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Pumpkin drop event

Finding a place to fly.

#1
Hello all,
I have spent the last 3 months saving up for and building my first plane. I had budgeted for $200, and thought that that would get me in the air. I did not take into consideration places to fly. The cheapest RC club near me is $60 a year plus a $50 first year fee, and they require an AMA membership which is nearly $40 a year. Simply put, I cannot afford to pay $150 right now to get in the air. I have spent the past 3 weeks looking on google maps for any park that I may be able to use, but I am located in the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, which has way more airports than I expected. I do not want to drive more than a half hour to go fly, because I suspect flying will only take an hour if I am lucky and don't crash.
Does anyone have any tips on finding places to fly? I am extremely discouraged in my quest to take up a new hobby that gets me out of my apartment.
 

jaredstrees

Well-known member
#2
Well, you do need to be a bit away from an airport, but after that it depends. What are you flying? Larger planes naturally require more space. Smaller planes can be flown just about anywhere. I can fly my little stick in a baseball field. Look for churches, schoolyards, and parks that aren't busy. I don't know the laws where you are at either, but here I can fly almost anywhere as long as it's not over people, homes , near the airport, etc. I tend to fly at a local church that has several ball fields clustered together. Try something like the min scout, I could even fly that one in the street in front of my house if I wanted to. (I don't, too many houses, cars, people, etc) If you are willing to build there are lots of options for smaller aircraft.

For me, a club would be great, but the closest one is about 40 minutes away. That's 80 minutes I'm driving not flying, and since most times I can only squeeze in 2 hours of flying, the club is unrealistic.
 
#3
It is an FTArrow running the Power Pack A. I really don't know what sort of space I need, so I have been looking for sports fields or parks with large open areas. My biggest problem right now is that there is a municipal airport within 5 miles of every place I can find. From what I have read, that isn't allowed.
 

jaredstrees

Well-known member
#4
Correct, no flying within 5 miles. And an arrow is an awesome plane, but probably going to be too quick for a small field flier. Keep looking, you'll find one.
 

d8veh

Well-known member
#5
You would probably get away with flying a Mini Scout or something like that from a sports field, especially if you fly it slow and close. I don't think the FT Arrow is going to be a good first plane unless you've practiced a lot on a simulator.
 

FDS

Well-known member
#6
Plane choices aside, you can also just go ask at farms etc (not places with livestock) for permission to fly on a field or two, depending on what crop and season it is, farms can get you a good way from airports and people plus other hazards.
I chose a small, slow, light plane as my first flyer, a SportCub S, which I could fly in much smaller fields in town if required. The downside of that was wind speed needed to be lower but it meant it was quick and easy to fly. You can run that on an average small soccer pitch quite safely.
A fast, higher performance plane will need a much larger space and you will want to fly good and high, I found my TT was really fast compared to the little Cub, I needed every bit of available sky and plenty of altitude to keep it out of trouble and it was going only sub 30mph but it felt FAST, especially in a smaller field.
I now use a rugby pitch and a half, up the hill from my house, which is about the size of a Murican football field, that is just about big enough to fly the TT, I wouldn’t want to run anything faster up there yet.
If you scratch build you can make any of the FT designs for under $20 in materials, including servos, but you would need to transfer your receiver unless you got a protocol that means you can buy cheap ones. I have DSMX and use the micro size Lemon RX receivers, they have been superb at under $15 each, with great range and reliable binding. The motor and ESC might transfer, but new budget ones would be less than the cost of club membership.
What you will miss by not being in a club is help and training. Learning onyour own can be more expensive if you factor in mistakes in equipment choice, not having a load of people to buy second hand gear from and crashes.
 
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#7
I'll consider building another plane. Is there a page somewhere that shows all of FT's planes in one place sorted by power pack compatibility? I would like to see all planes that use the Power Pack A, since that is what I have.
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#8
Flying within 5 mi. of an airport IS possible. For anyone who has seen the movie Top Gun, you have all seen what used to be Naval Air Station Miramar, and has since been transferred over to the Marines, now known as MCAS Miramar.

I bring this location up because there is a club called the Miramar Flyers that are literally across the freeway from MCAS Miramar.

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If you look at the shot above (and you can see this yourself on Google Maps if you want to look it up in San Diego), the arrow points right to their runway. How do they get away with this? Lots and lots and LOTS of provisions. The military wants guys to know how to fly unmanned aircraft; why not have a location where they can fly on base? It IS a public club, but because it's on base, it's also a pain in the butt to get to fly there because you have to be escorted on base by someone who's in the military/has a sticker authorizing them to come on base.

So, do NOT be discouraged about being within a 5 mi. radius of an airport. Here's the key to it.

1) Find a spot, such as a park, where there are large, open areas to fly at, perhaps a soccer field or a baseball field that is not being used. I have a baseball field that is literally across the street from where I live, where I will occasionally fly drones. The catch with this is that you want to fly when there's nobody else there. I say this for safety, because you can't crash a plane into people that aren't there. :) Also, people don't complain if they don't see you.

2) Look around at the site you've chosen, BEFORE you fly. Do you see lots of low flying aircraft? Are they out cruising around your potential flying area, flying low? If so, look elsewhere. It's not worth fighting over the airspace; the big planes ALWAYS have right of way, and it's just not safe.

3) How high are you planning on flying? I fly with a group of drone flyers at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, every other weekend. It's somewhat close to some local municipal airports, but one of the big things for us with flying there is that there are a BUNCH of trees surrounding the field we fly over. Flying objects and ground objects (such as 40' eucalyptus trees) do not mix. If you keep your flights below the treetops, usually you won't have a problem.

