Tips on Buying Your First R.C. Airplane or Helicopter
You’ve seen in them in your local shopping mall. A couple of guys standing next to a kiosk flying these little radio controlled airplanes and helicopters, and they look like they are having so much fun that it makes you want to buy your own! “But where do I start”, you ask yourself? Don’t feel intimidated. R.C. airplanes and helicopters are a fast growing, fun, and exciting hobby that you can do alone, with friends, and with your family. There are entire communities and clubs of dedicated fliers that you can join, but we’ll talk about that later. While there are hundreds of different models of planes and helicopters to choose from, r.c. planes and helicopters can be broken down into 3 categories: Ready to Fly, Almost Ready to Fly, and Kit models.
RTF (Ready-To-Fly) are an ideal choice for the first-time pilot. RTF models come as pre-assembled kits that usually only require wing attachment or other basic assembly. Typically, everything that is needed is already in the kit. They require very little assembly and come complete with radio, receiver, motor, prop, speed control, servos, battery, and charger. You put the easily assembled parts together, charge the flight battery, and take to the sky! Many RTF models can be put together in under 30 minutes, making them a great choice for those who want to fly r.c. planes but are not necessarily interested in spending a lot of time building one.
ARF (Almost-Ready-To-Fly) are for pilots that have already logged a few hours of fly time. ARF models usually come pre-built for the most part but most models do require a bit more assembly and fine tuning to get them up and running, such as selecting the radio control gear, engine/motor installation, hinging the control surfaces, fitting the landing gear, tail plane, and fin assembly, fuel tank installation. Many ARF models include everything needed to fly except for the transmitter and receiver, allowing you to match your existing radio equipment to the model. The average ARF aircraft can be built with less than 4 hours of labor.
Kit Models are advanced level models that you build completely from parts. The body materials are typically made from Balsa wood and come in many sizes and skill levels. The kit usually contains most of the raw material needed for an unassembled plane, a set of highly detailed assembly instructions, and a few spare parts to allow for builder error. Depending on the size of the kit and the skill level required, assembling a model from plans or a kit can be very labor-intensive. In order to complete the construction of a model, the builder typically spends many hours assembling the frame, covering it, and polishing/refining the control surfaces for correct alignment. The kit does not include necessary tools, and these have to be purchased separately. Depending on the amount of detail and desired results, expect to spend 20 to 50+ hours for a traditional kit aircraft.
As you can see, there is a lot more to the hobby of r.c. aircraft than meets the eye. But don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed. There are an abundance of models to choose from for every age, skill level, and budget. Best of all, it is a hobby that the entire family can participate in and enjoy. Radio controlled airplanes are a unique and fun hobby enjoyed by all types of people. If you have an r.c. airplane, there are many local r.c. flight clubs you can join, filled with friendly, helpful people. Joining an r.c. club can be an excellent networking opportunity, allowing you to make new friends whom can give you advice and pointers on flying and perhaps suggestions on buying and building your next plane. Many of these clubs own their own air strips that will become available to you upon becoming a member.
Whichever model you decide is right for you, one thing is guaranteed: You are going to have hours and hours and hours fun!!!!!