The Runway

11/9/2005 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2005 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

Print This Article Bookmark This Article
Share This Article
(continued from previous page)

New Entry Revised Runway

As you may or may not have noticed, we’ve changed the layout of the Runway to make things easier to find. We’ve broken up the postings by the entry type, tone, and where things happened along the course. Here’s a basic breakdown of what we did and where you can find archived entries.

1) The Runway
This section will have each of my entries for the last 90 days or so. Any posting that is more than 90 days old will get moved to the appropriate category.
2) Selecting a Skill-Appropriate Plane
This is basically the launching pad into flying. If you don’t have any previous flight experience but you know you want to fly, this will walk you through the steps I took in deciding which plane I thought was right for me and why.

3) Early Flight Experiences
While pretty self-explanatory, there’s a ton of information here. From completing the assembly on a first plane to some flight basics, this section takes you through my first few flights with the HobbyZone Firebird Commander and Firebird Commander 2.

4) Learning Repairs and Technology
Let’s face it—everyone crashes from time to time. Occasionally you’re going to break parts and need to conduct basic repairs. This section covers repairs, maintenance, battery terms and more, I’ll help you understand what you need to do to keep your plane and equipment working right.

5) Trying the Firebird Commander 2
When I started the Runway, I began with the Firebird Commander. A few months afterwards, Firebird Commander 2 came out and was revolutionary. The new Anti-Crash Technology designed into it was something no one else had ever developed. My exploits of moving on to this plane can be found here.

6) Your Comments and Feedback
I think “The Runway” is unique in that I do solicit, receive, and respond to each piece of e-mail I receive from you, our readers. While every e-mail receives a response from me, from time to time I will share a reader’s questions and feedback with everyone.

7) Intermediate Flying
Intermediate flying covers items such as flying with X-Port modules, more advanced planes such as the Aerobird Challenger and ParkZone J-3 Cub or the E-flite Blade CX.

8) Advanced Flying
This section is basically what I am working on now. This includes flying profile planes, such as the E-flite Tribute 3D, or other planes I am working toward flying. In the future, I may have postings in here regarding other planes and possibly other pilots too.

9) Random Ramblings
This is where I am simply me. I could be discussing new products coming out, goofy things I’ve done, events I’ve gone to, basically anything else that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

Again, we’ve made these changes to make things easier for everyone to find. Please, let us know what you think at

New Entry It Actually Happened...


This posting of The Runway marks a very cool event, as today is the one-year anniversary of the first posting of our little experimental Blog. I’ve been thinking about what to post today and how to make this event extra special. After going back and forth, I have to start out by thanking everyone that has helped put The Runway together and make it live. From the folks that believed in me and the concept of a “learning to fly” Blog, the talented individual who designed the banner and posts each entry for me, our crack proofreader who makes me sound more intelligent than I really am (which isn’t too difficult some days), the knowledgeable ParkZone, HobbyZone, and E-flite pilots that I have leaned on and, of course you, the readers. None of this would be possible without any one of these people. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all.


So what have I, this goofy RC car racer, learned in a year of flying? Well, several things. I should never have been intimidated to try flying RC airplanes; that fear was completely misplaced. RC flight isn’t necessarily easy per se, but it’s not all that difficult either. It’s very similar to racing; the more you do it, the better you’ll be. I’ve also learned that there are a ton of people out there who have gone through the same situations that I have throughout their careers, and that they actually enjoy it when you lean on their experience. There are also less auspicious things—such as learning not to fly in excessive winds, near trees, or when I haven’t properly repaired my plane from a crash—but the main thing is that it has been a very positive experience. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned is this.


Everybody crashes…it’s what you do afterwards to recover that really defines you.

New Entry Sky High

With Independence Day coming up early next week, what a perfect opportunity it is to get out and enjoy RC hobbies in some form—from participating in special RC races that will be held across the country, to those who will be out on the water enjoying RC boats. Of course, many of us will also be out in parks with family and friends, grilling out, and possibly enjoying RC airplanes. As you spend time with friends and loved ones over this holiday, take a moment to remember the brave men and women who are serving now, or have given the ultimate sacrifice, so that we may enjoy the lifestyle that we do.


