Cheap RC airplanes
- good or bad?
It seems there are lots of 'cheap' rc airplanes around these days, but you have to be careful with what you're buying!
But what defines cheap? Well, any Ready To Fly (RTF) plane that can be bought for less than $100 could be classed as cheap, but these days you can buy an electric RTF airplane for around half that amount - now that is cheap!
The danger of course is quality; as with everything in life the phrase "You get what you pay for" is equally true for rc airplanes - buying a $20 rc plane off eBay, shipped over from Hong Kong, could be asking for trouble!
So, it's always best to stay with a reputable manufacturer - the few extra dollars buys you a lot more peace of mind.
Cheap rc airplanes have an obvious advantage if you're on a tight budget, but they also provide an excellent way of trying the hobby of radio control flying for not much money, and this is great if you're just testing the water and you don't yet know if you want to take the plunge with a more expensive airplane.
Above: cheap planes like these make a great intro to the hobby.
Rapid advances in rc technology in recent years have made cheap rc airplanes available from a large variety of suppliers; it's very common now for such planes to be sold in small toy shops and not be restricted to specialist model shops.
When I was a kid, buying a fully functioning RTF rc airplane from a local toy shop, with my saved up pocket money, just wasn't possible - I wish it had been! So it's good that such planes are now so widely available.
The majority of cheap rc airplanes are of foam construction so are very durable, and the better manufacturers such as HobbyZone back their planes up with a complete range of spare parts, also sold at very little cost.
Popular cheap RC airplanes
Shown below are just a few currently popular electric RTF airplanes, which can definitely be put in to the 'cheap' category. Any of them would make a good, low-cost introduction to rc flying. They're not shown in any particular order...
The above selection represents a tiny fraction of cheap rc airplanes available from an ever-growing variety of manufacturers, but those shown above are from the reputable manufacturers.
Does size matter?
Well, yes and no. It's understandable that the cheaper rc planes are going to be smaller rather than larger and, again, this is where you have to be careful.
If you see a 2 metre wingspan RTF plane with a price tag of $50, then it's likely going to be junk. But a 30cm span plane with the same pricetag is more realistic.
But should you go so small? Well, there are pros and cons to micro rc airplanes and some are actually OK for beginners. But as a general rule of thumb with radio control planes, bigger is better. The extra mass of a larger plane helps to stabilise it in the air, and this is always a good thing when you're learning to fly.
But with that said, some micro planes - for example the HobbyZone Champ - are intended to be trainers, so you won't go too far wrong buying one, and indeed the Champ has proven itself to be a very popular choice with folks wanting to enter the hobby without spending much.
Your size of flying area is also going to determine what size plane you can get, so if your space is limited then such a plane is the perfect solution; not only will it get you in to the hobby for not much money, it will also let you fly in a size-restricted area.
Number of channels
If you want a true taster of the hobby you really need a three channel rc airplane, with control to motor, elevator and rudder.
A lot of cheap rc planes are likely to give you just two channel control (motor and rudder) and while this will give you a taste of flying a radio control plane, such planes are very limited in what they can do.
Forget about the planes that have twin motor control and nothing else - these really are toys more than anything else; great for the kids, but not so great for a serious introduction to the hobby. Such planes typically get their directional control from changing one motor speed in relation to the other, and their height control by changing both motor speeds together.
Again, a three channel plane will give you the best experience and fortunately there are many out there to choose from, the little Champ being a prime example.
So hopefully this page has given you a bit of background info on cheap rc airplanes, and what's available to you. Please do be careful and if you see a plane that seems too good to be true for the price, then it probably is!