Operate as pilot in command of a sport pilot eligible aircraft
• Carry a passenger and share expenses (fuel, oil, airport expenses, and aircraft rental);
Fly during the daytime using visual flight rules (VFR). Three statute miles visibility and visual contact with the ground are required.
Cross-country flying anywhere in the U.S.
Fly up to 10,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL) or 2,000 feet above ground level (AGL), whichever is higher.
Fly solo or with one passenger.
Share operating expenses with another person.
Fly in Class E and G airspace (and B, C, and D airspace with appropriate training).
Allows sport pilots to fly production (standard airworthiness certificate) and experimental amateur-built aircraft that meet the definition of a light-sport aircraft.
Allows rental of special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA).
Radio controlled flying has been popular for many years. At one time, radio gear was expensive, unreliable, and prone to interference. Because of advances in radio technology and electronics, RC flying is now affordable and predictable. Almost anyone with the desire can successfully learn how to fly radio-controlled model aircraft.

What do I need to get started?

All you need is the desire to fly, you don't even need a sailplane. If you call an RMSA instructor, we'll make arrangements to meet and you can fly one of our club trainers. If you decide you want to continue, you'll want a plane of your own. You will also need a radio. The club has launching devices, but you will probably want your own.

Why sailplanes?

The easier your first plane is to fly, the more likely it is that you'll keep it through your basic flight instruction. You will also have a more enjoyable experience because you'll be more relaxed (so will your instructor!). Trainer sailplanes have only two controls, as opposed to most powered trainer airplanes which have four. Trainer sailplanes fly much more slowly than powered planes. You don't have to learn how to taxi a sailplane, and you can land a sailplane safely anywhere on the field. With your sailplane, you will learn all the important lessons of flight; including the most important - visual orientation. Disorientation is one of the leading causes of RC accidents. You stand a much better chance of clearing the disorientation hurdle with a slow, stable sailplane. Sailplanes don't have the mess of fuel and cleaners - or the hazard of a spinning propeller. Once you master the basics of flight, you can easily transition to powered models if you choose.

How do you launch a sailplane?

There are many methods, but the most popular are high-start and winch launches. A high-start is simply a length of rubber tubing attached to a length of cord, such as fishing line. One end of the rubber tubing is tied to a stake driven into the ground, the other to the cord. A parachute and ring are attached to the other end of the cord. The ring is placed on the towhook of the sailplane. The pilot walks away from the staked end to stretch the rubber. When the line has enough tension, the pilot tosses the sailplane, which rises into the air and climbs to launch altitude. The ring falls away from the sailplane at the top of the launch, and the parachute slowly returns the ring and line to earth. The high-start launch is a graceful affair, silently raising a sailplane into the air. Winches are more commonly used by experienced pilots for heavier ships and higher launches. The winch is simply an electric motor with a hub attached. Line spools off the hub through a turn-around pulley several hundred yards away, and back to the pilot. The winch is controlled by a foot switch connecting a battery to the motor. Winch launches can be exciting, as expert pilots can launch their ships to well over 600 ft. high!

Sailplanes don't stay up very long do they? How can I learn to fly in such a short time?

A typical 2-meter sailplane launches to about 400 feet on a high-start. This is plenty of altitude to allow mistakes, and provide for five to seven minutes of flight time. You'll learn why sailplanes are different from gliders as soon as you or your instructor finds a thermal (rising air). This is where you'll experience the magic of soaring, as your craft rises higher and higher into the sky. On a good day, it is not unusual for a student to have flights lasting twenty minutes or longer. Master flyers sometimes fly for an hour or more.

How long does it take to learn?

Some exceptional people can learn to fly a simple two channel (control) plane in an afternoon. Others require a few outings before they're ready to "solo". A true mastery of RC soaring can take years to achieve. In any event, don't rush the experience. Flying skills develop and mature given time and practice.

Can I learn without crashing?

Definitely! With an instructor, odds are that you'll keep your first sailplane until you wear it out, or you move on to something more advanced. RMSA instructors are the best, with many years of flying experience. You can improve your odds even more by using a "buddy box", where a cord connects your radio to your instructor's. The instructor can "take over" by flipping a switch, making crashes very unlikely. To use this method, you need to make sure that your instructor's radio is compatible with yours, and they both support this feature.

What kind of sailplane is best?

Most flyers start out with a simple 2-meter plane such as a Gentle Lady or a Spirit. Larger sailplanes are actually easier to learn on, as they are more stable and easier to see. We've included a list of the most popular sailplanes for novice pilots at the end of this flyer.

Where can I get a plane?

