... promote a policy
of never allowing
spectators to sit off to
the side by themselves.
... leadership constantly
Don’t misunderstand me. If you’re
familiar with 1st U.S. R/C Flight School
or my training and setup manuals
and articles, you know that I’m a big
proponent of doing everything possible
to improve performance, and therefore
the speed of learning. Even so, the reality
is that many of the improvements that
I make to airplanes used in my school
would barely be detectable by an average
My point is, whether it’s a recreational
club environment or commercial RC
flight school, the main thing is to get the
basics correct and know that refinements
only help to fine-tune airplanes that are
fundamentally sound to start with.
Effective leaders know that it is wise to not bring up all of
the minute ways to “make things better” until a person first has
a good handle on the fundamentals. What good is a slightly
more-capable radio or gadget going to be if the club member
hasn’t yet mastered the basic setup and operation of the
equipment that he or she already has?
3. Another factor contributing to declining club membership
is the tendency for people to whom everyone looks for advice
to recommend the latest, greatest equipment and setups that
match their own interests and ways of doing things.
They should recommend what best aligns with the skills
and interests of members asking for advice. It won’t matter
how valid your advice is if it’s beyond the abilities of most of
the members and causes them to become discouraged or give
up on flying before realizing any benefit from your advice.
Effective leaders try to make practical recommendations that
will offer the greatest likelihood of success.
Consider the E-flite Apprentice basic trainer. Veteran
modelers typically advise any newcomer buying an Apprentice
to forgo the basic radio offered with the airplane, and instead
buy one with more features. However, the radio offered with
the Apprentice is preset by the factory, so all that a novice has
to do is charge the batteries and fly. Those who “upgrade” to a
how to program
the new radio
one of the greatest challenges
in the hobby, and it is often
counterproductive to thrust that
daunting task on any newcomer
whose motivation for getting into
aeromodeling was to have fun,
but already has so much else to
learn. Of course, at some point a
fledgling pilot will have to learn to
set up a model and radio, and might
possibly even enjoy it, but setting the
precedent of facing a complicated
process of programming before
flying is intimidating, and often
erodes someone’s enthusiasm before
even getting to fly.
Despite many clubs struggling to
get and keep new members, many older members continue
to frown upon airplanes such as the Apprentice that utilize
modern, three-axis stabilization technology aimed at making
learning to fly easier and less likely to involve significant
Because some of these airplanes require unconventional
control techniques compared with the way a newcomer will
eventually fly, veteran modelers will often frame stabilization
technology as a crutch and subsequently convince the student
to turn it off. What good does it do to point out that those
who learn to fly with the stabilization turned on will have to
learn different control techniques in the future if, before they
get to that point, they become discouraged and quit?
Active clubs with a high retention rate never discourage,
but rather encourage, the use of anything that helps new
members get to the point of being able to safely fly on their
own whenever they wish. Those systems aimed at speeding up
success in the air can usually be diminished or turned off as a
pilot’s confidence increases.
Because SAFE technology often enables new pilots to solo
on the first day, it solves one of the biggest challenges that
clubs have faced in the past 40-plus years: finding committed
instructors who are available to train regularly.
4. One of the biggest contributors to clubs struggling to
retain active fliers is the tendency of the leadership at the field
to continually push members to purchase more advanced
equipment and increasingly larger airplanes under the guise
that doing so will help them fly better.
Although that might be partially true, it has contributed to
the phenomena of people leaving their clubs after four or five
seasons when the hobby is no longer enjoyable. These former
members no longer attend the club, but they continue to fly
park flyers close to home and strictly for fun.
Although the club’s more experienced members might be
pitching radios with more features and claim that “bigger flies
better” or espouse “what the pros use,” seldom mentioned is
the additional complexity associated with those components.
You can visit clubs across the country and see large numbers of
people preoccupied with learning how to program their radios
and operate their equipment instead of actually using it to fly!
25 Model Aviation MAY 2016