For those of you that have been around me for any length of time, you know that I am hooked on helicopters. I love airplanes for sure, but I crave my helicopter flight time and the incredible sense of freedom and enjoyment that comes from flying helicopters. I love the rush of hovering, confined area landings, pinnacles, helicopter camping, pretty much anything to do with helicopter flying.

So it should come as no surprise that I tried (yes only tried) my hand at RC helicopters. I went through a good number of “Ready to Fly” helicopters ranging from palm sized to the Axe CP series helicopters. I think I still have five or six controllers laying around from all of the wrecks that I had and all of the helicopters that I purchased and tried to fly. Once thing that I found out is that just because you can fly a full sized ship, does not mean that you can fly an RC helicopter. So I gave up on the idea.

Then a fellow helicopter pilot and friend introduced me to one of his friends Ray. Ray knew how to fly the RC helicopters like no one else I had seen. We took the day and flew our helicopters (by invitation) to a remote RC helicopter field and spent the day watching all of the folks fly their helicopters. Ray was a master. Nitro and electric he made them hum. I found out that Ray is actually sponsored for his flying, and I can see why.

So Ray and I started up a conversation about me learning to fly RC helicopters. It started with what my eventual goals would be. In my mind, this was a no brainer, I would eventually like to be flying a 1/4 scale turbine powered MD500 like these shown below:

 

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The problem is that these machines can run upwards to $15,000 to $20,000 by the time you have them all built up and a real turbine jet engine installed. The engine alone is the cost of a small used car! The controller that I wanted – the cost of another small used car and then all of the other cool features that you may need (ok, want) all add up to a lot of investment. Since I had trouble keeping a $150 RC helicopter flying, I KNEW that I needed help long before attempting to tackle a project like this one.

So Ray suggested that I start with an electric helicopter, but not one of the small, ready-to-fly (RTF) helicopters, but one that we actually put together ourselves, with our electronics and controllers, our batteries, our wiring, basically built to our exact specifications. Changes could be easily made by fabricating parts on Ray’s 3D printer and then testing them out until it was just the way we liked it. Once Ray told me that he would help me become a real RC helicopter pilot without wrecking my investment in the process, I was hooked and ready to move forward.

The next step was to decide what my “learning” ship would consist of. I was thinking the Align 700 or 800, but Ray steered me toward the Goblin 770. It was an amazing looking ship and better yet, it was flybarless and pretty much all new technology. In addition, we could customize it any way that we wanted for what I was trying to accomplish.

 

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So the Goblin 770 is on back order along with many of the parts I will need to put it all together. In the mean time, Ray suggested that I pick up a flight simulator and start playing around with that in my spare time until everything came arrived.

The controller I choose was the Futaba T-18MZ, a controller that would allow me to learn, but yet give me the awesome capabilities I would want to have with my 1/4 scale turbine when the time came.

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So with all that in mind, Bob, Darryl and I along with a friend’s son flew up to Ontario on Saturday and attended the Academy of Model Aeronautics convention. WOW…a lot of very cool stuff there for sure, and easy way to spend a lot of money on a hobby that looks like it can cost as much as the real thing. In fact, you could get your helicopter private pilot’t certificate for much less than the cost of a nice turbine 1.4 scale. But there is no doubt that the cost of ownership for the RC is far less than the real thing.

Time will tell if it is anywhere near as fun. Stay tuned as I keep you up to date on my project and my learning!