How I Got Started in RC Helicopters

Written by Rob Jones on 04 July 2014.

rob jones rc helicopterMy name is Rob Jones and I am an addict. Phew! It really does feel better once you admit it!

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by anything with a motor, wheels, or wings. If it was remote controlled, all the better. As a kid growing up in central Florida during the 80's, I went through the progression of RC cars and boats, dabbled in control line airplanes, and as a teenager tried my hand at RC airplanes with mediocre success. But I've always been drawn to complex things, so my real interest was in RC helicopters. At the time they were very exotic and just seeing one was a special treat. I put one on my Christmas list every year, but I suppose that Santa's elves weren't quite up to the task because he always seemed to forget to put one in his sack for me.

Around 1990 while I was attending the Atlanta College of Art working on my BFA, I worked a couple of part time jobs and was able to put aside enough money to finally get my hands on an RC helicopter. I found one that was for sale locally in the RC Modeler magazine classified ads (does anyone else remember RCM?) and called the seller (no email or text messages back then). He had a very interesting story to tell. He had made himself a nice little fortune manufacturing tanning beds and lived on a cul de sac in a very upscale suburban Atlanta neighborhood. He was in the process of purchasing a full-scale Robinson R22 with the intention of landing it at his house and using it to commute to his office downtown. When his neighbors found out about his plans, they were not happy about it and successfully prevented him from getting permission to operate the helicopter in his neighborhood. I don't know if he went through with the purchase of the R22 and just landed it elsewhere, but what I do know is that he was unhappy with his neighbors. So, right or wrong, he wanted to get back at them and bought a complete RC helicopter package with the intention of using it to harass them. But by the time it was finally delivered he had cooled off and lost interest in the project. That's when I came along.

The helicopter in question was a Hirobo Shuttle .30 and was totally ready to fly - just what I needed. We made a deal and I took it back to my dorm. I count this as the point where my heli addiction truly got its start.

hirobo shuttle

In the 20 or so years since that first RC helicopter purchase, I've had my ups and downs in the hobby. During my workaholic years from about 1997-2002 I was working 14-hour days, seven days a week. That didn't leave much time for any leisure activities and the old Shuttle just collected dust in my shed.

In the mid-2000's the state of my professional career improved and I was rewarded with spare time and spare cash. In 2004 I made the pilgrimage from my home in central Georgia to Muncie, Indiana for the IRCHA Jamboree. I had a chance to chat with some of the rock stars of the hobby, including my hero, Curtis Youngblood. That was also the year of the full-scale Bell 47 crash - thankfully both occupants were able to walk aways uninjured.

By the late 2000’s though, more changes in my professional life forced me to set aside my hobbies. Around 2009-2010, one of my business associates mentioned that he was seriously involved in RC flying (fixed wing, though) and wanted to start a club in our area. So together we organized the Perry RC Fliers club and just like that, I was back in the hobby!

It’s been going strong ever since. My day job as a website development project manager keeps me busy and does limit my play time somewhat. But our flying field is less than 5 minutes from my house, so I try to sneak out whenever I can. We now have several heli pilots in the Club and it’s so exciting to see all of the advances in technology that have been introduced recently. I’ll be talking more about that in future blog posts. But for now, it’s a holiday (4th of July), work is slow, and it a gorgeous day. So I’m going to the field!

Happy landings…

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