Are you new to the hobby of RC model flying and wondering how to get started?
Are you unsure what type of model to get or how much it will cost?
If the answer to these questions is “YES” than this page is for you!
Learning to fly a model aircraft of any type is a rewarding experience but it can be very frustrating if you try to go it alone.
By far the best way to start is to visit a local club to get a better idea of how model flying works. Based on the type of
flying you want to do they will be able to recommend suitable models and radio equipment to give you best chance of
Below we give you an idea of what types of models are suitable for training and a rough guide to costs. However, the
most important advice we can give is DO NOT BUY ANYTHING until you have joined a club where you will get valuable
advice and support, including training. We hope that you will choose our club.
Types of Model
Model aircraft fall into three main categories:
Fixed Wing Aircraft
This includes models designed for training, sports and aerobatic models and scale models. It also
includes gliders which these days are often equipped with a small electric motor to get them airborne without the need for
a tow line.
These range from small twin rotor models designed for indoor flying through to large and powerful highly aerobatic models
and scale models.
Multi-Rotor Aircraft (Also known as drones)
This is a new category that has become popular recently. It includes tiny toy models the size of your hand that can only
be flown indoors, larger models designed for racing, and very large models, often with up to eight rotors designed for
carrying large cameras for professional photography.
Traditionally, radio controlled model aircraft have always been powered by miniature piston engines, initially diesel but
more recently glow plug engines. Large models can also use petrol engines. However, in the last 10 years or so, electric
power has become a viable alternative thanks to dramatic developments in battery and motor technology. Multi-rotor
models are only possible thanks to these developments so electric power is the only option for these models.
For someone starting out in the hobby now, and wanting to fly a fixed wing model or a helicopter you will need to choose
whether to start with electric or glow engine power. There are pros and cons for each option:
Electric power is cleaner and quieter, and is easier for a beginner – the engine always starts – but flight times are more
limited and, for each flight, you need a fully charged battery. This limits the amount of flying you can get in one day
unless you buy a lot of batteries.
A glow engine powered model is likely to have longer flight times, refuelling only takes a minute or two and you can do
this as many times as you like. However, they need additional supporting equipment (fuel pump, starter, glow plug power
source) and you would need training in starting and adjusting the engine.
In the end the choice is yours. Some people like the simplicity of electric, others are fascinated by operating a miniature
engine and see this as part of the model flying experience. But, whatever you choose to get started, remember you can
always move onto the other option later. Many members in our club fly a mixture of electric and glow powered models.
Types of model to get you started and a rough guide to costs:
You need to choose an aeroplane that is stable and easy to fly. Don’t pick a low-wing, aerobatic aeroplane, or a war bird;
you can move on to one of them later. The best choice is a high wing model, with traditional wooden construction, with a
wing span of at least 1.3m. These models are more stable in flight, are less inclined to stall, and are more forgiving for a
beginner. The best training models will also have the potential to move on to more advanced flying once you have learned
The costs and the build:
For a beginner we suggest an ARTF (Almost Ready to Fly) model. These are pre-built and covered models that require
minimum build skills and come with a comprehensive hardware pack. You will also need a radio set (transmitter, receiver
Typical costs are:
ARTF model £100
6 channel radio Transmitter, receiver and servos £170
Power system – glow option
Glow engine and propeller £65
Flight battery (to power radio in model) £15
Starting equipment £85
One gallon of fuel (enough for around 20 flights) £20
Total £180 (glow power)
Power system – electric option
Motor, speed controller and propeller £70
3 batteries (the minimum number we recommend) £100
Total £200 (electric power)
Note that the costs for the electric or glow powered version is almost the same.
If you are on a tight budget, you can go for a light weight electric powered model made of foam. These usually come
complete with an installed power system and servos, so require only batteries and a radio system to complete them. This
option will save you quite a bit of money but you must be aware of the limitations. The model will be much lighter and you
will only be able to fly in fairly calm conditions. Once you have learnt to fly you will have reached the limit of what the
model can do and you will want to upgrade. Nevertheless, if you do decide to go down this route we can recommend a
suitable model. Above all do not be tempted by adverts for surprisingly cheap and attractive looking ready to fly foam
models advertised as ideal for learning. In our experience most are far from suitable and can be challenging even for
Helicopters tend to be expensive to buy, maintain and repair. Additionally, it takes a lot of practise and time to become
competent to fly them. However, the range of manoeuvres available may make up for these.
There are two types of Helicopters ; Fixed Pitch and Cyclic Pitch.
Fixed pitch is mostly used for Training and limits the aerobatic capability of the helicopter. More suited to Indoor flight.
Cyclic pitch is necessary for aerobatics and 3D, allowing inverted flight manoeuvres. Indoor or Outdoor flight.
Can be Electric or Glow. Smaller helicopters tend to be electric with a limited flight time and small rotor size. Glow tend to
be larger in rotor size and heavier,
In general, the larger the rotor, the more stable the helicopter.
Setup is crucial to getting the machine to fly properly and tends to be complex. It won’t fly if it’s not setup, and conversely
if it’s not setup, it won’t fly. Unfortunately, each design is different in this regard.
The first suggestion is to talk to a Member who flies them for advice. HWDMAC can advise on the right member.
Specialised Heli. Club
Having been through the Training Heli. stage, if you are serious about Heli. 3D and aerobatics, then the best place to learn
quickly is a specialised Heli. Club.
Typical costs and examples are (2017) :
Indoor Electric BNF (bind and fly) model (fixed pitch)
Typical Model - (ideal introduction to Helis and 4 channel controls are as per the larger machines)
LIPO Batteries (2 included)
LIPO Charger & Balancer (included)
4 channel (minimum) (Spectrum or similar) radio Transmitter Required £60-70
Outdoor Electric BNF model (cyclic)
Typical Smaller Heli. (Fully aerobatic and reasonable in light winds)
(as fixed pitch)
Outdoor Glow or Electric 50 size 3D Kit
Typical 50 size ARF £800
(Does not include starting equipment)
Typical 50 size £860
(Does not include Batteries or charger)
There are too many choices and possible setups to recommend anything specific here. Above all, DO NOT
jump on to EBay
and buy something that looks good on paper for £30-70. Generally, it will be a “toy”, you won’t be able to get
spares for it
and it’s flight performance will be poor. You should consult with a Club Member who flies Multi-Rotor before
buying anything, because so much depends on the type of flying you wish to do. Things to look out for :
1) How big is it ? 450mm is a good size to start with (or 250mm for a racing quad)
2) Does it have brushless motors ? If not – stay away from it – it’s a toy !
3) Are there lots of spares for it ? (motors, flight controller, frame parts, props etc.) If not , then it’s still a
4) Google the product : is there a support Forum or a Facebook Group to support it ? If not, then how are you
going to fix t after you crash it ?
Once you have found your chosen multi-rotor you’ll need to buy some spares for it at the time of purchase :
A bucket of spare props. Ie) bulk packs. Get at least 10Cw and 10CCW rotating props. (You’ll be breaking
several a day when you start)
A spare pair of motors (one CCW and the other CCW rotation) – sooner or later you will bend one of them, so
you’ll need a spare.
At least two or three extra flight batteries (Flyers in our Club typically keep at least six of each type, but
three is a good starting point). There is no point in going to the field if you only get one or two flights.
Bottom Line – Seek a recommendation from a Multi-Rotor Flyer before you buy anything, otherwise you could
spend a lot of money on something that just does’nt work for you.
V3 - 06/05/2017