Tauranga Model Aircraft Club Inc.

The official website for the Tauranga Model Aircraft Club Inc. New Zealand.

Learning to Fly

Training - typical trainer

Typical high wing trainer – bought at the club auction!

(Page updated 13/4/22)
Learning to fly is fun and relatively painless. If you put the time into it, you can have your “wings” in as little as 6 weeks and 6 hours flying time.

Flying a radio controlled model aeroplane is a skill which needs to be learned. To be competent you must be able to operate the controls instinctively. It has been described as being akin to learning to touch type. While slow glider style models can be flown in a relaxed hands off style, most sport and aerobatic aircraft require a high degree of concentration. It is different from flying a full size aircraft in that the only feedback is visual, and the control actions are different depending on whether the model is flying towards or away from the pilot, or inverted vs upright. To avoid disappointment and potential shocks to the bank account, it is highly recommended that you join a club where an instructor will take you through a structured learning process.

The instructor will provide guidance on:

  • Choice of model – size, configuration, electric or internal combustion.
  • Choice of radio system – There are 2 main control configurations known as “mode 1” and “mode 2”. There is no advantage of one system over another. In the US mode 2 is favoured, whereas in Europe the preference is for mode 1. In NZ and Australia the mix is balanced. In the Tauranga Club, the dominant mode is mode 1. Most students follow the system used by their instructor, but once you

    Main transmitter control setups.

    have learned one system, it is generally locked in for life. Some radio systems can be converted from one mode to another – some cannot. Please bear this in mind if you have a sudden impulse to buy a system from Trademe!

  • How to set up and trim your model.  An untrimmed model is hard to fly and may be unflyable.
  • Starting process. Safety with electrics, starting and tuning an IC motor.
  • Preparing the student to take his “Wings” test. This is a Civil Aviation requirement and is administered by the club on behalf of Model Flying New Zealand. Members holding a wings badge (or learners flying under the guidance of a certified instructor) are covered by a comprehensive third party liability insurance, in the event that your model hits something.

Training Aids 

  • “Buddy Box” – this is currently the preferred way to train. Most transmitters have a facility where 2 transmitters can be paired together such that an instructor can take over from the student at any stage. This enables a structured learning process where in the early stages the instructor takes off and lands the model and the student takes over once airborne. As the student’s skills develop, the instructor can provide more access for the student.
  • Simulator – there are a number of good computer simulators available. The students transmitter is connected to the computer by a lead plugged into the buddy port. The main purpose of the simulator is to develop instinctive coordination skills Most simulators provide a range of models so that the student can progress from a stable trainer, to a more aerobatic design as his/her skills develop.

Requirement for Wings Badge
From Jan 2012 it became mandatory, if flying solo, to have your wings badge.
If you do not have a Wings badge you will need to fly “under supervision” of an Instructor or Wings badge holder.
If you do not have a wings badge and are flying unsupervised you will NOT be covered by MFNZ insurance.
You will also be contravening the rules of the Tauranga Model Aircraft Club as well as putting pressure on wings badge holders to be constantly supervising members.

  • If you don’t have it, please make every effort to do your Wings badge.
  • It is YOUR responsibility to contact one of the Instructors / Wings badge testers and get it sorted.
  • We do not want to have to discipline members who flaunt this rule as it just makes it unpleasant for all. It is much easier to do the test.
  • If you don’t feel that you are competent to do the test, you need to actively seek assistance.

To arrange for instruction please contact the Chief Flying Instructor

The wings test
This has 3 components
1. Answering questions relating to safe operation of model aeroplanes – understanding rigging, trim, starting procedures, preflight checks etc.
2. Demonstrating an understanding of club and CAA rules .
3. Demonstrating competence in flying a model aircraft

( a list of standard “wings test” questions and model answers is available from the club secretary)