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R/C Helicopters
19 November 2006

Click to watch tiny little dots flying around the screen at Old Airport. (6 MB)
Before we learned to hover. (1.5 MB)
After many, many hours of practice. (8.8 MB)

Hover Truck Years ago, when Kona was still a sleepy fishing town, the only airport on this side of the island was a small runway right near town.  Eventually, a larger airport capable of accepting 747's from Japan was built a few miles outside of town and the old airport was abandoned.  Now it's nothing but a long stretch of pavement right near the beach, perfect for remote controlled airplanes and helicopters.

On Thursday and Sunday mornings, the local R/C club gathers at Old Airport.  There are usually a couple dozen people there with various airplanes and helicopters.  It's a great place because while Dad is playing with the R/C toys, the kids can go swimming at the beach and Mom can find a shady tree to read a book under.

If I was learning all over again, I'd start with this simulator and this helicopter.
A friend and I purchased our first R/C helicopters a few months ago.  We knew almost nothing about the hobby at the time.  We started with small electric models because they looked cheaper and less expensive.  After spending many hours crashing them, fixing them and crashing them again.  We decided that a computer simulator might be a good idea.  Even at $200, the simulator has proven to be far cheaper than all the replacement parts we would have gone through without it.  I couldn't get the hang of hovering until after spending several hours on the simulator.  I'm still not an expert but at least I can hover now.

In addition to the simulator, for anybody thinking about purchasing an R/C helicopter I'd highly recommend a helicopter with co-axial, counter-rotating rotors because they are far more stable than traditional tail rotor helicopters.  I have the E-Flite Blade CX and it's great fun.  It didn't take long before I was flying around the living room, trying to land on the kitchen table, the water cooler and any other spot that looked inviting.  The best part about the Blade CX is that replacement rotor blades are cheap.  That's important because living rooms tend to have lots of obstacles that aren't nice to wayward helicopter rotors.

Even though we started at the same time, my friend has far surpassed me in piloting skills.  He went through several really nice electric helicopters until recently purchasing a nitro model.  They're not cheap toys, easily over $1000 for all the various parts, but they sure are fun.  There's a whole group of guys in the local R/C club with nitro helicopters.  Several of them are good enough to do loops, rolls and even fly upside down.  I'd like to have one some day, but I need a spare $1000 and more time in the simulator first.

I think my next purchase is going to be some electric cars for the coffee drying deck on the barn.  It will be full of coffee during the harvest season but the rest of the year it should make a perfect place for racing R/C cars.

Watch Dave takeoff. (1.9 MB)
Watch Doug hover. (5.6 MB)

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