Browsing through the different online webshops looking for your first electric rc plane can be frustrating. I know, I have done that! There are so many good looking planes out there but will they really be a good plane to start your rc hobby with?
So you have decided you want to buy a plane. What should you look for? There are probably as many answers to this questions as the people you ask. But it doesn’t need to be that hard to make this choice.
There are some rc planes that are suitable for the beginner and there are some planes that are less or not at all suitable.
To help you I have put together a checklist that you can use to make it easier to decide which rc plane to start with.
What is a beginners rc plane?
There are some rc planes that are suitable for the beginner and there are some planes that are less or not at all suitable. Maybe it is easier to start with what I consider not suitable rc planes for a beginner.
You should not start with that fancy good looking rc jet fighter. Now I am talking about both the 5000$ turbine jet planes as well as the ducted fan planes. Why? Well, let’s not even consider the turbine jet due to the cost but let us instead consider the ducted fan plane. The ducted fan planes are often scale looking replicas of fighter aircrafts. As much as this is what makes them good looking it is also part of why they are not suitable for the beginner. They need to fly fast not to stall and the faster your plane flies the faster you will need to react in order to save your self out of tricky situuations. They often tend to tip-stall, that is that they roll when the speed gets to low, so you will even need a reasonable amount of thrust when you land them. All in all I would not recommend this type of rc plane to the beginner.
A more suitable plane for a beginner could be one that flies slower, don’t tend to stall to easy and even somewhat corrects itself in flight. Commonly this type of rc plane has a bit bigger wing surface and the rudder movements are not that big in order to fly smoother. They will often have names including the term “Trainer”
With this said let us take a look at my checklist. Bare in mind that these items are the ones that I have found out during my beginners period and that you will or will not find all of the items suitable or correct for you. And I say that’s fine! Use the tips you find useful and apply those in your quest into the rc planes hobby.
RC planes for beginners checklist
1. The plane should be durable
As a beginner you will crash or at least to some less flattering landings and this is why your plane should be durable and easy to repair. Go for a plane made of some sort of foam. Elapor, EPP and Depron are just some of the different foam materials that are used in rc planes. The good thing is that it won’t break as “badly” as let’s say plane made of balsa wood. Often you can glue it back into shape right at the field using a portable hot glue gun.
Also it is always nice if the plane has landing gears and other nice decorations but let’s face it, those attributes will just be another thing that can break. Off course it is highly dependent on the type of plane if it is even possible to leave the landing gears off. For example rc planes with the propeller in the front must have landing gears otherwise the propeller will hit the ground.
2. Choose a 3-channel or 4-channel rc plane
With a 3-channel plane you will have throttle/speed, elevator/pitch and rudder/yaw. With a 4-channel plane you will add aileron/roll. With a 3-channel rc plane you will not be able to to more advanced maneuvers like a roll. You will have a much smoother flight. But pretty soon you will modify your plane and add ailerons to it (which is mostly quite easy to do). On the other hand if you go for the 4-channel plane from the start no modifications are needed in the near future. You can still fly the 4-channel plane without using the ailerons if you like.
3. Size of the airplane
The bigger the better! Unlike what you might think a smaller plane is commonly harder to fly. Of course a to large plane will have it’s own difficulties. The beginner rc plane should probably have a wingspan of about 1-1.5 meters, not below 1 meter. This is not an exact figure but just to give you a hint about the size.
4. RTF or BNF
Get ready to fly practically right out of the box! If you want to be able to fly without weeks or months of building time you should aim for a RTF or BNF. RTF is short for Ready To Fly and means that the plane will come with eveything needed to fly, including transmitter/receiver, servos, battery, motor and speedcontrol. Usually you only need to attach the wings and you are ready to fly. BNF on the other hand stands for Bind And Fly and is delivered to you in the same way as RTF with the exception that you need your own transmitter. The receiver is included in the kit and is commonly a DSM2/DSMx receiver which means that you need a Spektrum/JR transmitter.
5. The power system
If you should spend some extra money on your first plane this is probably one place to consider. Often, but not always, the cheaper planes will comes with a brushed motor and ESC. Brushed or brushless motor? Doesn’t matter that much now but I can guarantee that you will sooner or later upgrade to a brushless motor system.
6. Modification possibilities
Go for a plane that you can modify as you are getting more experienced. As I discussed in item 2. Choose a 3-channel or 4-channel rc plane you will probably like to modify your 3-channel plane into a 4 channel ploane with ailerons. Or maybe you’d like to add flaps, resize the control surfaces etc. Anything to take your flying experience to the next level or just try out a concept. Foam planes have great modification possibilities since you can easily cut out ailerons from the wings using a hobby knife.
7. Dihedral wings
A strange word that means that the wing will have an upward angle from the center of the plane. Dihedral wings will make your plane a lot more stable and therefore a lot easier to fly. Many times the rc planes with this type of wing will virtually land by them selves. You can see an example of a dihedral wing in the picture of my EasyStar in this post. Actually the EasyStar has more of a tip dihedral wing but it is the same concept. It will fly more stable.,
8. Top mounted propeller
This tip will save propellers for you. In the case with a nose mounted propeller you just need to do a small error during the landing to touch the ground a bit hard and your propeller will break. What is worse is that the motor shaft can bend and make the motor useless. This will not happen as often if you have a top mounted motor/propeller, well at least not if you keep your plane from landing on the back. RC planes with top mounted motors are also easier and safer to hand launch since the propeller is located on the top of the fuselage.
9. Keep it simple
The simpler in its design the better. You will have planty of time later on to fly those scale looking rc planes.
10. Keep the cost down
Let’s face it. You will eventyally crash and to see that really expensive and fancy scale plane as a total wreck can discourage anyone from continuing their newly found hobby. As mentioned in item 5, The power system it is a better long term investment to go for a cheaper plane and instead spend the money on the power system.
Sooner or later you want to take the step up to the next level in your rc hobby. Assuming that you will stay in the electric rc plane area I would suggest three different paths:
- Modify your first beginners rc plane
- Buy a new intermediate or advanced rc plane
- Scratch build a new plane using for example pdf-plans
Hope you enjoyed and that this post could give you some guidance on your quest into the rc hobby.
What’s your opinion?
Leave a comment and let me know!