Flying RC planes can be a challenging task, but before flying anywhere, you must have a plane. Right? We did our tests, ask friends, research the internet, and the result is the list below. Of course, the best beginner RC plane is a vague notion, but our list will give you a starting point that will help you save some precious time; after all, we did the research so you won’t have to. However, each plane from our list has its pluses and minuses, so don’t worry if you won’t find your favorite RC plane there. Just go ahead and read the part about buying your first RC plane in this guide. You will find lots of useful tips so you will be able to choose your future RC plane by yourself and make the right buying decision.
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I learned flying model airplanes on my own. I started out with the Firebird outlaw from HobbyZone and taught myself. The outlaw is just a simple RTF electric airplane though. Gas-powered RC airplanes and some electric ones are more difficult and not that simple.
I don’t recommend you try to learn by yourself, but sometimes people do better learning on their own. If you really want to get good fast, then you should get a flying instructor. Your local RC model airplane club will usually have an instructor you can hire for help.
Here’s a quick guide on what to look for, but you can also read more about the qualities of a good RC plane for beginners, explained in greater detail further down:
- For a novice, the best choice is an electric-powered RTF (ready to fly) plane with 1, 2, or 3 channels.
- High wing electric – A high wing is the most stable and forgiving
- Made from durable foam – let’s face it, it’s going to crash sooner or later and some foam can take a great deal more pounding than balsa
- Performance and simplicity – Minor assembly, charge the battery, and go fly.
- Plenty of spare parts available – Incredibly important, an unobtainable broken part can ground you indefinitely.
However, if you have a small electric airplane you can fly at a park or in your backyard if you like to.
Anyway, you will need a plane to put these flying tips into practice. We tried to help you save some time with the research, so we created the list below, which has some very good RC airplanes for beginners. Check it out, choose a plane, read our tips, and have some fun flying that plane.
What Are the Best RC Planes for Beginners?
Briefly, the best beginner RC plane is a trainer – a plane purposely designed for beginners to help them learn and practice flying. Trainers are strong, durable, slow-flying RC airplanes, easy to assemble, and also easy to control. They are usually electric-powered, moderately sized planes, with a high-wing configuration for greater stability and better maneuverability.
Why Are They The Best RC Planes for Beginners? Our Key Selection Criteria Explained
- Quality – only planes made of high-quality material were allowed to enter our list. And by high-quality material, we mean flexible, strong, but also light.
- Strong – all the planes we’ve suggested are strong, and this is something extremely important when you are a beginner. Making mistakes is a good way to learn, but you need a strong RC plane for that.
- Stable and easy to maneuver – high-wing design is by excellence the best for beginners, as this type of plane tends to be more stable, simple to operate, and forgiving than the low-wing configuration. Most of our suggested planes are high-wingers, so start with one of these if you are a complete beginner, looking for your very first RC plane.
- Slow flying – a plane for beginners should be relatively slow, as you will have to train your reflexes as a pilot too. Our suggestions are not fast planes, so they are very good as trainers for beginners.
- Ready to Fly – your first kit should be easy to assemble. You should focus on learning to fly, not building complicated kits. At least not in the beginning. Every plane we suggested will be in the air in seconds.
- Affordable – they are not expensive. You will crash your plane quite often in the beginning, so you will need a relatively cheap plane for your first flights when you are just learning to fly. Price is a good reason to choose an electric RC plane if you are a beginner, as they are relatively cheaper, and also easier to maintain; not to mention that they don’t make too much noise too.
- Beginner-friendly technologies – modern RC planes have some very useful features that can save your plane, and your money, during your first flights. This is why we choose only planes that have assisting technologies such as
- SAFE™ (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) technology
- AS3X™ (Auto Stabilisation 3-Axis)
- Propeller Saver Technology
- Gyro Stabilization System
Best RC Planes for Beginners Reviewed
E-flite RC Airplane Turbo Timber 1.5m BNF – Best Beginner RC Plane
The E-Flite Timber remote control aircraft is one of the most iconic names and faces in remote control airplanes. The Turbo Timber is an updated version of the original Timber design. The Turbo Timber includes a new power system, a stiffer wing, and a three-blade propeller. All the standard – but awesome – features of the original craft are all here, along with some new toys.
Cool Feature 1: STOL feature; Short Take-Off and Landing. It also has sport and aerobatic flight capabilities to make it a delight to fly. You won’t need much room to take off or land this little machine, and you’ll be amazed at what it can do in the air.
