Airplane Beginner

Airplane Beginner

RC gliders, also known as sailplanes, can offer the beginner a very gentle introduction to the radio control flying hobby, but can also offer the experienced rc pilot some truly exhilarating aerobatic and racing opportunities – such is the diversity of radio control gliding.

But is there a difference between both names?

Well, technically speaking a glider is any motorless aircraft capable of stable unpowered flight, even if over just a short distance. For example, man’s early attempts at flight were done in simple gliders, and flights were no more than a few hundred feet long.
A sailplane is a motorless aircraft specifically designed for sustained unpowered performance, primarily by using columns of warm air (thermals) to keep aloft. But in reality, and especially in the rc flying hobby, both names are commonly used to describe a model aircraft without a motor.


Easy RC flying.
Simpler rc gliders are excellent for introducing newcomers to the hobby. The majority of conventional beginner rc gliders are 2 or 3 channel, with control to either rudder and elevator, aileron and elevator or rudder, aileron and elevator. By conventional I mean gliders with a wing, fin and tailplane.

The alternative is the delta-wing type (or ‘flying wing’) and these are common for slope soaring. These gliders are usually just two channel with both aileron and elevator controls mixed in to control surfaces called elevons.

A two channel glider, although simple, can still be a lot of fun on the slope, particularly if it has aileron control instead of rudder. Having aileron control means that the glider can be rolled more easily, and it just makes the glider more aerobatic and fun to fly.
A foam delta-wing type glider is fairly durable, generally speaking, which makes it very beginner-friendly.


The more advanced rc gliders and larger sailplanes can have more channels still, with additional controls for flaps or spoilers, air brakes and even tow line release hooks in the nose and retractable nose wheel.

Simpler two channel conventional rc gliders like the timeless Goldberg Gentle Lady for example, shown below, are not at all complicated to fly and their design makes them inherently very stable, making such gliders perfect for the novice.

Flying rc gliders of this type can be a very peaceful and relaxing experience. Typically flying speeds of such gliders are much slower than the speeds of powered airplanes and their stability gives the pilot plenty of time to react. Gliders like the Gentle Lady are very forgiving in the air and won’t punish you for making mistakes with your Tx sticks!

Intermediate/expert RC gliders.
Of course, different types of rc glider and sailplane have different flight characteristics and at the other end of the scale the sleek racing gliders can be thrown around the slopes at crazy speeds and in stronger winds.

These models are typically moulded from glass fibre and/or carbon fibre, and are commonly referred to as mouldies. They can be ballasted up (made heavier) by inserting metal weights into a special ballast tube inside the fuselage and/or wing, and this extra mass gives the glider more inertia and better penetration into the wind (i.e. makes them fly faster).

Such rc gliders can be very expensive and the faster speeds demand good reactions and co-ordination – this is not the sort of model you want to break due to inexperience!

And while on the subject of speed, did you know that the fastest radio control aircraft in the world is a glider?! Not a jet but an rc glider! Yep, the current world record has just exceeded 500 m.p.h in the sector of dynamic soaring.
So you can see that radio control gliders offer more than you might expect!

A big advantage that rc gliders and sailplanes have over powered radio control aircraft is that of flight duration; if the conditions are favourable with good lift during a rc slope soaring or thermal flying session then you can keep your glider aloft for a very long time. No need to land for refueling or replacing a motor battery pack, although you do of course need to keep an eye on the TX and RX battery levels to keep the radio signal strong.

RTF vs. ARF RC gliders.
Unfortunately there are few Ready To Fly rc gliders available compared to powered rc planes, and this is a shame for beginners who just want to get flying without any assembly fuss.
It seems that the only RTF gliders around are of the powered variety. Presumably this is a reflection on market demand, and in my opinion it’s a shame that at least some manufacturers aren’t offering a good selection of 2 or 3 channel RTF gliders for sale.

An Almost Ready To Fly (ARF) glider is the next best option but obviously you’re going to have to buy, install and set up the radio gear yourself. A certain degree of aeromodelling knowledge is required to complete and set up an ARF rc aircraft, but if you’re completely new to the hobby there is plenty of help around.
The range of scale gliders from Seagull is a good one, and the quality of Seagull aircraft is very good. Having had a couple of their aircraft, I can vouch for their quality.


Categories of RC gliders and sailplanes.
There are several different categories of radio control glider, as well as a large diversity of model designs ranging from general sport gliders to expensive carbon racing ones to large scale vintage sailplanes. Below are some examples of and brief introductions to the more popular types…

General sport gliders.
These come in a large variety of shapes and sizes and are suited to flat field flying with assisted launch, or the very popular sector of slope soaring.

Typically three channel (rudder, aileron & elevator), sport gliders can handle a variety of conditions and are, usually, aerobatically capable. Sport rc gliders can be non-scale or scale, although many scale gliders of this type are labelled as ‘aerobatic’ rather than ‘sport’.


Construction, as with any rc aircraft, can be traditional balsa and ply or foam such as the popular Multiplex Cularis, shown below, or GRP (glass reinforced plastic aka fibreglass). This latter material is very common in rc glider construction.


Hand launched gliders

Gliders that are specifically designed to be thrown upwards from a strong hand launch are generally smaller, to make them more manageable. You might see them referred to as chuckies.

A simple two channel example is the Great Planes Fling, shown right, although owner feedback about this particular glider hasn’t been great. Gliders like this one can also be launched with a simple ‘high-start’ launching system (catapult / bungee) so if your throws aren’t quite strong enough then you can still get airborne. But with the right throwing technique and strength a hand launched glider can easily reach an adequate altitude without any external aids.
Once launched, either by a throw or catapult system, flight duration is achieved by using thermals and wind to keep the glider aloft.

Discus Launch Gliders (DLGs).
Following on from the standard hand launch gliders mentioned above, a Discus Launch Glider is a newer breed of rc glider that’s become very popular with flat-field flyers.

A DLG has a specially designed wingtip handle (a strong pin running vertically through the wing) that is held between index and middle finger. The pilot spins in a 360 degree circle and launches the glider upwards on exiting the spin, just like a field athlete launches a discus (hence the name DLG…).

You don’t need to be strong because the force needed to power the glider upwards is generated during your spin, and then the design of the glider aids the steep climb.
With the right technique a Discus Launch Glider can reach a surprising height. Once the glider has leveled out after its vertical climb, your thermal-seeking can commence.

The big advantage with a DLG, and indeed a normal hand launch glider, is that you don’t need to be on a hilltop or in an area large enough to take a long bungee/Hi-Start system. A DLG can be launched from a relatively small space, as it goes vertically upwards.

Thermal soarers.
RC sailplanes that are intended for thermal soaring tend to have larger wingspans, up to 4 meters for the serious competition models. Their construction is kept as lightweight as possible and they have a low wing loading, this combination keeps their glide rate (vertical descent) to an absolute minimum.

There’s a definite skill to thermal soaring; if the pilot can’t successfully locate the thermals then the glider won’t stay airborne for any great length of time. That said, a thermal soarer will out fly a sport glider (time aloft) under the same conditions, simply because of its better glide rate.
A fairly typical ‘pod and boom’ type rc thermal soarer is shown below:

Combat RC gliders.
Combat gliders are generally much smaller than traditional soarers and are typically made from EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) foam, a material that’s incredibly tough and resilient to damage, making the gliders very durable. The tail feathers can be sheet balsa or, more commonly, fluted polypropylene sheet (eg ‘Corflute’), a very bendy and crash-resistant material.

EPP combat gliders are commonly covered in reinforced tape to add strength, and then coloured tape to finish. All this tape also adds to the durability. Other ways of finishing them include paint and low-heat iron on covering film.

The idea with combat gliding is to fly as a group and try to knock your opponent’s glider out of the air. Because the EPP rarely gets damaged, it’s quite safe to fly straight into another glider at full speed!

Combat gliders are a great deal of fun, but even if you can’t get a group together flying one on your own is equally exhilarating. Because of their general design they can be very maneuverable indeed and in the right conditions can be flown fast and aerobatically. Highly recommended for some low-worry slope soaring fun!

Scale RC sailplanes.
A scale model aircraft is one that is modelled from a full size aircraft, and there are plenty of full size gliders and sailplanes that make excellent subjects to model.

A big attraction of such a model is the build itself, as well as the flying. I’m currently building a 1/5 scale Letov LF-107 Lunak, which you can read about right here.

Below is a photo of a fellow clubmate’s beautiful large-scale sailplanes, these are about 5 meter wingspan. Obviously not all scale gliders need to be this big!


