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YES YES and more YES! Consider this a part of your helicopter package! A simulator will get you off to a great start, help you learn stick orientation and general flying. It will aid in learning nose-in, autorotation, acrobatics and inverted flight! Also its a great tool to teach kids, spouses, loved ones, and pets :) Its a great way to brush up on old skills, learn new ones and get others interested in the hobby! I have the Realflight G3.5 and must say it's AWESOME! The new G3 and Reflex sim are just outstanding. Check out my links page for this one and FMS (free). I also have the ClearView and it is only $30 and very nice too (you will need a tx for it). I suggest buying the one WITH a transmitter so you don't have to use your expensive one. Trust me the kids will want to play with it.
LINKS: Clear View RC Simulator Real Flight G3.5 Reflex Hanger 9 FS One
RC NewsGroups? Yes! However remember answers to your questions are only as good as the person you asked. There is a lot of great information to be had as well as many based on "who has the better heli." Just take your time and read through. Here is a list of some newsgroups. RCGroups (nice group), Helifreak (getting larger) , RCUniverse (Huge site), HeliSpot (getting larger too). Them them out!
ARF or KIT?
This is a tough decision especially with all of the great helis around. I personally think one should start off with a "nitro" (gas) heli (or airplane) and one that is not an ARF, "almost ready to fly." There is much excitement and skill lost when a beginner buys an ARF, helicopter or airplane. Learn to build, setup and repair as you will need to use these skills daily. Teaching yourself today will decrease the extra amount of frustration you will experience later. It's very hard knowing what is wrong when you don't know where to begin. When you get better and know what your doing, then get the ARF if you want. If you do buy an ARF at least take apart the main components to check over the construction, contents and that blue Loctite was used on all metal screws. 60-90 size helis are more stable but the investment and INTIMIDATION might (will) hinder your learning. 60-90 helis also use more fuel, need stronger servos, and have a higher crash bill.
I was a strong advocate of a nitro heli as your first heli because of initial cost and increased flight times. However, now that the T-Rex/T-RexV2 or SE, the E-Fight Blade CX/CP, and the T-Rex 600 out I have to change my mind:) Many of these new electrics helis out are incredible and fly very well. They still do require a HIGHER initial investment to keep flying.
I would suggest a beginner to buy a 30 or 50 size "gas" heli like a Raptor or T-Rex 600 These new electric helis are incredible (especially the Blade CX in its inherent stability!). If someone told me a helicopter wants to fly itself I would never of believed it but the Blade CX does just that and its really cheap. As a total beginner you might really want to look into this heli!
OVERALL I WOULD SUGGEST A 30 OR 50 HELICOPTER for nitro.
For electric and totally new really consider the E-Flite Blade CX Co-Axial heli
(note: this heli will not get you far in flying but will get you flying quickly).
Updated: 1-8-07: Hands down at this time Spektrum DX7 (until DX9 comes out hehehe). Done.
No need to think further or even read this tile :)
I would buy the BEST radio you can afford. Of ALL the components you're going to buy, spend the most money here. I would try to get a 7 or 8 channel radio like a JR 8103, the 9 channel JR 9303, JR 7202 or some Futaba, something specific for helicopters. You don't need to buy the highest radio (and I would suggest against it) but these would be excellent choices and will last you many years! Helicopter radios generally come with "better" servos, larger batteries and different switch positions. Both companies are very popular, work great, and I have great experience with both. Personally I am using the JR 9303- not anymore...DX-7 but will be DX-9 the min. they come out with it.
you had to read it anyway huh?
Which Engine? The size depends on the helicopter, but OS engines have a reputation of being strong and consistent. While many hated the Thundertiger 36, I had great success with it (maybe I got one of those that worked!). I have also heard the YS are very good. I don't have any experience with webra, enya, or supertiger. For now I will stick with O.S. for helicopters and either O.S. or Thundertiger for airplanes (same guy designed both).
Depends on the helicopter size but get BALL BEARING servos, that's probably the most important thing. If your buying an electric (which I would still be hesitant to suggest for a beginner) you will need micro or mini servos (Hitec 65MG). 30 size helis will do fine on standard 42 oz/in servos and a 46 size will require standard to mid size power servos. For a 60-90 size (which I would not suggest to a beginner) I would get servos around the 60+ oz/in range. For the tailrotor using a heading hold gyro, speed is more important then power. It does depend on what your planning to do (smooth scale or full 3D) but as a beginner you can get away with "cheaper servos." You do not need the $100, 100 oz/in digital servos as a beginner unless your going for a 90 size. If you can afford it get them; digital servos are a great technological advancement and their specs on torque and holding power is phenomenal. Also the price is coming down as we get more competition.
