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For a while before I was born and then a bit thereafter, my father flew glow RC planes. I don't remember being around for much of his actual flying, but I have vivid memories of stopping by the field by our house to watch others fly. In particular, the smell of nitromethane fuel exhaust when running up an engine before flight and sight of thousands of little match-sticks in a pile after a crash stuck in my mind.

I made some abortive attempts toward building a glow trainer from a kit as a kid, but I never got much past the wing. I enjoyed the building, but the time wasn't really there for me. The smell, noise, and hassle of glow didn't really appeal to me, and I'd mostly forgotten things until I ran into some friends at school that were flying simple RC electric planes.

I got a Firebird XL, which by all accounts is a simplistic trainer; two-channels -- one for proportional throttle, the other for a v-tail. The only pitch control you have comes from the glide and power you apply, unless you decide to put it into a spin to drop fast. The handling isn't great, but it teaches you a lot about maintaining airspeed and orientation while flying. In addition to the flying experience, you get lots of retrieval practice. I recommend that anyone interested in this sort of plane purchase one of the three channel models that allows control of throttle, elevator, and turning -- it may be a little bit harder to fly at first, but you will be rewarded with a model that takes you a lot further along the path.

The next plane I messed with was a Trick R/C Zagi 400X. This plane (and others like it) have become almost cult classics in the R/C world, as they are cheap to build, forgiving, fun to fly, and difficult to break. I have literally drilled mine into the groud from 150' at full throttle and caused no damage. The worst I've done to it so far was to break a receiver crystal on a light but unlucky impact. You can read more about my experiences with this plane on the Zagi 400X page. The big downsides of a Zagi-style plane are that it doesn't look like a plane and tends to be a little bit noisier than most electrics because the prop is usually high speed direct-drive.

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