RC planes for beginners

Toy aircraft can help! RC planes for beginners can teach kids vital aviation skills, encourage an interest in aircraft and maybe even spark a passion for a career in aviation! So what skills can be learned, what different types are out there, and what would need to be considered if you’re purchasing one? Read on..

Introduction to RC planes for beginners

Remember when you first started learning to fly? All of those complicated terms such as aerofoil, Angle of attack, trim, accelerated stalls, adverse aileron yaw, washout, secondary effects, thrust, mixture, stability, incidence, copilot buys first drinks, centre of gravity, and Going Around? Then you were tested on these terms on paper, and yet those same words were repeated during intense flying conditions. Apparently, they were important things to understand. There are probably a few more, but really who can remember them all?

 One way to help cement these terms into the new pilot’s memory is via exposure from a young age. A great way to introduce younger wannabe flyers into aviation is via the realm of Radio Control Aircraft.

“Anyone who’s not interested in model airplanes must have screw loose somewhere”

Paul Maccready
rc planes for beginners
RC planes can teach so many important skills – and they’re fun!

RC planes

Think about it. These flying models follow the exact same aerodynamic principles as full-size aircraft, teach coordination, and encourage the modelers to increase their knowledge of aviation theory. 

 Please don’t run out to your nearest Hobby Zone or Horizon Hobby and buy the most expensive aircraft or the best-looking model aircraft and run to the nearest park. Chances are that this model aircraft is harder to set up and fly than you might imagine – even with the guidance of a full-sized adult pilot, and even on beginner mode! There are some pretty complex models out there, so it would make for a short flight indeed and perhaps even disappointment.

The best likelihood for success is to find a local aeromodelling flying club, talk with the local members, and seek their advice. They may even have a trainer aircraft set up especially for visitors to try their hand. If you do decide you want to purchase your first RC plane, read on to look at what you might consider.

rc planes for beginners
You don’t have to purchase an RC aircraft – you could always look into joining an aeromodelling flying club

Why play with an RC airplane?

Fast forward a dozen trips later and your young kid may have picked up the flying skills to embarrass half of the club members, and have a healthy knowledge of many of the terms that befuddled your PPL written tests.

 They may also permanently have the seed implanted that will make them aspire to be a full-sized pilot – and a new source of inspiration to study harder in school. It’s worth a shot.

It’s also fun. A great way to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. Junior will likely laugh at your befuddled attempts to fly the beginner RC plane too.

You can find more information on getting started flying AC planes on the AMA flight school website here.

rc planes for beginners
Would there be any pilots out there who didn’t start by playing with RC aircraft?

What are the best RC planes for beginners?

There are many different types of RC planes for beginners, and choosing one can be difficult. They all have different strengths, weaknesses, speeds, power type, wing types etc.

The key to choosing the right first RC airplane for you, if you do decide to purchase one, is being honest with yourself about how much money you are willing to spend and your size. The smallest planes are tiny little things that hold just enough battery for a few minutes of flight time. They’re fun to fly inside but you will quickly outgrow them!

Next up are micros which are slightly bigger than ‘nano’ models but go much slower – perfect for beginners who want something they can learn to fly inside safely.

As people progress through their flying career, they begin moving up in scale sizes (larger planes) until they reach giant scale models, usually for experienced pilots, which can be as big as a small car!

rc planes for beginners
There’s lots to consider if you’re buying an RC model – type, size, quality, power and price!

Often, new pilots will start out at the micro or nano scale trainer airplanes and grow from there.

When you’re starting out, planes that are around 500mm-600mm (20 inches) is a great size to learn with. The smaller the plane, the less stable it is in windy conditions – they can be more sensitive to how much they’re buffeted by the wind which makes them harder to control for beginners.

The advantage of larger planes though is that they fly slower so you will have more control and it’s most likely easier to react correctly when things go wrong. Also, if something breaks on your plane you don’t need to panic as much because you won’t crash instantly like with smaller models.

For more info on the best beginner RC airplanes, you can refer to RC Airplane world here.

Buying my first RC airplane – What Do I need to consider?

Make sure you find out if the RC plane comes with spare parts, whether it’s fully assembled or not, if there’s any gear that needs to be purchased separately, if it’s ok to fly in light wind, what the construction type of the RC plane is and if it has advanced settings or not.