There are many ways to get a plane to fly. You can build one from a kit, put together an ARF (Almost-Ready-To-Fly) - or ARC (Almost-Ready-To-Cover). You could also purchase one ready-built. If you have the time, patience, and skills it is most rewarding to build your own plane from a kit. Your local hobby shop is probably the best source for a kit; even though the mail-order price may be slightly lower. You'll get the advice you need at the hobby shop for glues, covering, radio equipment, etc. If you have questions, feel free to ask an RMSA instructor. We love to talk sailplanes, and we've probably already built the model you've chosen. If you want one ready-built, you have several options:

1. Many hobby shops have planes on display which are either on consignment or for sale by the owner.

2. Look for ads in local club publications such as our RMSA "Thermals". Most clubs send a copy of their newsletter to local hobby shops. Ask club members, or hobby shop employees.

3. Auctions. Some clubs have auctions once or twice a year. The Jeffco aeromodelers have one of the largest auctions in the country every year about the second weekend in February. The Longmont club has a spring and a fall auction. You can get a really good buy at an auction. It is also easy to get taken. If you attend an auction, get there early and inspect every item you plan to bid on. Know the value of the items. Many items have been sold for more than their NEW price in bidding frenzies. If you are new to R/C, try to get an experienced modeler to coach you in your bidding. You can usually get a nice, completed model for about the same cost as the kit. Radio gear may be included as a package deal. Be sure all transmitters are 1991 compliant (gold stickered). Also, buy only dual-conversion receivers.

4. Electronic Forums such as RC Groups have sections devoted to RC, RC soaring, and RC for-sale items.

What kind of radio do I need?

First, it is important to understand that when we say channels, we mean functions. A four channel radio will control up to four functions. Each function is controlled by moving a stick on the transmitter forward-backward - or side-to-side. So a four channel radio has two sticks, each controlling two functions. In the powered plane world, four channel radios are the most popular; as four functions are necessary to control the elevator, rudder, ailerons, and throttle. Although not strictly required for a simple sailplane, we HIGHLY recommend you buy a four channel radio at minimum. Two or three channel radios use separate sticks for elevator and rudder. If you learn to fly this way, you will soon have to "unlearn" this unorthodox method. Also, with a four channel radio, you'll be able to use your radio gear in more complex aircraft later. Whatever you do, be sure the transmitter is '91 (gold) compliant and the receiver is dual-conversion. All new radios feature gold transmitters. Not all new receivers are dual-conversion, especially AM receivers. FM radios usually cost slightly more, and are reputed to be less prone to interference. If you are buying a used radio, be sure the batteries are TESTED good, or assume they are bad. Call an RMSA instructor for an unbiased opinion before you buy any radio equipment.

After I've learned the basics - then what?

You'll want to develop an ability to "read the air", and find lift. Books have been written on this topic, but they are no substitute for stick time. You'll challenge yourself to stay up longer, and also develop your landing skills. Soon, you'll be performing smooth aerobatics, rolls and loops. You may want to test your skills in competition - RMSA sponsors nine thermal/duration contests each season. The League of Silent Flight (an international RC soaring organization) has a soaring accomplishment program consisting of duration, landing, competition, and cross-country goals. You will probably want to try more complex designs with ailerons, spoilers, or flaps. An exciting aspect of soaring is "Hand Launch Gliders", or HLG for short. You throw these. A half-hour flight with a HLG is one of the most satisfying soaring experiences. For something really different, try hand-launch golf, using sailplanes instead of golf balls! Some members like building and flying replicas of full-scale sailplanes, others enjoy the thrill of slope flying.

How much does it cost?

You'll spend about $200 to $250 for a new 2-meter trainer with a new four-channel FM radio. You may be able to find serviceable used equipment for about half this price. The total cost is about half what it costs to get started with power planes because you don't need the engine, fuel, flight box ... etc. Of course, you'll want to join the Rocky Mountain Soaring Association. Dues are $25 / year. New members are assessed a $5 initiation fee which includes a name badge. Family memberships are available for $30/yr. Membership includes flying privileges at both our fields, as well as a subscription to "Thermals", the monthly newsletter. Academy of Model Aviation (AMA) membership is required for all flying members. You can find an AMA application inside every issue of "Model Aviation" magazine. Some hobby shops have AMA applications, and can FAX your application to AMA headquarters. If all this sounds like fun, it is! Come fly with us.

2-Meter Built-up Trainer Kits

  • Gentle Lady --- Carl Goldberg
  • Spirit 2M --- Great Planes
  • Riser 2M --- SIG

    2-Meter Built-up Trainer ARFs

  • Explorer 2M ARF --- Thunder Tiger
  • Easy Soar --- Royal
  • Chuperosa --- Culpepper Models*

    Larger Built-up Kits

  • Paragon --- Pierce Aero*
  • Bird of Time --- Dynaflight*

Rocky Mountain
Soaring Association

How to get started in radio controlled flying