Buyers Guide

by Kurt Gornek

Overview

Buying your first RC aircraft is an important decision. Your first experience typically establishes your flight learning curve and your early habits, both good and bad. Determining what your “dream” aircraft is from the beginning can help you take a progressive approach and guarantee success in your flying goals.

DO NOT think you can go out and buy a brand new park flyer (or bigger) airplane or a collective pitch helicopter and actually have a successful first flight. Even full-sized aircraft pilots do not know how to fly an RC aircraft, so don’t feel bad. They may have a leg up on the physics and flight characteristics but they are no more familiar with flying model aircraft than anyone, so it’s an even playing field.

For beginners, my absolute unchallenged best advice, if it’s in your budget, is to buy a computer simulator or a micro airplane or helicopter before you buy a larger model. Simulators cost nothing beyond the purchase price and never need repairs. Micro aircraft are so small and light that they can take most moderate impacts without resulting in damage and you’re still learning to train your brain to fly a larger RC aircraft.

It’s not uncommon for someone to log 3-4 hours on a simulator and have a successful first flight with their trainer aircraft. The enjoyment you experience when your learning approach insures a high probability of success is the reason 2 Brothers was created. Everyone can succeed at RC flight without breaking the bank in repairs and total loss.

See the Flight Simulators section for more information.

Where to Buy

As with any purchase, good consumer practices always pay off. Is the retailer a reputable business? If you buy online, who will help you? Do they offer live support? What is the warranty and return policy for defective products? Local hobby dealers are tangible, so if you have a problem you can walk through their doors and get a resolution to the problem. Most hobby dealers are eager to help you get started and guide you through model progression as your skills improve.

2 Brothers presents many technologies and products and provides model type guidance but we do not sell or endorse any products specifically. Our manufacturer links page can get you pointed in the right product directions but, as always, it’s up to you to make sure you buy from a reputable source.

The RC hobby industry is large, but the community is small so if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to Ask 2! There are several quality models on the market but there is also some real junk as well. If your product is cheap, looks cheap and comes in a retail bubble pack, it’s probably a flying toy and your experience will be very disappointing. 2 Brothers does NOT cover flying toys so if you’re interested in a product on our site, it’s generally a safe choice. Always read the product reviews and verify the price before you make your purchase.

Continue to Airplane Guide or Continue to Helicopter Guide

14 Responses to Buyers Guide

  1. avatar Phil2bf says:

    Hey Guys…. Like many of your readers, I’m looking to get into the Hobby/Sport for the very first time. I’m middle aged and Disabled, (I walk with a cane), but I can walk to a plane that I fully expect to something other than a “3 point landing”. I’ve been using a Sim for the past few days, and I’m experiencing fewer and fewer “lawn darts”.
    With that said, I was considering the Apprentice as my first plane, until I looked at your reviews on the Sensei. I have a couple of questions about the Sensei models that I didn’t see asked in the threads that followed. I apologize if I’m being redundant.
    First, is the ESC included in the RX-R, or do I need to purchase one of those too?
    Second, what’ are your thoughts on the electronics that come standard with the ARF? If I decide to eventually fly multiple models, will I be able to buy more Tactic Rx’s, and bind them? Or would you suggest just starting with the RX-R upfront and getting a Futaba 6E, or a Spektrum 6i, utilizing another battery/charger setup? Keeping in mind I’d like to get in as cheaply as possible, but don’t want to limit myself to one plane, or have to purchase another Tactic Tx for use as a “buddy box”.
    I realize that the RX-R with my own electronics would run me approximately $100 to $150 more than the ARF. Bottom line… do you think it’s worth the extra money?
    Thanks for your opinions guys. It’s good to know that there is some good, unbiased information out there.
    Phil

    • avatar kurt says:

      “First, is the ESC included in the RX-R, or do I need to purchase one of those too?” Yes, the Rx-R version does have the motor and ESC installed.
      “Second, what are your thoughts on the electronics that come standard with the ARF?” The Tactic radio system is very solid and quite capable as a 6 channel 2.4GHz radio. If you’re looking to fly more than just the Sensei, you may consider your other thought of picking up a computer radio system with multi-model memory. You’ll start saving money immediately with the investment and you’ll really enjoy the ease of switching between models and having your setup recalled from memory. As your skills improve, you can start playing with mixing and expos to customize each model’s flight characteristics to fit your flying style. Bottom line? Absolutely worth the extra money. The best thing I ever did was invest in a computer radio system up front. Zero regrets. In fact, when flying electrics, the other wise investment is a good balancing charger for your LiPos. A solid radio system and a good charger make all the difference. Good luck!

  2. avatar marlon says:

    Basic question. I’ve flown some coaxial and the AR drone quadricopter. I would like to learn collective pitch helicopters. Probably a simulator makes a lot of sense. But, I sit in front of a computer too much at home and at work. It won’t be a hobby, it will be more work. So I’d like to know what would be the best helicopter to start with. I’ve been working with a Blade MCPX. Its not easy, as I’ve been warned. But I haven’t given up. I need something I can fly in a limited space, preferable indoors. I read your review on the Blade SR. Sounds like that is definitely not the way to go. Is there anything better than what I have? I don’t really want to get a fixed pitch (even though that might make sense).

