Mankind has dreamt of flight from time immemorial. From Icarus, whose wings were made of wax and feathers, to Chuck Yeager, whose wings were faster than sound, we have longed to find freedom in flight. What better gift than the gift of flight?
For beginners, the opportunity to fly remote control airplanes is thrilling, but before you can pilot a high-powered RC jet, you must learn the basics. If you're already an RC plane hobbyist, you know that flying a remote control plane is a thrilling way to take to the skies without having to check your luggage. The great thing about RC planes is that you can find a replica of almost any full-size plane that has been invented – just smaller and for a fraction of the cost. Whether you want nostalgia, a modern fighter jet or a simple flyer, you can find it. Through our research, we found that the best RC planes for beginner, intermediate and advanced pilots alike are the HobbyZone Firebird Stratos, the Great Planes EDGE 540T and the HobbyZone Mini Super Cub. Check out our articles on remote control airplanes to learn more about this exciting hobby.
We’ve reviewed some of the best aircrafts in various styles, shapes and sizes, and at different difficulty levels. Use our list of planes to find a one that's right for your experience level and for the kind of flying you want to do.
When choosing a remote control airplane, you want to look for the category the RC plane belongs to. You can choose from ready-to-fly (RTF) planes that have everything you need to fly included in the box and almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) planes that require other parts.
Just because a plane is listed as ready to fly does not mean that it does not require assembly. Most remote control airplanes will require some assembly, but many of the smaller planes are ready straight out of the box.
Look at the type of battery required and whether or not it is included. If the battery is included, then the best RC plane will come with a charger as well. Check the battery life so that you know how much time you have to fly.
When you look at RC airplanes, pay attention to the appearance and durability of the plane. The best beginner plane will withstand rough use, but you want a plane that looks good while being able to handle the all-too-inevitable crash. Find a lightweight plane that can hold steady in a light breeze and that has a wingspan and full length that will be easy for you to handle.
Conveying an RC plane to and from a flying location can cause damage, your electric RC planes should be relatively easy to transport. Also check the materials the plane is made of – foam and carbon are fairly durable and will serve you well. RC model airplanes will inevitably crash, so you want to choose a plane that has replacement parts readily available.
There are two types of motors for remote controlled airplanes: brushed and brushless. Brushed motors are more inefficient than brushless motors and wear down over time; however, they can be maintained and are also inexpensive to replace. Many manufacturers use brushed motors to help keep the cost down on smaller planes. Brushless motors, on the other hand, will last longer, do not require maintenance and offer extended battery life, but they are more expensive initially. If you choose a kit that includes a motor, check to see if the motor is brushed or brushless so that you have a better idea of what to expect.
You also want to know what type of material the manufacturers use for the wings. Each manufacturer of foam wings has a unique blend with varying levels of strength. Generally, expanded polystyrene is durable, but some cheaper foams can be brittle. RC planes made from balsa wood are durable, but they can be more difficult to repair, as there are smaller pieces.
The construction material also affects how you can customize your plane. With a foam model, you’ll want to be sure you’re using foam-safe glue and paint for repairs and customizations. Balsa wood planes have fewer limitations on paint and glue, but the small pieces make them harder to work with. Other planes, such as those consisting of fiberglass parts can be harder to customize. Be aware of the materials used in the construction of your RC plane so that you know what type of materials you will need for customization and repairs.
The remote control is more commonly known as a transmitter. If you're new to this hobby, you'll want to purchase a beginner plane that comes with a transmitter or find one to purchase separately that is easy to use and that you like. Beginning transmitters will have a basic three-channel setup that allows you to control throttle, the rudder and the elevator. On a basic level, this means you can control the plane’s movement left and right and up and down, as well as how much power you're using. While a four-channel transmitter is considered a complete setup, with the addition of ailerons, more advanced flyers will use a five- or six-channel transmitter. Most transmitters run on AA batteries.
Help & Support
A reputable manufacturer will have a warranty that states that the plane and all the parts will be free from defects when you purchase it. If not, you must contact the company before you attempt to modify or fly the plane. The best manufacturers will have an email address and phone number you can contact should you have any problems, as well as provide an electronic copy of the instruction manual on the company website.
Remote control planes are an incredibly popular hobby, and it doesn’t take much for you to join the crowd in taking to the skies.
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