Flight Training Program
MAR/C FLIGHT TRAINING
Our goal is for all students to enjoy a safe and inspiring training experience. In the links below we provide information that can be a bit intimidating at first. Rest assured that we are enthused about helping you, as we have done for many, many new fliers. After all, flying is a lot more fun when we have new friends to share it with!
AMA membership (http://www.modelaircraft.org) and MAR/C membership are required. Until the student passes a flight proficiency test for the privilege to solo, the membership will be “provisional”.
MAR/C conducts a flight training program each year for new student pilots or for returning pilots that need to brush up on their flying skills:
Tuesdays 5 PM to sunset (weather permitting), May 6th through August 26th.
A new pilot may fly a MAR/C owned trainer with an instructor for one flight prior to joining the training program.
During summer training nights, MAR/C will provide a “buddy box” and cord to connect the student and instructor’s transmitters:
The club currently supports Spektrum and Futaba brands.
If the student owns a transmitter of some other brand, they must invest in their own buddy box (e.g. a second transmitter) of the same brand, and the connecting cord.
Both the primary transmitter and the “buddy box” transmitter must be of a similar vintage and be able to use the same type of cord and connections.
Direct any questions that you may have to Flight Training Manager Steve Lenz (425-391-0657 or Mike Powell (425-883-2465).
Alternatively you could arrange privately with a willing club member to teach you to fly at any time of the year. When the student is ready to graduate from “provisional” to “full” membership, the student must pass the flight proficiency test with a club board member, in the same manner as the training program.
Before purchasing your own airplane and other equipment, please read Selecting An Airplane and contact one of the above MAR/C contacts if you have any questions. Also, please come visit the field and talk to other pilots, to see the equipment in use and get a feel or the size and capabilities of different kinds of trainers. If possible, Tuesday training evenings are the best opportunity for this. Deciding what to buy based only on website and advertisement information usually results in disappointment.
What is training like?
A MAR/C tech inspector will check each airplane used during training to ensure that it has been assembled correctly and is flight worthy according to the MAR/C Pre-Flight Checklist. Most deficiencies identified by the tech inspector can be corrected quickly at the airfield.
Student pilots will fly with different MAR/C instructors during training using a “buddy box” system that employs two transmitters connected by a special wire. The instructor has the ability to fly the airplane, and take control instantly at any time. The instructor will hold the transmitter that goes with the airplane, and the student will hold the “buddy box” transmitter.
Initially, the instructor will perform all take offs and landings. The instructor will transfer control of the aircraft to the student when it is at altitude and flying straight and level. At first, the student will usually not be able to fly the airplane very long before the instructor needs to make a correction. As experience is gained, the student will be able to fly the plane with few corrections from the instructor. Eventually the student will progress to taking off followed by landing. The student will also learn how to recover from adverse situations such as being upside down. A log book is used to document the progress of each student. In the final steps of the program, 2 instructors observe 2 flights that are required to be successful without any corrections by the instructors. The last flight is a solo flight without use of a buddy box which must be successfully completed without help from the instructors. Each graduating student receives a certificate attesting to their proficiency and receives a full membership card to replace their provisional card.
Please review the following links for more information
Selecting an Airplane
Airplanes Powered by Electric Motor (and Tools and Ground Equipment Needed)
Airplanes Powered by “Glow” and Gasoline Engines (and Tools and Ground Equipment Needed)
Selecting An Airplane
An airplane specifically designed for training and usually called a trainer is the best type for student pilots to use. Trainers generally have a wing that mounts on top of the fuselage and wing dihedral (wing halves form a slight “V” shape when viewed from front or back). This type of airplane has a tendency to fly level when the control sticks on the transmitter are released.
Your airplane must have four control channels (throttle, aileron, rudder and elevator) to be used in the training program. Additionally, your transmitter must have buddy box capability - note that some transmitters do not.
Size does indeed matter. Smaller airplanes are of course less expensive, but more difficult to see in the air and their wheels are too small to conduct takeoff and landing on our grass field, even though it is mowed very short. Smaller or lighter airplanes are more affected by wind and turbulence and more difficult to fly in windy conditions. That great looking, inexpensive, and probably small airplane you found online might not be the best thing. We strongly encourage all students to go with tried and true airplanes like the ones mentioned below.
Trainers may be purchased as Ready To Fly (RTF), Almost Ready To Fly (ARF) or as a kit, and may be powered by “glow” model airplane engines or by electric power.
