Until recently, most R/C airplane models came in ‘Kit form’ consisting of a box full of parts, a set of plans, an instruction manual and some hardware. Kits still are very popular as many modellers enjoy the challenge of putting them together as much as actually flying them. Depending on the kit, however, assembly can take, weeks or even months to complete, and also requires a well-equipped hobby toolbox.
For a number of reasons including a shortage of leisure time hobbyists are now turning to “prebuilt” models as another way to enjoy R/C flight. Actually, prebuilt planes are great for first-time pilots. Because they come factory-assembled, you KNOW they’re constructed well. Many are put together with materials as high in quality as any kit. Because you haven’t put your heart and soul into building them, you’re less likely to be nervous when flying them. And they let you focus on learning to fly, without also having to learn new model building skills.
You can choose from models with varying degrees of preassembly. The following acronyms are commonly used to identify types of prebuilt planes:
ARF: Stands for “Almost Ready-to-Fly”. Most can be completed and flight-ready with as little as 16-20 hours of assembly. Major structures such as the wing halves, fuselage, and tail fins all come entirely built and covered. You simply assemble those sections, install your power plant and radio gear, attach the landing gear and a few other pieces of hardware and you’re done.
RTC: Stands for “Ready-to-Cover.” Like ARF’s, these models come with prebuilt main sections. But in this case, the structures have exposed wood surfaces. You must apply your own choice of film covering. The advantage is that your finished model will have a unique look, YOU create its colours and trim scheme. The disadvantages for first-timers include the extra time required plus, you’ll need to acquire the tools and skills to apply model covering. There are covering videos available that can help you learn the techniques.
RTF: Stands for “Ready-to-F1y.” Want a model that’s ready for the air as little as 20 minutes after you open the box? Get an RTF. You’ll still have to complete a few final assembly steps, but far less than even ARF’s require. True RTF’s, like the Hobbico SuperStar 40 Select, also include engine and radio gear already mounted inside the model. There’s no easier way to get airborne!
Choosing the size of your Plane
The “size” of a model plane generally refers to the size of engine, in cubic inch displacement, required to fly it successfully. The most popular sizes are 20 (requiring a .20-.36 engine), 40 (.40-.53 engine) and 60 (.60-.75 engine). Many other sizes are available, too, ranging from small, .049-powered craft up to massive, giant-scale models.
Most trainers fall into the 40-size category .That’s because 40s are fairly stable, with enough heft to fly well in breezy conditions, but still small enough to be affordable for new hobbyists. Many 60-size trainers are also a\ -ailable, and offer the advantage of even greater stability plus easier visibility once aloft both due to their larger dimension.
Choosing Your Type of Plane
Tow-line models are gliders which are launched using a long line with a ring hook, in the open against the wind direction. The launcher runs against the wind after the helper releases the aircraft. Once in air, the aircraft rapidly gains height until it is at the top most point called the ‘zenith’. The model automatically detaches from the tow-line as the ring hook slips and glides back to earth in wide circles. The fin is off-set a couple of degrees while constructing, to aid the glider to descend in circles.