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Should I join the local R/C club?

#1
Total n00b here. I finally acted on my FliteTest YouTube addiction by scratch building my first Long EZ as a chuck glider. In short order I mashed it up and then took it apart and repaired it with more almost free foam board. I'm also joyously chucking around a $10 styro glider from Hobby Lobby.

I really like the philosophy of FliteTest that emphasizes DIY, experimentation, interchangeability and cheap, cheap airframes. I know I will be getting deeply into this hobby but I sense that there is a smart way to do this from the ground up while spending money slowly and carefully versus a dumb way of doing this by throwing a ton of money at the wrong stuff that will sooner or later go crunch and leave me both broke and discouraged. I watched the FT videos on this and the annoying hipster guy got his point across!

So today I took my kid and visited the local R/C club field, a really first-class facility with a paved runway. It was a beautiful day and lots of guys were flying. The planes were generally big, beautiful, expensive gassers and the pilots seemed to be all older guys with many thousands of dollars invested in the hobby, whom I guess have been involved in this for many years. There were some competitive-level aerobatics going on. They had big trucks to carry their big airplanes in.

Happily I was invited to fly the club trainer with an instructor on a buddy box in "student mode" or whatever you call the computer assisted stabilization mode. It was the first time I've ever flown R/C and really thrilling. I told the guy "you know this is like handing out free samples of cocaine." He said, "exactly!"

So these guys are more than happy to teach me how to fly if I join their club. They can get me discounts on gear if I join their club. They'll sell me their old stuff if I join their club. I can fly at their awesome little airport if I join their club.

Here's what that involves:
1) Join AMA: $75/year
2) Initiation fee to the club: $100
3) Club dues: $75/year

That strikes me as a lot of expense to lay out before I even start buying equipment! But here's my greater doubt about the club: I get the feeling that these guys are veterans of an earlier generation of hobbyists who were doing this before the revolution of electric flight. They have a way of doing things that they're happy to teach me but it probably doesn't much include DIY, multi-rotor or FPV. There are *a lot* of rules at the airfield, one of which is that you cannot fly off the property of the club. Long term, what most interests me most is long-range FPV flying which would violate that rule. Furthermore, I'm mostly interested in smaller, electric, foam planes that I can hand-launch and belly land in the grass. I don't think I really need the runway. And I want to learn without all the rules, procedures and training modes.

So my question to the community: am I thinking about this the right way? I don't mean to disrespect the club guys, but what they're doing is really a different hobby than the FliteTest thing. I'm better off saving my money, scouting out my own places to fly and learning to work the sticks the hard way. Does anybody think that kind of club membership is worth it for the kind of flying I want to do? Thanks for your advice!
 

Homey

Active member
#2
That is probably the same experience many of us have had. When i was first getting into this about 6 years ago, my visit to the local club was interesting. Very welcoming bunch of guys. All older gassers (in both ways, lol)
They told me all about their club, the barbeques they have, etc. Beautiful paved strip and about a 25 minute drive from my house. When I told them I was into scratchbuilt electrics you could literally see their faces drop. It's a shame because i haven't been back since. I have flown at a secluded area on a ranch about 10 minutes from home ever since.

Peter
 
#3
I just joined my club today actually. About the same price too.

Sounds like you got some good perks and it depends what you are in it for. If flight is just for you and your family, you can find a place to fly. What got me hooked with FT is the fun they all have together so I'm looking for a bit of a bigger community. Homey may have a good point there though. You may want to gauge what some of the people in the club do.
 

b-29er

Active member
#4
Clubs are expensive, but that money is well spent in being educated. When I started off with RC, i was trying to self-teach with an old Aerobird Challenger, then an Art-Tech Su-27 because someone said it was for beginners. They pointed me in the right direction, and whether they like it or not, i've been flying for the past 15 years.

