Buying and building RC planes 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 a 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.
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Once upon a time, long ago before arf RC planes, everyone had to build their own scale model aircraft from a bunch of balsa sticks, glue, and tissue paper.
But although that was fun for lots of us, the demands on our free-time have created a new breed of arf electric RC planes which are Almost Ready to Fly (ARF’s). These mostly come from the far east, are usually very well built, and are very cost-effective (cheaper than we could probably build them ourselves). Best of all, they include everything you need to get airborne!
The last post, What Everybody Should Know About RTF RC Model Aircraft, covered what one should know when buying an 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 an RTF plane moved on to buy an ARF plane as their next plane…
Arf electric RC planes of all types are available from arf electric RC planes radio control jet planes to radio control trainer airplanes. They can be complete packages including the model RC planes, the motor and battery, and the radio. Or, the remote control airplane only, with the components to be purchased separately. Usually, the complete package works well for a start and as skills develop, you can better decide on which type of radio control aircraft design to get next.
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 a 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 an 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 an 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 an 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 an ARF Kit (-)
- the total cost for all the parts for the ARF plane is usually bigger than an 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 a 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 an 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 an easier time getting spare parts as you know what to look for (+)
- you’ll be flying a radio-controlled plane you built yourself, an 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 an ARF kit instead of an RTF plane will be more involving, but more rewarding at the same time. 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 other hand, you’ll get exactly what you want and get a 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.
We have talked about finding which airplane flies best, but there are some other factors that will help you pick the best ARF for you. If you have great vision and reflexes, then a small plane with less than a 36″ wingspan may be fine, but if you’ve been around the block a few times, maybe a 40″ – 48″ wingspan might be more suitable! Colors are important too! Light, bright colors on top and contrasting darker ones on the bottom will help in visual orientation. Dark colors all over should be avoided; believe us, they will add confusion at the wrong moment! Later on, military camouflage schemes will certainly entice some, but you’ll find out that it really does make the planes harder to see!
If the ARF electric RC airplane package includes a radio system, ask if it can be used with other RC planes.