    • avatar Kurt says:

      Hmm. Tough spot you’re in. Flying indoors greatly decreases the model size and increases the reaction time needed to fly a CP. You’re right: I’d recommend a 120SR if you’re still working on getting your single rotor orientation down. If you want to go inverted, are stuck indoors, and want to stay small, the learning curve is steep. I actually went from a coaxial to 450 class CP’s and then back to smaller CPs. The twitchy nature of a tiny CP helicopter makes flying much more difficult than helis with a little more mass to stabilize and smooth out handling. The MCPX is actually a very good flyer for the size and design type, but it’s a lot harder to fly that a 450CP for someone that’s new to CP flight. Problem is, the 450’s are way more expensive (for a good one) and they cost a lot more to fix. Also, they’re way more intimidating for someone new and can do a lot more damage, even cause serious injury. I wish there were a magic formula for every pilot, but you have to find a path that compliments your strengths and counters your weaknesses. I still recommend: coaxial, micro FP, Small CP. This assumes you want to move up to the big helis and fly either scale or 3D. Finally, SIMULATOR!!!! Best money you’ll ever spend for learning helicopters. I spent many years of my career in front of a computer as an engineer, so I know your concern. Rest assured, the simulator is nothing like a work experience. Once you get your hands on the Tx, you forget you’re on a simulator and the skills you learn are invaluable. Spend a half hour on the simulator for a couple weeks and everything will change for you. Things will become more autonomous and you’ll start feeling like the heli is no longer flying you, instead, you’re flying the heli! Good Luck, Kurt

      • avatar marlon says:

        Dear Kurt:

        Thanks for the reply. I’ve been working for a few days. I spent a little time on a simulator. I’m still set on trying to fly the MCPX. I’m making some progress flying and a lot of progress learning to replace parts. Horizon Hobby tech support has been very good. However, as soon as I hit the throttle, frequently the heli takes off in one direction. In the videos it goes up. Often, I don’t even get a chance to correct with the cyclic. I know its twitchy but it seems it should be able to go straight up. I’ve checked the swashplate. I know there is ground effect but I try to get above that and it still veers off. Does this seem normal?

  3. avatar Simon_NZL says:

    Hi guys

    I’m looking at buying a Thunder Tiger Mini Titan E325 V2, but I’m unsure what kind of transmitter to buy. I want something decent but I don’t want to spend a fortune. I can’t see myself getting into planes anytime soon, so I have been looking at six channel systems. I’m considering a Spektrum DX6i or a Futaba 6EX or maybe a Hitec Optic 6 Sport. Is there anything else you think I should consider? Is one of these way better than the others, or would one particular transmitter suit the Thunder Tiger better?

    I’ve been learning on a fixed pitch single rotor, and now feel I’m ready for something a little more challenging. Like I said above, I’m looking at the Thunder Tiger, I think it would be a good next step. I figure if I take my time get used to the beginner mode then move on to idle up mode I should be right. Obviously I don’t expect this to happen over night. What do you think? Am I on the right track with the mini Titan?

    Your site and video tutorials have already been a huge help. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, especially on the transmitter.

    Cheers guys
    Simon

    • avatar Kurt says:

      Hi Simon, Picking the right radio system is an important step. If you’re looking at a DX6i/6EX/Optic6 shootout, you start splitting hairs. They all compete with each other at this level so the product features are all very similar. If you compare each model, there are some subtle function/feature differences, but nothing extremely noteworthy. At the core you’re choosing between DSMX, AFHSS, and FASST 2.4GHz technology. There are many strong opinions among hobbyists as to which one is better, more stable, etc. All three are considered among the best, so you’re safe either way. For the money, if you’re looking at the Futaba 6EX, you might as well jump up to the 7C. More features, more programming capabilities, and only a little more money. The next Futaba step would be the 8FG Super, and now you’re into about 500.00, so the 7C is a very affordable option. Programming is a lot easier and more easily displayed on the larger screen. Hitec is releasing the new Eclipse 7 Pro and, like the 7C, is within the same budget and is packed with several more features than the Optic 6 Sport. Ultimately, any of these radio systems would fly a Mini Titan V2 just fine, but what you’re going to quickly discover as your heli experience grows is that programing flexibility is key to matching the aircraft to your flying ability and style. A good radio investment goes a very long way, with a current 2.4GHz system lasting you for several years to come. I started off with a Spektrum DX7 when I moved into helis. After about 6 months, I really started using the advanced features. Now I can’t imagine flying helis without a full computer radio system, especially with flybarless setups. Since you’re focusing on helis, make sure you get the heli version. One of the most notable characteristics of a heli radio is the smooth, non-ratcheted gimbal for throttle/pitch. This is a must for heli piloting. Some of the radios mentioned also offer either adjustable gimbals or come with an interchangeable stick for heli or acro flying. Good Luck!

