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RC Planes: Getting Started

Updated on November 19, 2011

Radio controlled airplanes

Building and flying RC planes, or radio controlled airplanes, is a wonderful hobby for anyone interested in airplanes or who likes to build and create models. The best thing about the RC plane models, of course, is that they really fly! My husband has been building and flying radio controlled airplanes for years. He's very creative, and I think he actually enjoys building RC planes as much or more as he does flying ithem.

Keep in mind that building a remote control airplane isn't a simple task. It's a lot of hard work and it requires a certain amount of skill to do the job well. Radio control airplanes built from scratch also take a long time to complete. Your first couple of RC plane kits will probably prove frustrating and difficult, but with practice, the task will become more enjoyable and easier.

RC plane kits

There are many different types of RC plane kits. The come in different sizes and models, of course, but they also come in different building skill levels. Complete RC plane kits include the standard balsa wood needed for construction, detailed building plans, landing gear, cowling (engine cover), control hinges, engine mounts made of composite or aluminum, and decals. The balsa that comes with the RC plane kits are either die-cut or laser cut. The die-cut wood is rougher and will probably need to be sanded. Unless you buy an ARF, you'll need to buy a propeller, an engine, a fuel tank and line, wheels, wheel collars, epoxy and CA glue, nylon tubing, and metal cables. Of course, you'll also need a radio unit that controls the RC plane.

The tools and materials you'll need to complete RC plane kits include a small hand drill, waxed paper to protect plans from glue, T-pins, a modeling knife, and sandpaper. Once the plane is built, you'll need to cover it. Most RC planes are covered with MonoKote, a heat-shrinking, self-adhesive plastic. It comes in many different colors and is available in high gloss or matte.

The cost of remote controlled airplanes

Radio controlled airplanes have a wide price range. If you're just starting out in the hobby, I suggest you start with an inexpensive plane - maybe an almost-ready-to-fly kit, also called an ARF. These are much easier and faster to put together, and when you crash it, you won't be so devastated because you won't have so many hours invested.

Notice I said WHEN you crash it, and not IF you crash it. If you spend any time at all flying, sooner or later you're going to crash. It's inevitable. It takes a while to learn to control the radio control planes. Even if you've flown before, when you get a new radio control plane, you'll have to get a feel for that unique airplane.

RC planes for beginners

The best RC planes for beginners are generally high wing models with a thick air foil. You can find RC planes for beginners labeled as "trainers." For your first remote control airplane, you need a big, slow RC plane that does not have aerobatic characteristics. You don't want to attempt fancy maneuvers like loop-de-loops right off the bat. All you want to do is learn to take off, control the flight, and land. That's the hard part - landing. Crash landing is easy - a proper landing is a lot tougher.

Get a radio control plane that's well constructed - one that won't break into a thousand pieces when you set it down hard. A high-wing is a good plane for someone just beginning with radio control planes because the controls are slower and the plane has a self-righting that's built in.

Once you've learned to handle the big bird, you can graduate to something a little smaller and faster. By this time, you might want to make your own plane from scratch instead of purchasing an ARF.

Learn to fly your RC plane

To learn to fly your remote control plane, you might try a video simulator. It's like a video game that you can use on your computer. According to the RC plane expert (hubby), the simulators help some new pilots yet hurts and confuses others.

The best way to learn to fly radio control airplanes is to practice. Nothing can take the place of real experience!

Join a radio control plane club

It's a good idea for novices to join an RC plane club and attend a few fly-ins. You can watch the masters fly their planes, and most of them will be glad to answer your questions about radio control planes. They might also be able and willing to give you advice on specific models, fuel, and controllers.

Of course, joining a club is also good for those with experience flying radio control airplanes. You'll get a chance to meet other RC hobby enthusiasts, and you'll have a lot of fun together. Our local RC plane club members get together for fly-ins, cookouts, and potluck dinners.

Another thing you need to consider is liability insurance. Some of the remote controlled airplanes are really big. Suppose you're flying at a field near parked vehicles and you lose control of the plane. It could easily crash into a parked car and inflict a lot of damage. Or even worse, it could hit and injure someone.

Where to fly radio control airplanes

To fly radio control airplanes, you need a lot of space. It's best if there are no trees or bushes nearby, too. Also, the grass needs to be kept very short in the field in which you fly an RC plane. If you join a club, they most likely will have a field that members can use to fly radio control planes. A turf farm is another good spot to fly. Just be sure to get permission from the owner first.

Where to buy radio controlled airplanes

Radio control airplanes aren't something you can just pick up at Walmart. Not a high quality one, anyway. The RC planes at retail giants are usually made for kids. If that's what you want, fine. but if you're serious about remote controlled planes or other RC hobbies, you'll need to find a store that specializes in them. We have to drive 75 miles to such a store.

Another place to find quality radio control planes is online. I have included some examples below. To see more RC planes, just click on any of the radio control planes pictured.

Flying RC planes:

Scale RC plane flying:


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    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for visiting, Vanne. My hubby loves his planes!

    • profile image

      Vanne Way 8 years ago

      Good info! My husband is interested in radio control airplanes. I think this would be a wonderful family hobby and activity. It beats sitting in from of a tv or computer games all day!