A HELICOPTER AND FLIGHT LINE EQUIPMENT
I get ask questions all the time about which helicopter to buy. "What helicopter do I recommend?" "What do I think of this brand?". In a "NUT SHELL"... pretty much all helicopters are very good. It seems these days its more the radio and engine then the helicopter you buy. Don't skimp on a good radio. It will make the setup much better and easier to do. A good set up will also lead you to learn faster because your not fighting the helicopter. Also... if the engine isn't running right, again... you won't learn as fast because your spending to much time fighting with that. BUY name brand, good quality equipment.
Well my opinion on this is, you should consider the following points:
Cost: How much will it cost to get all the helicopter equipment need. This will include the radio, gyro, engine, muffler, the helicopter itself, and the flight line equipment. You will be able to use the radio, engine, gyro, flight line equipment for any helicopter you get. You need to consider the difference between the helicopter kits, radio's, engines, mufflers. After all this is laid out on a pro and con's sheet of paper, look at what it will really cost. Look at what it will cost to buy the helicopter, then upgrading to another size of helicopter. (i.e.) I purchase a small 30 size to learn on but then decide to get into 3D aerobatics or contests, will the 30 size work? Or will I have to purchase a larger size? So I lay-out $400 for the smaller size, then lay-out another $500 for the larger size. Would it have been more economical for me to have just purchase the larger size it the first place. Try to buy the best you can now! My opinion over the years has changed some. It used to be...buy the best helicopter you can...now its buy a good quality helicopter but buy the best radio you can. The reason for this is most helicopters today are very good. But buying a cheap radio will make setting up even the best helicopter difficult. If the helicopter is not set up right, it will not fly right, and you will be very unhappy. Not to mention that if you buy a cheap radio now and want to fly more then the basic learning stuff, you will have to buy another radio later, but the helicopter will still be the same.
Size: Now after resolving the cost issue, then you can decide upon which size of helicopter you can afford to get. So look in the price range that you have figured out and do your research. I don't think that a beginner should purchase a electric helicopter to learn on. They take different support equipment and that can get more expensive. They also don't take the beating that a larger size one will. Find out which helicopter doesn't need hundreds of dollars of upgrades to make them fly. When your just beginning you don't need to be fighting with a helicopter that is always breaking or needing upgraded parts just to keep it flying. Needing upgraded parts are fine if you want them for that little extra performance, but to have them when your learning is pretty much useless. Look into which helicopter has a good performance record. Check your local flying site and see what your fellow flyers recommend. This is also very important because they are the ones with the experience and they will be the ones that will be helping you during your learning times. The larger helicopters will handle the wind better and are easier to see and control. Sure when your just learning your pretty much at your feet, but when you are getting away from your self, just starting into forward flight, you need to be able to see what you are flying or its just that much more harder. I like to recommend the larger ones. I have had many people learn on a smaller helicopter but when they try / or buy that larger one...they wonder why they didn't do it earlier. HOWEVER!!! The latest and greatest 30 size and 46 size helicopters are getting so good these days its not as much of an issue with me as getting a good radio and engine.
Support: One thing you will want to consider is what kind of support will you get from the supplier of the kit and other parts. Will you be able to get parts for the particular kit you purchased or you be left on your own. Will the retailer be able to help or recommend some one who can. Will they be able to recommend what special tools you will need to get you going. If you buy a used helicopter will that person stand behind you. Will that person be able to help you learn to fly or when it needs to be fixed. Is that particular helicopter still in production. Will you be able to get parts for it.
Cost of parts: When your shopping for that first helicopter or even a second one, you need to consider the cost of parts. Where you can get those parts. Does the manufacture of that helicopter have a good supply of parts. Do they offer "upgrade" parts. Do other manufactures have after market parts. Can you get a good variety of after market parts. The cost of those parts. If there are a good supply of "upgrade" parts or after market parts, this is a good sign of a popular helicopter kit. One that there is a good demand for. This leads to the after market parts.
Will you be upgrading in the future: There probably will come a time that you will want some of those trick parts to make that helicopter fly like the pro's. If the past has shown anything, you will end up with at least a few of them. So where will you be getting those parts from? Who will be making those parts? What will those parts do for you? These are just some of the questions that you will have to ask your self. Consider who makes what parts for what helicopters. Remember though that in the most cases, these parts won't make the helicopter fly, they will only give you that added edge.
Are you going to get into contest or 3D: If you someday plan on getting into contest or 3D aerobatics, you need to consider the fact that these helicopters are usually of the larger size. Not to say that the smaller ones will not do this kind of flying, but they just don't do it as well. There's a point that you need a good combination of weight and size to get a good flying helicopter. If you plan on doing 3D or contest work, make sure the helicopter that you get will have enough pitch range for that kind of flying. This will usually be a full 20 degrees for 3D.
Engines: Make sure you get a good reliable engine. If the engine isn't going to run right you will be spending all your time fighting that. No matter what helicopter you get... if it doesn't fly... your not going to learn. If the engine runs ruff, it will shake the helicopter apart. Make sure you get a good muffler or pipe. A muffler will usually lend itself to a smoother, easier to adjust engine, that will be more tolerant on a misadjust carburetor. (not much, but more so then a pipe). A pipe will give you a more powerful engine. It will also be a little more noisy.
As you can see, Its a "well oiled machine". You can't skimp! It will be only as good as it weakest link.
FLIGHT LINE EQUIPMENT
This will include some of the items you will need for your flight line equipment. The picture above is what I use to get my helicopters in the air. It goes with out saying that you will need a helicopter and a good helicopter. You will also need a 12volt starter. I use the "SULLIVAN" brand. Attached to the starter you will need some type of starting shaft. Every helicopter is different and can use a variety of start shafts. To power the starter you will need a 12volt starting battery. You can use your car battery if you fly next to your car. If not you will need a portable battery. Next you will need either a 1.5 volt glow plug battery and a glow plug clip or you can get a "POWER PANEL" from most hobby shops. These power panels will have built in circuitry to run your starter, electric fuel pump and glow plug. I am using the "RADIO SOUTH PRO DRIVER 2". (more information on my "INTERESTING PRODUCTS" page) You will also need "Fuel". There are a lot of brands out on the market. PLEASE!... For you sake... use a good quality brand of fuel. One that is made for model helicopters. It will have a different oil content. I use the "COOL POWER" brand, but there are other good fuel manufactures out there. As you can see in the picture I have a nice folding table which makes starting much easier...especially on the back!
note: hemostat not forceps
Next you will need some tools. Not only to build the helicopter, but to work on it. Its not advised to do major work at the field but a good drawer full of tools can come in handy. The above picture is one of MINIATURE AIRCRAFT'S tool kits. This one has some nut drivers, metric allen style wrenches, a glow plug wrench, to remove your engines glow plug, and a little add on tool for one of the allen wrenches so you can put ball links onto the rods ends. This will save your finger tips. You should have a good set of "ball link" pliers to remove ball links. A good pair of "forceps" are great to have also. I use the "curved end" style. Great for getting in to corners and such. Then there are other tools that are nice to have around.