RC Airplanes



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Beginners Guide To RC Airplanes

Remote Control airplanes have one basic main tenet. They are planes that you can fly by using some kind of a hand-held controller or transmitter. That is the overall most important thing. But from there there are many variations in the hobby and one of the most important things is the amount of work put into the plane before it is ready to fly.


Planes come in many different levels of completion ranging from ready to fly right out of the box to Almost ready to fly. This type of almost ready to fly usually requires just a small amount of assembly, often with no tools or just a small screwdriver. From there the amount of work involved can get right to the level of having to completely assemble a wooden frame, fuselage and wings then applying a skin over it all. This type of model can often take weeks to build. In this beginners guide we will just be looking at the Ready to Fly and the almost ready to fly models. Although I will talk a little bit about the more complex models.


Key Points:

  • Overview
  • Trainers and acrobats
  • Price
  • Some popular starter planes
  • Stuff Needed
  • Whats the 2 channel 3 channel mean?
  • How much room do you need?
  • Will The Plane Fly away from you?
  • Some Final Tips


Trainers and Acrobatic Planes

When it comes to flying a plane there are many different skill levels and some planes are referred to as "Trainers" This type of plane is specifically designed to be durable and very stable in flight. They are used for training hobbyists that are new to the hobby. If you are looking to purchase your first plane finding one that is designated as a Trainer is a safe first choice. As you get better at flying and controlling planes you can move on to more challenging models including planes specifically designed to do aerial acrobatics. But this plane is not for beginners.


Model airplanes run in a very wide spectrum of prices and you can purchase them brand new anywhere from $40 to $1,000 depending on a lot of factors. The high end of this price range is not typical and if you are a beginner you can usually get started in the $40 to $100 dollar range depending on your goals.

Popular starter Plane

Sports Cub S RC Airplane

The HobbyZone Sports Cub S RC Airplane

  • Everything you need to fly RC today
  • SAFE technology from Horizon Hobby
  • Recovery with the pull of a trigger with Panic Recovery mode
  • Proportional 4-channel control with working throttle, rudder, elevator and aileron
  • Steerable tail wheel for easy ground control



E-Flite Apprentice S 15e RTF Beginner RC Airplane with SAFE Technology

SAFE technology is a revolutionary leap forward in flight control and training. Key Features SAFE technology provides spatial awareness and flight envelope protection The ideal beginner's choice when learning to fly with an instructor Quick, easy assembly Lightweight and durable Z-Foam construction Powerful 15-size, 840Kv brushless out runner motor installed-flite 30A Pro Switch-Mode BEC Brushless ESC installed Large, easy-access battery compartment Wide-stance tricycle landing gear Nose wheel steering for better ground handling Powerful 3S 3200mAh 20C Li-Po battery included-Po balancing DC charger included Optional E-flite Apprentice S Floats (EFLA550), available Safe Technology Information Needed To Complete Nothing! Everything you need to get flying is included in the box. Overview The E-flite Apprentice S 15e RTF airplane is the most intelligent RC airplane ever offered by Horizon Hobby. At its heart is groundbreaking SAFE (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) technology that makes RC flight incredibly easy, even for the least experienced user. Its combination of spatial awareness provides flight envelope protection which adds a degree of security never before available, while its smooth flight capability battles windy conditions so that all you feel is control that's crisp and responsive. Multiple levels of flight envelope protection are provided that can be reduced or removed as your skills progress, yet the "panic" feature is always there to instantly return the model to level flight if you ever lose orientation.

Stuff Needed

When purchasing your first airplane you should pay close attention to any of the specifics that come with the plane. Kits will tell you what is included and what is needed. Typically with a beginner Ready or almost ready to fly model the only thing you will need is batteries for the transmitter. These are usually AA. But some planes will require you to buy batteries specifically for the plane and will require some small hand tools for basic assembly.

What does the 2, 3 or 4 channel Mean?

The transmitter that you carry out onto the field with you to operate the plane with will have a variety of channels. Each channel will control a function on the airplane. In the picture below the airplane has two channels. One channel operates the propellor and the other channel operates the rudder in the back to turn the airplane to the left or right. This left and right motion is called Yaw.


A Two Channel Controller

Here is the transmitter for the plane above. The joystick on the left is one channel and it controls the propellor. The joystick on the right is on a second channel and it controls the rudder which turns the plane. This is a simple two frequency set up and something you can expect in a very basic and inexpensive beginner plane.





A Three Channel transmitter and plane will often have one channel for the throttle, one channel for the rudder (left and right turning or Yaw) and one channel for the elevator which will make the plane go up and down. (This is called Pitch.)



This picture shows the elevator on the horizontal stabilizer. Moving this up and down would change the pitch of the plane and make it go up and down.





A Four channel transmitter would have all the previous three functions and a fourth that controls the ailerons. These ailerons control the Roll of the airplane Roll tips one wing or the other down while simultaneously tipping the other up. This is an effective and controlled way of turning the airplane. Serious RC plane enthusiasts use this control to turn the plane.


AileronsThis picture shows an airplane with the Ailerons in red. When the aileron signal is activated the aileron on one wing tilts down while the aileron on the other wing tilts up. This is an effective way of rolling the airplane roll one way or the other.

More Channels: Some controller and planes can have even more channels like a channel to control the flaps of the plane which help produce drag upon take off and landing or a separate channel for the landing gear.




Flying Area - How much room do you need?

It is hard to say how much room you need to fly your airplane and the bigger the airplane the bigger the area you need. Often times baseball or soccer fields are sufficent for flying. You have to assess the situation and the area you are thinking about. Starting with a smaller starter plane is a great way to get a feel for how much room you need. And many of the smaller planes are hand launched which means you don't need a runway. If you are going to be using a large open space that has a very hard surface like a parking lot you have to consider this will be more dangerous for the plane. It is more likely to suffer damage if you crash it.

Will The Plane fly away from you?

Yes, every plane has the potential to fly away from you! You can fly it off in a direction until it gets out of transmitter range. Then you would have to go get it! Some planes need you to control the throttle which means when they go out of range the throttle will stop and the plane will come down. At least it wont keep on flying until the batteries run out. The range on the transmitters is substantial though and you shouldn't have a problem like this. You will be turning the airplane in large circles around you which should be sufficiently in range.

Some Final Tips

If you have never done any RC Airplane stuff I recommend you start out real cheap and inexpensive just to get a feel for things. This also minimizes your monetary losses if you suffer serious crashes. Just think of this first plane as an investment in learning. Once you have gotten your feet wet and have learned a few things you can start to expand your hobby and upgrade to something a little more serious. I also recommend you do some more research and one of the best ways to do that is to get a book. I have a selection of books available at amazon.com on my website here: RC Airplane books

There are also many groups of RC Airplane enthusiasts and these groups are all over the country. Getting in touch with one of these groups or joining one is the best way to learn about the hobby. You will meet and learn from people that are experienced in the hobby. A good way to find groups local to you is through the Academy of Model Aeronautics


Book: Getting Started in Radio Control airplanes

Getting Started in Radio Control Airplanes

The most comprehensive and up-to-date book answers all of the beginning hobbyist's questions about building and flying remote control airplanes. Step-by-step techniques and are illustrated with a wealth of photography and cover all the basics, from choosing and building a first model to covering and finishing it, understanding and installing glow engines, flight basics, and much more