Product Tips & Tutorials: RC Planes
A Beginners Guide to RC Planes
Posted by on 04 September 2012 06:41 PM

So you've finally decided to put on your big boy pants and get a plane. But now, what kind of plane should you get? What are the different types of models? How are they going to fly? What's the best one for beginners? EP? IC? RTF? ARF? Well, let's get started, and hopefully by the end of this, you'll be a little more educated and can choose the best aircraft for you!

RTF Planes vs ARF Planes

Let's begin with RTF and ARF. RTF and ARF are used to categorize planes. 

RTF stands for "Ready to Fly". Ready to Fly products have very minimal assembly requirements. They come pre-packaged and should be able to start flying right out of the box. Some planes require that you attach the fuselage or wings to the plane because of packaging efficiency. Sometimes the wingspan of the plane might be too large to be packaged complete. If listed RTF for HobbyPartz, NitroPlanes, Xheli, the airplane will come with a Transmitter(TX), Receiver(RX), and a Battery (you may need to buy batteries for the transmitter). Some planes will come with chargers, and some don't. But that depends on the manufacturer and the product itself. 

ARF stands for "Almost Ready to Fly". In terms of packaging, it is almost the same as RTF planes, except that there are a minor installments you need to do. ARF planes do not come with a Transmitter, Receiver, Battery, or Battery Charger. You're going to have to buy/install those parts yourself. ARF planes are the next step up for beginner pilots. You can take your the transmitter/receiver/battery from your old plane and program it on to the new ARF Plane. This goes for almost all planes of the same channel type.

Using Different Channel Transmitters *Side Note*

A 4-Channel controller will not be able to control a 6-Channel Plane, because it is missing 2 extra channels. But a 6-Channel Transmitter can control a 4-Channel Plane and the other two channels will be ignored unless used for other options such as extra lighting or servo's being used. If you had a hard time following the last bit, let me break it down for you:

Each channel is an arm, and those arms are pushing/pulling strings. A 6-Channel Controller as 6 arms, and can control 6 strings. It can also control 5 strings, 4 strings, 3 strings. But a 4-Channel controller with only 4 arms cannot control a plane with 6 strings. Makes sense? Alright! Onto more PLANES!

EP Planes vs IC Planes

EP (Electric Powered) Planes are exactly what the name implies: planes that run off of electricity. These planes are designed and built to run off of electric motors and batteries. EP Planes usually run off of LiPo Batteries and have an electric motor that goes along with it.

IC (Internal Combustion) Planes or Gas Powered Planes are planes that are run off of nitro/gasoline. These planes have engines use internal combustion to drive the plane.

(Keep in mind some airplanes are not compatible with gas/fuel from a gas station pump, please research your engine before using the correct fuel. This will be further discussed in a future post.)

As a beginner plane, an EP Plane is probably a better choice. There is much less maintanence, the pricing is better, and most beginner foam series are powered by electric motors. The thing about IC Planes is that it uses a Nitro Engine or Gasoline engine. This will cause more time on maintaining the airplane such as changing out parts, filters, oil, and making sure everything stays clean. EP Planes do not need a large amount of maintenance and are a lot less complicated in terms of parts. Most EP Planes today are made out of foam, which brings me to my next subject.

Foam Planes vs Plywood/Balsa Wood Planes

Over the past years, the hobby industry has seen a influx of Foam Planes being introduced into the market. At first, these planes were not so popular among hobbyists. Purists would say that "wood will always be better" and it was wood that "made the industry". Now that is a true statement, in its own sense. Wood is what most planes were made of when the hobby began. But as technology progressed, so did the materials that were being used to manufacture these planes.

There are 3 Types of Foam Planes to be aware of:

  • EPP Foam
  • EPO Foam
  • Depron Foam 

EPP Foam
- Condensed Foam, meaning it is more durable than EPO and Depron.
- Heavier (Caused because the foam is condensed)
- Finish is Rough (The look is not as smooth) 

EPO Foam
- Not as condensed as EPP Foam, but still stronger than Depron Foam
- Lighter
- Finish is smooth, not as rough as EPP
- Used for Scale Planes or Planes that have more realism

Depron Foam
- Lightest of all the Foam Types
- Used for Gliders
- Extremely Brittle 

So now you know what types of planes are out there and ready for you. This is a very general guide on RC Planes. It gets more detailed as you get more into the hobby, like any hobby out there, but this is the stuff that you should know before buying your plane. Remember that learning to fly can be fun, but you'll be crashing quite a bit. So choose a cheap and durable plane. Start small, and work your way up. The bigger the plane, the control/handling issues you'll run into.

Good luck and happy flying!


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