Choosing an RC AirplaneBuying a holiday gift, or choosing your own first rc airplane? What are the criteria that you should use? We'll tell you some of the things to look for, then make some specific airplane recommendations. We'll also let you know what additional items you'll need to start enjoying this fun hobby!
Performance should really come first. At this stage, it's really all about the flying. You will need something slow, and stable. It should recover quickly from odd situations, and not respond too suddenly to control inputs. It will help if the plane is big and light, with lots of dihedral angle in the wing, as explained in the controls section.
Ease of assembly should also be high on your list. You'll need good complete instructions. Having said that, consider building from a kit, if your schedule allows the extra time. While this will take longer than assembling an ARF airplane, it has advantages.
All-wood kits generally turn out lighter than their ARF counterparts. Also, if there's an "unplanned arrival", you will know exactly how to repair the airplane. Still today's ARFs and foam kits are sometimes competitive with kits in the performance department.
Crash resistance should not be your main consideration.
You really want an airplane designed to fly, not to crash :) Some of the best flyers will be less strong that the worst flyers. Airplanes designed to withstand crashes tend to be much heavier than is good for decent fight performance, and so they end up doing a lot of crashing!
Just be aware that you will do some crashing and repairing while learning to fly. Now would you rather be doing some repairing on a great flying airplane, or doing fewer repairs on a flying brick.?
Cost: Can I buy it used from this guy on Ebay? Well, cost is on most people's mind when they get into any new hobby, and rc airplanes are no different. Just remember that you usually get what you pay for.
The cheapest system is generally not the best. If you decide to buy used, buying an airplane whose history you know may work out fine. Many people get good deals on used trainer airplanes from someone in the club they just joined.
Looks should be the last thing on your mind when you get your new rc airplane. That Cessna or P51 Mustang on the hobby shop shelf looks great, doesn't it? And the box may claim that it is fine for beginners.
Again just like any hobby, there are facts, and there is marketing hype.
You will not have a fun experience trying to fly a scale model as your first. Even scale models of full-scale trainers (eg Cessna Skylane, etc) do not make good first rc airplanes. You can scale the airplane down, but you can't scale down the forces of nature. Scale models will be too fast and unstable for a beginner.
Forget about it right now, and make up your mind to get that not-so-cool box-like trainer. You will save yourself a lot of frustration and money. So what does that leave us with?