Many beginners in this hobby, buy entirely the wrong model, wrong engine & often the wrong radio control system. They are often only advised, and ill advised at that, by the salesman in the shop.
A much better idea initially, is to come down to the club on a Sunday & have a chat with the club members. You will soon get a "feel" for what you really need to buy.
Here is a very common typical scenario:
New aeromodeller arrives at the flying field, sees the secretary, pays his BMFA insurance & club subscription to join the club.
He then brings out his shiny new model aeroplane from his car. Usually it is of the A.R.T.F. type - (Almost Ready To Fly)
It usually has a "budget end of the market" engine fitted.
More often than not, there is some problem with the beginner's attempt at the basic assembly & radio installation.
Fuel tanks & "plumbing" seem to confuse the beginner too, but expert help is always available at your local model flying club.
The above problems are slowly sorted out, then the cheap engine, will not run properly at all.
After much fiddling about with the engine, everyone's patience is wearing thin, and although the engine is running erratically, the model is test flown by an instructor, whereupon the engine soon cuts out & a subsequent "heavy arrival" slightly damages the model.
I personally have witnessed the above sequence of events too many times.
Engines bought with trainers are usually one of the cheaper ones that are available.
Ask flyers at the club which engines are good or bad, then draw your own conclusions before buying one. Most experienced flyers will soon put you right!
One school of thought on this is from the beginner's point of view is: " I am just learning, so I don't want to spend too much money on an expensive engine in case I crash the model & smash it"
Fact: You are more likely to smash your model if the engine unexpectedly cuts out at the wrong time, either during take off & "climb out", or at any time while the model is in the air. Take off is a critical stage in the process. The instructor would do this for you initially, but however experienced the instructor is, an engine cut on "climb out" means that the model can only continue straight ahead & downward if it is low to the ground. Attempting to turn the model in this "dead stick" mode could cause a serious stall & subsequent heavy impact with the ground. Trees, rough grass, people & buildings are a problem, not forgetting the river which runs on two sides of our flying site. If the model is heading towards obstacles of any kind, with a "dead stick" engine, you can guess what might happen! You will notice that the majority of experienced competent model flyers just fly their models, without any "fiddling about" with the engine! Fact: You will be very disappointed & disillusioned with the hobby if you take your model home in a bin liner on your first day!
Fact: You will be disappointed & very frustrated if you cannot get the engine to run properly in the first place.
Fact: If the model crashes owing to engine failure , you risk your plane & radio as well.
Solution: Buy a quality engine in the first place - pay that little bit more!
The Radio System:
Decide before you buy the radio which mode you want to use. This should be based on the most popular mode used at your local flying club. Throttle on the right is popular in some clubs, but throttle on the left is popular at other clubs too. Ask at your local club before buying a radio setup.Then ask the model shop to supply you the radio control system in the mode that you require. Make sure that the transmitter has a "buddy" facility, this allows you to connect together two transmitters, one for you & one for your instructor. The instructor holds down a button or switch, which gives you control of the model, if you get into trouble, the instructor can release the switch & take over control quickly before the model hits the ground!. It is a very good idea, if you can stretch your budget a bit, to consider buying a second transmitter & "buddy" lead, so that you are self contained & not relying on someone else to use their transmitter to teach you to fly - you can always sell the second transmitter after you "go solo". At my local flying club, the most popular types of radio used, are generally "Futaba" - closely followed by "JR" & "Hitec"
Your choice of Model
As mentioned above, scale models, a Spitfire or similar type of model is most definitely not for a beginner to learn to fly with !
There are quite a few A.R.T.F. trainer models available, the high, flat bottomed wing section, tricycle undercarriage type is usually the accepted norm. Take your pick relative to your budget. A wingspan of 60 inches or more is desirable, avoid small "twitchy" trainers. From my experience, the front noselegs usually break quickly, so maybe buying a spare noseleg, anticipating this common failure is a good idea! It is best to avoid the cheap electric "park flier" type of model.
Do not, under any circumstances buy or build a "vintage" type. These are wholly unsuitable for learning to fly. They are rudder & elevator controlled, so at low speed ie: take off & landing, can be difficult to control accurately from a beginner's point of view, but the main reason is that the wings are generally very weak & will often break, if sharply pulled out of even a shallow dive. This situation occurs often with beginners being "ham fisted" with the controls! The model, with only half a wing left, then smashes into the ground from a great height! I have seen this happen many, many times. The other reason is that if you did learn to fly successfully on one of these type of models, your next model would be an aileron type anyway & you will not be used to the way this aircraft type handles. I have observed some beginners taking well over a year to get to grips with these "vintage" type models.
Computer Flight Simulators
There are several computer flight simulators available. These are all very useful to the beginner, as you can connect your transmitter directly to your PC and fly model aircraft of various types, safely on your PC monitor.The "flight physics" are more accurate on some than on others. This method has a couple of distinct advantages: It teaches you flight controls & model orientation, also the models automatically "reset" after a crash! If you do not have PC capable of running a flight simulator, your local model flying club may have a system that they are able to loan out to new members. Ask at the club if you would like to borrow it, but bear in mind that there is usually a bit of a queue of new members wanting to borrow it.
Before packing your model into the car for a trip to the flying field, consider the weather. If it is quite a windy day, it is not advisable to fly, because as a beginner, the wind will blow your trainer all over the place & confuse you. In the early stages of learning, select days when the weather is on your side. Ideal days ar either "flat calm" or with a gentle breeze in one direction. The wind itself is not the problem, but the turbulent air it creates, blows models all over the place. Once you can fly well, the wind is still annoying, but you will be able to cope with it, mainly owing to the fact that, by then you probably will have bought a model that is capable of flying in strong wind anyway!
I hope the above guidelines are useful to anyone considering taking up this hobby.