Buying and building RC model aircraft from almost-ready-to-fly, ARF scale model aircraft kits require more building and often you’ll be also buying the parts you need separately. For beginner, this might mean trouble or at least a lot more work, but for an experienced hobbyist, this is exactly what to look for to get exactly the kind of plane you want.
The last post, What Everybody Should Know About RTF RC Model Aircraft, covered what one should know when buying a RTF RC plane and now it’s time to look into the RC plane kits, in their almost-ready-to-fly or ARF form. ARF planes offer a chance to get a better plane, with the kind of parts one wants, in a relatively easy-to-build form. Because of this many who have started with a RTF plane moved on to buy an ARF plane as their next plane…
What Is an Almost-Ready-To-Fly, ARF Plane?
When buying and building an ARF plane, it takes more time and knowledge to get into flying the plane, but you’ll get higher quality plane and parts and exactly the kind of plane you want. You’ll be investing more money into an ARF plane than you would for a RTF RC plane, but you get re-usable parts that you can use for your next plane or re-sell the parts if you need them anymore.
Building a ARF plane is usually relatively easy even for a beginner and the good kits come with great instructions and manuals about how to manage that and the biggest challenge, if you will, is most of the time getting the right parts and making sure everything works together as you want. With almost-ready-to-fly ARF kit, you’ll be getting either
- the ARF plane and all the parts needed (in relatively easy to build form and parts), or
- just the plane and you’ll be buying some or all the parts separately (e.g. battery, receiver, transmitter, servos, etc)
The best part about ARF kit is that you know exactly what you’re getting as you’ll be getting the motor and other parts you want and you can re-use the parts from your old plane if you want. Getting the right kind of receiver ensures you can use the radio RC transmitter you already have and there’s no need to buy another one (one of the reasons I wrote about getting a good RC transmitter right from the start instead of settling for the 2-3 channel one coming in your first RTF package).
Of course, all this requires a bit of knowledge from you or trusting the seller to know what you need in addition to the kit. Luckily, many good ARF kits come with recommendations about the parts and you can always get help from experts in your RC club (yet another reason to find and join one) or look for information from the RCGroups forums for example. But first, take a look at the pros and cons of the almost-ready-to fly kits you should know before getting one…
The Downsides of Getting a ARF Kit (-)
- the total cost for all the parts for the ARF plane is usually bigger than a RTF one (-)
- there’s a chance of buying incompatible parts (-)
- the self-built ARF RC plane and the individual parts might not work together perfectly (-)
- you might be forced to buy from different shops and locations (not a big problem online) (-)
- if you don’t know exactly what you need, you have to trust a seller who wants to make profit (e.g. sell you parts you don’t absolutely need or sell you more advanced parts than your project requires) (-)
- even that ARF kits are meant to be easy to build, building your own plane still requires model building skills and knowledge of RC model building (-)
The Good Things About the ARF RC Planes (+)
- huge selection of planes to choose from (and even larger selection of parts to put into your plane) (-/+)
- you get a lot better, re-usable and more versatile gear (+)
- you’ll probably pay more at the beginning, but save even more in the long run as you can re-use the same gear and they last longer because of the higher quality (+)
- you’ll know exactly what the plane is made of (+)
- you’ll have easier time getting spare parts as you know what to look for (+)
- you’ll be flying a radio controlled plane you built yourself, a RC plane like no other (in good and bad, depending on your skills and the end result) (+)
Why an ARF Plane Might Be a Great Choice For You? Getting yourself a ARF kit instead of RTF plane will be more involving, but more rewarding at the same time. The most, if not all, the parts you get can be re-used and you can replace them later if you want.
On the downside, you’ll be spending more money on ARF RC planes than you would when buying a ready package, but on the hand, you’ll get exactly what you want and get better quality plane that will last for a long time. All this takes some knowledge about what you’re doing, but the end result will be worth it.
This is a slightly edited and updated version of an article originally published on “The Radio Controlled Aeroplanes Blog” – radiocontrolledaeroplanesblog.com