Welcome to the Hobby!
So…. You’ve seen a few flying models out there and are interested in getting into the air! When flying within the guidelines of the Hobby it’s pretty easy to get started now-a-days. FCRCC is a great club to start learning and any of our members would be glad to help you get started! We’ll try to go through the process step by step here to get you toed right up to our flight line if you’re a beginner……
STEP 1: Join AMA & TRUST Exam
The Academy of Model Aeronautics should be every hobbyist’s first point of contact to get started in Model Aviation Operations. The AMA is a community based organization located in Muncie, IN that is a nationwide organizer of Aeromodelling clubs across the US. The AMA Provides an RC pilot with safety guidance, resources for flight operations, supplemental insurance that covers medical and property damage/liability, competition and event organization, lobbying for reasonable regulations with the Federal DOT and Congress, and of course educational resources that include STEM projects and camps for youth and adults. In order to join an AMA Chartered Flying Site (Club) you need to first have an AMA membership and be afforded these coverages/resources.
The main thing to remember, with the AMA membership, you are now part of the model aviation community (Hobby Operations) and ‘You Are the AMA’. You and every other club member that is affiliated with AMA are involved in providing both a National and Local Peer-to-Peer service for the Hobby. AMA Members and Officials are volunteers that share the hobby interest that you have and work toward preserving the Hobby and wealth of knowledge that encompasses model aviation. Though headquartered in Muncie, the AMA has regional representatives that volunteer to support the hobby with events, outreach, and education at the local club level. We are the AMA! Visit the AMA District 1 page for more info on our Local AMA representation and events
Next, as a Part II to Step 1 you will have to have proof that you had a safety course administered by a Community Based Organization (CBO). The TRUST Exam (The Recreational UAS Safety Test) is not cumbersome and is free of charge. The test is administered in conjunction with the slides that guide you to succeed and obtain your printable passing certificate. The test is relatively easy and is set up such that you cannot fail, but will ask for the correct answer until given. Again, not cumbersome and is easy to complete.
STEP 2: Register with the FAA
It was only a matter of time before the Federal Aviation Administration was able to promulgate rules within the Hobby Operations of Model Aviation. As the multirotor craze “spun-up” a few years back, and general & commercial aviation (manned aircraft) started spotting more SUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) from back yards to fields, it was destined that the FAA re-evaluate how the National Airspace System (NAS) was being used. During the last reauthorization by Congress, protections from the 2012 reauthorization afforded to strictly hobby operations went out the window. However, AMA has lobbied for us modelers to try and make sure these rules are not too cumbersome, and have been pretty successful over the last 5-7 years in fighting for the true hobbyist. Again, pointing to what “Step 1” above gets you and how it benefits the Club.
So – Bottom line, you have to now have a registration no, IT’S ONLY $5 EVERY 3 YEARS, It shouldn’t break the bank. This is kind of like a General Av. “N” or Tail Number. The cool thing is, that it’s really your number as a pilot and you only have to have to have one number for all of your aircraft used for model or “Hobby” operations. Our Club is a “Hobby” operations area and below are a couple of examples that show the differences between Hobby and Commercial operations (Commercial ops require a Part 107 certificate).
HOBBY OPERATIONS Vs. Commercial Operations
Commercial operations are a different set of rules altogether and require a bit more training and a comprehensive exam. So how do you “qualify” for a hobby operation and steer clear of requiring a formal license (under Part 107)? Easy…. You do it only for fun and don’t fly for money, barters or where the recipient may benefit monetarily from your flight operation. Usually, a commercial operation commences to take aerial photos for a business. Basically, a hobby operation doesn’t benefit the pilot or the recipient of the photos where it will not assist in increasing commerce or revenue in any way.