I'd say there's an intrinsic value in being a part of an RC culture like that, even if temporary. You learn the rules, club an AMA, you learn safety, for yourself and others, etc. And think of it this way, the money you would spend on a club membership is most likely money you would save on buying spares and a trainer aircraft that would most likely be crashed repeatedly. Do you have to stay? no! Weight the values after that first year. If you like the people, if the rules fit what you're currently doing, then save up $150 and do it all again next year. If not, you come away with the ability to fly your own aircraft, and can build time on your own if you can find a spot (like a park or field or something). You're already a part of an RC family here, and people here can answer questions, but i don't think i can run a buddy box for you over the internet!

In short, i'd at least give it a shot. Give them a year, learn how to fly. Worst case, you come away from the experience proficient enough to fly your own aircraft and enough knowledge to do so safely.
 

evranch

Active member
#5
If I could spend $150/yr to fly off a paved runway, with a bunch of friendly guys, I would be all over that like a dirty shirt. I fly hand launched belly landers because I have no runway out here on the ranch. Before FT, I was taking the gear off of my planes before it was torn off by a dirt lump. You can always add gear to all of these foam planes. And if you want to fly FPV, it depends what you are looking for I guess, but having a couple guys flying FPV around a runway with another guy acting as our ATC would be a dream for me.

With a fixed runway and coaching you will learn some great skills, like how to make proper crosswind landings instead of just plopping it in the grass upwind. And you will probably make up that money pretty quick on a used transmitter, and if these guys have lots of money they may have old receivers and servos in crashed airframes etc. that they were just going to throw away or leave in the garage forever.

There is also the chance that you may get these guys interested in foam flying too, it just takes a trigger to get some interest. That's what happened with a club near me, now 20 of those older guys with nice planes are building cheap foamboard planes and flying a regular streamer combat night every week. Now some of them are getting into goggles and cams, drone and fixed-wing racing and FPV combat. If only "near me" didn't mean "200km away" in Saskatchewan.

That's just my opinion but I would join them and learn from them. If you are embarrassed to bring foam planes, do some modelling and dress yours up a bit. There are some great builds and skins on this forum that look as good as any balsa plane.
 
#6
From my personal experience, joining a club was one of the best things I did in this hobby. I joined the club when I went to one of their electric fun-flies in the summer. I was featured in the club video of the event and they admitted me into the club. They accepted my cheap foam models and were amazed by the cost of them along with the performance. You'll also get a lot of good advice from the members as some of them have been doing this their entire lives. Having a paved runway is always good just in case you get a model later down the line with landing gear or retracts. Also, it seems like the people in your club seem pretty welcoming of these foam models, even though they may focus mainly on big gassers. Some of those techniques can also be transferred to our little foam models.

So to summarize, I would recommend joining the club because the members will help you along and it's always more fun to fly with friends. ;)
 

buzzbomb

I know nothing!
#7
What you've been reading is like the debate between whether fossil oil or synthetic is better for your engine. My gosh, don't even go there. We all have our opinions and everyone has facts and experience to back up both sides of the debate.

In my personal opinion, it depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. I did not want all those guys critiquing my every move. What I wanted was an empty field and light winds, where I could throw my creation at the sky and do what I could do. I was blessed. I got to do that, and it was glorious for me.

If you feel you want someone who can teach, coach and guide you, then the membership is the way. There are definite bonuses to having someone get you through the hurdles!

My opinion is that you've got to figure out which experience you want, and then just do it. :)
 

makattack

Winter is coming
Moderator
Mentor
#8
I agree with everyone who wrote here. The reason why there are so many opinions also is true for how different clubs have different cultures. The club I joined has an interesting mix of guys flying multi thousand dollar composite gliders next to guys and gals flying FT nut ball, and DJI inspires. Sometimes at the same time. We're partners with another club and share another field with a mowed grass strip that's popular with those who fly nitro/gas planes and helis. Somehow, we all get along. I even flew my FT Versa wing set up with an APM autopilot and FPV at the grass strip field and lent a hand at an aerial search and rescue of a downed nitro plane. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it in the thick forest surrounding the field, but the guys appreciated the help and FPV ride along.
 

mayan

Well-known member
#9
@ScarryOwen great question, great thread. I personally have the same issues making the choice if to join a club or not. My take is start solo and join the club later if you see the need to. If you are missing company or need some hands on advice.
 
