I'd been eyeing the electric radio controlled planes at Rancho San Antonio (near Los Altos, CA) for years, whenever I hiked there. I flew powered R/C planes years ago, but gave it up because I didn't like the noise, the mess, or the hassle of finding a place to fly.
The electric revolution got me back into flying: electric planes are quiet, small and fun. My husband couldn't resist the lure, so he decided to learn to fly as well. We crashed a lot while learning, and we cast about trying to find the right plane to learn on. So we've been through quite a few planes.
Most of the planes on this page are from the early "aughts" and aren't available any more. But that's okay -- current planes are much better, and I'll gradually add some of them. We're now living in New Mexico, where we fly most Sunday mornings (and sometimes other days) at Overlook Park in White Rock. Come join the fun!
Later on this page I have a bit of of advice for beginners.
|Flipper||Edge-2 Xtreme||Ultra Micro 4-Site|
|Wild 3D street flyer||The most aerobatic $25 sheet of foam you'll ever see.||Indoor aerobatic biplane -- set it up right and it's a pussycat.|
|Split Tweety||Mini Weasel and
Tips for Slope Soaring
|Pocket Combat Wing|
|It does everything! Boink-Zoom.||Fantastic fun. Fast and cute!||Intense dogfights!|
|Pico Stick||Lil' Hornet||Tiger Moth|
|Simple, cheap. Great small-park flyer. Dogfights, too!||Strong and competent; a fully aerobatic slow flyer.||Slow, graceful, and pretty. Nuff said.
|Crazy Stick||Wind Buster||Triangle|
|Amazingly precise for a $30 bunch o' spare parts.||Teeny. Cute. Tip-stall demon.||Lightweight, wild, fun, fragile.|
|Sporty||Formosa||23" Foam Bipe|
|Tip-stall demon. But pretty.||Big porky aerobat with not enough motor.||Fun experiment, but an IPS wasn't enough.|
For beginners thinking about trying electric R/C flying: I hesitate to suggest any particular model, since individual tastes and abilities vary greatly (though if you have plenty of space, if you can find something like a T-Hawk that's a great way to start. The T-Hawk isn't made any more but there must be some equivalent). Do get something fairly rugged, or else cheap and easy to fix. You will crash.
If you don't have an instructor, if you just take off and try to fly around then land, you'll probably crash a lot and get frustrated. One suggestion that helps with this: try launching the plane away from you, with the motor either off or going very slow, and just try to glide it in to a smooth landing. Do that a bunch of times. Get the transmitter trimmed so the plane can glide straight with your hands off the sticks. If you have to fly off a grass field and can't do the take-off part, try flying the plane out of your hand (or out of a helper's hand, if possible) and bring it in for a slow belly landing.
When your landings are pretty smooth, then you can start adding some up elevator to fly a little higher before coming down, and you can try making a gentle turn to the left or right to make sure you can still land. Keep the motor off or very slow and the flight times and distances super short through all of this. Landings are what you need to practice; everything else is much easier. You also need to get the airplane and transmitter trimmed so that it flies straight and level and doesn't react too violently to stick input, and that's hard to do when you're just learning. This technique will get the hard parts -- the trimming and learning to land -- out of the way while the plane is going low and slow, so any crashes (yes, you'll still have crashes) will be relatively gentle.
I do have a couple of suggestions about the other equipment.
On batteries: in 2008 I had a paragraph recommending lithium polymer batteries, but in 2019 that's a no-brainer and I don't think you can buy anything else. Do get a good, safe charger: li-po batteries can be fire-prone if they're charged wrong.
On transmitters: I expected I'd want several planes, so I bought a general 4-channel transmitter rather than a plane that came with its own dedicated transmitter. But I soon found out that with several planes, you really want a transmitter that can store different settings for each plane. So I ended up having to buy a new transmitter anyway. But then I wanted to try combat wings and other elevon planes, and the second transmitter didn't have proper elevon mixing, and it didn't have settings for enough planes, so I had to upgrade yet again. After several upgrades, I currently have a Spektrum DX6e that I expect will last me quite a few years.
So don't stress too much over whether your first transmitter will meet all your future needs. It won't, so start with something cheap if you want to, and if you get deeply into flying, you can upgrade later.
What about the dedicated transmitter that a lot of modern planes come with? I'd recommend against that unless you're pretty sure you're only buying just the one plane. If you think you might buy even two planes, consider buying a low-end Spektrum or similar radio, perhaps a used one on eBay if you want to save money. Of course, you do want one of the modern 2.4 GHz spread spectrum radios, not the old-style 27 or 72 Mhz that were tuned to a single channel.
Honestly, I don't know. I have a friend who depends on these for flying, and it looks to me like it's hard to graduate from that to flying without the training wheels, as you'd need to if you want to fly aerobatics or combat or 3D or whatever. Also, it means you have to use expensive complicated receivers instead of the little $15 kind.
On the other hand, I'm probably just an old fogey resisting new stuff. And those little UMX planes with their auto-stabilization are pretty amazing: I never would have expected anything that light to fly well outdoors, and we're having a lot of fun with the Timber.
Ultimately, if it helps you get started faster, and have more fun and spend less time crashing, then why not? You can always take the training wheels off later.
|Slow Stick||Baby Bee||T-Hawk
|Maxi Stick (Mini Blue Max)