Flying RC Planes: How To Choose & How To Fly One

Flying RC Planes
Written by Jack Brown

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RC planes are quite an old hobby and they were here even before drones. This proves how great they are and how much people actually enjoy flying RC planes. A great advantage is the fact that they come in different sizes and with different features, so you can always get the most interesting unit that suits you the best.

However, it also means that choosing the best one is complicated and you can end up with a unit that doesn’t satisfy your needs. In any case, you are going to need a bit of help when it comes to choosing and flying RC planes. Each model is different when we mention features and physical characteristics.

RC plane in the air flying

The first fact you should know is that flying these units is interesting but can be complicated, especially for beginners. On the other side, some units are more focused towards beginners, so they are equipped with features that make flying simpler and easier. So don’t be scared if you’ve never played with an RC plane before, there’s a start for everyone!

Features that make flying easy

3 or 4 channels

This is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing your first RC plane. In general, 3 channel planes are simpler to fly, due to the fact that they offer fewer controls, so they are perfect for beginners. You will be able to control the rotor, altitude and others.

Simple 3 channel plane

On the other side, 4 channel planes are a bit more complicated to fly, but they come with better features, so we can treat them as advanced units. Simply said, 3 channel planes are a much better choice that is probably the best option, in this case.

Ready to fly (RTF)

When it comes to choosing the best RC plane for beginners, the ready to fly feature is mandatory. It means that your unit will be ready to fly as soon you get it, so it doesn’t require assembling nor anything else. If you are not a beginner and you like assembling your unit, this feature isn’t mandatory.

Ready to fly RC plane

An interesting fact is that pre-assembled planes are more durable and stronger than those that come as a kit and the user has to assemble. RTF versions can withstand rough landings and similar issues, and you can get much more familiar with this topic by reading our article about RTF RC planes, as well as find out which are the best RTF models

Low speed

You may know that RC planes can reach amazing speeds in the air. Actually, this is the main reason why they are so popular nowadays. However, not all of them are great choices for beginners, simply due to the fact the speeds they can reach are very high, which means that controlling them is more difficult.

In any case, choosing an RC plane with a lower speed is more than just recommended, and it should be taken into account. Don’t think of this as a negative fact, simply because the slower an RC plane is, it will be easier to fly and the risk of an accident is lower. This way, your unit will last for a longer period of time. Once you are ready, you can get a model with a higher top speed, so you will get all the benefits it has to offer.

The materials

Due to the fact that RC planes are made from different materials, there is a plethora of models in the market. However, if you are a beginner, you are going to need a more durable and stronger plane, made from more durable materials. By choosing a model with these advantages, you can be sure that it will last for a long time and it will be more resistant to possible issues and damages. For more information about models suitable for people new in this hobby, check out our article about best RC plane models for beginners.

Beginner rc plane

In any case, this is a mandatory factor that should be taken into account and it can help you use that unit for a longer period of time. Keep in mind that units made from heavy duty plastics and those that have carbon fiber components are more durable.

Spare parts

Even though you actually manage to get the best RC plane for beginners, you will be crashing it. There is no doubt to this, no matter how good and careful you are! That’s why this is something that should be taken into account and with this, it is mandatory to consider spare parts and their availability.

Spare parts

Just think for a bit: how would it be to have the best flying toy but no spare parts? This will definitely suck because you will be forced to buy a new one the second you crash it to the ceiling or the wall.

Flying an RC plane for the first time

Just like with most things you do for the first time, the first flying will seem difficult. However, as your hands and brain learn the controls, things get simpler really fast. Also, if you have selected your model, based on the factors mentioned above, you will get the simplest plane. This means flying will be easier than you can imagine.

Flying an RC plane for the first time

In any case, you should follow the directions below as they are important for first time flyers.

