Too often, the beginner is faced with "Ready to Fly" models that don't, or with expensive "Hi-Tech" come-ons, which sour them after their first failures.
There is no better introduction than a basic course in simple models. A group of us, led by our intrepid John Richards, decided about seven years ago to present a course in basic modelling to school kids in an attempt to bring some new life blood into the hobby. We reasoned that, with the introduction of some basic Free-Flight models, we could generate an interest in model airplanes, that would, at a low cost, give kids a basic knowledge of model flying, before they spent the big bucks and were disappointed.
As a result we devised a course, which teaches the basics of construction and flight and does not get too bound up in theory, or the competetive aspects. The course is 10 weeks in length and has expanded from one course to two per year. Four of us volunteer our time and we encourage kids to involve their parents, who also attend the classes. The class is aimed at the 12 to 15 year old range, but we have very competent modellers as young as nine years old.
The first night of the course, they build a 12" HLG balsa model, which is ready to fly in the gym by the end of the session. Nights 3 to 5 are spent on a 18" rubber powered indoor model, and the construction of a 36" wingspan Free-Flight glider fills the remainder of the course. There is also a more advanced course run simultaneously and in this some 30" P30 class rubber powered models and scale and semi-scale models are built. They also get an introduction to R/C flying and a run-down on costs and the various classes.
Not all the kids continue in model flying, but we at least have the satisfaction that we have have taught them the basics of reading 3-view drawings and the ability to assemble a working model and a rudimentary knowledge of structural design. These are skills which will last with them in any field of endeavour. Added to that, there is the thrill of seeing them realize that something they have constructed from the most basic materials, (and not just bought) actually flies.
If you have the opportunity to get involved with a program like this,
I can assure you that it is time well spent.
I would be pleased to provide plans and information to anyone willing to run a similar course.