Well those are just several of the basic categories of rc gliders and sailplanes; as has already been mentioned radio control gliders have many many types, shapes and sizes from traditional built-up kits meant for relaxed soaring to modern carbon fiber racing machines capable of incredible speeds and performance.

Whichever type of rc glider you choose, you’ll be entering a hugely popular sector of the radio control flying hobby. The ease of control and gentle flying characteristics of many gliders make them a great attraction and introduction to the hobby, and I can highly recommend giving rc gliding a try especially if you live near an open slope that faces the prevailing wind!

So, then, radio control gliding is a hugely popular sector of the rc flying hobby with its dedicated followers, be they slope soarers or flat field flyers. Perfect for the beginner and advanced rc pilot alike, rc gliders and sailplanes will give you a truly rewarding experience.

From a personal point of view, rc gliders are my favourite form of radio control flight. They require very few accessories and there are no noise issues to worry about. In fact, the only real concern is whether or not your radio gear batteries will last as long as you want to fly for!
The challenge of having to seek out lift and use the air to keep your glider aloft, rather than just rely on motor power and thrust, is an addictive and exhilarating one.

There’s a nice diversity of rc aircraft types within the radio control flying hobby, so you’re bound to find something to suit your taste and needs. This page will outline various types, and you can click through to read more about them on other pages.

Remember that the word aircraft covers all flying machines, not just conventional airplanes. Also bear in mind that the most common rc aircraft types (airplanes and helicopters) can be scale, semi-scale and non-scale models. These three terms refer to the reality of the model; whether it replicates a real aircraft (scale), is a close representation of a real aircraft (semi-scale) or is a completely made-up design (non-scale).

Whether you end up flying scale, semi-scale or non-scale rc aircraft comes down to your own personal preference. There are plenty from each category to choose from these days, a reflection of the popularity of the hobby!

The basic RC aircraft types.
For the purpose of this page, rc airplanes and helicopters have been split in to their own groups; simply categorising them as just two different aircraft types would be a bit broad given the variations available.

Collectively, rc planes account for the largest number of aircraft in the hobby. Having said that, the popularity of flying rc helicopters has grown tremendously in recent years as electric rc helicopters have surged onto the scene, and the gap between the number of rc airplane pilots and rc helicopter pilots has become much smaller than it ever has been.
Even more recently, multicopters or drones have amassed huge sales globally as this newest sector of the radio control flying hobby takes hold.

Note that this page doesn’t intend to ‘officially categorise’ rc aircraft – the following list is just to introduce you to your options..

RC Airplanes.

Trainer airplanes, or ‘trainers’, are designed for learning on. They are conventional in design and basic, with the wing on top of the fuselage for maximum stability in the air. Trainers can be powered by electric motor or internal combustion engine, glow plug (nitro) being the most common of the IC group. Trainers are available in many different sizes and shapes and count for a large sector of all rc aircraft. Ideally your first rc plane will be a trainer.
Read more on rc trainer planes.

Sport airplanes also make up a very large sector of all rc planes. They are the next up from a trainer but can also be used for training purposes, particularly low-wing training. Sport airplanes can be any size or shape and are more capable of performing aerobatic maneuvers than trainers are. The majority of sport planes are mid or low wing, making them better for performing such maneuvers. High wing planes like trainers, generally speaking, are not that aerobatic.

Aerobatic airplanes have been designed specifically for performing advanced aerobatic maneuvers and ‘3D’ flying. This type of rc airplane is typically mid wing with oversize control surfaces and motors (electric or IC) that deliver more power than the airplane actually needs. Aerobatic airplanes can be thrown around the sky and flown very aggressively, so long as the pilot knows what he or she is doing!
Read more on rc aerobatic airplanes.

Warbirds have always been a popular rc aircraft subject; their classic lines and smooth flying characteristics make warbirds some of the nicest looking rc airplanes out there. The term warbird describes a wartime plane, notably from the First and particularly Second World War. The P-51 Mustang, Spitfire and Corsair F4U are classic examples. Not particularly suitable as an absolute first model, although there are some RTF warbirds available that have been developed with the beginner in mind.


Vintage rc airplanes are also a popular subject, particularly with modellers who enjoy the traditional building side of the hobby as well as the flying side. Many classic designs date back to the late 1930s and 40s and are large in size. 3-channel radio and a 4-stroke engine make the best combination in vintage airplanes, and they are often slow, gentle flyers. Vintage planes are also known as Old Timers in some parts of the world, and you might also see them referred to as planes from the ‘Golden Era’ of aeromodelling

RC float planes are increasing in availability but they’re obviously not as widely available as land airplanes. If you have a lake close to home, a float plane can be a lot of fun but get good at landing on land before you attempt water landings! Losing an rc airplane in the drink isn’t a lot of fun…


RC Helicopters.
Helicopters can be broadly classified into two types:

Single rotor helicopters count for a huge sector of the rc flying hobby. Like airplanes, they can be electric or IC powered. Electric helicopters have become very popular in recent years and some are easier to fly than others. IC helicopters are slightly more complicated because of the engine and clutch assembly. Learning to fly a multi-channel IC rc helicopter is a serious business, but ultimately very rewarding. Of course, the larger size (eg 700) electric rc helicopters are just as complex as IC ones, apart from the motor side of things, and can be just as expensive too.

Coaxial rc helicopters are sometimes called contra-rotating or dual rotor helicopters. They have two main rotors, mounted one above the other, that spin in opposite directions to each other. This cancels out the torque force normally generated by a spinning single rotor, and so a tail rotor isn’t required to counter any torque. This makes coaxial rc helicopters easier to fly and often more stable than a conventional helicopter.

Jets can be powered by electric or glow plug ducted fan or miniature gas turbine engines. The gas turbine powered jets require a lot of flying experience and a big budget – the engine alone can cost a couple of thousand dollars. Ultimately, though, scale jets like these look very impressive both on the ground and in the air, and sound just like the real thing too.
Electric ducted fan (EDF) rc jets have become hugely popular in recent years, with foam models widely available. Not really for the beginner, although there are some ‘beginner friendly’ ones out there.

Gliders are aircraft without motors. They are the simplest form of airplane and require the least number of accessories. With an rc glider you have to rely solely on the wind and/or thermals to keep the aircraft airborne. Flying from a slope is a popular way of rc gliding, and there are several methods of launch for flying from a flat field


Powered gliders, also called e-soarers, are essentially gliders with electric motors. The propeller blades fold back when the motor is not in use, flat against the nose of the plane to reduce drag. Most powered gliders have the motor in the nose, but they can also have the motor on a fold-away pod on top of the fuselage, behind the wing.


Blimps are electric powered airships. They vary in design, but all have one thing in common – a helium filled body under which hangs the cabin and motors. The best rc blimps have two or three motors that tilt up and down to control the altitude of the blimp, and rotate to control directional movement. RC blimps are only suitable for flying indoors, or outside on a completely calm day

Multicopters, or drones, are relatively new to the radio control flying hobby and feature three or more electric motors on booms coming out of a central hub or fuselage. These ‘copters are very stable and also agile, and make excellent camera platforms.
RC multicopters are also sometimes sold as ‘RC UFOs’ but the term multicopter has become more common in recent years, with tricopters (3 motors) and quadcopters (4 motors) being the most common. Toy rc UFOs are also available, though usually with a single motor surrounded by an outer foam body.

Autogyros are fairly uncommon and unconventional rc aircraft, but the release in 2012 of a foam electric powered plug and play autogyro has introduced them to otherwise ‘non-rotary’ flyers. Somewhere between a plane and a helicopter, an rc autogyro is a great addition to any aeromodeller’s collection. If you want a different kind of radio control experience, get one of these!


Ornithopters are aircraft that represent birds. True to the real thing, ornithopters are powered through the air by the flapping motion of the wings, and can look very convincing when in flight. There aren’t a huge number available to buy and are not really that popular with serious rc flyers, but are good fun anyway!

Novelty rc aircraft can cover just about anything that isn’t considered to be a conventional rc aircraft. The reality is that almost anything can be made to fly if it has the right design properties – rc flying lawn mowers, witches on sticks and flags are just some examples. These are true ‘novelty aircraft’ and there are several manufacturers who specialise in this kind of rc aircraft for the non-serious modeller.

Whatever your preference, there are many rc aircraft types available these days and there’s sure to be something to suit your needs. If you have access to an rc flight simulator you can try your hand at flying many different aircraft types without actually having to buy any!
The Phoenix rc simulator, for example, includes airplanes, helicopters (single rotor & coaxial), jets, gliders, float planes and even an autogyro.

