Spread your wings with the Rainbow Model Aircraft Club
Rainbow Radio-controlled Model Shop and Club may not look much from the outside, but ever since it opened in 1997, it has been a haven for many RC aircraft lovers. Not only can you find various types of model aircraft and radios here, but you can also learn how to build, fly and repair your model plane with other RC plane enthusiasts in Beijing.
Zhao Jianliang, co-founder of the Rainbow RC Model Club, has been a fan of radio-controlled model vehicles since he was a child. “Flying model aircrafts is a wonderful hobby,” says Zhao, “it gets me out of the city every weekend. Plus, it combines knowledge of physics, mechanics, even chemistry, and it also gives me an opportunity to learn about aerodynamics.”
According to Zhao, there are two major kinds of model aircraft: helicopters and fixed-wings such as airplanes and jets. Aircrafts are also categorized into “sport” or “simulation” – the former are lighter and more agile, can be easily controlled and are good at doing stunt maneuvers while the latter look authentic but are heavier and less flexible. Zhao’s favorite is the F-16, which is a miniature of the real US fighter plane from the 1970s.
Another club member, Jared Malarsky, who hails from Boston, Massachusetts, likes the basic F3A-style pattern planes because of their crisp flying characteristics. “I like to fly around at low throttle settings and practice realistic landings,” he explains. “If the plane is too pretty and complicated, you spend too much time fiddling with them just to get them to work well.”
For beginners, the club offers guidance and help with assembling a new model plane, as well as providing flying lessons, which are taught by experienced coaches. “Coaching is necessary for a beginner,” Zhao says. “A model plane usually weighs three to five kilograms and can reach speeds of up to 150km/hour. This makes it quite dangerous without proper supervision.”
In theory, a model plane – no matter what type it is – has a control-range of 1,000 meters. But in reality, it must be kept within eyesight at all times. “It’s actually quite a bit harder than flying a real plane,” said Jared, who holds an aviation pilot license in real life, “because there is no sensation to refer to, so you have to rely on your eyes and your imagination to control it. Even though I have been flying model planes for 20 years, I still find it difficult to do it precisely, smoothly and consistently.”
When Jared tried to fly his first RC plane at the age of 12, he managed to completely destroy it before achieving a full flight. “For a beginner, it’s hard enough to just try keeping the plane stable in the air,” said Jared. “Only through practice can one learn to be patient and gain confidence.” Jared’s second plane was a powered glider, which he managed to keep in one piece for many years.
Different types of planes suit different moods. According to Zhao, a glider makes him feel peaceful and relaxed because it’s quiet and its movements are smooth, whereas a jet or a dynamic aircraft can go really fast and do stunt maneuvers, which is very exciting. Jared tends to like planes that can fly slow and don’t sink too fast, so that he can try to apply real plane techniques to make it more challenging.
Zhao recommends that beginners who are not able to find a coach start with small helicopters, because they’re light, made of soft materials, and usually safe enough to practice with. Simulation computer software is also available, with which you can connect a real radio control to your PC and practice flying a plane on your computer.
Rainbow Club members get together to fly model aircraft every Saturday (windy days excluded) from morning till dusk at a small-aircraft airport in Bei’anhe, Changping District (昌平区北安河). Adults and kids age 6 and above are welcome to join, and classes are offered every week for beginners at 11am. Rental fee for the venue is RMB 20 per person per day.
Prices for the model aircraft vary depending on type and function. Smaller planes are recommended for beginners and cost around RMB 3,000 (including remote control and engine). Assembly costs extra but flying classes are free. Browse models or order online at Hobby Fly Rainbow Shop.
To get to the Bei’anhe airport:
Take Badaling Expressway, and turn off at Exit 9/Bei’anhe Exit. Turn left to get onto a broad road called Beiqing Lu; proceed west along this road for about 16 kilometers. When the road ends, turn right; then turn left at the first intersection.
Beijing Rainbow Radio-controlled Model Shop and Club
73 Xueyuan Nanlu (200 meters east of south gate of Agriculture Academy, second floor of Chaoshi Fa supermarket), Haidian District (Chinese: 6211 5655; English: 135 2023 0772)