New Pilots: what you need to start
If you want to get into R/C flying, below is what we would recommend you start with.
First, all pilots must join the AMA to fly at Sparks. The easiest way is to go online to www.modelaircraft.org and join the Academy of Model Aeronautics. With your AMA card you receive insurance to cover any damage to property or persons that may occur while you are operating your model aircraft. Also learn about the recent requirement of FAA Registration, by clicking here.
Second, you need to join SPARKS as a member. Details are on the membership application you can get from the this website or see one of the officers at the field.
If you like battery powered planes, an E-Flite Apprentice is a great trainer. Starting out with electric will be easier on the budget. The Hanger 9 Alpha 40 or 60 or the Hobbico NexSTAR Trainer are what we would recommend if you want to go with glow fuel.
Spectrum 2.4 GHz Transmitters are fine. All other Transmitters must have the Trainer function compatible with Futaba or JR radios.
Get good Sunglasses, Polaroid preferred, with prescription if needed, because our field does face South.
Learn to fly R/C
Go to one of the local hobby shops and BUY A FLIGHT SIMULATOR for your home computer! You can also get them online. Real Flight is a common one, but not the only one. It is worth the money- you can crash models on the simulator and it doesn't cost you anything more than pushing the reset button. Although not required, this will enhance your learning to fly. This is by far better than crashing your trainer model!! We suggest a foam high wing trainer to learn to fly on. There are new planes coming out all the time with more and more features to assist the beginner (Like crash protection features, for example). The Apprentice is a good choice but by no means the only choice.
Next you will need an instructor. That can be difficult for a new member, as you won't know very many other members and who might be willing and qualified to instruct you. But rest assured, if you go to the office and meet an officer or board member, they can provide you with a list of instructors who are members and active at SPARKS. You should then make contact with the instructor and arrange a day/time to begin your lessons. Be sure and bring your AMA card, your SPARKS student card, and of course your plane and radio, etc.
What you want to do is start with the top of the airplane checklist and go over each maneuver in sequence. You should set a goal for each flight and then focus on one maneuver at a time till you are proficient and comfortable with the maneuver. After you are able to demonstrate that you can repeatedly do that maneuver, the instructor pilot must initial that specific maneuver on the signoff sheet. When you have all the maneuvers signed off, you are ready for a final check ride.
You will need to contact the chief flight instructor (as of 2021, Paul Jones) and arrange to meet him at the field along with your checklist. A check ride consists of flying selected maneuvers from the checklist under observation by the chief flight instructor. Safety is very important and the purpose of this check ride is to insure that you know the field boundaries, safety rules and can fly your airplane without endangering anyone. If you pass the check ride, the chief flight instructor will approve your checklist by signing it. Please remember that until you pass the check ride and get your new card as a full member you are a student and are not allowed to fly unless you have a SPARKS full member pilot flying with you (beside you).
The next step is to get with an officer that can issue SPARKS membership cards and turn in your checklist. You will receive a full member card (one without STUDENT across it) allowing you to fly solo at the SPARKS field. Congratulations!
R/C Flying Etiquette
Find here an article, written by a previous SPARKS Safety Officer, about appropriate behaviour once you are on the flight line.