RTF (Ready to Fly)
Usually the cost of an RTF is significantly less than the cost of purchasing all of the required components (airplane, radio, engine or electric motor & electronic speed control, etc.) separately. Additionally, the components have been selected by the manufacturer to be compatible with each other. Typically it takes an hour or 2 to assemble an RTF so that it is ready to fly.
Two RTFs used in the training program that have been successful:
The Hangar 9 Alpha 40 is designed for a “glow” engine or electric power and includes everything required to fly the airplane except for the engine (or electric motor), glow fuel, fuel pump, glow plug igniter & battery charger. This airplane is no longer available with the engine installed.
The E-Flite Apprentice has an electric motor and includes everything required to fly the airplane. List price is approximately $300. It is recommended that a second or third flight battery be purchased for as well. This will allow a pilot to make 2 or 3 flights. Charging of the battery used for the first flight may be started soon after the airplane lands and it can be used for the third flight.
Alpha 40 Eflite Apprentice
ARF (Almost Ready to Fly)
An ARF contains the parts required to assemble an airplane; however, the radio, engine or electric motor, ESC (electronic speed control) and other components must be purchased separately and installed. This can be an advantage. For example, a more versatile and capable radio than the ones provided with the 2 RTFs above would have 6 or 7 channels, end point adjustment, dual rates and memory for several different models.
Typically ARFs contain the following: 2 wing halves & 2 ailerons, nearly completed fuselage, vertical stabilizer & rudder, horizontal stabilizer & elevator, motor mount, wheels and other parts. A manual is provided that contains detailed steps that show how to assemble the airplane and install the radio and engine or electric motor. Usually an ARF can be assembled and ready to fly in about 16 hours. More insight into airplanes, radios and engines or electric motors will be gained by assembling an ARF than purchasing an RTF. Three examples of available ARFs are
SIG Kadet LT40 EG (electric or glow power)
ParkZone Sport Cub (electric) (Motor, ESC, Servos installed as Plug n Play version with receiver installed as well, called the BNF or Bind and Fly version. The latter is almost an ARF but does not include the transmitter)
Tower Trainer 40 Mk II ARF (glow power)
the Hobbico Avistar Elite .46 GP/EP ARF (glow or electric power)
Purchasing quality components such as engines, motors, speed controllers, servos, etc offers the possibility that these components can be used on future projects after the student graduates from the trainer.
Sig LT 40 ParkZone Sport Cub Tower Trainer 40 Mk II Hobbico Avistar Elite
Kits take the most time to build, typically 80 hours, but are also the most rewarding because there is a great sense of achievement in completing one. The covering is not included in the kit, so a unique color and trim scheme can be developed by the builder. Like an ARF, the radio, engine, motor, ESC and batteries are not included and must be installed.
A set of plans, usually one sheet for the wing and one sheet for the fuselage, and an assembly manual are included. Assembly starts by placing one sheet of the plans over a building board and then covering the plans with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Next a spar is pinned over the plans and the wing ribs are glued to the spar. There are many parts that must be glued together to complete the wing and then the fuselage. Once the airplane is completed, the builder will have a lot of knowledge and skill about how airplanes are constructed and should be able to make repairs to this airplane and other airplanes in the event that they are damaged in a crash. This type of insight is not gained by assembling an RTF or ARF. Three examples of kits are the
Sig Kadet LT40 kit
Carl Goldberg Eagle 2
Great Planes PT-40 Mk II Trainer.
Electric Power vs. a “Glow” engine?
Prospective students often ask which is better; a glow engine or electric power? It boils down to personal preference, but our experience is that there is much less time lost due to tinkering with the engine if the student selects electric power. Are you excited about the throaty sound of an internal combustion engine or do you prefer cleaner and quieter electric power? Both require knowledge and practice to be successful. Both require some investment in field equipment and tools, but different, as we explain in other links.
In general, if two trainers have similar size and weight, the only noticeable difference will be that the glow powered airplane can usually fly for a longer period of time. Electric power is sometimes associated with smaller size, but this is not necessarily so. Larger, heavier trainers handle better in gusty and windy conditions. In the RTF examples, the Alpha is larger and heavier than the Apprentice.
If you choose “glow” or gasoline engines, be aware that they require more attention and time to mixture settings, glow plugs, fuel flow and fuel system leaks, starting procedures, and other details that can be time consuming and downright vexing during the training process. Used “bargain” engines often require very high levels of time and attention, and perhaps replacement of parts before they will start and run reliably.
