Kelly's RC Plane Page

Everything you need to get started, in one small page

 

Introduction

This page isn't very fancy. It's just a way to give out links and explanations to people who are interested in getting into RC plane flying. If you're here reading it, it's probably because you got one of my cards at the field and you're following up to get the links I mentioned. Here's a concise list of the most important links up front, with explanations and more links in the text below.

 

Learning to Fly

Flying RC planes looks easy, and if you always sat in the pilot seat, it might be. However, since you're standing on the ground, steering is backwards whenever the plane is headed towards you. This takes some getting used to.

In order to avoid frustration and lots of wasted money crashing planes, the best way to learn to fly is on a computer with a simulator.

If you're in a big hurry to get started, and you already have a very powerful PC on hand, you could spend $200 on a complete simulator that comes with its own control box (like Realflight and FSOne). These can be bought locally from RC Hobby Shop at 59 and Dairy Ashford, or at Randy's Hobbies on 249 and Schroder. They're pretty, no doubt, but they are expensive and require a lot of PC power to run them smoothly. And actually, while $200 may sound expensive, it's not that bad compared to the cost and hassle of crashing 5 or 6 planes (and repairing them) while learning. Both of these packages have downloadable demos.

My personal recommendation is RC Plane Master. It's not as photo-pretty as the $200 simulators, but the physics are plenty good enough to learn flying. It has a free one week demo, with 5 minutes per flight, for as many flights as you want. If you decide to buy it after the week, it's only around $39 + $26 shipping to get the full version with more planes and more fields and the USB controller. To squeak by on the demo only, you'll need to buy a USB controller from eBay for around $25. Many of these come on a slow boat from Hong Kong, so expect about a two week delivery time if you buy from overseas. Note that shipping charges can double the cost of the purchase, at which point you'd probably be better off to buy the RC Plane Master and just use the controller that comes with that. I actually learned enough from RC Plane Master during the trial period that I didn't have to buy the full version, but at $65, it's worth it just to use for rainy days when you can't fly for real (and to make sure the company doesn't go out of business). Plus, someday you might want to learn 3D maneuvers, and those can be dangerous to your planes, even if you've mastered basic flight.

There's also a totally free FMS trainer, which didn't seem realistic enough when I tried it. That was a couple of years ago, and I've heard it's gotten better, so that might be worth looking into. It is often included on a CD alongside the eBay USB controllers mentioned above.

Whatever trainer you get, make sure your channels are set up like on this picture before you start flying.

How do you know when you're ready to fly a real plane? With RC Plane Master, my guideline is this: When you can take off and land your plane about 8 to 10 times in the 5 minute flight WITHOUT DAMAGING IT, then you're probably ready to fly your first real plane.

 

What Should My First Plane Be?

Because of the mess, the noise, and all the cleanup hassles of flying gas powered RC planes, I ruled them out for myself immediately. You may eventually find your way into gas powered planes, but for the beginner, electric is the way to go. Batteries have come a long way lately, and it's not uncommon to get 20 minutes of flight off a battery. Spare batteries, along with other parts, are very cheap at Hobby City.

The general consensus on Internet is that the HobbyZone Supercub is the easiest, most predictable, most forgiving plane to fly for a beginner. For around $159, it comes in an RTF (Ready To Fly) package with everything you need -- transmitter, charger, plane already built, even batteries. You just have to attach the wing and charge the battery. It's a high wing, meaning the fuselage is under the wing. That means it self-corrects more than other designs. (Translation: when you make a turn, it will straighten itself out somewhat, rather than continue to bank and turn until you "unturn" it.) This is a very useful characteristic for beginners because if they get into trouble, and they are high enough to have time to correct, they can often just let go of the sticks and the plane will right itself naturally. On top of that, this model has Anti-Crash technology built in! Store page is here, review is here, and forum is here. If the Supercub doesn't appeal to you, here's a slightly dated list of good alternates.

 

What About the Transmitter? Suggestions?

The mistake most people make when buying their first transmitter is that they don't know what they need, so they either under-buy and miss out on important features, or over-buy and get complicated features they don't need. Experience has taught me that most people typically end up with more than one plane when starting out, and having a radio with storage memories is well worth the extra few dollars. You want at least 4 channels, but 6 will keep you from upgrading as fast down the line. Also, digital trim (3 position switches rather than sliders) are preferable, since the trim settings are stored with the plane memory and don't have to be retrimmed every time you fly. All that being said, the obvious first radio in my opinion, is the Tower Hobbies 6XM. It's really a rebadged Futaba 6EXP (my main radio), and it's served me well. At $109, it's a bargain, yet has everything you'll need for years to come. Just pick any channel frequency in stock you want, because the Corona receiver I recommend can use any frequency.

 

Tips for New Pilots

Here are some "voice of experience" tips to help you enjoy your early flying days more.

 

The Planes You Saw

If you saw me at the field, you might be wondering about the planes I fly. Here they are:

 

If you'd like to get in touch with me, email me at

 

Welcome Aboard, and Happy Flying!