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Control Line Airplanes

Updated on April 1, 2013

Flying Control Line Model Airplanes

You've probably seen RC airplanes, but do you know what control line airplanes are? Instead of being controlled by radio, control line models use cables (lines) that give the pilot (you) a direct connection to the airplane. Because of the fixed lines, flying a control line airplane is always up close and personal. It's also more challenging than flying RC because you can't just climb to altitude when you need time to think... you're always flying close to the ground at full speed. If you like model airplanes, control line flying is something you should try at least once in your life. This page will show you how to get started. I hope you enjoy...

Contol Line 101

The basics of a control line airplane...

A control line airplane usually only has one control - the elevator. Some control line planes designed for Stunt flying have flaps that work with the elevator to help the airplane "turn" better, and Control Line carrier planes have a throttle control, but the only flight dynamic the pilot can control is pitch (pointing the nose of the airplane where you want it to go).

To fly a control line airplane, the pilot holds a handle that is connected to 2 lines - one for up and one for down. The other end of the cables are attached to a bell crank inside the airplane. The bell crank also has a rod attached to the airplanes elevator. When the pilot tilts the handle back, the "up line" becomes shorter relative to the plane which moves the elevator up, causing the airplane to pitch up. When the pilot tilts the handle forward, the opposite happens - the "down" line becomes shorter, the elevator moves down, and the airplane pitches down.

I Like Control Line Better Than RC Airplanes.. - How about you?

Do you prefer Control Line or RC model airplanes? Why?

Best Control Line Airplanes for Beginners

You should actually decide on an engine first...

There are lots of opinions about what is the best beginner's control line airplane. Like most things, "what is the best" depends on lots of things, so I'll explain the choices but it's up to you to decide what is best for you. When it comes to control line airplanes, there are 3 main opinions on the best beginner's airplane. Some people think starting with a 1/2An airplane is best because they're cheap, easy to build, and easy to fix when they crash. Other people think it's better to start with a bigger (but not too big) airplane, like a SIg Skyray with a .20 to .25 size engine. Still others think you should start with a full sized .40 to .46 powered ship. The truth is, none of the choices are "bad" but if you're getting help from a live person it's probably best to follow their recommendation.

Getting Started with 1/2A - 1/2A control line airplanes are a LOT of fun...

1/2A Control Line kits
1/2A Control Line kits

1/2A airplanes are cheap, easy to build, easy to fix, and just plain fun. They make a great choice for getting started in control line flying. You can find Sterling Beginner Series kits on eBay, new kits from Blackhawk Models and Brodak, or build your own from free plans that you can download. Cox engines (the best .049) are out of production but they're easy to find on eBay too. The main argument against starting out in Control Line flying with a 1/2A airplane is that once you've learned the basic controls you have to spend more money on another airplane and engine in order to advance - the 1/2A planes just don't fly good enough to do stunts with unless you're an expert flyer. However, the 1/2A's are fun in themselves, and if you enjoy them who says you have to "move up"? The low price, easy repairs, and smaller space requirements (1/2A planes fly on 15 or 20 foot lines) makes them perfect for kids or flying in the park.

Brodak makes several good 1/2A control line trainers. If you're just starting out stick with one that is all sheet balsa, like the Lil Wizard or Stuntman.

Black Hawk Models' web site is currently down, but you can call (562) 728-5661 and request a catalog. They are still very much in business and offer an extensive line of 1/2A Control Line kits.

Sig makes the 1/2A Skyray kit. It's made from all sheet balsa, really easy to build, and it flies great.

Getting Started With a Sig Skyray

Great Stunt Trainer for .20 to .25 engines...

A larger airplane is more practical for most people. Larger control line airplanes fly better than the 1/2A birds and many can fly a complete Stunt pattern. Another advantage is you don't have to buy another engine when you "move up." The Sig Skyray 35 makes a great Control Line trainer and is capable of flying an excellent Stunt pattern. The Skyray 35 has about 400 sq. inches of wing area and flies great on a .20 or .25 engine (the OS MAx LA-25 is perfect). It's reasonably priced, easy to build, flies great, and easy to repair when you crash it. If you get a kit, it's a really good idea to buy extra balsa wood and use the kit parts as templates to build a couple extra copies. That way when you crash one you can keep flying until you have time for repairs. Aeromaniacs has an excellent page on modifying the Skyray for even better performance, link is below:

Text with BIG Picture


Lil Wizard - Easy to build 1/2A control line trainer...


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      jimmyworldstar 6 years ago

      Thanks for the beginner lens. I didn't know what engine or control line to get before. I'll browse some more before settling on one to replace my RC plane.