Selecting your first rc airplane
Searching for and purchasing your first radio control airplane is exciting, however, at times it can be a bit overwhelming, frustrating, and leave you with questions like: Where do I begin? What should I be looking for? Is this the right rc airplane?
Often times beginners overlook important aspects of the hobby when they’re entrenched in the process of purchasing their first rc airplane. We tend to loose focus on key subjects like ease of transportation, storage, and if there is a future investment value in our airplane. Unfortunately many of these things can get shoved to the back of your mind when the focus is on finding and flying the airplane.
The following information should be considered guidelines in helping you make the best decisions possible during the process of your first airplane purchase.
Which rc trainer is best?
This is the most frequently asked question of someone getting into rc airplanes. The shortest answer is this: Any high-wing trainer works well. Regardless of the claims, from either pilot or manufacturer, all high-wing trainers have relatively the same flying characteristics and will behave the same in flight. What makes a great airplane fly is the pilot and their skill.
And although there are many claims of ‘teach-yourself-to-fly’ kits, the bottom line is that no rc airplane kit flies itself or can prevent a crash. Only dedicated training with a skilled rc instructor or rc veteran pilot can prevent a possible crash. That being said, the market is saturated with great rc trainers to choose from, so pick one that fits your own personality and your own style. Pick one you like.
Glow power or electric
When it comes to choosing the power-plant of your aircraft, and with the latest advancements in rc electric technology, neither glow or electric is better then the other. Instead, what you should look at are the personal pros and cons of using either one and how you, not anyone else, see your future in the world of rc.
The number of reasons why one pilot uses glow power over electric or electric over glow power are staggering but most of all it’s a personal preference. Some enjoy the sound of an engine while others enjoy no sound at all. And some like the fact that electric motors are hassle-free, requiring little mechanical knowledge, while others find enjoyment in the challenge of running and maintaining a glow engine and its various parts.
Beginners might consider electric flight a bit more because it allows you to get in the air quickly, eliminates the learning curve involved in how to run an engine, and virtually eliminates the possibility of an in-flight engine failure which, for a beginner, can end in disaster.
Yet regardless of what you want, one thing will play a serious part in your final decision: price. Be sure to weigh carefully the costs and also be sure to look at the future value of your investment. Ask yourself questions like: Will this power-plant grow with my skills? Can I put it into another aircraft? If it gets damaged, can I fix it and at a cost I can afford? Is the ongoing expense of fuel worth it or do I want to invest in electric power (batteries)?
Build a wood kit or assemble from parts
Simplify this decision by asking yourself if you have the space to build an airplane. Building from a wood kit requires time, a sizable work area, and the ability to leave that area ‘under construction’ during the entire building process. Yet for as daunting as that sounds, many people find building their first rc airplane to be a very rewarding and educational experience.
If you are looking to get flying faster, you’ll want to consider Almost-Ready-To-Fly (ARFs) or Ready-To-Fly (RTFs) pre-assembled kits. The difference between an ARF and an RTF is that an ARF kit typically does not include the power plant or electronics required (radio/receiver) to fly the aircraft while RTF kits include everything but a flying field.
And with most ARF and RTF kits you also have the availability of replacement parts if something were to be damaged beyond repair. Whereas with a wood kit, you’ll need do all repairs on your own and possibly build new parts in the case of a severe accident.
Transportation and storage
The extent that your rc airplane can be taken apart for ease of transportation and storage may not be in the forefront of your mind initially, but eventually when you find yourself in situations where flying becomes a more frequent event, it will. Look at the kits ability to be broken down into various parts and the ease of assembling these parts time and time again.
Does the size of the plane (broken down) fit comfortably into your vehicle for transportation? If you were to purchase another airplane, could they both be transported comfortably? Rc airplanes are bulky and sometimes fragile objects for both storage and transportation, so it’s important to keep size considerations in the front of your mind.
Future investment value
If you can afford to, consider buying electronics and a power plant (i.e. glow engine, electric motor) that you can place into another model, or a larger model at that. Just because you purchase higher quality electronics or a larger sized engine then what your airplane calls for, doesn’t mean that you have to use them to full capacity. Purchasing products with a longer shelf life will save you money in the long run.
Other valuable investments are time, patience, and an instructor. Learning to fly rc airplanes does not happen in one day or even one week. It takes a lot of time and most of all, a lot of patience but the rewards for such an approach are ten fold. And by learning from an experienced rc pilot you will easily extend the life of your investment and have a more enjoyable experience entering the world of radio control airplanes.