Starting Out

Beginners Guide

Greensborough Model Aircraft Club, GMAC, has something for everyone interested in model flight.

We can boast to be one of the largest Model Aircraft Clubs in Australia with some of the best facilities to be found anywhere in the world.

Anyone can enjoy flying and building model aircraft.


Whether you are young or young at heart, flying model aircraft is a rewarding sport that offers so many different opportunities to be involved.

Competition: - You can immerse yourself in competition with many different disciplines using both fixed wing aircraft and rotor. There are competitions for almost every aspect of the sport. Both flying and building.

Recreational: - Everyone involved in this sport enjoys the purely recreational aspects. Sharing and learning never stop. And the thrill of flying your own aircraft never really leaves you and you don't need to compete with anyone to enjoy that!

Many thousands of people around the world enjoy the sport of flying model aircraft. Perhaps
GMAC is the place for you to start? See our Membership Information.

For all beginners to model aircraft, an understanding of the importance of safety when working with or flying models, is essential.
GMAC has an impeccable safety record and we are jealously proud of this.

We recommend you contact GMAC and arrange a visit to the field. Have a chat with some of our instructors and members. The next move is up!

Fixed Wing

Fixed Wing


Acquiring your Aircraft

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This can be divided into three parts:

The aircraft

The engine

The R/C equipment


The Aircraft

People have successfully learnt to fly with a glider, but in our club most people begin with a powered model aircraft. It is better to begin with a "trainer" aircraft first and leave the Spitfire, Mustang (or whatever) for your second or third aircraft. You are far less likely to be disappointed if you follow this advice. These days, you are spoilt for choice for your first model aircraft because there are many options available. Model aircraft can be acquired in the following ways:


Recommendations for a Beginner

  • Purchased ready to fly

Recommended for a beginner

  • Purchased almost ready to fly

Recommended for a beginner

  • Build it yourself from a kit

Recommended but you should regularly ask an experienced builder to review your work.

  • Build it yourself from a plan

Not recommended for a beginner but it can be done with assistance from an experienced builder.

  • Purchase a second-hand aircraft

Not recommended for a beginner. Unless the particular aircraft is known to your instructor.

  • Design and build it yourself

Definitely not recommended for a beginner.


Be careful with these options. Not all pre-built aircraft are equal in every respect. Some can be more difficult for a beginner to repair than others. Whatever you choose, your aircraft should have the following characteristics;

Be a recognized "trainer" type.

Be designed for and be powered by a 40 size (or 46 size) engine. (See "The Engine" section below, for information about electric powered model aircraft.)

Have a high wing layout.


Other non-critical factors to consider;

Aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage can be easier to handle on the ground than a tail dragger.

Three function aircraft can be easier to handle in the air because they usually have more inherent stability.


The Engine

Most beginner model aircraft are powered by a 2-stroke internal combustion engine. Four stroke engines are available but they are much more expensive. An electric motor is another viable option which has many advantages (mostly to do with noise and cleanliness) but they are not necessarily cheaper. The Club recommends a .40 to .46 size engine because a trainer aircraft designed for that size engine is a handy size. It is big enough to handle rough air well and small enough to fit into the average family car. If you prefer to begin with an electric powered aircraft, there are at least two options;

A normal 40 size trainer aircraft powered by an equivalent electric motor.

An electric powered glider which should be a bit bigger than a 40 size aircraft (about 2 metre wingspan) but it will not need an electric motor equivalent to a 40 size engine in power.


The R/C Equipment

Here the scope for choice is enormous. Basically you are limited by your wallet. Besides the fact that there are many different brands, there is also a very wide range of equipment types. At one end are the very tiny radios designed for model aircraft flown indoors (very definitely experts only) and at the other end are the computer radios with all possible bells and whistles (more expensive). The club suggests you look somewhere near the middle of the range because the equipment is less expensive. Until recently beginner R/C equipment was very basic but these days affordable computer radios are readily available. All R/C transmitters (other than 2.4Ghz) must be certified by an approved person BEFORE they are used at the Club field. 2.4GHz radio transmitters do not require certification, but have the Australian "C Tick" sticker, that ensures that it complies with the Australian legal requirements.


Helicopter & Multi-Rotor

A Guide for Beginners-Helicopter/Multi-Rotor

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Flying model helicopters is a fun and challenging hobby! Arguably, it takes more skill to fly a heli than a fixed-wing aircraft, and some R/C clubs insist you start with 'plank-flying' (as heli pilots like to refer to fixed-wing aircraft) before you try helis. There's a lot to be said for this approach, but GMAC does not have this requirement. All the advice provided for fixed-wing models is very relevant to rotary-wing models (helis), so we suggest that you read this if you skipped over it.

The Heli
There are many different makes and models of helis available, and there is no 'right' choice for your first model. Probably the best is a good entry-level model that is flown by a number of people at the club you'll be flying at. This way, there will be plenty of help and advice available regarding building, setup and maintenance. Come down to the club and check out what others are flying, and ask lots of questions.

