SO THE RADIO-CONTROLLED HELICOPTERS WERE PRETTY POPULAR: I even got an email from a former student last week saying that her husband was happily playing with one that he’d ordered through the site, which was cool. But a reader sends this on where to go next if you want to:

I guess you’re getting inundated, but hey, it’s a distraction. I’m not a flack for the Blade company, just a really happy hobbyist who enjoys their products.

There’s actually a “growth path” for micro helis for those who find they love their little syma but want something more flexible/quicker/better performing. The Blade company has created three different micro-helis, one for each skill level (beginner / intermediate / advanced). They’re all roughly the size of the syma, but are much more flexible & responsive. For example, they all include replaceable rechargeable batteries and external chargers, allowing you to have longer flight times by using multiple batteries. They are also available as “Ready to Fly” (RTF) or “Bind and Fly” (BNF). RTF versions cost ~ $30 more and include an inexpensive transmitter/controller. BNF versions allow you to use a “for real” digital transmitter/controller, which is more expensive but can be used with any BNF vehicle, including helis and other aircraft. They are more expensive than the Syma, but they’re by no means outrageous, and parts are common & cheap.

Beginner: Blade mCX2 RTF.

Intermediate: Blade mSR RTF.

Advanced: Blade mCP X BNF.

A radio “to rule them all:”

That last helicopter is due out in March. Check out the video (under “media”), it lets a skilled pilot do all the wacky stuff the big ones do in his or her own living room.

I never got into RC aircraft because I thought the price of getting started was going to be in the thousands, and I’d just drill whatever I got into the ground at the first try and that’d be it. The truth is there’s a world of fun to be had for very reasonable prices.

Yes, and even grown men need toys. Or maybe it should be “especially.”

UPDATE: Reader Thomas Love writes: “Or, you could head down to the airport and start taking lessons in personally controlled helicopters. It adds a whole new level of realism.” And expense. Though my nephew had his helicopter license by 18. He financed it by working for a helicopter-flight place and getting the instructor-rated pilots to give him time.