A lot of my spare time was been devoured by learning to fly radio controlled helicopters -- a never-ending process, and repairing them -- something that comes along with learning to fly. Flying radio controlled helicopters takes every bit of your concentration, and can thus actually be quite relaxing when other things are causing you stress. When you get done with an R/C heli flying session, your mind is quite clear of any other distractions. Either that, or your helicopter goes home in a trash bag.
I began flying radio controlled airplanes way back in the 70's -- my first R/C radio gear was Heathkit. Wow - has radio gear ever improved over the years. My current transmitter is extremely programmable -- it is actually more computer than transmitter. Fairly simple transmitters work fine for most R/C airplanes, but having a really good radio sure makes flying helicopters easier.
Back in the 70's, there were a few geniuses that had figured out how to build and fly R/C helicopters, but they were very expensive and incredibly difficult to fly. Today, you can get a brand new helicopter with an engine for about $350. Plus, we have solid state gyros that electronically tame the tail of the helicopter, which makes it possible for mortals to fly them. The radio gear also is far, far less expensive than it used to be, much smarter, and more reliable.
I am a member of the Johnson Space Center Radio Control Club and the Texas City Radio Control Club, and have the privilege of flying with about the nicest and most helpful bunch of folks that you can imagine. Flying with these guys is really, really great. On any given weekend day, there are a dozen or so R/C helicopter pilots at the field at various skill levels from absolute beginner to factory-sponsored experts. We have more fun together than you can imagine.
As usual today, there are many, many resources available on the web for the R/C helicopter enthusiast. I fly a Thunder Tiger Raptor, so most of my personal R/C heli links are related to Raptors. Here are a few of my links for more R/C helicopter information:
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