Which RC planes are best?
Kids start flying with paper gliders they make themselves, then move on to balsa wood gliders that go farther and stay aloft longer. When kids first get into powered flight, some begin with tethered aircraft they fly in circles around themselves, changing only speed and altitude. Radio-controlled airplanes cut the cord and replace it with radio waves sending flight instructions from a handheld controller.
If you are looking for an RC for a beginner, take a close look at the HobbyZone Carbon Cub RC Airplane. This plane is capable of loops, rolls and upside-down flight when pilots become more skilled.
What to know before you buy an RC plane
Airplanes and drones are both capable of flight, but each has a different purpose. Therefore, don’t buy one or the other thinking they are the same thing.
Airplanes are fixed-wing aircraft with horizontal and vertical stabilizers at the rear. Airplanes use puller or pusher propellers to convert forward thrust into speed.
Drones are hovercraft that use the downward force of three or more propellers to allow the drone to hover in place. This is what makes them excellent video camera platforms.
How much experience does the pilot have?
When flying a powered aircraft hundreds of feet away from you, things can go wrong even when the pilot is an experienced one. The package on that good-looking RC plane may say “ready to fly”, but is the pilot ready too? Before your RC airplane starts its first flight, make sure you:
- Understand the rules and regulations governing the flying of RC planes where you live.
- Ask the company that insures your home and cars what sorts of policies will protect you in the event your RC plane damages someone else’s property.
- Find a large open area well away from trees, powerlines, streets and people. The bigger the open area you can find, the better.
- Always do a pre-flight distance check so you don’t fly your airplane out of range and lose control of the airplane. Keep a close eye on your aircraft and controller battery levels for the same reasons.
- Check the flying zone carefully before launching your aircraft.
- Use common sense and courtesy.
- Have fun!
What to look for in a quality RC plane
Choose an RC plane that is best suited to your level of flying experience. Avoid the best-looking one that may be too hard for you to fly.
Special technology features
SAFE technology: SAFE stands for Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope. It is a technology that helps inexperienced pilots gain confidence while flying. It works by preventing extreme overcontrol.
Landing assist: Landing is the toughest part of flying for RC pilots and pilots of full-size planes, too. Look for planes that help make landing safer and easier.
Panic buttons: Look for RC planes that have a button that brings your plane back home all by itself.
Virtual fences: Look for RC planes that allow you to set a perimeter around a safe flying area.
How much you can expect to spend on an RC plane
You can find simple RC planes for beginners for less than $50. Better RC airplanes with more features cost from $100-$500. Above that, the sky’s the limit.
RC plane FAQ
Do I need insurance to fly my RC plane?
A. The answer is “yes” in some places and “no” in others. You could check with your local government, your insurer or a local RC airplane club nearby.
Does it take long to learn to fly an RC plane?
A. Some people pick it up quite naturally once they’ve learned the fundamentals. The basics are easier to learn when you learn from an experienced pilot who is willing to show you how to fly. The rest of it is like real airplanes. The more hours of flying experience you have, the more you learn, and eventually, become a better pilot.
What’s the best RC plane to buy?
Top RC plane
What you need to know: This RC plane is capable of aerobatic maneuvers, including loops, rolls and upside-down flight.
What you’ll love: Set a “virtual fence” that puts boundaries around where this RC plane can fly. This RC plane allows the pilot to change between beginner, intermediate and expert operating modes with the touch of a button. SAFE technology makes it easy to learn how to fly and prevents crashes.
What you should consider: The optional and easy-to-install Landing Assist Sensor makes every landing a smooth one.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top RC plane for the money
What you need to know: This 2.4-gigahertz, three-channel RC airplane has 25 minutes of flight time.
What you’ll love: Turn on the gyro stabilizer, and this airplane is extremely stable, even in crosswinds. Turn off the gyro stabilizer and do all the spins, loops, spirals and tricks you like with this 20-inch wingspan Cessna at distances of up to 200 meters.
What you should consider: The 3.7-volt, 500-mAh lithium polymer battery is included along with a charger and USB cable.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: The three-level flight controls allow beginners to use full assist; pilots with a few hours under their belts can use partial assist, and experts can use full manual control.
What you’ll love: The extremely aerodynamic pusher design of this RC glider puts less strain on the battery so that it can soar for up to 30 minutes on a single charge. The 2.4 gigahertz radio has a control distance of more than 650 feet, twice the length of a football field.
What you should consider: The boomerang function banks your plane in a U-turn and flies it back to you at a touch of the button.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.