General guidelines...

When getting started with the radio control model airplane hobby, there are a number of things to consider.
You need to chose your plane, your engine, your radio and your accessories.  The comments below are of a general nature and based on what is commonly seen and used by the members of the club.  As with any advice, it can generate plenty of discussion and debate.  
Choosing your plane
Before purchasing your first plane, come to our flying field and talk to members of the club about what model is best for you.
The plane should initially be a "trainer" type, the World Models Sky Raider is recommended by many members in the HMFC club.  as is the eFlite Apprentice electric powered trainer.
Trainers have high wings and are generally more stable than more advanced stunt models.  But rest assured, the trainer will still allow you to do many stunts and provide hours of flying fun.  There are a number of experienced members who still show up from time to time with their original trainer.
Most trainers come in ARF - Almost Ready to Fly.  These planes are mostly assembled and require about a days work to complete.  This typically involves adding the landing gear, putting the fuel tank/batteries in place, fitting the servos and control linkages and installing the engine.
Choosing your engine
Most new flyers get started using 2 stroke petrol or electric motors.  The O.S. Max AX .46 is quite popular in the petrol line. Power plants like the eFlite 15  or Turnigy SK 3548-900kv are good beginner electric motors. The model manufacturers will specify what size motor, speed controller and battery are required for their electric trainers if they don’t come  preinstalled.
There are advantages and disadvantages with both types of power plants.

     Advantages of electrics
  • Quiet. More friendly to the businesses and residents near the field
  • Clean. No oily mess seeping in to the wood/foam
  • Can always start the motor. No deadstick landings
  • Can use the batteries to balance the model, no need to add extra weights
  • If looked after batteries will last anywhere from 300 to over 1000 recharges (ie. flights)
  • There is very little vibration, so it is easier on the model
  • The receiver, servos and motor can all be powered off the same battery
  • Don’t need a lot of equipment out at the field.

     Disadvantages of electrics

  • Once connected to a battery can be started by simply moving the throttle stick. This may happen accidentally causing the aircraft to move forward suddenly or catch people unawares with fingers or other body parts in range of the spinning propeller
  • Because they are so quiet it is difficult judging engine revs when landing
  • It can take some time to “refuel”, ie charge the battery, so multiple batteries are needed to get a reasonable number of flights in during a day. This adds to the initial setup cost
  • The battery of choice, Lithium Polymer (LiPo) ,can explode or catch fire if mistreated
  • They are more complicated to set up as motor, speed controller, propeller and battery all have to be matched. Getting any one wrong can burn out the motor or speed controller. Buying a kit that comes with a motor, speed controller and propeller can get around this problem (eg Eflite Apprentice)
     Advantages of Glow/Petrol

  • Will not accidentally start
  • Number of flights during the day is only limited by the amount of fuel available
  • Can easily hear what the motor is doing. Particularly useful when landing
     Disadvantages of Glow/Petrol

  • Lots of vibration. Need to insulate receiver and servos
  • Need a separate battery pack for receiver and servos
  • Messy, with fuel and oil getting into pretty much everything
  • Less freedom when balancing the model
  • Can be difficult to start at times
  • If motor stops in mid air there is no way to restart it
  • Are noisy compared to electrics
  • Need some equipment at the field to start and refuel the model
So choose whichever configuration appeals to you the most

Choosing your radio

In 2007 2.4GHz DSM (Digital Spectrum Modulation) transmitters and receivers arrived on the market.  They provide much better reliability and are the recommended radio setup for any newcomers to the hobby.

When you purchase a radio, you will need to choose between what is called Mode 1 and Mode 2. 

Mode 1 has the throttle and aileron on the right stick, elevator and rudder on the left stick. This allows precise movement of the aileron without inadvertently moving the elevator and vice versa.

Mode 2 mimics a real aircraft joystick, with aileron and elevator, the two main controls, on the right stick and throttle and rudder on the left stick.

In Australia, Mode 1 seems to be the most popular, while in the US most people fly Mode 2. It is up to you which one you feel comfortable with. However, most HMFC members fly Mode 1, so if you are attempting to get your Bronze Wings qualification, you increase your chances of getting a training flight dramatically if you are on Mode 1.

Choosing your accessories

To start flying, you'll need some accessories.  As a minimum you'll need a glow plug starter, a fuel bottle and a fuel pump (hand crank is fine).  Some small hand tools, pliers, screw drivers, allen keys, etc are often handy.  Many members also have electric starter motors and fancy flying boxes to store their accessories.
Another useful accessory is a flight simulator.  This is a program that runs on a personal computer and specifically simulates model aircraft flight.  Many new members have commented on the help they got from practicing on a flight simulator but be careful as you can get over confident as to your abilities, flying in the real world is quite the leveler.

Your first flight(s)

Once you have your new plane built you are ready to take to the air!  Club rules and safety considerations dictate that you do this under the careful guidance of one of the club trainers.  This starts off using what is called a buddy cable.  The buddy cable connects your radio transmitter to the transmitter of the trainer.  The trainer is then able to take the plane off and get it circling in an area just above the flying field.  You will start off at a height we call "3 mistakes high" which will give you and the trainer plenty of chances to correct any problems you have.
Once you've proven you can control the plane well with the buddy cable, the trainer will typically start flying with only one radio, yours.  The trainer will take off the plane and get it to a good height and then hand the control over to you.  Once you've flown around for a while (up to 10 minutes is the usual duration), the trainer will take the radio back off you and land the plane.  If you are in any sort of trouble in the middle of the flight, it is common for the trainer to take the controls off you well before the planned landing time.
The club trainers are friendly and helpful and they also have plenty of good advice to hand out.  It is in your interest to listen to their guidance and do your best to follow it.
Once you are competent at flying and the trainer can see that you are in good control of the plane, you'll start doing your own take offs and eventually your own landings.  Progress can seem slow at times but the best thing to remember is that more stick time flying is the best thing you can do to learn.  Try to get out and fly as often as possible.

The next step

Once you are competent at flying, take offs and landings,  you can progress to getting your Bronze Wings which allows you to fly without a trainer by your side.  The test includes performing left and right hand circuits, procedure turns and figure 8's (see diagrams below), as well as powered and deadstick landings.  Good luck!
procedure turn                          figure eight
Useful link
This gives you something to dream about.  Imagine doing these maneuvers once you get a bit more skilled.