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Picking a Trainer
Written by: Dr. Bob Motazedi
The multitude of radio control airplane kits available can dazzle – and sometimes overwhelm – newcomers. The temptation for many is to purchase a plane with fancy flying capabilities or fantastic looks. And who can blame anyone for being attracted to these planes? The danger, though, is that most of these are just too complicated for beginners. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a plane and not be able to get it off the ground, or worse, crash it?
  • The airplane must have good stability. All quality trainers have some dihedral in their wings for this purpose. In addition, the plane needs a high lift wing so that at lower airspeeds it will still fly. Symmetrically shaped wings will stall at lower speeds. I prefer a flat-bottom airfoil wing (fig. 2-2), which allows the airplane to take off, fly, and land at slower airspeeds, giving the beginner time to react and correct the airplane in flight. The flat-bottom airfoil also allows for pitch stability with less loss of altitude than other airfoil types.
  • The airplane should use at least three channels (fig. 2-3): one for throttle, another for elevator, and the third for directional control. As discussed, you can obtain directional control by using either a rudder or ailerons. Most trainers have both ailerons and rudder, which is great.
  • The airplane should also be moderately sized. I recommend airplanes in the .40 to .60 engine size range. They are small enough to transport but large enough to see while flying. Smaller trainers (.20 engine size) have a higher wing loading (weight to wing area) and fly faster. Because of this I’d stay away from these. I also wouldn’t buy a larger trainer with huge wingspans because they are easily upset by side gusts of wind (because of a lack of enough wing loading). Also, their size makes them difficult to transport.
  • Your trainer should be readily available at a local hobby shop. This way if you have questions – about assembly or anything else – someone at the hobby shop will be able to answer them. The airplane should also be a proven design, one that’s been around for a while and is reliable.
  • Your airplane should be able to withstand minor crashes. It should not, however, be so sturdy that its weight would make it more difficult to fly.
  • The airplane should have tri-cycle landing gear with a steer able nose wheel. This landing gear makes the model easier to maneuver on the ground. Airplanes with conventional landing gear have poor ground handling characteristics and aren’t suitable for beginners.
  • Lastly, your airplane kit should contain detailed instructions, including illustrations. It should be easy for the beginner to assemble and not require difficult building concepts. The kit should be as complete as possible, and the required components not included in it should be listed clearly in the label.

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