Flying rc aircraft of any type is an exhilarating and addictive hobby, and one that will give you much satisfaction – guaranteed!


I had originally intended for our last article and this one to be a single write-up. However, as I continued to write more and more on the construction, I realized that the article really needed to be split into two. Also, since detailing and the application of raised rivets is extensible to more than just speed brakes, I figured a single article on this process would be good since it is a process that can be applied to aircraft as a whole. As with the last article, I’ve also included a how-to video to help illustrate the process which is at the end of the article.


Let’s Get Things Ready
buld-an-rc-jet—skyray-88Last time we built our speed brake assemblies to where we had 4 fully functional speed brakes that could be installed into the airframe. However, detailing the internals is quite a bit simpler with the speed brakes outside of the airframe and broken down into their components. The first item of business was to finish the inside speed brake by adding the sheet metal close out surface on the inside. This was cut from 1/64″ ply and glued onto the basswood stiffeners that create our hinge mentioned previously. Additionally, to get a nice sheet metal look to the exposed fiberglass on the inside, 3M glazing putty was used to fill in the voids of the exposed glass cloth. The putty was applied, sanded when cured and lightly primered (I like to use EVERCOAT lacquer primer). When necessary, a second application was applied to ensure the interior was completely smooth. It has to look like metal afterall!


Raised Rivets
From there, raised rivets were added throughout the interior to simulate the full size aircraft as much as possible (I actually placed the raised rivets on the inside liners before even gluing the balsa edges). The rivets used are a laser cut vinyl rivet available from Chad Veich Models. What’s nice about these is that Chad will custom cut whatever size and spacing needed for your project. In the case of the Skyray, I needed two spacings based on what my resources showed.

Note that with these rivets being vinyl, they are most effective as a raised rivet since there will be a raised definition once placed on the surface. Based on that alone, they are not the best choice if one is looking to apply a flush rivet. Flush rivets should be flush to the surface and are more accurate with a recessed definition. I will show how to do flush rivets in a separate article when we get to that on our Skyray. (For flush rivets, I like to use a pin vise and sharpened tube. I plan to use the vinyl rivet carrier from Chad’s raised rivets as a guide when the time comes.)


To apply these raised rivets, it’s simply a matter of plotting out the rivet pattern on the receiving part first with a pencil and applying the vinyl dots along that pattern appropriately. The rivets are transferred by first peeling away the main carrier to expose just the rivets on the backing. A piece of scotch tape (clear so we can see the placement) is then placed over the rivets and a burnishing tool is used (a wood sculpting tool works well) to help transfer the rivets from the backing to the tape. From there, the rivets are placed as appropriate onto the parts. It really is that simple when dealing with these vinyl rivets as they are pre-cut and spaced perfectly for us. The most difficult part is getting the rivets off of the backing and onto the scotch tape. Additionally, if at any time we make a mistake or anything like that, it’s simple to peel away the rivets and start again or add and remove as necessary.

Written by Tina
Take your foam jet experience to the next level
Product review
Photos by Tina,China Freewing manufacruewe



• Model type: EDF jet
• Skill level: Intermediate to advanced
• Wingspan: 44.8 inches
• Wing area: 512 square inches
• Length: 56 inches
• Weight: 129 ounces
• Power system: 90mm electric ducted fan
• Radio: Minimum seven-channel radio/receiver
• Construction: EPO foam
• Street price: $499


Test-model details
• Motor used: Freewing 3748-1550 Kv brushless outrunner (installed)
• Speed controller: Freewing 130-amp brushless with separate 8-amp BEC (installed)
• Battery: Admiral 6S 22.2-volt 5,000 mAh 50C LiPo with EC5 connector
• EDF: Freewing 90mm with 12-blade impeller (installed)
• Radio system: Spektrum Black Edition DX9 DSMX 2.4 GHz transmitter; Spektrum AR8000 DSMX receiver
• Ready-to-fly weight: 129 ounces
• Flight duration: 3 to 4 minutes


• Extremely high level of scale detail.
• High blade count impeller produces excellent thrust, with accompanying realistic-sounding and ear-pleasing acoustics.
• CNC aluminum suspension-equipped struts and sequenced, multipanel gear doors.
• Operational speed brakes and LE slats.
• Multipin wing connectors and wiring interface module help to tame the abundance of wiring.


• Relatively short flight duration.


Product review
Pilots who love flying foam-composition scale jets have, in the past, been forced to make a few obligatory concessions. Until recently, most mass-produced jet models typically featured a meager level of scale detail. Additionally, the electric ducted-fan (EDF) power systems included with many of the kits of yore were underpowered, out of balance, and obnoxiously noisy.

Pilots who preferred any higher level of scale detail and/or a more powerful, better-sounding EDF power system were forced to spend countless hours engineering and improving their jet models. Although that process might be the best part of the hobby to a select few, most prospective EDF jet fliers probably prefer that a model come out of the box already equipped with an impressive level of scale detail and a smooth, appropriately powerful EDF power system preinstalled. Motion RC recently released a series of Freewing Super Scale 90mm EDF jets that are sure to please EDF-loving pilots interested in a scale jet model.

The first kit to be released in the series was the popular T-45 Goshawk. The McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk made its first flight in 1988. This carrier-capable aircraft has since been used extensively by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as a jet flight trainer.

There have been more than a few T-45 kits available to modelers throughout the last few years, most of them done up in the trademark U.S. Navy International orange and white color scheme. Model pilots prone to protest the arrival of “yet another orange and white USN Goshawk” were stopped midsentence by the impressive list of features included with this 90mm EPO foam-composition EDF jet.



Freewing’s 90mm EDF-powered version of the U.S. Navy-themed T-45 Goshawk is stunningly detailed.


The T-45 is available in Plug and Play (PNP) and ARF Plus variants. The former includes all electronic components, while the latter omits the EDF unit and speed controller. The ARF Plus kit is perfect for pilots who prefer to source their own power system. The availability of this option does not infer that the 90mm EDF that Freewing installs in the PNP version is in any way a lackluster performer. To the contrary, this high-performance 90mm EDF uses a 12-blade impeller and endows the T-45 with plenty of thrust!

The long list of scale-enhancing features included with this exquisitely detailed jet is guaranteed to fog the face masks of even the most jaded jet pilots. This model uses worm-gear-driven leading edge (LE) slats. To my knowledge, it is the first time that this unique and fully functional feature has ever been included on a mass-produced model!

Sequenced, multipanel gear doors and trailing link suspension-equipped electric landing gear nicely replicate the geometry and functionality of the full-scale Goshawk’s tricycle landing gear. Rows of plastic vortex generators are positioned slightly aft of the wing’s LEs. Other cool plastic details include a tailhook, functional speed brakes, a pitot tube, and antennae.

A removable cockpit and hatch includes a pair of pilot figures and a nicely detailed cockpit interior. The clear plastic canopy even mimics the explosive cord used to predetonate the full-scale T-45’s canopy milliseconds before the pilots’ ejection seats will fire.

A full array of strobing and fixed navigation lights comes preinstalled, as does a small wiring interface module that helps to manage the abundance of wiring used on this full-featured model.

Finally, Freewing did not simply add a few details to the wings and white stabilizers and call it a U.S. Navy scheme. The impressive number and variety of factory-applied maintenance graphics and U.S. Navy markings adorning every inch of this big Goshawk jet help it live up to its Super Scale moniker!


The PNP version of the T-45 comes out of the box in such an advanced state of completion that there is no need to spend hours at one’s workbench assembling and prepping this detailed jet for its first flights. Pilots pulling the parts out of the box for the first time can instead use the time to savor the incredible variety of included scale details!



The only items that pilots will need to source to get this quick-assembling PNP kit in the air are a seven- to nine-channel receiver and a 6S 50C 5,000 mAh LiPo battery.


An abundance of plastic bits are used to enhance the scale outline of the Goshawk. Notable pieces include a striped tailhook and detailed cockpit with twin pilot figures. The cockpit instrumentation even includes a simulated lighted heads-up display!

Freewing supplements the air supplied to the preinstalled 90mm EDF power system through the scale twin inlet ducts with a large auxiliary air inlet opening, located on the bottom of the fuselage just forward of the fan assembly. A large, rectangular, plastic, louvered inlet panel helps to prohibit the entry of potentially damaging foreign objects and debris.

