Guide to Buying RC Planes

Flight is itself a marvelous thing to experience, and having the power to control it makes it even more fascinating and thrilling. With the first-ever successful and sustained flight back in 1903, we have come to invent even more sophisticated technology that will give us the power to manipulate things without even touching them. We are not talking about the fictional telekinesis, though. We’re talking about radio-controlled (RC) airplanes.

From being a military gadget for weapons experimentation and other applications, RC airplanes rose to popularity by the beginning of the 21st century, alongside improvements in material cost, weight, and power sources such as batteries, electronics, and motor engines. As a recreational hobby, flying RC airplanes makes an excellent getaway from the ‘usual,’ as you direct the object up in the air, gliding and diving. 

RC plane flying not only makes one feel energized inside, but it also improves and practices a person’s eye coordination, critical, and decision-making skills. So, it is no surprise that several people are starting to make a hobby. If you are one of these people planning to make a decent hobby out of flying RC airplanes but still have no clue where to begin, we are helping to help. Here are our six ways to purchase your first RC plane.

1. Mind the design

As a beginning RC airplane flyer, the design is what you want to note when purchasing your RC plane. And by design, we mean not the aesthetics like how cool the object looks (although this adds to the thrill). By ‘design,’ we mean the ‘build’ of the RC plane – its dimensions, angles, and framing. As you know, the build dramatically impacts the aerodynamics of the little machine. For toys meant to ride the clouds, we are aiming for stability and ease of control. 

In the learning stages for your hobby, we recommend flying a high wing airplane to get the hang of controlling the tiny machine. Since the wings of this type of airplane locate on top of the fuselage, it stabilizes the thing’s overall weight, making mid-air gliding and turning smooth and easy. 

Another important thing about an RC airplane’s design is the ‘V’ angle of the wings, known as dihedral. You can notice this angle when viewing the machine frontward. The angling of the dihedral helps stabilize the plane in the same way that the high wing does. 

2. Choose over control options

RC airplanes offer a range of control options that fit the flyer’s level of proficiency. For starters, single and 2-channel RC airplanes are available for effortless control. However, these planes are more of a child’s toy, given the ease and the little things the aircraft can do.

If you want to take this a bit more seriously, your best bet would be the 3-channel RC airplane. This option gives you control over the motor, rudder (or in some configurations, ailerons), and elevator. RC airplanes with rudders are more common than beginner RC airplanes. On the other hand, ailerons are present in faster planes capable of doing mid-air stunts or aerobatics, as ailerons provide this kind of functionality.

4-channel RC planes are also famous, especially to those who are already deep into the hobby. These planes will let you have control over the machine’s motor power, ailerons, rudder, and elevator. However, the complexity of the controls can be daunting to beginners who are just learning how to fly. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop some people from diving straight into these RC planes and somehow succeeded. 

3. Consider the power source type

An RC flyer demonstrating knife edge flying

RC airplanes run either through internal combustion power (IC) or electric power (EP). Choosing between the two relies mainly on the pros and cons they pose.

IC-powered RC airplanes, a.k.a. glow plug powered planes, tend to be costlier than EP beginner planes. You get fuel costs, louder noise, and a more pungent smell from staring and maintaining the engine. It might be a downer for some who want to fly their RC planes in public since most public places do not allow it due to the noise.

On the other hand, EP RC planes are more environment-friendly – they are easier to buy, fly, maintain, and get access to, minus the unnecessary noise and smell of burnt fuel. These planes are also more welcome in public places, for they don’t pose much of a nuisance. 

4. Decide which type of RC plane you want

Do you want to build your plane from scratch? What about doing just the finishing touches before it flies? Or, do you want to fly the RC plane straight ahead? Asking yourself these questions is essential as a beginner to this hobby. RC airplane shops have loads of options fit for every RC plane fan.

Kits. Flying an RC plane is quite a hobby, but building one is another – separate and equally fascinating. If you opt to build the airplane itself, shops offer kits that include pieces to assemble and a plan or guide. Daunting as it may be, it will be a worthwhile experience having to build one from scratch. But to do this, you need to have considerable knowledge about the stuff, in addition to model-building skills. You don’t want to waste your resources working on something that would turn out a disaster later. Moreover, you also have to purchase additional features such as motor, ESC, battery, and radio gear. 

Almost Ready to Fly (ARF). ARF RC airplanes are 90% done, and you only have to do the finishing touches. It means that there’s only a limited model building job to do here, including purchasing the motor, ESC, battery, and radio gear and installing them by yourself. Once everything is in place, your plane is ready to take off.

Ready to Fly (RTF). As the name suggests, it’s all ready to fly. RTF RC planes are your best option if you plan to go flying planes right away. These planes have a complete configuration that is perfect for those who can’t wait to see their toys fly.

5. Consider the availability and accessibility of spare parts

Radio-controlled model of S.E.5a W.W.1 aircraft constructed from an E-flite ARF kit

Your plane will not be immune to gravity. At some point, you will experience some nasty crashes that will cause minor to severe damage to your plaything. Knowing where to buy the fitting spare parts in case of these dire scenarios can save you time and stress.

Upon purchasing your RC plane, ask about the accessibility and availability of the spare parts. Better yet, buy some backup parts just in case if you have extra cash. When you have this in mind, no crash can stop you from letting your RC airplane take off and soar the skies.

6. Know where to buy

You might have browsed the internet before deciding to make RC airplane flying your new hobby. If not, you better. Tons of websites offer excellent information about RC planes at your disposal. The information you get will enormously aid you when you finally buy one from your local shop. 

Local shops. Chatting with fellow RC plane enthusiasts and share a common insight can help as well. Some local shop owners are also fans of RC planes, and they might give you some tips and ideas for your first RC plane flying experience. Nevertheless, brace yourself from sellers who care only about the money – they might sell you stuff that doesn’t suit your preference and level, which could lead to losing interest.

Online purchase. Online shops and websites offer a wide array of RC planes with excellent aesthetics and corresponding price. But just like in buying stuff straight from the shop, online shopping is as tricky as it is. Hence, your knowledge is of great import here to avoid swindlers and bogus sellers. Before purchasing online, you might want to read the feedback and comments section first to glimpse what the product is. You can also browse YouTube videos and watch reviews of said product. Following threads on Reddit regarding RC planes might also help. 

A rule of thumb in purchasing a toy or gadget: go to a trusted brand, choose what you think best fits your preference, and remember: it is not about how expensive the thing is – it’s about how it performs.