‘Radio’ control or ‘remote’ control… Which is it?

The correct term for this hobby is radio control because of what you are controlling the aircraft with – a radio. Those who use the phrase ‘remote control’ are more or less describing how they are controlling the aircraft – from a distance or remotely. While neither is grammatically incorrect, radio control is technically the proper term to use. To emphasize our point, take a look at the manufacturers in this industry; all use radio control to describe the hobby. Yet, for some reason or another a majority of newer hobbyists during conversation will use the phrase ‘remote control’.

How much money does it cost to get started?

A valid and important question. We have two quick answers for that.

1) Total Cost: $0

The most cost effective way to see if you will enjoy flying radio control (rc) aircraft is to go to a local rc flying field and see if you can meet a fellow hobbyist on the field, talk with them, and perhaps fly tandem¹ with someone. Though sometimes this approach is not always feasible, don’t be afraid to try it. Most pilots who have been involved in the hobby for a while will be more then willing to introduce you to this hobby. See if there are any flying fields in your area by going to the Academy of Model Aeronautics web site. We’ve found this location to be a great start when searching for local rc clubs. When you have found a local field, if they have a website with contact information, hit them up! Shoot off an email or make a phone call and arrange a meeting. Control Chat recommends the phone call since sometimes the board members of local clubs are a bit slow with technology.

2) Total Cost: approx. $300

Expect to spend around $300 to successfully enter into the world of radio control for the first time. We’re sure there are people who will argue that it can be done cheaper, however, note the word ’successfully’ in our statement. Our point is that the total cost of a Ready-To-Fly kit (RTF) or an Almost-Ready-To-Fly kit (ARF) will likely place you in the area of $150 – $200 for expense. Then add on top of that additional items you’ll need (ex. glue, tape, extra propellers, etc.), and you end up with a bill around $300. If it seems a bit steep, we won’t disagree. But facts are facts, and until it gets cheaper (which it really has over the last 5 years) expect to stash some money aside for your first leap into rc airplanes.

What kind of airplane should I get?

A majority of aspiring pilots have had little or no skill in building any aircraft, so we’re going on the premise that you want to skip weeks of building and get right to flying. Thus we introduce you to the Read-To-Fly kit (RTF) and the Almost-Ready-To-Fly kit (ARF). The biggest difference between the two kit types is that an RTF comes with everything you will need in order to fly. An ARF requires you to do some additional purchasing of equipment (i.e radio, servos, engine, etc.).

Currently there are a lot of affordable RTF and ARF kits out for the new hobbyist. We recommend an electric foam flier (a.ka. foamie) for a first time pilot. Why an electric foamie?

  • Foam fliers are super durable
  • Electric foam fliers are quiet and clean. (No glow engine means less noise and no oil)
  • Foam fliers are harder to destroy and quick to repair.

We’re not trying to be mean, but let’s face it, if you are a solo-learner you’re going to slam your first airplane into the ground. And unless you have someone to tandem with we say keep to foam fliers. We do recommend glow power (seriously) but unless you have an experienced pilot helping you learn how to fly, you’ll end up with an awesome looking, very expensive, lawn dart. Let’s avoid the sadness, shall we? Stick to foamies for your first solo learning experience.

I don’t have any skills. Now What!?

Again, valid point. However, Control Chat will argue that even if you’ve never flown an r/c airplane there are varying skills from person to person. Example:

“Allison, a real world pilot, was interested in flying radio control. So we let her take the controls of our Piper Cub one day at the flying field. Standing by her side and only verbally assisting her she was able to control the airplane in the sky within two hours! How is this possible? Allison, being a real pilot, has an understanding of how an aircraft responds. Her trouble was just understanding how the radio control worked.”

Even though she never got close to landing our Piper Cub, she displayed more skill then most when controlling it in the air. Adversely, someone who has never touched an airplane, flown in one, or has never played a flight video game (which does help hand-eye coordination) will have a difficult time flying for the first time without assistance. Regardless, an airplane that is more forgiving, like a high wing Piper Cub type airplane, would be the aircraft of choice for solo-learning. What you need to understand is that you should match your skills set to the aircraft and then underestimate your skills. Don’t get the awesome electric jet thinking, “…because it’s foam it’ll survive.” Be smart, take it slow, and get an aircraft that successfully matches your beginners skills set. This will give you hours more enjoyment and way less frustration. Besides, an experienced pilot will say that you can always improve your flying skills faster with a training aircraft then with a sweet looking aerobatic airplane.

Where can I fly?

