the brand of engine you bought, the likely solution they'll offer will be along the lines of "get rid of that Brand X piece of junk an get yourself a Brand Y."

Since you're taking your mentor's advice on what engine to get (right?), your main concern will be to familiarize yourself with it's handling characteristics and any modifications that might help it be more "user friendly." It is VERY IMPORTANT to read the instructions that came with the motor before handling it in any way. For example, the instructions for the Brodak 40 state that you can damage the engine by turning it over slowly by hand before it's properly broken in, yet that is the first thing a lot of people do with a new engine - turn it over slowly by hand to check the compression.

Size Matters

In Control Line flying, larger planes tend to be easier to fly than smaller planes, so they don't crash as often. On the other hand, they are more expensive, so crashes are more costly. Another thing to consider is that smaller models won't take off of grass, so if your club's field is grass, smaller models will need to be hand launched.

.049 - .074

Commonly referred to as "Half A," airplanes in this category are the least expensive way to get started. Some model designs have built up wings, but many have balsa sheet wings. Models in this size range usually fly on 35 to 40 foot lines, and will probably need to be hand launched if flying over grass. Engines are available from Cox Hobbies and Brodak.

.15 - .25

Planes in this category typically have around 200 to 300 square inches of wing area and fly on 52 foot lines. Usually, wings are of built up construction, though some designs have sheet wings. This doesn't seem to be a very popular size range, at least in my experience. Note that a modern .25 like the Fox .25 BB or OS Max 25 LA will do a very good job flying older planes that were disigned to take up to a .35, for example the Ringmaster.

.29 - .46

This is the size range I would recommend for a first Control Line airplane. A good plane for this engine range will have 400 to 500 square inches of wing and fly on 60 foot lines. These planes are large enough to fly smoothly and usually have plenty of power and large enough wheels to take off of grass. There are many kits available in this size range, as well as many designs available as plans for those who like to scratch build. Good engines in this size range include the Fox .35 Stunt, Brodak .40, and OS Max .40 and .46 LA.

.51 - up

Models and engines in this category are big and expensive. Planes in this category can usually fly on 70 foot lines (or longer) without any problem. Until a flier gets into expert Stunt or Scale, there is no good reason I can think of to build a model in this size range. In my opinion, a beginner would be much better served by a smaller plane.

Pay Your Money and Take Your Choice

Having said all that, my recommendation for a beginner's first plane is... to find a club and ask what they recommend. Chances are, the quality of help you receive will be better if the person helping you is familiar with the airplane you're going to be learning on.

If you can't find a club, I would recommend the Sig Skyray. They make a couple, get the one that is designed for .19 to .35 size engines. It is a good flying, rugged, easy to build ship. Bolt an OS Max .25 LA on the nose and have fun!

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