Getting Started in RC
The best advice you can get if you want to get into Radio Controlled Model Aviation can be summed up in three words, "Get an instructor".
The first question that comes up is almost always, "How much does it cost?" The best answer is that is costs what you're willing to spend. There is a minimum that you can expect to spend for basic requirements, but even that will depend on what choices you make as you are beginning.
The first decision is choosing what you want to start with. There are gliders, electrics, and fuel-powered models available for beginners.
The glider is the least costly, and in many cases a good choice to start learning to fly RC models. However, the majority of beginners will want to start with a 40-size trainer airplane and engine or similar type model with electric motor, and at least a four channel radio. Seek advice from a qualified RC pilot before you make your first purchase.
The cost for a 40-size trainer with engine and radio can vary greatly. Many people will tell you it's going to cost you at least $400, but you can easily get into this great hobby/sport for under $300 (even less if you visit swap meets or know someone who wants to sell their trainer).
Most often, an instructor will help you out by providing support equipment at the field. So don't go out and just start buying everything you may think you'll need. Take your time getting used to what is needed, and what is just nice to have, and you'll save money in the long run.
Let's assume you got yourself started for about $300. You will also need to join the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and a club (like EAM!). As of this writing, AMA dues are $58/year and EAM dues are $40/year. So, your initial startup cost would be in the neighborhood of $400.
Having a glider as a trainer could save you about $100, but they are more limited in their controls and odds are you'd still want a trainer with fuel powered engine or electric motor. Also, most gliders require building from a kit (plans and wood), which many people would prefer to avoid on their first aircraft. Most trainers come ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) or RTF (Ready To Fly), and require only minor assembly.
Come meet us at the field, or at our meetings, and we'll be glad to help you learn more about what kind of planes are useful for starting out with RC flight. If you have any questions about something you're considering purchasing, please feel free to ask us.
A Word About the AMA
The Eglin Aero Modellers club is chartered under the Academy of Model Aeronautics. AMA membership is required of all club members and any guests flying at the field.
The AMA is a national group that supports model aviation in the United States and has been in existence since 1936. Since that time, the AMA has been instrumental in obtaining clear frequencies for modeling use. The AMA is also largely responsible for interfacing with the Federal Aviation Administration and has, so far, kept us free from restrictive government regulation.
Membership in the AMA benefits the club, the individual, and the hobby as a whole. The people running the AMA organization are not perfect, but they are elected and are modelers themselves. They do not look to the AMA for their livelihood. Other organizations cannot make the same claim.
To fly on US Air Force property we must have a large amount of liability insurance. The AMA provides up to 2.5 Million Dollars coverage. Other organizations offer similar coverage, but is has been determined that the Air Force, and Eglin AFB, will recognize the AMA policy.