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Build and Fly RC Model Aircraft

Learn how to design your own model planes for flying fun

Horizon Hobby Mosquito RC model airplane

Mosquito scale RTF RC model airplane

Flying radio control model aircraft is a great hobby. Whether you purchase a ready to fly model plane, build from a kit or set of plans, or create an original design radio control model flight provides a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Not too long ago, an RC pilot was required to build whatever aircraft he or she flew. Most flying was done outdoors at a local flying field, due to the need for gas engines to power the heavy model aircraft of the day.

Ready to fly planes

Due to the rapid introduction and acceptance of quality almost and ready to fly model planes pilots no longer have the requirement to construct everything that they wish to fly. The electronics used to guide model aircraft have steadily decreased in price, size and weight while offering increased technical sophistication and operating features. At the same time manufacturers have discovered new and innovative manufacturing processes that provide quality ready to fly model aircraft that perform as good as they look.


Piper Cub Ultra Micro RC model airplane

Ultra Micro Piper Cub foam RC plane

Learning how to fly with a ready to fly model is a good start for any aspiring pilot. By using one of these RTF aircraft you ensure that the trainer airplane being employed will fly properly and does not suffer from any missteps in the building process.

There are many lightweight foam trainers that fly in a slow and predictable manner. These aircraft are robust and ideally suited for the learning environment. You can just about always survive the inevitable bumps and crashes with minimal damage as you earn your solo certificate.

Trojan foam radio control model airplane

T-28 Trojan is a popular RTF trainer

Once you have earned your wings as a model pilot you can advance in a variety of directions with your future modeling efforts.

The four general RC flying areas involve operating additional RTF aircraft, building from a kit, building from a set of construction plans or designing your own original design. All have their advantages and add to the broad appeal of the hobby.

Get airborne quickly

Ready to fly aircraft offer the quickest method to get airborne. Purchase an aircraft and you can be flying in less than an hour. Employing RTF models allows more airborne practice time for new pilots. Should you desire proficiency with advanced radio control acrobatics, using ready to fly models is a requirement.

Guillows Nieuport balsa airplane

Distinctive balsa structure of a Guillows balsa model

Kits offer a wide variety of subjects for model flight. Some existing kits, such as the classics from Guillows, can come out slightly heavy. Be sure to carefully inspect the wood supplied in these kits and replace as required to ensure light weight contest quality balsa and plywood is used.

Recently introduced laser cut kits, such as the Stevens AeroModel Pietenpol Air Camper use only the best grades of balsa and ply and come in right at their target flight weight.

Blackburn RC plane made from CAD plans

The Blackburn is made from CAD plans available here

Construction plans offer a large array of model projects for model flight. Just about any of the older free flight designs can be adapted with minimum effort for today’s micro RC electronics.

There are also an increasing number of plans available today that are specifically suited for indoor RC flight. These include free plans such as the Finch, or slightly larger designs such as the scale Blackburn monoplane or the Chickadee. These aircraft can be flown inside in larger venues or outdoors under calm wind conditions.

Create your own design

Once you are comfortable building from a kit or set of plans consider creating an original model airplane design. It is not all hard to sketch out a design. See here for some practical rules of thumb for determining the parameters of a typical model airplane. By starting with the wingspan the remainder of the airplane dimensions can be figured out.

These rules are not hard and fast but offer a useful starting point. Remember to always build your model as light as possible and to construct a prototype for those first flights. You will enjoy a true feeling of accomplishment once you see your own design take to the air for that initial sortie.

Flying RC model aircraft is a hobby that employs a wide range of approaches that appeal to anyone wishing to enter the pastime. The unifying element is getting in the air with your fellow pilots, flying and watching the wide range of model aircraft navigate around the local flight pattern.

Author: Gordon McKay

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