Hangar 9 Alpha 40 Trainer Specifications
Control - ChannelsThrottle, ailerons, rudder, elevator
Wingspan - 63 inches
Wing Area - 710 square inches
Fuselage Length - 52.5 inches
Weight - 5.25 pounds
Engine or Electric Motor - (no longer included)
Transmitter - (no longer included)
Flight Battery - 4.8 volt NiMH battery, 1500 mAHr, provides power to the receiver and servos, AC charger included
Electronic Speed Control (ESC) - Required if electric power is used
Servos - 4 (Ailerons, elevator, rudder, throttle)
Additional items required but not included with the trainer
1 gallon glow fuel
glow plug igniter
Horizon Hobby E-Flite Apprentice 15e Trainer Specifications
Control Channels - Throttle, ailerons, rudder, elevator
Wingspan - 58 inches
Wing Area - 525 square inches
Fuselage Length - 37 inches
Weight - 2.8 pounds
Engine or Electric Motor - 15 size brushless outrunner motor
Transmitter - Spektrum DX5, 2.4 GHz, 5 channels, buddy box capability, alkaline batteries included
Flight Battery - 11.1 volt lithium polymer battery,3200 mAH, provides power to the ESC
Charger - DC-only for charging from car cigarette lighter
Electronic Speed Control - 30 amp brushless ESC provides power and throttle function to the motor, and power to receiver and servos.
Servos - 4 (2 for Ailerons, 1 elevator, 1 rudder), ESC provides throttle function to the motor
The wheels on the apprentice are too small for taxiing, takeoff, and landing on a grass field. We recommend replacing them with light weight 3 inch diameter “park flyer” wheels available at the hobby shop.
Purchase at least 1 additional flight battery
Battery charger that can accept household power, for easier use at the MAR/C charging station at the field. Alternatively, purchase 2 additional flight batteries instead of one, and bring all batteries fully charged to the field.
Depending on the radio transmitter you select, it will be powered by AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack. If rechargeable, the charger will be supplied with the transmitter. It is critically important that the transmitter battery be fully charged before coming to the field.
Whether simple or sophisticated, transmitters must be protected from damage during the ride to and from the field. Small switches and antennas can be fragile. An old briefcase or a large Tupperware type container lined with some padding can meet this need.
As mentioned in the Selecting and Airplane link, a simple transmitter such as a Spektrum DX5e may be supplied with an RTF (ready to fly) package. If the student purchases an ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) or a kit, they have the latitude of purchasing the simple transmitter or stepping up to something with more lasting value and utility. A so-called “computer” transmitter allows more clever ways of setting control throws and sensitivity that can ease airplane handling, as well as mixing controls so that for example moving the aileron stick can result in both ailerons and rudder moving. Transmitters of this type are appropriate if the student is confident of sticking with the hobby beyond initial training, and will be capable of handling airplanes in your future with flaps, landing gear, and other features. The Spektrum DX7s is a good example of an affordable, entry level computer transmitter.
A transmitter left ON before coming to the field, or accidentally switched ON while packing up to go to the field could result in a dead battery and if not discovered, possible loss of control of the airplane. You should check the battery voltage indicator on the transmitter before each and every flight. Try using this checklist just before each takeoff – B A T T:
Antenna (extended or aligned correctly)
Trim (transmitter control trims set)
Timer (be ready to time your flight)
Airplanes Powered by Electric Motor
For electric airplanes, power from a lithium-polymer (lipo) battery is distributed to the motor and to the receiver and servos by an electronic speed control (ESC).
Matching the battery to the plane:
The battery must be of a specific voltage for the motor, ESC, and propeller combination. It is expressed in the case of the Apprentice as “3s”, which denotes that there are 3 cells in the pack, wired in series.
The battery must also have sufficient endurance, expressed in milli-Amp-hours, or mAh. 3200 mAh for the Apprentice.
Both voltage (e.g. 3s) and endurance (e.g. 3200 mAh) must be within the recommended range for the airplane.
How to protect your battery:
Lipo batteries can be ruined or have their lives shortened if one or more cells in the pack fall below a certain voltage. To prevent this, know the following:
The battery when purchased brand new is NOT fully charged. It must be charged before flight.
A battery is used for ONLY one flight, typically 8-10 minutes for the Apprentice, after which it must be recharged.
Use a timer to time your flight and alert you when it’s time to land. Your instructor will help you figure out how much time is reasonable for your airplane.
The ESC will reduce power to the propeller when the battery is low, to protect the battery from over-discharge. However, very little time may be available before the motor quits, so relying on this feature and attempting too-long flight times can result in an off-field landing and a long search through high brush, water, mud, and nettles.
Also, waiting for the ESC to reduce power increases the risk that the battery will be drained too much, damaging the cells.
