Remote Control

Good to start with as kid


Another way to have your first steps in aviation is the use of remote control systems. I used them in my youth. In those days you had to build them yourself using balsa wood, glue, fabric. Today, you can buy ready-to-fly boxes.


RC is fun. You can fly with really fun stuff. But ...always begin with a training airplane! Don't make the mistake to begin with that fancy, hot jet model. You crash it for sure. You are throwing your money away. If you have too much of that, just deposit it on my bank, please. :)


The picture is my son Jonathan and his second RC model. The first model crashed several times. Luckily it was each time repairable.



More advantages


  • very safe
  • you can fly many different airplanes
  • You can design and build your own stuff if you have the knowledge (which is rather doable if you keep it to the basics)


More disadvantages (look at bottom for most common mistakes)


  • able to learn with mistakes that cost not a fortune
  • inverted control when flying towards you
  • your airplane can go out of your sight



Explaining the graph




Beginner models in RC are slow fliers. They need to be. You need to land them and you really want that to be easy by flying slow enough. But assured ...if you want speed, you can have speed too once you are more experienced. There are even models that use real jet engines. I have such a motor in the garage. Never used it yet.


Low Cost


You can have very cheap RC models. They are more toys, than real RC models that can learn you to fly for real. But ...all beginning will be with crashes. The inverted control makes that happen. More about that later. So, don't spend too much money on your first model. Learn to use inverted control before going for a true, nice beginners model. Tip: there are even flight simulators that are for RC airplanes. You are sitting behind your laptop and you fly your RC model, you intend to buy. It is possible to learn inverted control that way and save a lot of money by avoiding all those crashed at first.


Don't think that RC is only low cost. The deeper you get into the hobby, the more expensive it can get. But you can stay with low budget projects if you want to avoid big costs.




RC is intended to stay within line of sight. So, very short range.


UAV's are for beyond that point. But out. The regulations are getting more and more strict towards UAV's. I would avoid them as long as those rules are not yet made and made clear.


Open air


Most of the RC models are intended for playing in open air. So ...rain can spoil your fun.


There is a type of models that are slow enough to be used indoors. Not in the living room. But in a sports hall. Be sure to ask permission to use it there to the owners of the sports hall.


Flying in rain


Rain gets your model wet. Wet models weight more. In RC world that can be a lot of weight gain in percentages. That will totally destroy the behaviour of the model in flight. I would avoid it.


Are you a toy of the wind?


Pilots know there is a thing called turbulences. It is when the wind does things you would not expect in a steady wind. Suddenly you are thrown upwards or pulled downward. Or you get diverted to left or right. And cannot predict it.


Some air-vehicles have not much trouble with those small turbulences. Reason: they are really heavy. They are harder to push around. Now ...RC models are very very light. So ...if your model is in a turbulence, it gets shaken around.


Group or solo


It depends on your type of RC model if you need help or not to fly your RC model. Some models don't have a landing gear. In the beginning it is handy that somebody else is doing the throw. Make sure that person knows what a good throw is. I have seen a lot of models being destroyed due to a bad throw.


If you are in a group, it can happen that your radio jams other radios. It all depends on the type of radio you use. In the past, the receivers worked on not much frequencies. If you had the same frequency, you jammed the other pilot. Many models were lost because some idiot didn't turn of his radio or didn't check the radios of the other pilots before setting his radio active.


Three types of fun with RC flying


RC fun can be triple fold. Flying, building and designing. Each choice has its fans. You have guys who love to design, build up, but lack the skills to fly it. But ...they have fun seeing their creations fly in the hands of more experienced pilots. You have the pilots who totally lack the skills of design. Well, they have a great choice of possible airplanes to buy. Let them just fly. And you have the builders. Some do very quick jobs, just to fly it as quickly as possible. Others make pieces of art. Some create beautiful models, which they hardly dare to fly, because a single crash would ruin their work. And ...some guys have all the skills and do it all. Designing, building and flying.






RC is more realistic than sims in some ways. You have more connection with the weather. But you still lack "the feel" on the controls.


Inverted control is a new problem


A new problem is the inverted control. If the model is flying away from you, left is left and right is right. But ...if the model flies towards you, you need to steer right to see the airplane go left and vice versa. Most of my models crashed due to that problem. I corrected flight problems in a bad manner and made the steering mistake even worse then it was. I admit ...i am a very bad RC pilot.


Fun !


I can tell that RC is fun by own experience. I was working on a full scale hangglider design. To test your thoughts we made a 1/4 scale model. The development of that model was a history of crash and retry. But finally we ended with a model that flew so beautiful, it inspires people. Albion Bowers of NASA has the same model now.


Several types of RC


 The choice in RC is enormous! You have those very tiny quadcopters to use indoors and you have those very realistic huge scale models. Materials go from foam to composites to balsa to aluminium (the latter is more for UAV's (those very big RC ones)). Here a quick overview just to let you see what is possible.




I used some of these very tiny playthings. They are fun to use indoors. They give you some experience in inverted controls with less chance to wreck your model.


Foam models


From very small to very big ones. These things are available in fully ready to build and some ask a bit of installation work. But ...all work is very doable if you are a bit handy.


Balsa models


Here you are actually a builder. You cut the materials. You glue it on a plan. You assemble all parts. Fun, but it takes a longer time before you can start flying.


Hard composites


This is the stuff for the more experienced RC pilots. They can even be competition stuff. Many models are rather easy to assemble. Just install the servo's and the receiver and done. They demand less time to construct than balsa models. But ...they are more expensive.




I think they are there somewhere. But i have not heard of one yet. It probably will be a very huge RC airplane. Probably a UAV. I guess that most of us cannot afford this type of RC model.




  • if you are a beginner, DON'T take that jet to start with. Choose a real beginner model. Those fancy looking models fly fast. Too fast for a beginner. If it is not mentioned on the box it is a model for a beginner, IT IS NOT.
  • Don't install a larger battery than original intended. More weight makes the model fly faster. Remember want to avoid speed during landings. It are the landings that decide how long your model will live.