With so many people taking to the parks, you’ll want to keep some things in mind if you do decide to do some flying. Don’t fly directly over people’s heads if at all possible. You can never tell if and when you could have a problem when in the air, and a plane crash in a crowd of people can be a very bad thing. Children also love to look at model planes, especially up close. If you decide to let younger kids look at your plane on the ground, please make sure that you have the battery disconnected. You can never be too safe and, if a child is looking at the prop and you get a glitch or something, someone could get hurt pretty severely. The main thing to remember is to simply be safe while having fun too. Have a great 4th everyone!

New Entry Stay in Formation

One of the coolest things about my job and where I do it is the number of extremely talented pilots I get to see fly on a regular basis. While I am more of a casual flyer, I still sit back in admiration and awe when I see some of these top pilots practice their craft. The ability the pilots possess is really inspiring, and I highly recommend that anyone who has a chance to attend an event to watch should to do so. It will be worth your time, I promise.

One such event is going on this weekend here locally in Monticello, IL. The JR Aerotow is an event for folks who enjoy high-altitude sail planes. This was the first air event I attended last year, and it was a category of this hobby that I never even knew existed at the event. The planes I have been flying have, at most a 2-3 foot wingspan, where these planes are 8-12 feet wide at the very least. Once these birds are in the air, experienced pilots can catch thermal air currents that help maintain the plane’s altitude for well over 30 minutes. It’s truly an amazing sight to see, especially when there are a number of planes in the air at the same. It’s also rather amazing when you realize these pilots fly for that long and there’s rarely (if ever) a mid-air collision. It’s truly a spectacle to see.

New Entry Back in the Saddle Again

Spring is definitely here in full swing now as the flying fields and outdoor race tracks all seem to be getting their 2006 outdoor seasons up and running. Perfect example is the race I just attended in Memphis— I now have my first sunburn of the season and have been peeling like crazy. Recovering from sunburn is not a fun experience. The folks at the TCS Race from the MSRA did a masterful job of running it. Kudos go out to everyone from HobbyTown USA in Germantown, Tennessee.

One of the topics of discussion was the sheer number of people that had been solidly ensconced in RC cars and trucks that were now taking on the challenge of flying. Quite a few racers had mentioned how they had started out much as I had, with zero previous flight experience and generally intimidated by the thought of taking to the sky. But as they progressed, sure they crashed a time or two, they weren’t discouraged from continuing to get back on the horse, so to speak. Each person I spoke with had started with a different plane, and many of them had selected a HobbyZone plane or, for those who have started flying more recently, an E-flite Blade CX as their first venture into model aviation. In the end though, each person had the same overall reaction. They were glad that they took the risk to enter into RC flight and feel that it has added to their overall enjoyment of the hobby.

New Entry Finding Pilots Where You'd Never Expect to See Them

I have just returned from the largest RC race in the world, the Snowbird Nationals, and a few things truly surprised me. First of all, it was cold in Orlando which I didn’t think was possible. Secondly, I couldn’t believe how many racers were there competing. Sure, I saw the registration list ahead of time and knew there would be about 500–600 entrants but, until you see that mass of people, it doesn’t hit you. And finally, I was surprised at something that occupied racers for a good bit of time Saturday night: an E-flite Blade CX. The folks from Superior Hobbies from Casselberry, Florida set up a remote hobby shop there on site at the event, and several racers took the opportunity to purchase parts, accessories and, of course, Blade CX’s. After qualifying was over Saturday night, one rookie pilot broke out his new BCX in the hotel and began to fly it. As he flew, the neatest thing happened as a crowd slowly gathered around him. They asked questions about the Blade CX, played pass-the-transmitter so different people could get a chance to fly, and generally just had a good time talking about how cool this little heli was. It was pretty awesome to see some of the best racers in the world—such as eventual Snowbird winner Paul Lemiuex, 2005 Reedy Race of Champions winner Craig Dresher, Paul Wynn, Jeff Brown, and others—just standing there watching in awe. A few took their turns at the controls to see what it was like to fly, but mostly it was just good fun.