Best practices when assembling a PNP configuration kit include taking a little time to inspect the integrity of all of the control surface hinges and pushrod connections. Freewing’s use of ball-link-style connectors on the control surface side of the pushrods comes with the advantage of minimal backlash. This can help a model respond more crisply to control inputs and track more precisely in the air and on the ground.

Actual assembly of the airframe involves mounting the horizontal and vertical stabilizer assemblies and two-piece wing. Removable fasteners allow pilots to easily break the model down for transport or replace damaged components when necessary. A little adhesive is required to mount the two different tail cone pieces and to attach the nose cone-mounted pitot tube.

The entire nose cone assembly itself is conveniently engineered to be easily removable and is held in place using magnets. This helps prevent damage to the somewhat delicate component by popping it off for transport and storage. The two wing halves utilize multipin connectors. These conveniently aggregate all of the electronics used in each wing half onto one larger connector. This simplifies wing attachment and removal, and reduces the chances of making wrong connections when assembling the model at the field.

Pilots who want to have independent control of all of the T-45’s features will need to source a minimum eight-channel receiver. A seven-channel receiver can alternately be pressed into service, although this option will require that the slats and flaps are connected to, and driven by, the same channel.

As a longtime Spektrum radio system user, the form factor and number of channels offered by the Spektrum AR8000 DSMX eight-channel receiver made it the obvious choice for this high-performance jet. This full-range receiver’s use of a satellite receiver, which brings the added benefit of multipath redundancy, gives pilots an extra level of confidence. The length of the satellite receiver’s pigtail allowed it to be located forward of the main receiver, near the nose gear retract mechanism.

The black and white assembly manual offers in-depth assembly and component replacement instructions. It includes a complete listing of the 14 servos preinstalled in the airframe, as well as their rotation and the lengths of their leads.

A detailed printout and mapping of the included E04 wiring module assists pilots with the connection of all of the various lights and servo leads. The manual also recommends high- and low-rate throws, the proper center of gravity (CG) location, and that pilots configure the elevator’s neutral position to be slightly biased toward the down position.



This full-featured T-45 includes an abundance of radio connections and wiring; Freewing’s use of the E04 Integrated Circuit Module helps keep it all as neat as possible.


Although the recommended six-cell 22.2-volt 5,000 mAh LiPo battery fits snugly into the battery bay, enough room exists to move it forward and aft for the optimum CG. Those who prefer to source their own high-performance 8S or even 10S EDF power system will want to opt for the ARF Plus version of this kit. The sole difference is that this kit omits the stock Freewing 90mm power system. All other electronics come included and preinstalled exactly as they do in the PNP version.


The importance of performing a thorough preflight routine is imperative. This helps to minimize any in-flight surprises—something most pilots prefer to avoid when flying a larger, high-performance EDF jet model such as the T-45.
Positioning the big Admiral six-cell 5,000 mAh LiPo battery so that its forward edge is even with the Goshawk’s twin intakes balances the airframe within a few millimeters of the recommended CG. The assembly manual recommended a takeoff configuration of half flaps to allow the T-45 to rotate sooner than when takeoffs are performed without the flaps deployed. Whatever takeoff flap configuration a pilot elects to use, the airframe needs time to accelerate to a proper rotation speed.

Although the thrust produced by the Freewing 90mm EDF motivates this 8-pound jet hastily forward, the sound produced by the 12-blade impeller at full throttle is a guaranteed grin generator!

The aluminum trailing link tricycle landing gear nicely absorbs aberrations in the runway surface and helps to keep this jet tracking nicely in the takeoff roll. Only minimal rudder corrections are typically required.

Scale EDF jets fly best when operated in a scalelike manner. The higher wing loading of this airframe precludes pilots yanking and banking it around in the same manner that they would a lightly loaded sport jet. The throttle should generally be kept above 50% at all times and turns should be kept on the gradual side; however, these statements are not intended to infer that this model is difficult to fly.

Keep the speed up and the transmitter inputs controlled and deliberate and the Freewing T-45 will happily cruise around the sky without any bad behavior. High-rate control authority gives a pilot the ability to loop and roll this T-45 with only modest amounts of stick movement required.

The extreme level of out-of-the-box scale detailing, combined with the incredibly smooth, turbine-like sound of the Freewing 90mm EDF power system, give this jet an in-flight appearance and presence that surpasses any EDF model I have experienced!



Freewing’s 12-blade 90mm EDF power system make this jet sound as good as it looks.


The impressive performance offered by this 90mm EDF jet comes with one caveat: typical flight durations using the stock Freewing six-cell 90mm EDF power system will be in the range of three to four minutes.

Although many pilots use a countdown timer to alert them to the need to land, this model is the perfect candidate for the use of a radio telemetry system. Receiving real-time feedback about the voltage of the flight battery enables a pilot to maximize the flight durations of this high-performance model and minimize any chance of accidentally flying this jet into a low-voltage cutoff condition.

Most pilots will agree that the landing is what separates the men from the boys. Freewing’s use of LE and speed brakes on the Goshawk give pilots additional resources that can help bring this big jet safely home every time.

The best landing approaches will occur if pilots give this model a little time to adjust to each applied change in configuration. Quickly and simultaneously dumping flaps, gear, slats and speed brakes can potentially upset the airframe and get a pilot into trouble.

Performing a controlled and traditional rectangular landing approach, with nice extended legs and gradual, arcing transitions through the corners, is a recipe for the perfect, scalelike landing. Well-planned deployment of each individual piece of the airframe should be a pilot’s goal when shooting an approach.

An upwind pass directly over the runway centerline is a great way to visually verify that a pilot has all three landing gear down. The first notch of flaps can be deployed with the jet turning crosswind to downwind. Using a transmitter’s flap speed setting to substantially slow the movement of the flaps allows the jet to settle into the new configuration with minimal pitch changes. Full flaps and slats can be deployed on either the crosswind leg or the base leg.

As the airframe gets “dirty,” pilots will need to actively modulate the throttle to maintain airspeed. Fly the T-45 all the way into the numbers and it can execute the prettiest, nose-high landing approach imaginable!



The suspension-equipped aluminum trailing link landing gear helps the Goshawk “stick” to the runway when landing.


Pilot preference will dictate whether the speed brakes are deployed on final approach or during the landing rollout. The sight of this superbly scalelike model on final, with its nose gear mounted and super bright landing light ablaze, will send a shiver of excitement down the spine of pilots and onlookers alike.


With the availability of this amazingly detailed EPO foam-composition jet, pilots can now buy a turnkey, scale, high-performance military jet at a price point that most hardcore EDF enthusiasts will find perfectly palatable. The included six-cell Freewing 90mm EDF power system amply powers the T-45 to roughly 80 to 85 mph and produces smooth, somewhat turbinelike acoustics that are sure to be a sweet-sounding symphony to the ears of EDF enthusiasts.

Pilots who like to go fast know that speed costs money. Or, in the case of this model, speed comes at the expense of amp draw.

With shorter-than-normal flight durations, which is the sole caveat of this exquisitely detailed PNP kit, pilots who crave a large, highly detailed, and superbly performing scale military jet will assuredly love the way this model looks, sounds, and performs in the air!

Model type: PNP EDF jet
Skill level: Intermediate/advanced
Wingspan: 37 inches
Wing area: 372 square inches
Airfoil: Delta planform wing
Length: 56.3 inches
Weight: 77.6 ounces
Power system: 80mm EDF
Radio: Minimum six-channel recommended
Construction: EPO foam
Covering/finish: Matte Navy gray over matte white



Test-Model Details
Motor: Freewing 3530-1850 Kv brushless outrunner
Battery: Admiral 6S 22.2-volt 4,000 mAh and 5,000 mAh (4,000 to 5,200 mAh with minimum C rating of 35C recommended)
EDF: Freewing 80mm with 12-blade impeller
Speed controller: Freewing 100-amp brushless with EC5 connector
Flight duration: 3.5-minute flights with 4,000 mAh battery


• Nimble performance, efficient power system, excellent power-to-weight ratio.
• Includes both USAF and USMC waterslide graphics schemes, removable stores (two drop tanks, two AGM-12 Bullpup missiles), and removable 20mm cannon barrels and refueling probe.
• Excellent roll, climb, speed, and takeoff characteristics without sacrificing stability.
• Scale landing gear and detailed and functional split flaps.
• Multipin interface boards for easy removal of wings.
• Ball-link connectors on each hinged control surface for crisp performance.


• The nose gear strut is long and might not perform well or hold up to uneven grass or bumpy surfaces.


