RC Trainer Airplane Review - The HobbyZone Champ
In response to one of my other articles, Electric RC Airplane Basics, I was asked for more information on trainer planes. If you read that article then you should have some basic understanding of the Radio Controlled (RC) Airplane hobby. In this article I will review the HobbyZone Champ, which I consider to be one of the best trainer airplanes available.
I won't get into any flight instruction here as that is beyond the scope of this article. For learning how to fly, I am a strong believer in starting with an RC Flight Simulator program and also getting help from a local RC flight instructor. The simulator and instructor will get you flying correctly in a shorter time than if you just try to do it on your own. My other article has more tips on getting started.
Description of the HobbyZone Champ
The Champ is made by HobbyZone of Champaign, Illinois. It is an electric RC airplane, using batteries instead of liquid fuel. As RC trainer planes go, it is smaller than most. The wingspan (wingtip to wingtip) measures just over 20 inches and from nose to tail, it is about 14 inches long. It is made of lightweight foam and only weighs 1.3 ounces! It is bright yellow, which makes it very easy to see in the sky. The Champ comes as a Ready-To-Fly (RTF) airplane, including everything you need to get off the ground. The main portion of my article will talk about the items included in the RTF package and the sidebars will cover some additional items you may want to consider buying.
What comes with the Hobby Zone Champ RTF package?
What's in the box? That is always one of the first things I want to know when I'm buying something. It's true with electronics (do I need some kind of cable?), children's toys (batteries not included), and especially with Radio Controlled planes, boats, etc. As I've mentioned, the Champ comes with all the basics you'll need to get flying. In the box you will find these items:
The Champ airplane
AA batteries (8) for the transmitter and the LiPo battery charger
A LiPo battery charger for one LiPo battery
Now that you have seen what's in the box you may have some questions. For a beginner some of these items may look confusing.
What is all this stuff? What do I do with it? Let's get started.
Read the manual first
I know we see that with everything we buy, but you really should read the manual. Make sure you are especially aware of the safety precautions and warnings. My review here will only give you the basics and is not intended to replace the manual. The manual will give you detailed information that you need to know, so please read it!
Choose a safe flight area
After reading the manual you should think about where you will be flying. The manual says that you can fly in an area the size of a basketball court or larger, but trust me, larger will be better. If you've never flown before, flying in a basketball court sized area will be very exciting (more than you would like) and your flight will probably be very short. Choose a large area that is safe and free from obstructions, people, pets and animals, etc.
Optional battery charger
Since the flight time for most RC airplanes is 5 to 10 minutes, fliers usually get additional batteries. This lets them keep some batteries charging while they are flying, giving them a steady supply of fresh batteries. If you plan to do this you may want to consider a multi-port charger that will charge more than one battery at a time.
I use the Celectra 4-Port Charger from E-Flite. It is available in both AC and DC models. I chose the AC model as it can also be used with D-cell batteries if you are away from an AC source. It allows you to charge four small LiPos at a time and is great for keeping charged batteries on hand when you are flying.
Don't forget to buy additional batteries! Also, make sure you allow some time between flights so that you don't overheat the airplane motor.
Getting the Champ ready to fly
Install four AA batteries in the bottom of the charger. Slide the LiPo (Lithium-ion polymer) into the charger. The red light on the charger should come on, staying solid red, indicating that the battery is charging. As the battery becomes charged the red light will blink. Once it reaches full charge as indicated in the manual you can remove the battery from the charger. Note that the battery has velcro on it.
On the bottom of the plane, towards the front, there is a white connector hanging out by a slot or groove for the battery. The slot has velcro in it. Attach the connector to the LiPo battery and secure the battery into the plane by sticking it to the velcro in the battery slot. The manual explains this and has a photo of the battery in place.
Put four AA batteries into the transmitter as indicated by the manual. Note that the transmitter can be switched between Mode 1 and Mode 2. The difference between the two is which stick controls which function. In Mode 1 the left stick controls the elevator and the right stick controls the throttle and rudder. In Mode 2 the left stick controls the throttle, and the right stick controls the elevator and rudder. In my experience Mode 2 is the most commonly used mode so I would suggest learning with that setting.
At this point you will go through the flight control tests to see if the transmitter and receiver (inside the airplane) are communicating properly. The manual describes how to perform the tests and actions to take if the airplane is not responding properly. It is also time to go through the pre-flight checklist.
Once that's done...it's time to fly!
Optional transmitter – Spektum DX6i
Many fliers upgrade to a more sophisticated programmable transmitter that allows them to have even more control over their model. I use a Spektrum DX6i transmitter. The DX6i allows you to program numerous settings for up to ten different airplane or helicopter models. With the programming feature you can slow things down while learning or speed them up later on when you are experienced and want to do acrobatics!
It is also great if you plan to try out helicopter flying. I like having one transmitter that I can use for all my flying models. The DX6i can also be connected to your computer for use with some of the RC Flight Simulator programs.
If you get one make sure you get the same Mode (see Mode 1 and Mode 2 in the article) that you learned on because this transmitter cannot be switched between modes!
HobbyZone Champ – The best RC trainer airplane?
I learned on the Champ and must say it was a great experience. The Champ is a great little plane. You can slow it down to a speed that is very controllable, even for a beginner. It is responsive to the controls and gives you just what you need from a trainer. The Champ is very durable and, being made of foam, it won't likely cause or receive much damage in a crash. I have crashed mine and it was undamaged. Crashes are inevitable, especially for a beginner, so you want a trainer that is durable.
I have to hand launch the Champ for takeoff as I don't have a smooth surface to use as a runway where I fly. Your instructor can show you how to do this if necessary. It is actually very simple. Landings are very slow and gentle with the Champ. I land in grass which also gives some cushion to the landing. Grass is nice if you crash, too.
The Champ is a small, light plane, and is greatly affected by wind. I would not recommend trying to fly it in any wind. Not only would it be uncontrollable, it can also get carried off far away, never to be seen again. Wait for a calm day to fly it and you'll have a much more enjoyable experience.
On the subject of wind, another plane that is an excellent trainer is the HobbyZone Super Cub LP Ready-to-Fly package. It is a larger airplane, with a wingspan of about 48 inches, which makes it a little more wind tolerant. The Champ and the Super Cub are probably the two most frequently recommended trainers. This article is about the Champ though, so I won't get into a lot of detail on the Super Cub.
With all that said, I can heartily recommend the HobbyZone Champ as a trainer airplane for a beginner in the RC flying hobby. It is also a great plane for experienced fliers who just want to have some relaxing flight time with a slower moving plane. There are other trainers out there that are just as good and each person will have their own opinion, but for me the HobbyZone Champ was the best RC trainer airplane.