#10
Thanks everybody for the advice! These responses are all over the board and there are good arguments pro and con. I'm thinking that it doesn't cost anything to hang around the club airfield for a few months and attend their meetings before deciding to join, after all, we're a few months away from prime flying weather. Also, that will give me a chance to ask whether they have members into FPV, I don't know for sure that they don't.
 

basslord1124

Well-known member
#11
I honestly wouldn't knock it until you try it. Cost is like our field pretty much...minus the $100 initiation fee. I kinda see it as an opportunity to teach old dogs new tricks too. So they can teach you and maybe you can teach them too. Our field is kinda like that...most members are older and are into gassers, big balsa models, etc. But we also got some folks doing all electric, drones, FPV too. I think there's only 2-3 of us (counting myself) that do the Flitetest builds.
 

Merv

Well-known member
#12
The short answer is yes, join a club if you can. BUT it depends on the club. Some clubs are full of friendly helpful members who want to see you succeed. Other clubs are full of RC snobs, who just want to show they are better than you.

I was fortunate enough to have a club when I learned to fly, they taught me a lot. I doubt I would have learned to fly without them, that was back on the 72mhz days. Over time everyone lost interest, moved away or died. I flew by myself for 10 years or so. Now the club has come back, new members, kids and some old members have come back. It's a lot more fun flying with friends than alone.

If you can come to Flite Fest, you will learn a lot.
 

jross

Well-known member
#13
If I could spend $150/yr to fly off a paved runway, with a bunch of friendly guys, I would be all over that like a dirty shirt.
Couldn't agree more with all your comments.

I'm a newby. I became involved with members of our local club just before the snow flew last fall. I found their runway on Google Earth by accident, did some research, called the number I found and asked if I could fly off their runway. Things are a bit loose around my area and the guy said while I needed to get the Canadian equivalent of AMA and should join the club, he figured nobody in the club would care. I'm still not a member of the club but have attended indoor flight nights where they show kids what the hobby is about. I flew outdoors with them a couple of times last fall and both times, someone handed me a radio and said, "You wanna fly a plane?"

I'm going to join the club. At 55, I'm younger than the average age of members. I really like how they spend the time to get kids involved at their own expense. Two months ago when I was struggling to build and configure a plane, two members invited me to bring the plane to their hangar so they could take a look. Last indoor flight night, I took my Tiny Trainer and Explorer which are fully rigged and airworthy. I took a few other FT planes with the build complete minus electronics. While I didn't fly them, I armed them and showed the kids how everything worked. They were stoked. When the elders saw how stoked the kids were, they softened. Anyone in a club with a mean age of 60+ has to look for young blood to continue their passion. The movers and shakers in our local club are 70+ and they understand that. They've already switched mostly to electric planes so I don't have that hurdle to contend with.

These guys stand to teach me a lot. It's way more fun to fly with others. I know this as most of my flying has been alone. THE CLUB HAS A PAVED RUNWAY! With a shelter you can stand out of the weather and fly from! If everything poops the bed, I know I can call them and ask for help. While the cost of joining my local club is less than yours, it's a friggin' bargain. Everyone should have insurance anyway so why not? Slam your plane into someone's minivan? You're covered.

The President of our local club is a retired doctor and retired commercial pilot. He flew around northern Canada for two decades delivering health services to inaccessible areas and delivering patients to facilities that provided the level of care they needed. He's like a Drill Sergeant when teaching. He's owned 16 different planes. He never brings it up but when I ask him about it, he loves to talk. Worth the $150 to join the club to listen to old timers talk about old times over burgers and beer. Anything else is a bonus, I figure.
 