With today’s park fliers (usually the foam aircraft) your works parking lot or the local high school football field will work great, but we do recommend the largest space possible. Keep in mind that more space = more room for error and time to think. However, if you’re stuck indoors – no worries! You can fly in a big or small spaces with today’s micro aircraft (see below). Even a space the size of your living room will work. Granted, you may not be able to hone your aerobatic skills in the living room, but flying indoors is frequently done all over.

But if you know you’re ready to enter the world of rc airplanes and are looking to get some serious air time, join a local club (AHEM! The Control Chat Field Finder can help you here.) You will need an AMA license to join a legitimate flying club that is sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. You can pick up your license online at the the AMA web site. Keep in mind it usually take 3-4 weeks to get your card.

Why should I join the AMA?

We won’t even begin to enumerate the reasons why. Under the AMA umbrella you have access to resources, competitions, any rc flying field that is sanctioned by the AMA, the list goes on. But the biggest reason is security. By flying at sanctioned fields with an AMA license you have the comfort of knowing that this is your air space and if something goes wrong (which does at times), or an accident happens at an event, the AMA is there to assist you. It’s a small price to pay (around $45 a year) to ensure your future as well as the hobby’s future.

So what are you saying?

Weigh the amount of money you are willing to spend against your skill set, then take into consideration exactly where you’ll be doing a majority of your flying (i.e. Backyard, open field, parking lot, etc.). The outcome will be cost effective, equate to more hours of flying fun, and be way less hassle. Let’s take a look at some beginner aircraft and spaces that work well for each.

Recommended rides for the new pilot

E-Flight Blade mCX Coaxial Helicopter

Where to fly: Anywhere & any space!

Kit includes: Everything
We can’t say enough about this little beauty. Just when we thought the CX2 was too cool the Blade mCX comes along. This is the ultimate mini-helicopter for anyone. Go ahead, crash it! Seriously. It can’t be touched. Great for anyone of any skill looking to have fun indoors.

Hobbyzone Super Cub

Where to fly: Football field

Kit includes: Everything
This is the best ‘going-solo-to-learn-how-to-fly’ trainer on the market. Very forgiving and easy to control. You’ll be flying in no time. You might want to buy extra battery packs to make your flying times longer.

Hobbyzone Aerobird Swift

Where to fly: Football field

Kit includes: Everything
Excellent alternative to the Piper Cub foamie. If you’re looking for more exciting body design and color, this is a perfect substitute for the Cub. Though they mention it’s for an experienced pilot, a beginner can easily master this little beauty.

Parkzone T-28 Trojan

Where to fly: Open field

Kit includes: Everything
An aerobatic aircraft requiring a bit more skill. We recommend some help on this foamie, but with just a few tandem flights under your belt and taking it slow, you’ll be up in no time. This aircraft will grow with your skills too.

E-Flight Ascent

Where to fly: Football field

Kit includes:Ready-To-Fly. No previous building skill is required.
Since we personally love this bird, we wanted to throw it in as a beginners aircraft. It is not a foamie but it’s the forgiving nature of the Ascent that makes it worthy to place in the list. Again we recommend a few tandem flights first since coming down hard will be painful and costly. The Ascent will allow you to get your skills set honed. And once you’ve moved on, it’s a great lazy day bird to pull out when you want to relax.

E-Flight Vapor

Where to fly: Anywhere

Kit includes: Everything Armchair Pilots Unite! This is the ultimate indoor flier. Clear the kitchen table because today it’s an airport! The Vapor is one amazing ultra-light aircraft that will guarantee to please even the most discerning pilot; new or experienced.

E-Flight CX2 Coaxial Helicopter

Where to fly: Anywhere (Recommended 15×15 foot space minimum)

Kit includes: Everything
This kit is a great way to get introduced into the world of helicopters. Gentle enough to fly in a large living room or small garage, but strong enough to take a newbies punishment. We recommend some training gear to get you up and running as it helped the Control Chat crew a lot!

4 Comments

  1. Bert Rechtschaffer
    January 17, 2015

    Enjoyed the site.Am a beginner and looking forward to my first flight with the Super Cub which I purchased.I will probably do it in tandem with an experienced flier.

  2. José Luis
    February 22, 2015

    I wan nos fly rc

  3. Chatter
    February 27, 2015

    Awesome, thanks so much for the compliment! And you are right on the money, always take your time with your aviation investment and find an experienced pilot to help get you in the air for your first few flights. Patience and persistence is the key. Eventually you’ll be on your own and loving it! – chatter

  4. Chatter
    February 27, 2015

    You should check out your local hobby shop or even some of the online rc groups (rcgroups.com – popular american site). It will give you a lot of helpful information. – chatter

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