Our last article, Fundamentals of the Sport / Hobby, prepared you for the decisions that lay ahead. With the context of RC airplanes in your pocket, let’s look at choosing your first airplane.

There are a lot of rc airplanes to choose from, and a ton of equipment possibilities. All you need to know is what you are looking for, what each option means, and then you can go shopping. Fortunately, there’s a market for entry-level rc airplanes and equipment. After all, every current RC pilot has at one time needed a first rc airplane.

One way to focus your rc airplane search is to look for rc airplanes designated as trainers. Trainer is the term used for rc airplanes that are designed to be simple, durable, easy to fly, and forgiving. You can spot them by their high wing position, abundance of dihedral, and large fuselage.

Dihedral is the angle between the two wings halves. An rc airplane with no dihedral has flat wings. An rc airplane with dihedral has the wing halves sloped upwards away from center. Dihedral induces slight roll stability, so the rc airplane will want to return to wings-level.

Once you’ve started to spot trainers that interest you, it’s time to choose between the two types of motors, nitro and electric. Nitro motors are internal combustion engines that burn an alcohol and nitro methane fuel. Electric motors are powered by batteries. They both work very well, so choose between them based on personal attractiveness.

As you know from the previous article, rc airplanes are controlled by their control surfaces. Each control surface requires its own radio channel. You will find radio systems and rc airplanes rated by the number of channels they use. A 2-channel system of throttle and rudder is the most basic – just enough for basic flight – and will limit the maneuvering that you can do with your rc plane. A 3-channel system offers good control for casual flight, and a 4-channel system is best for advanced sport and acrobatic flying.

RC airplanes are available in Ready to Fly (RTF) versions which only require minutes of preparation to plug the components together, and Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) versions in which the airplane is mostly assembled but may take a few hours of final assembly. Another option would be buying the airplane as a kit and building it yourself. This is a very labor-intensive process, expect to spend thirty to sixty hours building this type of rc airplane.

Whatever rc airplane you choose, it’s possible it may crash eventually. If that happens, you will need spare parts. Spare parts availability is important to the success you have in this hobby.

There’s one final tip I can offer to those in the market for an entry-level airplane. You can, in fact, try before you buy. An RC flight simulator, like FMS, has two benefits to you. By spending some time flying FMS Flight Simulator, you get a head start learning to fly and can try many different types of airplanes. Flying a flight simulator with a true RC controller is the best investment of time and money a new pilot can make.

The next article, Your First Flight with a Remote Control Airplane, will help you through your pre-flight inspections and first flights. Get that rc airplane assembled, there’s flying to be done!

Go to Part 4 of 4 in this Series: Introduction to RC Airplanes »

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