You could also look at features such as inclusion of panic recovery mode, quality of flight battery, the need for AA batteries (or other battery type) for your remote control, whether you want an electric powered model, whether it has SAFE tech (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) or not and of course, the price and your budget.

rc planes for beginners
RC gliders can be great for beginners! Just make sure you do your research and look at alternatives.

RC piper cub designs

RC piper cub designs are among the most popular of any RC plane model. Quality is excellent, so you know you are getting a craft that will provide years of enjoyment. This easy-to-control aircraft with this updated radio transmitter makes flying fun with even the youngest novice pilots.

The Piper Cub is small enough so that you can fly it in your backyard and its four-channel control makes for easy maneuverability.

There are several RC planes designs that are very popular with first-time pilots because of their simplicity, ease to fly, and practicability for backyard use. These include the 4 channel Piper J-3 Cub, 3 channel Aerobatic Trainer Planes, 2 channel Extra 300S Sport Aircraft, 3 channel Supermarine Spitfire Warbird and the 4 channel Cessna 182 Skylane Airplane. All of these can be operated from most home backyards or a large park nearby if a flying field is not available.

What else can RC airplanes teach?

As well as learning about aviation, RC planes can help you learn some practical life skills.

First of all, they teach patience. Because so much depends on the weather conditions and how you fly them, managing to get one of these planes off the ground is extremely rewarding after trying over and over again!

RC airplanes also teach responsibility. If you crash them or get them dirty, it’s up to you to clean them up and put them back into pristine condition (and then some people like to restore old models too).

As well as teaching these skills that are useful in everyday life, flying RC planes helps develop hand-eye coordination and a general awareness of your surroundings too.

Once basic practice flying is mastered there is a huge variety of other areas to explore. Gliding, pylon racing, aerobatics, scale, jets, dealing with windy conditions are but some of the disciplines.

 Yes, I built and flew Radio Control models when I was at school, and I have no doubt that it helped with my airforce entry aptitude exams. Of course, I still fly them today – it’s fun.

 Now if anybody’s kid can explain to me the usefulness of understanding the aircraft’s Zero Lift Angle of Attack, then please give me a call. 

rc planes for beginners
RC planes make for a great hobby! Whether it sparks a passion for aviation or not, kids will learn while they’re having fun!

RC planes for beginners – Final Thoughts

No matter your skill levels or experience with remote control airplanes, these radio-controlled aircraft can spark that interest and inspire your kids to learn more! You don’t necessarily need your own gear; start doing your research into local flying clubs.

So who knows? Maybe playing with safe technology such as RC planes and developing a bit more understanding of aviation concepts will inspire your child to become an excellent pilot someday, with a great flying career! (You can read more about Aviation for Kids here).

Or maybe it will just be a fun new hobby, encouraging them to get outside.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve had a go at RC planes! What did you learn?

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Jorgo

Michael Jorgensen is a specialist formation instructor and Australia's premier air to air formation action photographer, based in Sydney, Australia. Jorgo has a wealth of experience, stemming from his career as a military fast jet pilot, and heavy air-to-air refuelling tanker pilot flying for both the New Zealand and British Air Forces. Find out more

Jorgo has 22 posts and counting. See all posts by Jorgo

One thought on “RC planes for beginners

  1. An interesting article but I am surprised the excellent 4 Chanel gyro assisted cheap foam aircraft are not endorsed more in the article. Especially for attracting new blood to the sport. Admittedly they are for calm days when getting started but they come ready to fly out of the box, requiring no more than 4AA batteries for the transmitter. The 400mm warbird range look like ‘real aircraft’ and are all but indestructible, weigh around 80g, fly for 15 mins per rechargable flight battery, have an electric motor and pop off / on propellers to prevent damage. They also fall well within the 250g weight limit so don’t require registration with the authorities. YouTube features many positive reviews of the mini warbird series…. P51d Mustang, Corsair, Trojan etc. And at around £70 must be the cheapest and most advisable route into the sport ?

    The next most suitable for beginners are the 800mm electric pusher powered 4 Chanel foam gliders. They are around 160g in weight, come with gyro assistance and can cope with 5mph winds. Having a rearward facing and high mounted propeller and damage is minimised.
    One big plus of the cheap ready to fly foam planes is that many feature an adjustable gyro stabilization switch to allow you to develop as confidence increases. They also often have a stunt button that enables a novice to perform loops and rolls providing they have sufficient height. With the gyro set for ‘beginner’ if any difficulty is encountered in flight, letting the transmitter sticks self center will stabilise the aircraft.

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