  1. Check the plane and transmitter. This is the first and most important step. In essence, you are going to check the plane and the transmitter, so you can be positive that all components are in a great shape, so the plane is ready to fly. Make sure you check how the transmitter works and are all the controls fully usable. In addition, make sure all the components work and they are ready to withstand the first flight.
  2. Check the modes. An RC plane has several flying modes, usually known as mode 1, mode 2 and so on. But they depend on your country, so reading the manual may help you choose the correct mode. For example, in the United States, mode 2 is the most commonly used, so choosing it will be the best choice you can make. In any case, you can check different modes and find the one that suits you the best, so the flying can start.
  3. Perform a range check. A range check is something that is mandatory, but most beginners forget about it, so they make a mistake. In essence, you should turn on the transmitter and the plane and walk 100 meters afar, in order to determine which range the plane in question has to offer. Keep in mind that this can be obtained from a manual, but some manufacturers claim that the range is bigger than it is actually is, so this can cause certain issues.
    In any case, performing this check is mandatory and all professionals do it. In addition, obstacles and the weather condition affect the range, so this should be performed every time you are planning to fly your RC plane.
  4. Determine the speed of the wind. RC planes may fly in different situations and in different weather conditions, but in some cases, they cannot fly. In any case, tie a ribbon on the antenna of the transmitter, in order to determine the speed of the wind. If it is 20 degrees, you can start, but if the ribbon is parallel to the ground, you won’t be able to fly, so you will have to wait the next time. This is another check that should be performed every time you are planning to fly, so don’t forget that it is mandatory.
  5. Check the direction of the wind. Use grass or anything that moves with the wind naturally, so you can check the direction of the wind. The biggest mistake, most beginners make is trying to fly the plane in the same direction as the wind, which causes a lot of issues. In any case, it is mandatory to remember that you should fly the plane into the wind. It may sound strange, but all professionals do this, so it is something you will have to do as well.
  6. Start the flying procedure. After the checking is completed, you can start flying for the first time. You may be nervous which is normal, but keep in mind that this is very simple and fun. Increase the speed of the plane on the ground and keep the throttle at the maximum, until the plane leaves the ground. Then, keep the throttle at the max and wait until the plane reaches 60 meters, then reduce the throttle to 50%.
    This is your first flight, so you are going to be thrilled and frightened at the same time, but that’s is normal. Don’t fly while the throttle is at the 100%, simply because this will drain the battery in a matter of minutes and you won’t have enough power to land, so you will crash a brand new plane. In addition, this is the most common mistake beginners make. That’s why we mentioned it so you won’t lose your brand new plane.
  7. Be sensitive. Most people believe that rough flying is more interesting and fun, but this is a mistake as well, especially if you are a beginner. Make sure you are sensitive and you use the controls lightly, so your plane flies smoothly and makes smaller movements. Once you have mastered the flying, you can start exploring new possibilities your plane can do, which is more interesting that you can imagine.
  8. Make sure the plane is leveled. Flying isn’t complicated, but it requires some basic knowledge. For instance, you should make sure you fly your RC plane leveled so it is in the parallel line with the ground. This is the most effective way of flying and it is more than just mandatory, it is a great choice. If you fly rough, you can cause a crash and similar issues, so you will ruin your plane.
  9. Practice. Don’t forget that your plane has a range (the one you’ve determined earlier) and if you pass that range, you will lose the control of the plane. Make sure you fly it in circular patterns, so you get the most benefits and the longest flying time. At first, this may be complicated and hard, but after a few times, you will get used to it, so you will become a professional RC pilot.
  10. Landing.The landing may seem even more complicated than flying to a beginner. Even more, with a bit of patience, you’ll see that it’s actually very simple – it just looks complicated. In any case, you will have to find the best spot for landing and reduce the throttle, while your plane slows down and glides on the ground. This is known as the best and perfect landing, so it is something you should achieve.

Keep in mind that the elevator stick is something you don’t want to touch, so all you need to control is the throttle. Be careful and use slow controlling, so you get the best landing possible.

Once you landed, turn off the plane and the transmitter and you are done, so recharge the battery and start again. An important fact is that the battery must be 100% charged in order to get the best performances and the longest flying time, so don’t fly your RC plane if the battery is at 60% or 70%.

Final thoughts

The main fact you should know about flying an RC plane for the first time is that it is simple and interesting, so don’t lose hope and be relaxed. At the same time, you should know that mistakes will probably happen, simply due to the fact there are a lot of variables and a lot of factors that must be taken into account.

RC planes practice

Therefore, most beginners will simply forget or decide not to obey one of them. If a crash happens you should just try to land a plane as safe as possible and move on. Practicing is the most important thing you can do, and it is more than just interesting.

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About the author

Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at bringing experience, expertise and knowledge in this quite new industry. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.