Cool Feature 2: Stiffer wing. The rigid wings give the craft more authority and control in the air – making it less likely to get knocked off course and giving you more control.
- You’ll make excellent turns, including stall turns and flat turns. The STOL features are outstanding, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the aircraft gets in the air.
- The plane can go pretty slow without stalling, and the overall speed range is surprisingly wide
- Excellent control during flight, take-off, and landing.
- Flies well
- Takes off and lands quickly
- LED lights
- The landing gear is the biggest disappointment here. Take care when landing to avoid running into trouble. Experienced pilots should have no problem, and also beginners but after some practice.
The remote control aircraft feels great to fly with either a 3-cell or 4-cell lipo thanks to the tri-blade propellor. The plane is best for scale-like flight. The extra power and stiff wing make the aircraft suited for flying in light wind as well. You’ll feel like a master pilot by the time you’re finished.
The EFL Valiant 1.3M Bnf Basic is a trainer plane that offers a high-wing model’s stability combined with a sporty feel. The look for the remote control airplanes stands out too. The primary trainer is an exciting choice for pilots of any level, even though it is considered a “training” plane. Beginners can have fun with the AS3X Reciever with SAFE Select technology. The AS3X artificial stabilizers guarantee a smooth and stable flight, while the SAFE Select features make learning to fly easier.
- Cool Feature 1: AS3X Reciever coupled with SAFE Select Technology for a smooth flight
- Cool Feature 2: Stable trainer remote-controlled airplane for beginners
- Functional flaps
- Aluminum landing gear
- 480 brushless power
- Float set ready
- + Stable trainer plane
- AS3X Reciever
- 480 Brushless motor
- Sturdy landing gear
The Bind-N-Fly capability of the Valiant is only useful for people with a collection of BNF remote control aircraft. It’s also a shame that the float-set has to be purchased separately at the cost of around $30.
- Float set not included
Flying the RC aircraft is excellent, thanks to the functional flaps. These flaps let pilots fly to the best of their ability – and the limits of the aircraft. You can pull off some sweet aerial acrobatics with the help of the 480 brushless motor and flaps. You can also install a float set for some water landings.
What You’ll Love
There’s no denying that this is for beginners. That isn’t to say that experts can’t have fun with it, but a beginner will love it and get more out of it.
The E-flite Turbo Timber BNF Basic is an updated version of the UMX Timber. The Turbo Timber adds a modern turboprop-styled nose and a new three-blade propellor to the classic design. More experienced pilots will have fun taking this baby out and about.
- Cool Feature 1: STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing)
- Cool Feature 2: SAFE Technology makes flying smoother and safer
- Better STOL performance and faster take-off and landing compared to the learier model.
- Configurable wings for more control
- Can be flown on the water with floats
- + Flies well
- Takes off and lands quickly
- LED lights
- More power
While the Turbo can move in rough grass, it’s tough to build up enough speed to take off without trouble. You should stick to using it on flat, clear surfaces.
- Weak landing gear
- Poor quality servos
The plane is packed with power. You’ll have no problem pulling off rolls, loops, or extended inverted flights. The oversized tires on the UMX allow it to work well in rough grass. Even so, it’s better to pull the stick and take off as quickly as possible to prevent problems. The powerful thrust means you’ll have no problem with short take-offs. One of the most impressive things you can do with the UMX Timber is knife-edge flight. Just roll the plane on its side and touch the opposite rudder, and you’re good to go.
What You’ll Love
Anyone who loved the original UMX will get a kick out of the turbo. Think of this as being the second RC airplane for beginners. Practice the basics with the original and then move on to the Turbo when you get comfortable and want more power.
The Sport Cub 500 RC aircraft is a small airplane that packs a surprising punch. The integrated Xpilot gyro stabilizer system gives the plane a lot of stability in the air. It reacts quickly and lets you perform acrobatic maneuvers even in slight winds.
- Cool feature 1: Integrated 6-axis gyro for smooth control and self-stabilization
- Cool feature 2: One-key acrobatic lets you perform tricks including flips and rolls with the flick of a stick
- Great for beginners
- Great for outdoor adventures
- Fully-assembled ready to fly
- One-stick acrobatics
- Smooth flight
- Fully assembled
If you don’t put the aircraft together just right, then it won’t work. Several things could go wrong, such as the rudder not working correctly. The RC aircraft comes with instructions on how to fix it, but it would be nice if there were no problems in the first place.