Product Review
Talk around the flying field and in the online forums made it abundantly clear that a new Freewing 80mm Scale electric ducted-fan (EDF) jet was on the way. Many jet pilots were hoping that the new EDF would be an 80mm A-4E/F Skyhawk. Nicknamed “Scooter,” this Vietnam-era warbird was designed by Ed Heinemann in the 1950s and focused on low-cost, outstanding performance, and a straightforward, durable design.

The famed Heinemann’s Hot Rod boasted a scorching 720° roll rate per second (two complete rolls per second), exceptional subsonic speed, and maneuverability that endeared it to many a military aviator.

The appearance of a large, Plug-N-Play (PNP) 80mm A-4 on the Motion RC website, festooned in either U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Navy graphics with an included scalelike, removable dorsal blister held firmly in place by four strong magnets and plastic guide pins, had many EDF jet pilots jumping for joy!

An initial walk-around of this new EPO foam model reveals how successfully Freewing has rendered the scale lines and unique details of the full-scale aircraft. The model includes an accurately represented plastic molded/painted refueling probe and 20mm cannons, both of which are removable, and large outboard ailerons.

The EPO foam airframe comes out of the box prepainted and ready to accept one of the two included graphics schemes. A full complement of underwing armaments comes with the kit.


Freewing did a commendable job of reproducing the manner in which the ailerons blend into the wingtip area. This attention to scale detail also manifests itself on the elevator surfaces. The result is a truly accurate scale silhouette. A matte Navy gray color covers the upper surfaces, and a matte white covers both sides of each control surface and the underside of the model.

Intakes, fairings, antennae, tailhook, under-wing pylons, and the inclusion of six small, plastic leading edge (LE) aerodynamic “fences” add to the scalelike appearance. Each of the two jet intakes is framed in smooth red plastic, which adds a nice finishing touch in the appearance department and improves the foam composition airframe’s durability.

Scale main gear that rotate 90° before fully retracting into molded wheel bays grace the underside of the delta wing. Also on the underside is an example of a new feature for Freewing aircraft: thinly molded plastic split flaps. The flaps use plastic hinges, are painted red on the inside, and include accurate scale surface details.

Freewing even adds a convex molding that, with the flaps fully lowered, mates into the aft portion of each main gear fairing. Hardcore A-4 aficionados might lament the lack of functional LE slats on the model.

All servos are 9-gram metal gear, except the single elevator servo that is a beefy 17-gram metal gear. Each elevator surface is connected by an inconspicuous plastic spar. This is a different approach from other Freewing aircraft, which typically rely on two servos for each elevator surface.

Wrenching a little on each elevator surface reveals no indication of differential slop or looseness. Every control surface has quality metal pushrods and uses plastic hinges. Ball-link connectors are used on all servo horns. This hardware is a must for any intermediate-to-advanced model! Bravo to Freewing for taking its aircraft in this direction.

A slightly elongated nose gear strut results in the Freewing A-4 sitting on its landing gear in a manner that is similar to the full-scale aircraft. The small nose cone is easily removed from its magnetic holders and the tip is molded plastic.

The kit includes two accurately represented large EPO foam fuel tanks. These tanks were often used on the full-scale aircraft and they do justice to the Freewing A-4’s scale silhouette.

Also included are two AGM-12 Bullpup missiles. All stores are easily added to or subtracted from the A-4 via four underside stores pylons and associated magnetized fasteners.


Assembly is straightforward, with both wing halves, elevator, and vertical stabilizer going together using the supplied screws. The kit includes the requisite tube of contact-style glue. It can be used to attach the antennae, fences, stores pylons, tailhook, and exhaust nozzle.


This PNP kit includes a silky-smooth 80mm Freewing EDF power system and assembles using fasteners and adhesive.


To easily remove the wing, Freewing uses multipin boards to aggregate aileron, flaps, and landing gear servo leads. The manual provides detailed instructions on pushrod/clevis/control horn setup with low- and high-rate settings for all control surfaces. The manual also includes recommendations for setting the flap deflection and elevator mixing in a pilot’s transmitter. It is recommended that modelers follow these instructions verbatim.

In connection with attaining the correct center of gravity (CG), there is an addendum in the manual that states that loading stores (the fuel tanks and/or missiles) will cause the CG to move slightly aft. To counter this, pilots should add their desired stores, check the CG, and then make any appropriate adjustments by repositioning the battery in the fuselage. The battery tray is lightweight wood stock. Pilots should mark the wood with a pen for the correct CG location when using different size batteries and also mark any CG differences resulting from stores options.

Add a receiver, secure a six-cell 4,000 to 5,200 mAh battery (there is plenty of room) in place with the supplied hook-and-loop strap, snap the spring-loaded, latch-equipped canopy in place, and this A-4 is ready to fly.


With setups and rates settings replicated according to the manual, high rates were selected for everything except the elevator. Thirty percent exponential was programmed all the way around. When performing the maiden flight on a new EDF, underwing ordnance can often improve visual orientation and even improve stability. With that thought in mind, the AGM-12 Bullpup missiles were loaded to the outer pylons.

A freshly charged 35C Admiral 6S 4,000 mAh battery was loaded all the way forward in the fuselage and the CG was verified. Pre-maiden flight thoughts that jet pilots might find themselves musing about include whether the nose-high posture of the A-4 will enable premature rotation during takeoffs and whether the relatively small delta wing, equipped with large outboard ailerons, coupled with an airframe that appears to have a higher CG, will create a model that is twitchy on the ground and dynamically unstable aloft.

The runway at the local club is constructed of a typical geotextile material and is relatively smooth. Slowly advancing the throttle spun the 12-blade Freewing impeller to life and created an incredible-sounding metallic whine and whoosh. The A-4 tracked straight and true down the runway, and with a little back elevator applied, transitioned into a clean rotation with a positive rate of climb.

The A-4 showed no sign of springing into the air on its own because of its nose-high stance. Many of the Freewing EDF jets are excellent at storing energy in the form of airspeed and do not necessarily depend on an excess of raw thrust.

At medium altitude, aerobatic maneuvers can be initiated at half throttle. Half Cuban 8s and full Cuban 8s, when performed in this manner, allow the model to zoom over the top without a hint of stall or elevator mush from an excessive loss of airspeed. Inverted flight requires little corrective elevator input. The A-4 feels as though it is on rails when performing full-flap, low-altitude passes on the deck. Aileron rolls at a mere half deflection of the right stick will cause this A-4 to perform some incredibly crisp, amazingly axial, and almost blindingly fast rolls.

The 80mm fan sounds smooth right out of the box, with no audible undulations, lack of power, or indications of imbalance at any throttle setting. Elevator response is precise, with the 17-gram metal gear servo capably doing its job.

Pilots will want to play it safe and start the transition into the landing pattern at approximately 31/2 minutes into the flight. Best practices for landing include dropping the gear and a first notch of flaps when on the downwind leg. A wide, gradual descent and decrease of power/altitude during the downwind leg and on through to base and final works best. Keep the turns shallow, with a little rudder added. The outline of this Vietnam War-era jet coming down the pipe with a steady rate of descent and constant angle of attack is amazing.

Decrease the power and the A-4 will touch down smoothly with plenty of runway left. Pilots need not feel concern that the scale split flaps are all drag and no lift. Freewing got the wing area and camber right and the result is a jet that is predictable and even slightly floaty on final approach. A 31/2-minute flight saw the 4,000 mAh six-cell LiPo battery with roughly 30% capacity left.


The 80mm Freewing A-4E/F Skyhawk, the latest Vietnam-era EDF in the Freewing lineup, is what many EDF enthusiasts have been waiting for. It has a big 90mm feel to it and an imposing presence in the air and on the ground. This A-4’s shortcomings are difficult to find. Although the main gear is large enough for operations from unimproved fields, the length of the nose gear and smaller wheel size could make grass operations slightly difficult.

The included military waterslide graphics look great, but pilots might wish to apply a coat or two of water-based polyurethane clear coating to help keep them firmly in place. And the large size of this 80mm airframe fairly begs for additional nomenclature markings!


Scalelike details include a tailhook, removable gun barrels, and a removable refueling probe. Pilots can choose to fly the A-4 with the magnetically retained avionics hump in place, effectively and instantly transforming the Skyhawk between an E and F variant.


This A-4 is a confidence-inspiring, scalelike performance machine. Any pilot with basic radio programming skills will have no trouble dialing up or down the desired level of performance commensurate to his or her piloting ability. Freewing and Motion RC have done a service to Scale aircraft modeling by designing this A-4 and remembering that durability, simplicity, excellent performance, and reasonable cost have their place. Heinemann would applaud!

how to pre-flight checks.

