Beginners Guide to R/C Aircraft

So... You’re interested in flying model aircraft?

Where do you start?

If you've got this far then you're probably interested in learning to fly radio controlled model aircraft, or at least finding out a bit more about the hobby.

Have you seen model aircraft flying?

Visit your local flying site, usually the best time is Sunday afternoon. Have a talk to the modellers who are flying there and see what they are doing. Check out what they use, see how they do it.

Choosing the correct model aircraft.

This is important because what you see flying around the sky and what you need to learn to fly with are usually two different things. We aim to point people in the direction of a "40 size" high wing trainer type for stability, ease of building (and repairing). Most will have 4 functions controlling engine, rudder, elevator and ailerons. A large number of aircraft are now almost ready to fly (ARTF) being pre-built and covered and needing only assembling and fitting of radio and engine (ARTF is recommended).


Typical ARTF "40 size" trainer

Recently there's been a boom in popularity with electric powered aircraft making the hobby more affordable and easier than ever before to get started although clean and quiet, flight times can be limited which isn't always ideal for learning.


There are two main types of engine used, 2-stroke and 4-stroke. Whilst there are many petrol-fuelled model engines available, these are for models much larger than the basic trainer. The smaller sizes of 2 and 4-stroke engine are generally known as "glow" engines. Their fuel is made from methanol and oil. 2 stroke glow-plug engines are suitable for all types of aircraft. Which make you decide to buy is up to you but you would be well advised to ask around at the club before buying a particular engine. Some seem to run and handle extremely well, others can be a problem. 4-stroke engines tend to be heavier and more expensive than 2-strokes.They do tend to be quieter. For a beginner it is probably wise to leave these to those with some years' experience. Electric flight is becoming more popular nowadays but the beginner would probably be better advised to wait until they can fly before trying these out. Noise is also important.The engine needs a good silencer so, again, take advice because we do not want to annoy the local residents and loose our flying field.

Ideal beginners engine OS 46AX

Radio Equipment

You will need at least four channels.You do not need a fully computerised system. A standard radio system with servo reversing and dual-rate controls is more than adequate to start with. Nowadays, even some of the more modestly-priced systems have a degree of computerisation. A complete boxed set will come with a receiver, charger, battery pack and 4 servos to go with the transmitter.

6 channel Futaba transmitter 6EX (FASST) 

Other equipment

Unfortunately there are a few other items of equipment to buy before you can go flying!

Flight panels can be purchased which contain a pump, a starter outlet and a glow plug outlet, all run from a 12 volt battery. If you do not have one of these you will need a dedicated battery glow-plug clip. Electric starters, glow clips and fuel etc., can be purchased from any model shop.

That's about it for the basics, you will pick up other things as you go along.

When you're ready, get help from an experienced club member.


If you do you will certainly crash it!

Thank you to Paul Saxby for the original document.