- The slightly complicated setup procedure. It has to be set up just right.
- Can arrive broken (replacements are free)
Flying the Cub is an absolute blast thanks to the gyro and the one-key acrobatic function. The airplane can do aerobatic tricks automatically when set to beginner mode. This lets everyone enjoy the fun of flight, no matter their skills.
What You’ll Love
As you might be able to tell, the Cub is an excellent choice for pilots of all skill levels. The one-stick flight controls mean that beginners can enjoy pulling off tricks, but experts can show off their skills without assistance. This is a fantastic training aircraft that will last you for years after mastering basic flight.
- Cool Feature 1: Propeller Saver Design prevents propellers from getting damaged and keeps electronic components safe.
- Cool Feature 2: Gear Box Power System offers more power and thrust to allow the plane to fly faster while consuming less power.
- Easy to learn how to fly
- Stabilize plane in windy conditions
- One-key acrobatics and U-turn controls
- One stick controls
- Fully assembled
- Great performance
One thing to watch for is flying the plane in windy weather. Make sure you keep the plane in front of you to avoid it flying off. The U-turn feature is fantastic, but it’s not going to help much if you can’t even see the plane.
- Not great in high winds
- Can get blown away
- May arrive damaged (replacements are free)
Flying this model RC plane is a treat for beginners who want something simple that feels advanced. The ease at which you’ll pull tricks and turns makes flying a blast. Advanced users can turn the special controls off and control the plane in a similar fashion using their skills and techniques.
What You’ll Love
The Mustang, like the Cub, is an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate users. That the plane comes fully assembled is something everyone can love. Experts who like to tinker and customize their planes might be a little put-off, however.
How Do I Find the Best RC Plane for Me?
It is strongly recommended that the beginner come out to the field and talk to experienced club members before buying an airplane. There are many “beginner packages” on the market and some are better than others. And advice you may get in a hobby shop may not be the best- remember many of the folks working in the stores have never flown a plane before! Make sure that you get good advice before spending several hundred dollars on an airplane that is inappropriate or unreliable.
Let’s dive even deeper, and see some key points you should consider before buying your first RC plane
- A beginner needs a good airplane with a high-quality engine and functional radio gear in order to get started. There are several ways to accomplish this:
- Purchase an RTF (Ready to Fly) package that includes a plane, engine, and radio. This is the least expensive and easiest way to get started because everything is “pre-matched” for assembly. These packages have come a long way during the past couple of years and are very popular. However keep in mind that if you stick with the hobby and move up into sport planes you will actually end up spending more money, in the end, going with this option, because the radio transmitter is unlikely to be suitable for sport flying.
- Purchase the airplane, engine, and radio separately. If you are handy and like to build you can purchase a full-build RC airplane kit. But most folks these days opt for ARF’s (Almost Ready to Fly) that only take a few hours to assemble. The obvious advantage of purchasing everything separately is that you can get the airplane that you want with the engine that you want with the radio that you want. It takes a little effort to piece the various components together but the end result can be a great combination.
- Get a “package deal”. Some packages come with the airplane (ARF or kit) and the engine, and the radio is purchased separately. This allows you to select the brand and model of the radio that you want. This is a common option offered by the Internet and mail-order hobby retailers.
- There are also options that allow you to customize your plan, as the Plug N Play (PNP) RC airplanes or almost ready to fly (ARF). PNP is delivered with the basics of rate, with the plane’s body, and the flyer gives control radio. With this kit, you can use the equipment you already have, save costs involved in purchasing the entire scale model aircraft kit with radio controls. It also provides the option to use multiple plans with your controls, adding variety to your collection. In a similar sense, ARF also customization and variety, but the flyer gives almost everything to get the plane in which conditions you would bear; cash payment, and sometimes a motor, and the rest is up to you. This is a major purchase for the experienced flyers, looking up the hobby by creating their own plan.
Design layout and configuration
You need something forgiving and stable as your first RC airplane. This fact is of major importance, yet many beginners are tempted to purchase a fast RC airplane with a cool look, without thinking about how they are going to control it. As a result, most of the time, their awesome remote control plane ends up a wreck during the first minutes.