The purpose of pre-flight checks is to ensure that your rc plane is in a fit condition to fly, and that everything is working as it should be. Exact pre-flight checks might differ from plane to plane, but there are some fundamental checks that all rc airplanes need to have done, immediately before flight.

If you neglect to carry out the pre-flight checks before you fly your rc airplane, and something is badly amiss, then an avoidable crash is very likely. Many rc pilots have lost their beloved aircraft seconds after take off, simply because they didn’t do the checks!

Your first and foremost point of reference for the exact pre-flight checks needed for your particular airplane should be the instruction manual (DVD or CD ROM) that came with the plane. But, failing that, listed below (in no particular order) are the minimum checks that you need to carry out before you take off…

All servos are secure, and linkages to servo and control surfaces are secure.
Servo horns and control horns are secure and not loose.
Servo linkages are able to move freely and are not binding.
All servo connections to the receiver, battery pack and ESC are secure and correct.
The receiver and motor battery pack are securely fixed and cannot move during flight.
Receiver antenna (aerial) is correctly positioned and not damaged.
The propeller nut is tight / spinner is secure.
The wing and tailplane (and fin) are secured properly, as per the instructions (i.e. with the correct method of fixing; rubber bands or wing nuts etc.)
All control surfaces move in the correct sense i.e. moving the rudder stick left moves the rudder to the left.
All control surface hinges are secure i.e. you can’t pull the control surface away from its respective flying surface.
The motor power works correctly.
The radio failsafe is set and working correctly.
A range check.
This last one, the range check, is very important so we’ll cover it in more detail…

The purpose of the range check is to make sure the radio signal from transmitter to receiver is strong, so that you can fly your rc airplane at a normal distance away from you without it going out of radio range. If your plane does go out of range, then you lose all control.

Perform a range check with a MHz radio system thus:
Switch on the transmitter then the receiver, and with the transmitter antenna fully collapsed (i.e. down), walk backwards away from the airplane for 30 paces or so. As you walk away from the plane, keep moving the control surface sticks of the Tx (not the motor – keep that stick fully down!) and closely watch the respective control surfaces of the airplane.

If you only get a short distance away and the surfaces start ‘twitching’ or not responding properly to your stick movements, do not fly. Check the batteries of the radio gear, they may need replacing – low batteries in the transmitter drastically reduce the radio range. Also check for loose connections to the receiver etc., and also the condition of the antenna(s).

If the batteries and connections are OK but the control surfaces still don’t respond properly, then other people may be using your frequency nearby. Again, do not fly if this is the case. Interference is a big killer of rc airplanes, and you need to be sure that your frequency is clear before you get airborne.

An rc airplane range check with a 2.4GHz radio system is slightly different, in that the antenna cannot be collapsed. You will have to refer to your radio instruction manual to see the correct range check procedure for your exact radio, as different manufacturers use different methods of activating the range check mode in a 2.4GHz radio.
Whichever method is involved, a 2.4GHz transmitter in range check mode sends out the signals with a reduced voltage, thus producing a weaker signal.
The rest of the check is performed in the same way as explained above.

Regardless of whether you have a MHz or 2.4GHz system, do not fly your plane if you see that control surface response becomes unreliable before you reach 30 paces or so away from the plane. You need to identify and rectify before you fly!

Always always always take a few minutes to perform these rc airplane pre-flight checks before you commence your flying session. Get in to the habit of pre-flighting your plane every time; the checks take just a couple of minutes to do and will save you the grief of a crashed airplane, if something is amiss.

where to fly rc airplanes

his rc flight school page will help you choose a suitable location from where to fly your rc airplane. Pay attention to this one, because flying in the wrong place can be potentially very damaging to our hobby, especially since the rise of the drones and some associated negative press that the hobby has had in recent times!

Club, private land or public area?
These are pretty much your three options for finding somewhere to fly rc airplanes.

It could be that you have an rc flying club close to where you live – use the rc airplane club directory in this website to see if there’s one within a convenient distance from home. If there is, do consider joining especially if you’re thinking of flying IC powered planes. Such airplanes are more involved than your typical electric park flyer, so help from other modellers is always a good thing.

If there’s a club nearby but you don’t want to join, it’s a very good idea to pop along to their field one weekend and talk to the members about flying in the area. Frequency interference is a very serious issue and can’t be ignored if there’s potential for conflict.

While it’s true that most of us are using 2.4GHz radios these days, it’s still very possible that you have bought an rc airplane that utilises a traditional MHz radio system. This is where you have to be very concerned about radio interference from or to other flyers nearby. If you and another flyer are both using a MHz radio within close range (a mile or less) then you need to be sure about who is on which frequency.

Flying your rc airplane from private landIf you’re lucky enough to have access to private open land – either your own or a friendly farmer’s – then you can fly from this so long as you have permission to do so. Private land is the preferable option over flying from somewhere public, because you can pretty much do what you like when you like, without the worry of being yelled at by a member of the public who doesn’t like rc airplanes!

Your final option is to fly your plane from a public area. Depending on the size and type of your airplane, suitable locations include public parks, sports fields, ball parks, beaches, open hill sides…. You get the idea.

The crucial thing to remember when flying in a public area is safety. Read these rc flying do’s and don’ts for flying your rc airplane from such a place, and always use common sense and act responsibly.

As strange as it might seem, not everyone in the world enjoys watching an rc airplane zooming around the sky. It only takes the wrong kind of person to complain to a local authority, and that location can quickly and easily be shut down to model flyers. So always always think about where you’re flying, and be responsible. None of us want this hobby to get a bad reputation.

On that note, the radio control flying hobby has never been in the public eye as much as it now, thanks to the popularity of rc drones. We’re all at risk of being caught up in strict new rules and regulations, so choosing a suitable flying site is more important now than it ever has been. And watch this space, because things are only set to become tighter as governing bodies crack down on UAV operations.

Wherever you want to fly from, your flying location needs to be open and spacious. The size of your plane will determine what size area you need to fly in, but for, say, a 40 inch wingspan electric RTF airplane a ball park would provide ample airspace – that should give you an idea of the kind of area you should be looking for.

Tip: when searching for local flying sites, use Google Earth, Google Maps or Windows Live satellite imagery – it’s simply the best way of searching your area quickly!

Other things to note when looking at where to fly rc airplanes include:

Presence of objects such as trees, posts, pylons, lights, power lines etc.
How close members of the public will be to you while you’re flying.
Proximity of houses, schools, offices, shops etc.
Proximity of roads and highways; rc planes can be a big distraction to some drivers.
The bottom line is that you need a large(ish) open space where there is no danger of causing trouble, being a nuisance or risking damage to people or property. And on that note, you absolutely must check local regulations and laws to see if flying radio control aircraft is even permitted. If it’s not, and you take to the skies, you could well have an angry official breathing down your neck and writing you a ticket!

Another point to make is that of the sun position. The last thing you want is to be flying across the sun (this is a definite no-no), so do pay attention to where the sun is in relation to where you’ll be flying. The ideal situation is for the sun to be behind you so there’s no danger of being blinded as you’re flying.

RC flying insurance.
Another hugely important point you need to consider is public liability insurance.

It’s not so critical if you’re flying from private land (although still recommended), and if you join a club then insurance is usually mandatory anyway, but if you’re flying from public land then it’s well worth taking it out. Model flying liability insurance protects you against damage to people and property, which can easily happen in unfortunate circumstances.

Your national governing body for model flying will be able to help you, here are some links for western countries:

AMA for the USA.
MAAC for Canada.
BMFA for the UK.
MAAA for Australia.
MFNZ for New Zealand.
Third party liability insurance for rc flying isn’t expensive and will give you good peace of mind. Take some time to look in to it and contact your appropriate organisation from the list above for further information.

If you follow all the pointers on this page, you should be able to find where to fly rc airplanes safely. Most of us are close to some kind of open land, but you do need to think through your flying site and weigh up the pros and cons of the location. Be safe, and be responsible when deciding where to fly!

this rc flight school page will get you preparing your RTF rc airplane for flight, including charging and installing the batteries.

Final assembly of your RC airplane.
As you know by now, this rc airplane flight school is focusing on a typical electric Ready To Fly ‘park flyer’ type plane, and by this stage you’ve bought it and spent some time studying the manual and getting familiar with your airplane.

