Airplane Skill Levels
A typical beginner plane will be one that displays very stable, predictable flight characteristics at slower speeds. There are many models labeled trainers ranging from micro planes up to large scale. Many people start out with a high wing configuration for stability. Usually this type of trainer will be a 3-channel (throttle, elevator and rudder) configuration. Starting out with a 3-channel high wing plane will offer a little more room for error mainly because the plane will handle a rudder-only turn more gently than an aileron turn. These planes will have a more generous wing area and lighter wing loading that make them easier to fly. Some manufactures are offering trainers with built in technology that will help prevent a crash if you lose control.
RC planes that could fall under this category make up a very large number. This group generally includes models that are a little more challenging in their flight characteristics. 4-channel planes with a low wing configuration are usually the next step for many people. Faster speeds and higher wing loading offers more of a challenge and require faster response times than a trainer. Intermediate planes require you to “fly” the plane rather than rely on the airframe design to compensate for a few mistakes here and there. As mentioned several times, use a flight simulator if you have one.
Many low wing combat airplanes fall into the intermediate category. These models generally slip more through turns and require the synchronized use of the ailerons and rudder to execute clean turns. Takeoff and landing speeds are significantly faster than trainers so more flying space is needed. Intermediate planes are more likely to experience heavy damage from crashes due to the higher speeds, heavier airframe, and larger sizes.
Some manufacturers are offering progressive trainers that allow for the use of on-board electronic fight assistance and/or airframe modifications such as NACA droops or spoilers that can be removed as your skills improve. Progressive training planes are growing in popularity and are a good choice for someone who has access to an RC flying site with good visibility and ample landing area.
An advanced model is usually a plane that requires more skill in situational awareness and stick control. When you tackle a model of this caliber, you should be able to handle just about any kind of situation with confidence and competency. This may be a plane such as a multi-engine warbird that has flaps or a jet that has very high wing loading and flys much like the real plane. This may require total concentration or precise landing procedures to prevent tip stalling. Sometimes a model is labeled advanced because it requires a higher skill level during the build and set-up. Some planes are just more difficult to fly because of their size or airframe design, so make sure you are up to the task before jumping feet first into a model that is going to require an advanced level of experience to fly.
High Wing Aircraft
Common trainers with stable flight characteristics. Typically have a wing dihedral for increased stability.
Examples: Cessna 172, Piper J-3 Cub, Taylorcraft
Low Wing Passenger Aircraft/Trainers
Private passenger aircraft or military trainers with wing dihedral for added stability. Conventional airframe design commonly made with retractable landing gear. More difficult than high wing due to increased slip during turns.
Examples: Piper Cherokee, Mooney Bravo, Beechcraft Bonanza, T-34 Mentor
Low Wing Fighter Aircraft
Very popular among RC flyers. Low wing design with higher wing loading on shorter wings. Designed for agility and performance. Heavy slip during turns and higher performance increases the difficulty.
Examples: American P-40 Warhawk, American P-51 Mustang, British Spitfire, Japanese Zero
The classic barnstormer, used for aerobatics and agility. Shorter, flat wings produce fast roll rates, slow glide paths and trickier landings.
Examples:Christen Eagle, Pitts Special, Super Stearman, Waco’s
Mid-Wing Aerobatic Aircraft
Mid-wing design allows for very agile flight and extreme aerobatics. Large, symmetrical wing surface with over-sized control surfaces for high control authority. Control responses are very fast and middle, symmetrical main wing experiences drastic slip during turns making this an advanced aircraft.
Examples: Extra 260, Edge 540, Sukhoi SU-26, Funtana X100
Inverted Gull Wing Fighter Aircraft
Made popular by the F4U Corsair fighter introduced in WWII. Very popular RC plane among enthusiasts. Inverted gull design causes adverse yaw axis “wag” through turns and can be difficult to land. Wing design results in increased agility at the expense of stability.
Examples: F4U Corsair, Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, Aichi B7A
Flying Delta Wing
Flying wings actually have a large wing surface with low wing loading, but the absence of an empennage, or tail section, results in very fast pitch response. Foam models are fairly docile but balsa built-up designs can go extremely fast.
Examples: Parkzone F-27C Stryker, Electrifly Slinger, MS Composit Swift Series
Delta Wing Jets and Jet Fighters
The fastest airframe design in RC. Jets in the electric world are powered by Electric Ducted Fans. Jets have very small wings comparatively allowing for great high speed performance but instability at slow speeds. Always considered an advanced airframe, electric RC jets are gaining in popularity due to advances in motor and ducted fan unit designs.
Examples: American F-16 Falcon, American F-14 Tomcat, Russian Mig-29
Sailplanes and Pylon Racers
Foam sailplanes can be extremely gentle and stable to fly, especially with a dihedral on the main wing and are safe for beginners to intermediate pilots. Once you move beyond foam and into built-up balsa, fiberglass, and even carbon fiber, sailplanes and their close neighbor the pylon racer require expert skill. A carbon fiber sailplane recently broke a world record, RC slope-soaring at over 350 mph!
Examples: Parkzone Radian, Multiplex Cularis, Avionik D-99, Team Ariane P5