Recharge the battery soon after its use, because allowing a used battery to sit on the shelf can result in one or more cells “aging” below the threshold needed for a healthy battery.
We recommend that the student arrive with 3 fully charged batteries, or two batteries and a charger that can be used at the field. The Apprentice comes with a charger that can be used from a car battery, but it will be far more convenient if a charger is purchased that can use the AC household power supplied at the charging bench at the field.
Lithium-polymer batteries require quality chargers designed specifically for this battery chemistry. Attempted use of other chargers can cause a fire. We have found that the Radiant Primal charger is available at the local hobby shop, relatively inexpensive, simple to use, and can be used at our charging table. To use it with the Apprentice batteries, an inexpensive Tamiya to EC3 adapter is also required.
PLEASE, really, read the instructions and safety precautions that come with your battery charger. Lipo batteries require understanding, decent equipment, and proper flying and charging practices for safe and enjoyable use.
Tools and Ground Equipment for Electric Powered Airplanes
One Dozen #64 Rubber Bands needed if wing is held in place with rubber bands
Battery Charger To charge lithium polymer electric power battery using AC household power available at our charging station at the field
Additional Flight Batteries - Three batteries are strongly recommended, or two batteries with the ability to charge a battery at the field. Charging one battery takes approximately one hour.
Prop Nut Wrench
Slot & Phillips Screwdrivers
CA Glue (Super Glue)
Transparent Tape (repair small holes in covering)
Digital Voltmeter (test battery under load) we recommend a “battery checker” meant for Lipo battery packs)
Arming Plug Recommended addition to the airplane power circuit to prevent the motor from running until the plug is inserted
Your local hobby shop has all of the products that have been discussed above and can provide additional advice and product information. Please support them and buy locally.
Airplanes Powered by “Glow” and Gasoline Engines
“Glow” engines burn special fuel that is a mixture of methanol and oil. A glow plug sits where a spark plug would be, but it only requires electric power during starting. After the engine is running, combustion keeps the glow plug elements hot enough to ignite each stroke. Glow engines have been the mainstay of the hobby for decades, but electric power has become dominant for smaller airplanes, and increasingly larger ones as the cost of batteries and motors comes down.
For glow engines, a “glow driver” (a single battery assembled with a connector for the glow plug on the engine) is needed to start the engine, but does not fly along with the airplane. Glow drivers typically have a single rechargeable cell, which must be kept in charged condition.
If you choose an ARF or kit that is suitable for glow power, some recent offerings in gasoline ignition engines are available in the correct size.
They use a gasoline/oil mixture that is less expensive than “glow fuel”.
Your fuel system in the airplane and in your storage tank must be compatible with gasoline.
The correct oil must be mixed into the gasoline in the correct ratio.
The electric starter is still recommended.
A glow driver is no longer necessary
For safer, easier, and more reliable starting, a hand-held electric starter motor is highly recommended over starting the engine by hand. The 12V gel cell that powers it is rechargeable and should hold its charge for several outings. Some experienced flyers use a “flight box” that incorporates the gel cell and a control panel that supplies the correct voltage for the both the glow driver and the starter motor. This is convenient, but not required.
One more really important battery!
The receiver and servos that move ailerons, elevator, and rudder, and throttle must be powered by an onboard battery pack specifically designed for this purpose.
This is an assembled pack of four Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) or Nickel-Metal Hydride (Nimh) rechargeable batteries, with the proper connector.
It is critically important that this battery be fully charged not long before the day of flying – preferably the night before.
A proper charger intended for this purpose, and meant for the correct battery chemistry (Nimh or NiCad) is required.
Tools and Ground Equipment Needed for “Glow” or Gasoline Engines
“Glow” engine fuel (pre-mixed methanol, nitromethane, and oil)
Fuel pump and tubing used to fill the airplane tank
Glow plug igniter (not needed for gasoline ignition engines)
“Chicken Stick used for hand-starting
One Dozen #64 Rubber Bands if wing is held in place with rubber bands
Battery Charger(s) to charge transmitter and flight battery
Electric Starter & 12 Volt battery
Paper Towels & Window Cleaner (clean exhaust residue)
Spare Glow Plug
Glow Plug Wrench
Prop Nut Wrench
Slot & Phillips Screwdrivers
After Run Oil
CA Glue (Super Glue)
Transparent Tape (repair small holes in covering)
Digital Voltmeter to test the flight battery under load. We recommend a “battery checker”
Your local hobby shop has all of the products above and can provide additional product information. Please support them and buy locally.