4) Do you still need to get permission to fly in one of these areas, if it is near an airport? According to the FAA, YES. You are supposed to contact the tower and make them aware of the flights you are going to take. Are there exceptions? YES. Two of the fields I fly at have airspace notifications for pilots. One of the areas where we fly is in a county park, and it is at the start of a box canyon about 2 mi from the local municipal airport. Most pilots who fly over the field at that point are flying 1000' or higher in order to avoid colliding with the hills and/or turbulence coming off of the hills in that area.

I will be honest that I truly think you are better off flying with a club. Almost every club I've come across has had trainers to teach people how to fly. They'll help you buddy box and learn to fly your plane, hopefully without crashing it (sometimes, things just go badly, like wind that comes up and blows your plane into a tree, or a servo wire gets hot and fails, or that little glue joint for the control horn of the elevator lets go during the flight, and down comes the plane). The clubs have events (at least, mine does - we do night flys, camping at the field, combat, altitude games, shuffleboard with combat wings, BBQs, and more) that really kind of pay off. And yes, they DO require AMA membership; they do that for insurance. I know that's something of a sticky, sore subject with some people here, but until the laws change, it's one of those things you need to abide by).
 

jtuttle11

Junior Member
#12
Correct, no flying within 5 miles. And an arrow is an awesome plane, but probably going to be too quick for a small field flier. Keep looking, you'll find one.
That doesn't always hold true. Here in southeast kansas we have a small 'uncontrolled' airport that allows operation of model aircraft on the airport property. Also this individual might consider looking into a small privately owned airfield as the owners of these can sometimes be amenable to model aircraft.
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#13
That doesn't always hold true. Here in southeast kansas we have a small 'uncontrolled' airport that allows operation of model aircraft on the airport property. Also this individual might consider looking into a small privately owned airfield as the owners of these can sometimes be amenable to model aircraft.
Great example of flying near an airport - Model Aircraft magazine from the AMA this month has an article about the AMA Expo West. They had flying going on at the Pomona Fairgrounds, which is home to the NHRA Museum, the famous Pomona Dragstrip, some really nice floral gardens, some open fields - and a municipal airport literally RIGHT next to the fairgrounds.

They actually had people coordinating flight times between the model aircraft pilots and the full size pilots, because they had full size flyovers (which was pretty awesome - you'd see a giant scale P-51D flying, and then maybe 30 min. later, a full scale P-51D flying overhead in formation with other warbirds).

Did it require contact with the municipal airport tower? HECK YES. There was definitely coordination with the FAA. Granted, this had been planned out for a while, so model aircraft pilots were told when and where to fly, and the full size pilots were also told when and where to fly, so that never the twain should meet in the same airspace. It's certainly possible, and it can be safe, it's just a matter of how much work you want or need to put into it.

I just recently found out that one of the guys in my club is an air traffic controller for a smaller, municipal field; he said on the few calls he's gotten for asking for permission to fly near an airport, he's almost always granted the permission. Most of the guys who are flying are off to one side or the other of the field, and not in the landing approach or takeoff patterns - and if they want to be, he recommends to them to go to one of the safer areas near the field instead, and he'll let pilots know, "Don't fly under 400', 1.2 mi. southeast of the runway - we have some UAS pilots out there." Is this the case for every field, every controller out there? No. But you don't know what they'll be like until you ask. :)
 

jtuttle11

Junior Member
#14
Our little airport and several others here in So. East Kansas don't have control towers and so depend on their Unicom Radio to keep pilots informed of the local traffic. The closest Tower is in Joplin Mo. or Bartlesville, Ok. We have asked and received permission from the Airport manager to fly here and were welcomed. Additionally there are several small Private airstrips that allow RC flight.
The Parsons Tri-City airport (KPPF) is an old WW2 field that was taken over by the city. There is also a completely abandoned field in Edna, Ks. While Coffeyville (KCFV) and Independence (KIND) were active US Army airfields in WW2 with Independence, Ks now being the Home Field of Single Engine Cessna production. We don't fly at these 2 fields.
 
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Hoomi

Well-known member
#15
Our club field is just about 2 miles off the end of the secondary runway of Marana Airport. For that reason, our club has a strict "No Drones" rule, which was implemented in response to discussions with the airport. It's rare, at that distance, that we might have full-sized aircraft under 400', but we tend to keep watch anyway. In many cases, the best approach is communication and respect between modelers and general aviation. Sadly, we have too many modelers, especially, that neither respect the rules, nor the general aviation pilots.
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basslord1124

Well-known member
#16
A lot of good advice here. I do think I would try a different plane, especially since you are starting out. Tiny Trainer is good or FT Mini Scout. First thing I would do is try to stay outside the 5 mile radius of airports and look for schools or churches that have open fields. Things like baseball/soccer fields. In the event you are near an airport, just call them first. My experience with this has been very positive. Just let them know what you are doing and generally they'll just give you some general rules and hopefully give you permission. If also near an airport and after you have called, just use your common sense. If you can tell where the flight paths generally are just stay clear of them or at a safe altitude. And like what was mentioned above...avoid people, houses, cars, etc. Helps you steer clear of personal and property damage while you are learning. Also, people can be a distraction by stopping by, watching, and asking questions.

A club really is a good thing if you can get involved in it but I can understand it's quite an investment. Perhaps practicing on some small RCs in smaller areas will help ya in seeing if you want to get involved in a club and more serious in to the hobby. You should check out RC simulators too.