Internal Combustion(IC) or Electric Power(EP)

This is very much a matter of personal preference. Of recent years, batteries and motors have improved to the point that EP is preferred by many, and overall are cheaper, quieter and cleaner than IC and with far less chance of having a 'dead stick' (engine cut-out) while in flight.

Computer R/C Model Simulators are highly recommended when beginning MultiRotor and Helicopter training. see Flight Simulators 

Flight Simulators

Flight Simulators

Some of our club members have found great benefit benefit in gaining initial experience with a computer based Radio Control Flight Simulator, or SIM. A SIM can be invaluable as a learning tool. At the very least you can investigate the relative merits of Mode 1 or Mode 2 operation. Most people can learn to fly with either mode but not necessarily with equal ease. It is not advisable to jump back and forth between modes but if you are having persistent difficulty with your current mode, talk to your instructor about trying the other mode. You will probably have to change instructors to do so.

Flight Simulators are excellent to 'train' your fingers to move with your aircraft. Many competent pilots will still use a simulator to practice. GMAC has been fortunate to have our field replicated as photo scenery files for the Real Flight Simulator by long time member and ex-president, Chris Anderson. These files of both the Multi-Rotor/Heli field and the Main Strip are available for download HERE


GMAC does not endorse one Simulator brand over another, you will gain benefit using any SIM with a mode 1 or 2 transmitter. There are free and commercial simulators available. Some simulators enable you to use your own transmitter, others supply one designed for the software. What ever you choose to use will definitely benefit your beginning journey into model flight.

There is no doubt a computer R/C simulator will help your heli and fixed-wing flying enormously. They will save you lots of time, money, building, and frustration. And, in our opinion, are absolutely a must for heli flying. Without a simulator, you might spend years just hovering and/or re-building your model! You should be able to comfortably hover a helicopter on the flight simulator before even attempting this with a model. In fact, you should be very comfortable doing any manoeuvre on a simulator before attempting it 'for real'. A simulator is possibly the best first investment you will make, even before buying your model and radio equipment! And ... simulators are fun!

Do's & Don'ts

Do's & Don'ts

We list a number of Do's and Don'ts as a guide to getting started


- Visit our club flying field and observe how the club members operate their model aircraft.

- Talk to our club members and ask questions about their model aircraft and R/C equipment.

- Ask to be introduced to a club Committee member who can provide any advice and guidance you might require.

- Ask for an introduction to a GMAC Instructor that will suit your personal needs. Our Instructor's volunteer their time but arrangements that suit both parties should be agreed to.

- Make an arrangement with your instructor to have your aircraft inspected. Preferably before you bring it to the field for your first flight. Despite your best efforts, there might be something that will make the aircraft unsafe to fly.

- Learn to operate your engine safely. If your aircraft is powered by an electric motor, safe operation is not simply a matter of switching it on.


- Try to teach yourself to fly. It is simply not that easy and can be illegal. You are not permitted to fly at the GMAC field unless you have had proper instruction.

- Purchase a model aircraft before discussing the issues and available options with the people who will be assisting you in learning to fly.

- Purchase R/C equipment until you have a reasonable understanding of the relative merits of each option. Like many other purchase decisions you make in life, the cheapest or most expensive is not necessarily the best choice for you.

- Assume that the pre-built model aircraft you have purchased is truly safe and ready to fly. It is in everyone's interest for an instructor to check the aircraft before it is committed to the air.

- Assume you know all about operating model engines safely. Even a small engine can cause a large accident.

- Assume that a second-hand receiver is any good. It might have been damaged in a crash. For the safety of your aircraft and the people around you, second-hand receivers should be checked by a qualified technician.

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms


- 2.4 Ghz radio control transmitter - must be manufacturer labelled with Australian "C Tick" that ensures it complies with the Australian legal requirements. Other r/c transmitters require certification. (See below)

- 3D Flying - High performance flying usually combining two maneuvers at once. Like, to loop while rolling, mixing a loop and a roll, etc.

- 40 size engine - An engine that has a swept capacity of 0.4 cubic inches (about 6.5 cubic centimetres). Common model aircraft engines range in size from about 0.1 cubic inches to about 1.0 cubic inches; the most popular size for beginners being engines in the range 0.4 to 0.46 cubic inches. There are bigger and smaller engines but they are less common

- Aileron - Movable control surfaces on the wings of an aircraft that cause it to roll about an imaginary axis along it's fuselage.

- Airfoil - The shape of a wing which produces lift

- Angle of Attack - The angle between the direction of the cord of the blades and the relative direction of the wind

- ARF - Prefabricated model  - Almost Ready to Fly

- Autorotation - (heli) A maneuver to land in the case of engine failure; the momentum of the rotor blades can be just enough to slow the heli down just before landing

- Binding - A condition where the control adjustments can not move as far as the maximum servo travel. This puts extremely high torque on the servo constantly and can ruin a servo with time.

