Alamo, CA (Bay Area)
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When I first got interested in helis, I bought some cheap ones off of eBay... you may have done the same. But I got so frustrated; poor quality, marginal design, expensive parts. I must have bought 4 new helicopters in parts alone that first month or two.
So: tired of crashing Aerohawks and others of that ilk, I went and bought a Draganflyer, a neat 4-bladed heli type of bird that you may have seen on the Discovery channel (before all they did was build motorcycles and hot rods). The stability, quality, and (especially nice) durability of this heli was exactly what I needed; within weeks I had mastered hover and forward flight. I have since moved on to Shoguns, Ecos, and 3D, but if it weren't for the Draganflyer, I don't know if I would ever have learned to fly rotary wing craft.
The Draganflyer is not just for newbies of course --- it's fun at any level, though it's not for 3D. I bought it with the Eyecam setup, a wireless camera that broadcasts video back to the ground. What a hoot! Anyway, I don't fly it so much anymore, and money is tight, so onto eBay it goes. This ends Saturday 4/2... check it out on ebay, item #5965962358... the reserve is $500.