- To avoid this, look for under-cambered, unsymmetrical, and symmetrical airfoils, and make sure you purchase a wing trainer. ‘High Wing” means the wing is placed on top, high above the fuselage, a configuration that offers the best stability in the air, and this should be just what you need during the early stages of learning how to fly your RC plane.
So, the best beginner RC planes are the high-wing trainers in which the wings are placed on top of the fuselage or the main body of the craft, making it highly stable. Usually, the wings have under-cambered or unsymmetrical airfoils. Anyway, a stable plane will allow you to understand the basics of flying, and also minimizes the many chances of crashing.
- Also, pay attention to the at dihedral which is the upward ‘V’ angle of the wings when you look at it from the front. Greater dihedral translates into more stability. As already mentioned, an airplane that has a high-wing with lots of dihedrals will be more stable and tend to resume to straight and level flight on its own.
Since planes rely on the rudder for turning around the vertical axis (or axis of yaw), and as it tilts in the direction of its turn, it is the dihedral that ensures the aircraft maintains a balanced turn.
In other words, the best RC planes for beginners would be the ones with a high wing configuration and a greater dihedral.
- There are two major engine types used to power the RC planes
- IC: Internal Combustion Power – piston engines
- EP: Electric Power – electric engine
Of course, nowadays there are also jet engines powered RC planes, but a beginner should avoid this type of aircraft, as it requires more advanced skills to pilot. So if you’re not sure which type of power to choose, well, go with electric; electric RC airplanes are usually cheaper, and easier to control.
However, if you enjoy the smoke and burnt fuel smell and also that buzzing noise of a piston engine, well, you can go with an IC.
Anyway, buy a good glow engine!!! Until very recently this was a major weakness in some of the cheaper trainer packages. And there are still some engines on the market that won’t keep running no matter what you do, or just don’t have adequate power for the plane. These just cause endless frustration! We have found all too often that cheap engines must be replaced with more reliable ones just to get through instruction. In the end, this costs more money than purchasing a good engine to start with!
By the way, engine size is not a good indicator of how reliable or “powerful” it will be. High-quality engines come with ball bearings. Cheaper ones use bushings instead and the power loss can be very significant. And there are other design details that can make a big difference in performance. Also, don’t be impressed by 3-blade propellers. This is just a marketing gimmick, as 3-blade props are much less efficient than 2-blade props on trainer-size glow engines. If you buy a trainer with a 3-blade prop you will need to buy a good 2-blade prop and spinner sometime in the future (luckily these are very inexpensive.) The bottom line is don’t let the prop that comes on a plane influence your decision.
My hands-down favorite engine for a 40-size trainer has been the OS 46FX (or the new OS 46AX which is essentially the same). Reliability is unsurpassed and power is excellent. It is also a perfect match for the SIG LT-40, which is my favorite trainer combo. And the best part is that this engine is excellent for sport planes, so it can be used on your next airplane when you decide to retire the trainer. This is the engine that comes with the Nexstar trainer package.
I have also had very good experiences with the new Evolution 45 and 60 engines that now come with the Hangar 9 RTF planes including the Alpha and Arrow. Reliability and power are both good, and we have found that the Evolution engines also work fine on sport planes.
If cost is a major consideration, then the OS 40LA or 46LA are acceptable alternatives. They are fairly reliable however power output is much lower than the OS FX/AX engines and they are not very well-suited to sport planes.
There are other engines on the market that will work well, but it is strongly recommended that you talk to a club member before purchasing a plane with an engine that is not listed above!
Radio (Control Transmitter)
There are several options you can choose from – single, two channels, but you should choose a 3 channel RC plane. A 3 channel RC airplane will allow you to control the rudder, elevator, and motor; another configuration for a 3 channel RC plane can be the elevator, motor, and ailerons.
Most beginners will start with a 4-channel FM system because it is the cheapest option and is included with the trainer packages. A 6-channel computer radio transmitter with dual rates is a much better option even for beginners because this allows adjustment of the control surface travel distance while flying. While not entirely necessary to fly a trainer this is a very useful feature that is almost a requirement for sport planes. Computer transmitters will also allow you to store the setup for several airplanes which is extremely useful once you start adding planes to your “hangar”.
The difference between the three-channel and a four-channel is not only the features but also the speed. You do not want a plane that is too fast, exposing you to the risk of crashing. For this reason, go for a three-channel plane which is a bit slower than a four-channel one.