- Buddy Box - Two similar transmitters that are interconnected with a "trainer cord" or r/c dual receiver module installed within the aircraft. Most useful when learning to fly where the instructor can take control by using the "trainer switch" on his master transmitter

- C of G - Centre of Gravity - The point at which the airplane balances fore to aft. This point is critical in regards to how the airplane reacts in the air. A tail-heavy plane will be very snappy but in mmost cases very unstable and susceptible to more frequent stalls. If the airplane is nose heavy, it will tend to track better and be less sensitive to control inputs, but, will generally drop its nose when the throttle is reduced to idle. This makes the plane more difficult to land since it takes more effort to hold the nose up.

- Certification - A procedure whereby your transmitter is tested for correct operation at it's nominated point in the radio frequency spectrum. If your transmitter passes the test, the inspector will affix a signed and dated sticker to the back of the transmitter.

- Control Reversal - A phenomena you experience when controlling an aircraft from the ground. Your R/C system is set up to cause the aircraft to behave the way you would expect if you were sitting in it or observing it from behind but if the aircraft is coming towards you, it will appear to react opposite to your aileron or rudder control inputs

- Dead Stick - A term to other adjacent pilots that describes an emergency landing due to a power loss when the engine quits.

- Dual Rates - A function of some r/c transmitter models which allows a person to flip a switch to make the controls more or less sensitive

- Elevator - A movable horizontal surface, usually at the tail of the aircraft, that causes the front of the aircraft to pitch up and down.

- ESC - Electronic Speed Controller. An electronic device that takes the power from the battery pack and the signal from the receiver and measures a certain amount of power for the electric motor

- Flare - Used mostly when talking about airplanes and landing. To flare is when you are about to land and pull up just before touchdown and hold until you run out of enough airspeed to fly any more and the airplane glides itself on the ground. With helicopters this is usually referring to the end of an autorotation where you start to add positive pitch back in the blades to slow down your decent. Flare too late and you slam into the ground. Flare too soon and all the energy in the rotorblades will be used up before you land causing the helicopter to drop like a rock and again, slam into the ground.

- Four Channel - Normally four channels are required to control a Four Function aircraft.

- Four Function - A model aircraft that uses all four primary controls (ailerons, elevator, rudder & throttle).

- Fuselage - The body of the aircraft. That is: Excluding wings and tail.

- High Wing - An arrangement where the wings of the aircraft are mounted on top of the fuselage. This arrangement offers the most natural stability which is a desirable characteristic of a beginner's model aircraft. Closely allied arrangements are a "parasol" wing and a "shoulder" wing.

- Mode 1, Mode 2 - These are labels that refer to the way the four primary controls of the aircraft are shared between the control sticks on an r/c transmitter.

'Mode 1' refers to the situation where the aileron and throttle are controlled through the right stick and, the elevator and rudder are controlled through the left stick.

'Mode 2' usually refers to the situation where the aileron and elevator are controlled through the right stick and, the throttle and rudder are controlled through the left stick. Other arrangements are possible but these two are the most common.

- Nose Wheel - A wheel, usually steerable, that supports the forward end of an aircraft on the ground.

- Primary controls - Most model aircraft utilize two, three or four primary controls (rudder, elevator, aileron and throttle). If three are used, they are usually rudder, elevator and throttle. If only two are used, they are usually rudder and elevator (also see: Two Function).

- Propeller -The noisy spinning thing that will take your fingers off if you are not careful. The propeller is no longer your friend, if it bites your fingers. Play it safe and be very careful.

- Pusher - An arrangement where the propeller pushes the aircraft through the air.

- R/C - Radio Control

- Rudder - A movable vertical surface, usually at the tail of the aircraft, that causes the aircraft to turn in the horizontal plane, essentially similar to the way a car or boat is steered

- Servo - An R/C device fitted within the model aircraft that can turn a lever arm one way or the other with many points between the two extremes. Used to control moving surfaces on the model

- Skid - A stick or other structure projecting from the underside of the aircraft to support it on the ground.

- Tail Dragger - An arrangement of the wheels of an aircraft where the main wheels are towards the front and the rear of the aircraft is supported by a tail wheel or skid.

- Tail Wheel - A small wheel that supports the rear end of an aircraft on the ground.

- Three Function - When the model aircraft is controlled by rudder, elevator and throttle (see also: Two Function).

- Tricycle Undercarriage - An arrangement of the wheels of an aircraft which is essentially similar to the arrangement of a child's tricycle.

- Two Channel - Normally the minimum number of channels required to control a two function aircraft.

- Two Function - When the model aircraft is controlled by rudder and elevator.

- Yaw/Pitch/Roll - Terms that describe the change of attitude of a helicopter. Yaw is the movement about the vertical axis; Pitch describes leaning forward or backward; and roll describes leaning

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