Final assembly of an RTF rc airplane is nothing more than fixing a few pieces into position, notably the wing and, more than likely, the tailplane. You might also need to slot the landing gear into place and possibly fit the propeller and spinner.

This is all easy stuff, and you just need to carefully follow the manual step by step to make sure that it’s all done properly. Take your time and triple check everything, cross-reference with the manual a final time when you’ve finished, and be 100% sure that you’ve done it all right!

Of course, if you’ve bought an Ultra Micro type rc plane such as the popular HobbyZone Champ then there’s really not much for you to do at all, as these planes generally come out the box in one piece!

Final assembly of an RTF plane
Above: final assembly of an RTF rc plane doesn’t take long,
but make sure you do it right!

Depending on the size of your airplane and where your flying site is in relation to home, you might need to transport the wing unattached and fix it when you get to the field. This is quite normal; have a few practice runs fixing the wing at home so you don’t need to refer to the manual when you’re at the field.

Another thing you may or may not need to do is attach the propeller. This should also be a simple task, you just need to make sure you put it on the right way (if there are numbers on the prop, these usually face forwards) and make sure to do the securing nut up tightly. But be careful not to over tighten and strip the thread, this would be a disaster!

Transmitter batteries.
Brands like HobbyZone and ParkZone include the transmitter batteries in the box, but unfortunately many RTF electric rc airplanes don’t come with the transmitter batteries supplied. This means you need to purchase them separately, and if this is the case you have two options…

Dry alkaline cellsThe first option is to use good quality disposable alkaline cells (i.e. non-rechargeable). They shouldn’t be your local supermarket’s home brand cheapies, they should be from a reputable brand (Duracell, Energizer, EverReady, Panasonic…) and new – don’t go digging around the bottom drawer of the kitchen cabinet emptying old flashlights!

The reason you need good cells is simple – the signal from the transmitter to the receiver has to be as strong as possible, and this can only happen with good cells in the transmitter. If the signal is weak, your airplane will quickly go out of radio range and you’ll lose control.

Rechargeable NiMH cellsYour second option is to use rechargeable cells. They’re more expensive than disposable alkaline cells but are cheaper in the long run – good quality NiMH (nickel metal-hydride) cells last for around 1000 charges or so, and one set of rechargeable cells is a darn sight cheaper than 1000 sets of disposables!

Of course, with rechargeable cells you need a suitable charger but good chargers can be bought quite cheaply these days.
If you do opt for rechargeables and need to buy a charger, be very sure that you’re buying one appropriate for the cells that you have. If you have any doubt at all, check with the seller.

Installing the batteries into the transmitter is a straightforward task – pay attention to the polarity and make sure each cell is secure and not loose. When they’re all in, place the battery compartment cover in place and make sure that it’s secure too.

It’s possible that your transmitter can take a soldered pack of cells. This is the best option of all and it’s worth spending the money on a good quality pack, if your Tx is suitable.

Motor battery pack.
Modern electric rc airplanes almost always get their receiver power from the motor battery pack, via the ESC (electronic speed controller).

If you’ve bought an RTF rc airplane the pack will be included and you should have a charger for it in the box also. If a charger didn’t come with the plane, you’ll need to buy one and, again, be 100% certain that the charger is compatible with the pack. This is especially important for li-po (lithium polymer) motor battery packs which can only be charged with a li-po charger, not one that’s only meant for NiCDs or NiMH cells. There’s a serious fire risk by using an incompatible charger.

NiMH & Li-Po motor battery pack
Above: your RTF airplane will have either an NiMH (left) or li-po (right)
motor battery pack – charge them carefully!

Charging the battery pack correctly is of paramount importance if you’re to keep the pack in tip-top condition, and you’ll need to follow the recommendations for your specific pack very closely. View the battery charging as a serious part of your rc flying, and don’t cut corners on the process. Again, the instruction manual is very much your friend here!

Once charged, secure the pack into the airplane exactly as the manual tells you to. In an RTF plane, you probably won’t have much choice of where to place it because there will be a specific location or compartment for it to go into.

The pack needs to be very secure because any fore-aft movement of the pack during flight is potentially going to effect the airplane’s Centre of Gravity, and this could be bad news. You’ll learn more about this in the next lesson…

Checking control surface movement.
Setting up your rc plane correctly is crucial to its survival. Getting the control surface movements correct before you go flying is of paramount importance, and yet unbelievably some rc pilots (and not always beginners…) take off their plane with reversed controls (pre-flight checks are covered later), and they wonder why the plane crashes a few seconds after take off.

Check the rc transmitter modes page to make sure your plane is responding correctly to your stick inputs, but here is a general summary of control surface movement in relation to stick movement…

Elevator stick back = up elevator.
Elevator stick forward = down elevator.
Rudder stick left = left rudder (when viewed from above).
Rudder stick right = right rudder.
Aileron stick left = left aileron up, right one down.
Aileron stick right = left aileron down, right one up.
Throttle stick back = motor completely off.
Throttle stick forward = motor on.
The amount of deflection of the control surfaces, i.e. how far they move, should be outlined in the instruction manual. Deflection amounts can be adjusted electronically if you have a computer radio (in the ‘Travel Adjustment’ or ‘End Point Adjustment’ menu) or manually otherwise.

To adjust manually simply move the linkage to a different hole on either the servo horn or the control horn.
Moving the linkage to an outer hole on the servo horn increases the deflection of the control surface, an inner hole decreases deflection. Conversely, moving to an outer hole on the control horn decreases deflection whilst an inner hole increases it.

Make any necessary adjustments to match the amounts given in the instructions. If you’ve bought a good RTF and it’s been set up well in the factory, you probably won’t need to adjust anything – but it’s always worth checking.

Setting & checking the failsafe.
The failsafe is a vitally important part of setting up your new plane, and referring to your instruction manual is the thing to do here.

Essentially, a failsafe is a function of your radio (only the simplest transmitter won’t have one) whereby if the radio link between transmitter and receiver is lost, then the motor and possibly the servos go to pre-set positions. In the case of the motor, it should stop – this prevents a flyaway and reduces potential damage on impact.

Your rc failsafe should be set as per the instructions, and should be tested by powering up the transmitter and airplane, running the motor (with the model safely restrained of course) and then switching off the transmitter. If the failsafe is set correctly, the motor will cut a second or so after the radio link is lost.

For more advanced radios and models, the receiver can be programmed to move the servos to pre-set positions on loss of the radio link -for example deploying flaps and setting the rudder slightly. Again, consult your radio manual for details on this.

If you’re not convinced about the importance of the failsafe, then perhaps knowing that setting the failsafe is a legal requirement in some countries might convince you! For example, in the UK our third party model flying insurance becomes invalid if the failsafe is not set.

Well that should leave you with your rc airplane prepped and ready for action, more or less.

Now that you’ve followed the advice in lesson 1 and bought your first rc airplane, it’s time to open the box and get familiar with it!

This might not seem like an important rc flight school lesson, but it actually is – albeit a very short one. Getting to know your rc airplane inside and out will maximise your enjoyment from it and help you greatly in those times ahead when you’re fixing it after a crash.
So take your time with this one, and don’t just rush out to the flying field before you’ve finished taking it out the box!

Study the manual.
For the purpose of this page, we’re going to assume that you’ve either bought an RTF electric airplane or that you’ve built from a kit or an ARF. Either way, as far as this lesson is concerned, your plane is complete and doesn’t need anything more than basic final assembly to finish it.

Get to know your rc airplane – read instructions well!The first thing you need to do is gather together all the parts and familiarise yourself with everything. And, more than likely, this will mean reading the manual.

Don’t be tempted to quickly skim through the manual and think “OK, that all looks easy enough, where’s the nearest park?…” and throw the manual back in the box. Take your time to study the manual carefully and get comfortable with everything; which transmitter sticks do what, how things should be connected, how the wing has to be secured, what to check for before flying…. If it’s in the manual, learn it!
And of course, many RTF electric rc airplanes these days include an instructional DVD or CD Rom – if there is one, watch it several times until you’re completely familiar with your plane’s workings.

The real key to understanding an instruction manual/disc is to go through it once before doing anything with the plane, and then go through it again step-by-step, with the plane on the bench. The second (or third) time you read the manual, things won’t be so alien to you and you can easily relate the instructions to the plane as you work through them.

