When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return
-- Leonardo da Vinci
One of my favorite ways to reduce stress and reset my brain for peak trading performance is to bust out one of my radio-controlled airplanes and go flying! This simple and enjoyable hobby will send you outdoors into the wind and the sun, and requires you to take your mind off work (or other stresses) to focus on your piloting as your airplane dances in the hills, trees and wind currents.
This is not that expensive a hobby to explore -- beginner airplanes are usually made of foam and are easy to assemble with just a little strapping tape and five-minute epoxy. The airframe itself will often cost less than $150, with radio, battery charger, and accessories adding another $150-$200 to your start-up cost.
Start by seeking out your local hobby shop. You will find advice, construction hints, and with any luck, an experienced pilot who will help you learn to fly! If this resource is not available, there are a number of mail-order and online retailers such as
Northeast Sailplanes. They each have all the equipment needed to get you started.
The Starter Squadron
The smaller "Parkflyers" are silent electrics, and can easily be flown in any small park or vacant lot. A battery charge lasts eight to 15 minutes, so a two-battery lunch break will get you back in front of your trading screens with your brain rested and refreshed just as the afternoon volume kicks in!
For the beginner, the
Parkflyer offers a compact, crash-resistant design with a pusher-prop configuration to help you survive all but the most catastrophic crashes.
For urban warriors, the
is another great first airplane. Its small size makes it a great plane to slip into a small case or backpack for those impromptu flying sessions. In addition, its efficient motor offers 15- to 40-minute flight times on one battery charge, further reducing the amount of gear you need to lug to the field in order to have a satisfying flight.
If you live in the city and cannot find a park that is quiet enough for flying, you might wish to explore the possibilities for indoor flying. Recent advances in miniaturization have allowed radio controls to be installed in airframes small enough to be flown inside a gymnasium. Two kits that are a lot of fun indoors are the
or the ultra aerobatic
Fly Like an Eagle
As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by any activity that uses the power of mother nature as the engine of the sport. Downhill skiing, sailing, soaring, kite-flying, surfing ... All these use the Earth's potential energy to drive them. Radio-controlled soaring harnesses the power of uplifting air currents (termed "lift") to keep a glider in the air without a motor of any kind!
There are two major forms of radio-controlled soaring. The first and most common is thermalling. As the sun hits the earth, it heats up the surface in an uneven manner. Blacktop parking lots, freshly plowed fields, playgrounds with dark-colored bark mulch on the ground all tend to heat up faster than the surrounding area. Heat rises, so sooner or later this mass of heated air will lift off from the earth and rise like a bubble. As a thermal pilot, your goal is to fly your glider into these bubbles of lift and hitch a ride up and away.
Sailplanes are usually made out of composite or balsa wood for extreme lightness. They are much more expensive and fragile than their powered cousins, so a little experience and skill are needed before you upgrade. Northeast Sailplanes has more sailplane choices then you can shake a stick at, from beginner to the most expensive high-performance airframes. The
are two that I have enjoyed.
If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, then a whole new kind of flying may be available. Have you ever watched the gulls sweep back and forth above a cliff or dune? They are exploiting a phenomenon called "ridge lift" to stay aloft without having to flap their wings, and you can buy a radio-controlled glider that will let you join them!
Think for a moment how a wave crashes upward when it hits a breakwater, rock or cliff. As the winds sweep in from offshore, they hit any incline or obstacle and are redirected upward in the same manner. This creates a distinct area of reliable lift that can be used like an elevator to keep your "slope soaring" glider airborne without an engine.
You can play in and around this lift zone doing aerobatics, low-level strafing runs, or lazy circles in the sky until the wind dies down. Flight times of 45 minutes to an hour are common, and the strength of the lift zone allows some unusual designs to be flown. This kind of radio-control flying has to be my favorite. The
is hands down my choice for this kind of flying. Built out of nearly indestructible poly-foam, this "beater" flying wing can be flown in all wind conditions, and will loop, flip and twirl on a dime. (Some are even combat capable.)
I hope to see you on the flying field!