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Headbang

Well-known member
#14
As electrisean has mentioned before, our club is mostly a bunch of old guys. But what they fly is very diverse. A few people who fly large gassers that they can not afford might have an attitude (I take it as my job to poke at those guys every chance I get!), but for the most part it is a good bunch. And if you are in the Leduc, Alberta, Canada area looking to get going, you are going to end up dealing with me anyways. Or if you want to fly quads, we have a couple of great guys.
So $100 initiation, $50 annual dues, and whatever it is for MAAC membership. Pretty cheap to fly off a well kept field, with help available. As well the core guys who were at the field the most last year are FT friendly. And considering I seem to be the one breaking track in, the winter fliers are all flying dtfb designs.
Not all clubs are the same, and as membership changes, so does the club.

On a side note, with the new regs on the way in Canada, you may not have much choice but to join a club to fly legally.
 
#15
That's great stuff, jros. As you can tell from the OP, I started out pretty negative about the club. You guys are totally persuading me to give it another look. Another thing to keep in mind is that AMA (and, I'm sure, the Canadian version) are doing great work fighting to keep hobby UAVs legal. That's an effort we all should be supporting.
 

SlingShot

Maneuvering With Purpose
#16
Big gassers are mega cool. No doubt about it. But cheap crashes are pretty cool too. I wish I had a club that I could join. The few Mexican pilots I have seen were elitists types, but I would have had no compunction about ripping some foamboard and trying to change hearts and minds.

Only you can decide if the money is worth it. I wouldn't think twice about it.
 
#17
Not sure if all clubs are like this or not:

Maidened my Explorer on Sunday. When I got out there, met two guys that had a huge assortment of planes/quads. At the end of my maiden (it lasted about 10 seconds) the tail snapped in half, instantly they were there offering tape and glue, also helped me try to balance it out better than it was. Beyond being good guys to just chat with they were super helpful.
 

clolsonus

Active member
#18
That's true of my club too ... most guys there will offer whatever they can to help out if you are missing something or break something or have a question about anything.
 

makattack

Winter is coming
Moderator
Mentor
#19
My club is similarly super helpful, but that can be overwhelming and confusing. Case in point: one day early this summer, I ventured to my field after a bit of hiatus from the hobby. Ran into a group huddled around the picnic table sorting out a new teen member's new bixler. I chatted with the president who wasn't working with them but knew what was going on. Told me they were having problems launching it. It kept nosing in on launch. The guys were adjusting the motor by adding a shim to lessen the motor angle.

One more failed launch with the same result and this time it needed more repairs. I had avoided directly helping due to the idea of too many chefs makes a mess. This time I couldn't help but mention the motor angle is setup that way for that type of plane because that actually helps pull the nose up. They were talking about the need for more expo or rudder mixing and that's when I noticed the elevator channel was reversed.

Many experienced pilots missed it because of the chaos and assumptions from their own experiences.

Anyway, I don't know if that young man got discouraged, but it was disheartening to see us fail that badly.

Both student and instructor need to do their own due diligence was the lesson I learned.
 
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#20
"Run a buddy box over the internet" you say...hmmm. I got a cousin that works for Bose. Live feed fpv, buddy box...INTERNET!
Clubs are expensive, but that money is well spent in being educated. When I started off with RC, i was trying to self-teach with an old Aerobird Challenger, then an Art-Tech Su-27 because someone said it was for beginners. They pointed me in the right direction, and whether they like it or not, i've been flying for the past 15 years.

I'd say there's an intrinsic value in being a part of an RC culture like that, even if temporary. You learn the rules, club an AMA, you learn safety, for yourself and others, etc. And think of it this way, the money you would spend on a club membership is most likely money you would save on buying spares and a trainer aircraft that would most likely be crashed repeatedly. Do you have to stay? no! Weight the values after that first year. If you like the people, if the rules fit what you're currently doing, then save up $150 and do it all again next year. If not, you come away with the ability to fly your own aircraft, and can build time on your own if you can find a spot (like a park or field or something). You're already a part of an RC family here, and people here can answer questions, but i don't think i can run a buddy box for you over the internet!

In short, i'd at least give it a shot. Give them a year, learn how to fly. Worst case, you come away from the experience proficient enough to fly your own aircraft and enough knowledge to do so safely.