Futaba 9202 at 4.8 volts give around 55 oz/in (69 oz/in is a 6V reading) and have worked great in 60 size machines for years. The Futaba high speed 9253 tail rotor servo gives around 28 oz/in can works wonders in 50 size helis. 9254 for 60-90 size (47 oz/in). Get a GOOD GYRO/SERVO COMBO... Futaba GY-401/9254 (or 611) and never look back (Awesome!)
Currently I am using the Futaba 9252 servos in the 50 and 90. Awesome
For MOST flying, especially as a beginner, I think you can't beat 15% nitro. It's less expensive than Morgan 30/30 and runs well. If your heli is setup correctly it should fly on most fuels, if not, even the best fuel can't help you out. I have used Morgan Coolpower 15% (green stuff) since I started flying RC helis and its worked great! Today, I have switched over to Wildcat 15% heli-mix with 18% oil (brown stuff) and find it runs nicer. Either way, for beginners 15% will be fine.
I have tried most and have had good success with Hanger9 Heli plugs and OS 8. I have not tried Enya 3 but I don't think you can go wrong with either of these 3 plugs- OS #8, Hanger9 Heli, Enya 3.
Currently I run Coolpower 30/30 with OS 8 plug.
I NEED! I need!! Better Blades! Hop up parts! Metal parts!
I find this to be the place where beginners WASTE their money the MOST! I always find it interesting to see a beautiful $1500+ helicopter with gorgeous carbon fiber blades, all the pretty purple and pink parts and then to find its owned by a beginner! Why? My theory is since the beginner is unable to fly their heli, buying items makes them feel as they are "doing something with the hobby." They also feel-hope-are suckered into this "new great slop-free part" will make the flying easier! Don't Be Fooled! All that will happen is you'll find yourself more and more INTIMIDATED to fly your supped up heli- not to mention a larger repair bill!
DON'T GET CAUGHT IN THE MESS - THE HYPE! - DON'T BELIEVE!
HOP-UP PARTS ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE YOUR HELI FLYING ANY EASIER!
FLY YOUR HELI STOCK-LEARN WHAT YOU'RE DOING!
You DON'T need that slop-free part, or that metal upgrade, those super carbon blades, that excellent tail rotor pitch slider gizmo, or that unbelievable flybar stiffing system! You don't have enough experience to know the difference and most experienced fliers don't. I don't care what they say this part did or that part did. Sure the parts looks pretty but spend the money on FUEL and FLY. Buy hop-up parts if you find some real use for them and reward yourself with those parts. Get good main blades when you have some control of your heli and can enjoy them (the woodies will do it all also!). You will find it's more fun when your not so worried about smashing those expensive pretty parts.
Only Three Thing Will Make You A Great Successful Heli Pilot: Patients, Practice, and Precision!
Flying Other than burning fuel and taking it slow make sure you fly the CANOPY of the helicopter. Don't fly the tail. Pretend your in the canopy flying around! Right rudder should make the NOSE go to the right, not the tail.
Be careful to never have the blades spinning at eye level or in the path of your body. If one releases your a perfect target! The only time you should be looking directly at the main blades is for tracking and that' it! Same goes for tail blades and airplane propellers.
I suggest learning how to hover, then sideways, then nose in. Learn nose in Well, it will open up a new world of flying for you. After that, do a few loops and rolls if you like but start to learn how to do simple autorotations. When you get better, do full down autos. You can do all of the flying you want, the awesome cool 3D maneuvers but if you don't have a prayer of landing the heli if the engine fails (and it will someday!) what's the point.
Check over everything, twice or three times. Make sure the place you fly at is safe and be careful of on-lookers. Check to make sure no one is on your radio frequency before starting!
Buy a high speed drill like a Dremel, you will be amazed at how helpful it is!
Try to find someone in the area that can check over your heli and give you some tips. Find out from your local hobby shop where the flying field is and join the AMA. Click HERE for AMA. Write me if you need any help, I will do my best.
Use Blue Loctite on ALL metal screws (not on plastic) and tape or some how make sure your wires won't disconnect from the receiver or connectors (don't glue then however!). For plastic to plastic use just a tiny amount of CA (superglue).
Having someone pre-flight your helicopter could possibly make the difference between weather you love or hate the hobby! Driving 2-3 hours is worth it. The internet is also a great place to learn and you are more then welcome to always email me. I am NOT saying it can't be done alone, I did, but help is good.
TRACK your main blades before doing any major engine or gyro adjustments. A test stand or weighting the heli down between the skids can aid in adjusting the engine- just MAKE SURE you NEVER input controls while a heli is strapped down!
Use training sticks and try it on concrete first. Concrete will give you the chance to notice an minute changes that are needed in the trims and if your tail is setup right.
Check, check and recheck.
Most importantly, don't rush it, take it slow and if things don't seem right, They Are Not!
Set your engine for max power. Then set your pitch curve for flying. Try to now match the two to allow good head speed without bogging or racing the engine.
Just Starting Out in RC ... How Exciting !!
Needs updating to 2015 :)