If the manual isn’t up to scratch, or there’s something – anything – about your airplane that you don’t understand, take some time to join an internet forum to ask for help. The two biggest are RC Groups and RC Universe.

buying your RC airplane.
As a newcomer to the radio control flying hobby, choosing and buying your rc airplane correctly is going to have a big impact on your initial enjoyment of radio control flying.
Why? Simply because if you buy an airplane that’s not suitable for a beginner, or is of poor quality, you’ll have a nasty first experience with it and you’ll very likely be put off rc flying for life – so please don’t let that happen!

What to look for when buying your RC airplane
Design configuration.

For your first radio control airplane you need something that is stable and forgiving. This is so important, and many beginners are too tempted to buy an rc plane that looks cool or can fly fast, without giving much thought to how easy the thing is to control. Big mistake!

The perfect airplane to learn to fly on is a high wing trainer. By ‘high wing’ we mean that the wing sits on top of the fuselage, and this configuration means lots of stability in the air – exactly what you need when learning to fly radio control.

HobbyZone’s Sport Cub S beginner rc airplane
Above: HobbyZone’s Sport Cub S is the classic
trainer configuration.

High wing airplanes are stable and forgiving because the weight of the fuselage below the wing always acts to stabilise the airplane in flight. A high wing plane will always want to right itself naturally after a turn and this action really helps you out when learning to fly.

The other thing you need to look for when buying your first rc airplane is noticeable dihedral. This is the upward ‘V’ angle of the wings when viewed from the front. The more dihedral the wings have, the more stable the airplane is going to be (up to a point).
Again, this is because of the ‘pendulum’ effect of the fuselage hanging below the wing; the lower the centre of gravity is in relation to the wing surfaces, the more stability there is.

Dihedral angle of a wing
Above: look for the obvious upward dihedral angle of the wings,
when viewed from the front.

Another reason for dihedral (in fact, the principal technical reason) is that airplanes that do not have ailerons, i.e. they rely solely on rudder for turning, need dihedral to aid the turn. As rudder is applied, the plane yaws to that direction and the dihedral then forces the plane in to a banked turn.
RC airplanes that do have ailerons will have noticeably less dihedral than those without, as a general rule.

So then, for your first rc airplane you should be looking for a high wing configuration with good dihedral – the classic ‘trainer’ design.

Power type.
You might have already decided whether you want to fly a plane with an engine (IC: Internal Combustion power, commonly glow plug) or one with an electric motor (EP: Electric Power), but if you haven’t then here are some pros and cons to consider…

EP rc airplanes are a lot more beginner friendly; they are cheaper to buy and to fly, they require less accessories, they have less of a nuisance factor because they are quieter, and they are more welcome in public places (where rc flying is permitted, of course).

Conversely, a glow plug powered plane (or any IC one) requires more accessories because of starting and maintaining the engine, you’ll have ongoing fuel costs, they generate much higher noise levels and are, generally speaking, larger and more expensive than EP beginner planes.
Club membership and access to a proper flying site or private land is more of a requirement with an IC powered rc plane, since they are not as welcome in public places because of the noise.

So if you’re on the fence and can’t decide which power type to go for, go with electric – you’ll have an easier, cheaper and cleaner introduction to the hobby of radio control flying. There’s no question about that.
If you love the smell of burned fuel and the noise of an engine, go with IC. More thoughts on IC vs. EP.

How many channels (controllable functions)?
This is an important question and, again, choosing badly could determine how much fun you have with your new rc airplane.

For the simpler ‘Park Flyer’ type electric rc airplanes (the ones we’re focusing on in this flight school) 3 channel planes are most common for self-teaching.

Single and two channel rc airplanes are available but they are more toys than anything else, and not worth spending any money on if you’re serious about the hobby. A two channel rc airplane is easy to fly but very limited in what it can do.

So, for a true taste of radio control flying, a three channel plane is what you really need. A 3 channel plane will have control to motor, elevator and rudder although an optional 3 channel configuration is motor, elevator and ailerons. A rudder is more commonplace on beginner rc airplanes though – ailerons tend to be on faster planes capable of more aerobatics, where they need the capability to roll smoothly – which aileron control gives.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you diving right in with a 4 channel trainer such as the E-flite Apprentice 15e, for example. Such an rc airplane isn’t quite as straightforward to self-teach with but ultimately they are more rewarding to fly.

A four channel rc plane will have control to motor power, ailerons, rudder and elevator – that extra channel (ailerons) does steepen the learning curve somewhat because of the extra co-ordination needed, that’s why self-teaching on such a plane isn’t as easy as on a three channel one.

2, 3 and 4 channel rc airplanes
Above: the Firebird Commander 2, Super Cub LP and Apprentice 15e
electric RTF rc airplanes – 2, 3 & 4 channels respectively and all meant for beginners.

For the purpose of this RC Airplane World Flight School though, we’ll stick with a 3 channel airplane with motor, elevator and rudder control, something like HobbyZone’s Sport Cub S.

Kit, ARF or RTF?
The ‘completeness’ of your first rc airplane is purely down to your own personal preference.

Buying your rc airplane – kitA kit involves building the plane from a box of pieces over a plan. Very satisfying, but you need a fair knowledge of model building skills to do it well and you’ll need to buy the motor, ESC, battery pack and radio gear separately.

Unless you really want a traditionally constructed balsa/ply trainer as your first plane, it’s not advisable. Learn to fly first before risking the horrors of crashing a plane that’s taken you much time and effort to build!

If you buy an ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) rc airplane it will be about 90% finished. You just need to buy the motor, ESC, battery pack and radio gear separately and install it all yourself. Again, some modelling knowledge is required but there won’t be much building to worry about.

ARFs make an excellent introduction to model airplane construction, if you do want to get involved in that side of the hobby as well as the flying (learn more about ARFs).

Buying your rc airplane – RTFBuying an RTF (Ready To Fly) plane is your best option if you just want to get flying in the least amount of time. RTF rc airplanes come fully finished with all electronics (motor & radio) installed. There’s nothing for you to do apart from some very basic assembly work (eg attaching wing to fuselage), charge the battery pack, install the transmitter batteries and fly.

Electric powered (EP) beginner RTF planes have attracted a huge number of newcomers to the hobby in recent years; they’re affordable, convenient and offer the quickest route to getting airborne. Primarily of foam construction they are tough too, but easily repairable should the worst happen (learn more about RTFs). Talking of which….

Spare parts availability.
REALITY CHECK : it’s a fact of the radio control flying hobby that crashing is all part of the action!
When you’re learning how to fly rc airplanes the chances are good that you will crash sooner or later – and if you’re a complete newbie, then it’ll probably be sooner!

Having an off-the-shelf supply of spare parts is very convenient, and when you’re looking around at buying your first rc airplane do take the time to check whether spare parts are available. Certainly brands such as HobbyZone and ParkZone, for example, carry all the parts you could wish for.
Generally speaking, spare parts for foam RTFs are quite cheap – much cheaper than parts for a balsa/ply plane.

If you buy an rc airplane that doesn’t have a good back-up of parts behind it you’re in for some potentially dodgy repairs that could seriously impede the safety and performance of your plane, post-crash.

Where to buy your RC airplane.
If you’ve got a local hobby store, the best thing you can do is pop along and have a chat. My website will give you all the info you need to understand what you should be buying, but talking face to face with an rc enthusiast is better. And helping support your LHS is the right thing to do – many many rc shops have gone out of business in recent times due to low profit margins and tough competition.

But beware! There are some unscrupulous shop owners out there who are interested in nothing more than getting hold of your hard-earned cash – they might not have your best interests at heart when it comes to you actually learning to fly. Selling a newbie something expensive and completely unsuitable sadly happens from time to time.

If you do buy from a shop, be happy that they’re selling you something appropriate and not just the most expensive aircraft in their shop that you’ll smash on its maiden flight, and so you’ll be back to buy another…

Buying online is your other option and that’s perfectly acceptable. Stay close to the advice and info in this page and the website in general and you won’t go far wrong. But again, be careful – we all know the internet is a minefield.

Amazon is actually a safe place to buy rc stuff these days; all the big manufacturers sell there directly now, as well as smaller independent ones.

And then of course there’s good ol’ eBay, but don’t be tempted to buy something cheap and nasty from China or Hong Kong from a brand you’ve never heard of, just because the price is too good to be true (if it is, then it probably is!). If in doubt research the airplane you’re thinking of buying – ask around, check forums, check out videos of it on YouTube – in short, just be aware of exactly what you’re buying, and from who.

Well the above pointers should give you an idea of what to look for in your first plane. If you want more detailed information on the above, and getting in to rc flying in general, check out my popular ebook The Beginner’s Guide To Flying RC Airplanes.