  4. avatar bfergusondad says:

    I am looking to move beyond foamies like the hobby zone champ. I would like to remain 3 channel electric. want more durable airframe material, and can take the Champ to some light aerobatics. What do you suggest as a higher price option product to buy?

    • avatar Kurt says:

      Sticking with 3 channel and staying tough would keep you in foam, just a different type of foam called Expanded Polyolefin (EPO). This is commonly found under the material brand names of Elapor (Multiplex), Z-Foam (Parkzone), AeroCell (Flyzone/ElectriFly/Cox) and a few others. In fact, Horizon Hobby has gone a step further and released a product called Carbon-Z which is fiber reinforced EPO. Super strong stuff but a bit more pricey. Staying three channel greatly narrows your options but there are a few out there typically as trainers. HobbyZone makes a three channel 47.7″ park flyer Super Cub that’s very durable and also very popular. It’s going to be bigger than your Champ but behaves nicely in the sky. Hope this helps!

  5. avatar shadco says:

    Hi there.

    I’ve enjoyed your reviews and appreciate your perspective.

    I want to get started in RC Planes.

    I have successfully built and fly a number of CP Heli’s, T-rex FBL 450seV2, T-Rex 450 Pro V2, Gaui X2, and MSH Protos.

    I have and use Phoenix Sim, I’m currently using the Multplex Mentor as the model.

    I have a Spek DX8, and a few of 6 to 8 channel DSMX re’s.

    I have a decent inventory of Lipos, 1000MAH 3S’s, 2200 MAH 3S’s, 1300MAH 6S’s, and 2600MAH 6S’s along with good charging and discharging solutions.

    I plan on joining 2 local Club’s that have good new pilot training programs and offer buddy box support.

    I want to select a trainer in the 48″ inch to 65″ wingspan range.

    I do not want to purchase an RTF package since there will be way too much redundancy.

    Based on my research what I have found attractive are models that don’t seem to be available anymore.

    Telemasters, or Electristar for example.

    Not being sure of my building skills I think a quality ARF or PNP is the way to go.

    I’m concerned about quality of included electrical components in a lot of these kit’s, servo’s, motor, and esc to be specific.

    I would like something that has legs and can be enhanced by adding functionality once I get past the learning curve associated with just starting out.

    Would you guys have any recommendations? Unfortunately my LHS seems to want to shove an Alpha 40, my way and I don’t want to go nitro, or buy a redundant TX.

  6. avatar thfirefighter4793 says:

    Hey Guys,
    I wanted to ask a question. I’m a new RC aircraft pilot. I bought a Flylite and have mastered flying it (thanks for the review and the battery trick, what a difference). So as my next plane, I bought the Hobbico Sensei. Well I went out tonight, and after a few practice flight with my Flylite, I decided it was time to take the Sensei for a spin. Now I have done alot of ground manuvers and short hops with the Sensei alredy, so the ground handling is not an issue. However once I had it airborne, things went wrong in a hurry and I crashed it. Not too bad. Basically winged it over, broke the cowl and motor mount. Nothing that a bit of glue can’t fix. My question is this. Can I disable the ailerons and fly the Sensei as a 3 channel until I get the hang of how this plane flies? There are no local instuctors where I live, so most of this is by trial and error. I am a regular pilot, and understand flight characterisics. I was just thinking since I can handle the 3 channel really well, I would like to fly this as a 3 for a bit. Also if it is ok to do this, do I need to lock down the ailerons in any way? I won’t be doing any aerobatics or anything like that. Just want to make it a bit easier for me to fly. Please let me know your thoughts. As always, keep up the great work, and awsome reviews!

    • avatar Kurt Gornek says:

      Thanks for your support! As for flying the Sensei with rudder only, it doesn’t have enough main wing dihedral to make three channel flying practical. My strongest recommendation to you if you’re teaching yourself and want to minimize expense would be to pick up a $99.00 simulator application (RealFlight or Phoenix) and crash often. The Sensei is a perfect platform for you, but without an instructor and a buddy box you’re going to spend a lot of time repairing it instead of logging stick time. With your FlyLite experience, just 3 hours on the simulator will have you up and flying the Sensei very well. Good Luck!

  7. avatar scrappyted says:

    2B guys,

    First off thank you for all the great reviews and knowledge database, you guys are cool and a hoot to watch on youtube.
    I’m new to this hobby and have gotten bit bad with the RC plane bug. Currently I’m flying two foamies, 50″ Dynam 5ch corsair and a 42″ Dynam Peak Bi-plane 3d 4ch, TX is a Futaba 7C.
    My question is for my next plane I’m really wanting a bush style plane with flaps and floats\wheels and STOL flying capabilities. I really like the Flyzone DHC-2 and also the Multiplex Fun cub. I’m bummed out that the Fun cub cost more and doesn’t look as nice as the beaver. Maybe you guys have another good idea or are willing to tell me what may best suit my needed\wants.
    Thanks,
    Ted

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