Size & Type
You'll do most or all of the building, and will need to buy and apply finishing materials. A radio system, power system and support equipment will be required.
(Almost Ready-to-Fly) Largely built and completely finished, ARFs can be flight-ready in a few hours. Most will still require you to buy the same accessories as kits do, except paint and covering.
Rx-R/RR models come fully built with servos installed, but let you use your own receiver and transmitter — even the same ones you use to fly other airplanes, to save money!
Any aircraft that is largely prebuilt; factory finished and includes a power system, servos and a preinstalled 2.4GHz SLT™ receiver. Electrics sometimes include a battery and charger.
Fully built, RTFs always come with a radio and engine (or motor) installed. Some even include "AA" batteries for the radio transmitter!
Choosing the Size of Your Plane
The "size" of a model plane generally refers to the size of engine, in cubic inch displacement, required to fly it successfully. The most popular sizes are 20 (requiring a .20-.36 engine), 40 (.40-.53 engine) and 60 (.60-.75 engine). Many other sizes are available, too, ranging from small, .049-powered craft up to massive, giant-scale gasoline models. Most trainers fall into the 40-size category. That's because 40s are fairly stable, with enough heft to fly well in breezy conditions, but still small enough to be affordable for new hobbyists. Many 60-size trainers are also available, and offer the advantage of even greater stability—plus easier visibility once aloft—both due to their larger dimension.
Choosing Your Type of Plane
Practically every full-size airplane that's ever graced the skies has also been reproduced as an R/C model. That's one of the hobby's biggest draws. Though most of us will never actually pilot an Air Force Thunderbird or Blue Angel, we CAN fly an R/C model that looks exactly like one! Of course, real jet pilots go through a tremendous amount of training before they're qualified to handle such a powerful machine. Again, there's a parallel in the R/C world. Some models are just too demanding for beginners to fly successfully. When you visit your local airfield, you'll see R/C models that fit into all of the following groups. Stick with the hobby and eventually, you'll be able to take your pick from them all—and it'll be some other newcomer whose jaw drops when YOU take off!
R/C Trainers, with their high wing mounting and flat-bottom airfoils, are specifically designed for first-time modelers. They fly slowly, giving you extra time to think and react. If you momentarily lose control, you can simply release the transmitter sticks—your trainer will return to straight, level flight. Trainers also have a very slow stall speed, which means that their wings can generate enough lift to stay aloft even when just creeping along. Kit versions deliberately avoid complex building techniques, and many trainers are available in prebuilt (ARF) or Ready-To-Fly (RTF) form.
A staple of aerobatic airshows, two-winged biplanes never fail to win over an audience. R/C versions deliver the same “barnstorming” performance, making them a favorite of experienced hobbyists who are in the mood for something different.The lure of the bipe is something that most sport fliers experience at least once. And building an extra wing is a small price to pay for the pleasure of flying a small piece of aviation history.
Scale models recreate full-size aircraft. Some are intended only to look reasonably close to the real thing. Deviations are made to keep assembly and performance within the abilities of a particular skill level. Then again, there are also scale kits created expressly for very serious craftsmen. The reward, after plenty of painstaking effort, is a model that's nearly a photo-perfect reproduction of the real plane. Scale kits are not for first-timers, but the Top Flite Cessna 182 Skylane shown here can be an exciting "next step" after you've built and mastered a trainer.
A sub-category of Scale Models, R/C warbirds bring dogfight excitement directly to your local flying field! Some of aviation's greatest advances came during war years—and some of the most colorful plane nicknames, too (such as "Whispering Death" and "Butcher Bird"). Through R/C warbirds, experienced modelers can join their love of history with their favorite hobby.
Giant Scale models, like the name suggests, combine lifelike detail with immense size—imagine controlling a model whose wing spans as much as seven feet or more! As you'd expect, such aircraft are higher priced and demand a great deal of time, patience and skill...they are not for beginners.
Generally, Sport Models are any planes designed to perform aerobatic maneuvers. Most have wings mounted at the middle or bottom of the fuselage, and symmetrical airfoils—meaning that the top and bottom surfaces of the wing are curved to allow greater maneuverability, at the expense of the stability that first-time fliers require. “Sport Trainers” are available that combine characteristics of basic trainers (such as a wing mounted above the fuselage) with sport planes (such as a semi-symmetrical airfoil). These make a good “step up” after you’ve mastered your basic trainer.
If you want to fly -- but without a lot of effort or special flying site requirements -- Park Flyers are the answer! They offer all the fun and excitement of larger R/C airplanes, but in a smaller size that has several advantages. They're very affordable. Kit assembly is quick and easy (some Park Flyers also come in ARF form and can be flight-ready in just 10-12 hours). Because of their compact size and clean, quiet electric power, you can fly them almost anywhere: at a park, in a football field, or even in your own backyard.* How well do they fly? With recent advances in electric technology -- and the use of ultralight materials for construction -- Park Flyers perform like champions!
R/C sailplanes ride on rising masses of warm air, called “thermals.” Their slow flying speed and stability makes them a good choice for first-time hobbyists. The challenge is learning to locate those invisible thermals and use them to your advantage. Some sailplanes are equipped with “power pods” (electric motors) for easy, powered launches. Others are launched by tossing them from a hill or slope...by using a slingshot-like device called a hi-start...or by towing them in a fashion similar to launching a kite.