EXAMPLE – John flies his Giant Scale Decathlon with a Go-Pro camera and takes a sweet vid of the flight. He and his friends think it’s so great, and he shares the video with his friends. No money changing hands, and no one posts it as an advertisement or for any personal gain – HOBBY OPERATION
EXAMPLE – Jimmy has a DJI Phantom 3 4K with a pretty nice camera that he’s flown mostly for hobby operations. Jimmy is asked by his company to assist with measuring stone stockpiles and if he could fly his drone to assist. Jimmy doesn’t get any extra compensation for this as the company expects this of him. However, the photo grid that Jimmy takes and uploads for stockpile management benefits the company and affects revenue/commerce – COMMERCIAL OPERATION
EXAMPLE – Arthur flies a T-Rex Heli. He’s not a professional by any means, but is learning how to 3D pilot the aircraft and is getting pretty good. Arthur attends jamborees and events at different Model Air Clubs around the country and is asked to do some demos at events. Arthur doesn’t get paid for these demos and is not sponsored by anyone, he’s just having fun! – HOBBY OPERATION
EXAMPLE – Jessica has a DJI Mavic and she is a realtor with a local real estate agency. To make a few extra dollars and present her show homes with an aerial “flair”, Jessica posts pics she has taken with her drone to the website/listing. – COMMERCIAL OPERATION
STEP 3: Join an AMA Chartered Club
Alright, now that we’re through the hard part (which is relatively easy), it’s time to start learning and having some fun! You’ve come to the right place. FCRCC would love to get you in the air, whether you have prior experience or none at all.
For those who have never flown before FCRCC has members designated as Intro-Pilot instructors that are qualified to train newcomers. We have several members that are capable of providing a trainer aircraft along with a “Buddy Box” which is a tethered or wireless master/slave device relationship between two transmitters. While using the buddy box, the “Intro-Pilot” instructor will get the plane to a safe altitude and flip a switch to give the student control. If the student begins to falter at the controls a bit, the instructor can let go of the switch and regain control of the plane to safe and level flight. It’s a great way to start and avoid the “Crash, Rebuild, Repeat” cycle and get practical hand’s on training with fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. We also have several members that are into the multi-rotor and FPV operations where we can help you get your new drone set up and flying as well. There isn’t really a way to “Buddy Box” with drones and most have flight control assistance that makes it easy to learn while you’re solely at the controls.
STEP 4: Your First Aircraft System
How much does it cost to get started?
Years ago, the Model Aviation was thought to be a “Rich Person’s” hobby when materials and equipment were fairly expensive. That’s not the case today however. As the battery technology gets better and materials get more cost effective it’s pretty easy to get a plane and radio for around $100.00 to start. $300 will get you a (new) radio system and larger trainer system with a battery and charger. The cool thing about the $300 level RTF kit (Ready to Fly), is that if you get the “Bug” and purchase another plane, you’ll typically be able to “Bind” that transmitter to the new plane making progression in the hobby a bit more economical than the “old days”.
Another place to look for economical ways to get into the hobby are to browse garage sales, auctions, flea markets, estate sales, and local clubs/members for great deals. For example, at an auction one of my friends was able to get a P-51 with engine and servos, used of course, for $60. The original ARF (almost ready to fly) Kit was almost $400! So a good bargain hunter can find some really neat planes and aircraft to keep the hobby budget low.
Here are a couple of sites with “Classifieds” for Aircraft airframes, engines and parts…..
So How much does it cost to start with a used trainer system, radio, field box and your first gallon of fuel? Let’s add it up so we’re all on the same page – AMA Membership = $85 (under 65 years old), Registration = $5, FCRCC Club Membership = $55. So, annually to stay vested in the hobby you’re looking at around $141.67 (breaking the $5 over three years) – Your first trainer system, let’s call that $175 because you went to a flea market with one of our members and got all set up with some extras/spare parts to start building your hobby tool kit too. Year 1 total costs could average around $320 for memberships, registration and your trainer system. In the grand scheme of things these days, that isn’t a terrible amount of money to dive head first into any hobby.