The open fields of Australia are perfect for those who want to get into the hobby of flying radio and remote controlled planes. But before you get too excited about the prospect of flying an RC plane, there are few things that you need to know as a beginner pilot.
Flying RC planes is a little bit more complicated than your average hobby. If you’re not careful, making the wrong decision can lead to someone getting hurt or, at the very least, money being wasted.
In this blog, we’re going to outline the basic things that you need to know as a beginner pilot. If you have further questions, be sure to contact a RC modeller near you. They should be able to answer your more technical questions as well as questions about costs and local regulations.
The first thing you should think about is the type of aircraft that you want to fly. Nowadays, there are plenty of types to choose from via in-person and online stores. The usual ones you’ll see are sport planes, aerobatic planes, gliders, scale planes, floatplanes, warbirds, and jets.
While the aesthetics of your plane is important, it’s essential that you look beyond the surface when it comes to choosing an aircraft type. Indeed, each of these types are suitable for certain skill levels and environments.
If you’re a beginner, most experts recommend that you get a trainer plane. Trainer planes usually have a high wing placement and a dihedral structure. These features are considered ‘self-correcting’ mechanisms and will help get out of trouble should your plane encounter strong winds. A trainer plane is a good and safe way to get some piloting experience while learning the ropes.
Depending on the RC plane that you get, the number of channels that it has will vary. The more channels an RC plane has, the more complicated it is to fly. Generally speaking, toy grade RC planes will have two channels. Hobby grade planes on the other hand will likely have four or more.
So, which one should you get? Well, it all depends on how deep you want to get into the hobby. If you just want to pilot a plane without too many issues, then a two-channel plane would probably suffice. However, if you have ambitions to fly a 20-channel plane one day, then getting started with a four-channel plane would be ideal.
In most hobby grade planes, the four channels will control the rudder, the elevator, the aileron, and the throttle. These are considered the primary controls of a basic RC plane.
Level of construction
When you’re buying an RC plane, it’s important that you understand the level of construction that’s required with each product. If you’ve been looking at different RC planes, you’ve likely seen these acronyms: ARF, RTF and PNP. These letters represent how much work you need to do before you can fly the plane.
For example, RTF means ready-to-fly. This means the RC plane is ready to be flown right out of the box. No additional products or assembly is required. PNP, on the other hand, stands for plug-n-play. This means that the plane is pre-assembled, but you need to buy extra parts before you can fly it. PNPs typically have a motor and an electrical speed controller. However, you will need to buy your own transmitter and battery.
For beginners, RTFs and PNPs are ideal. If you want to learn the basic components of an RC plane, a PNP is a good starting point.
ARF stands for almost-ready-to-fly, meaning the planes will be mostly put together. They will require an additional battery, a motor, a servo and various materials for assembly. ARFs give you a little bit more control over the construction of your RC plane. They are typically designed for intermediate and advanced pilots.
The last thing that you need to decide on is whether you want a petrol or electric RC plane. Li-Po (lithium polymer) batteries are becoming more and more popular. They are relatively cheap and accessible and are also very light, which is a huge advantage when flying a smaller RC plane.
That being said, petrol powered RC planes are still popular. Petrol engines can provide the plane with more power. This extra power can then be used for other features such as landing gears.
To help you make a decision, here is a list of the pros and cons of both battery and gas-powered RC planes.
- Battery powered
- Ideal for smaller, lighter aircrafts
- Included in RTFs
- Easy to carry and transport
- Smaller batteries can’t be used for larger aircrafts
- Larger batteries can be expensive
- When mishandled, Li-Po batteries can start a fire
- Petrol powered
- Extra power
- Great for larger aircrafts
- Can endure strong winds
- Cool engine sounds
- High maintenance
- Needs support products
- Bulky and difficult to transport
There you have it, your crash course in RC planes. Regardless of what your skill level is, there’s something for everyone in this hobby. You can choose to fully invest in it, gradually working your way up to flying large RC planes with 20 channels. If you’re not into that, you can just casually fly a two-channel plane every weekend. Whatever you prefer, flying RC planes can be a fulfilling pastime indeed.