What type of plane should I purchase first?
We highly recommend a high wing trainer for beginners. Low wing planes are not recommended for beginners and EDF Jets are never recommended under any circumstances for beginners. A high wing trainer gives a beginner the best chance for success in the hobby. High wing trainers are significantly more stable than other forms of RC aircraft and also require less speed to takeoff and land. The Motion RC selection of trainer RC planes can be found here. Please call us or send us an email and we can help pick out the best trainer for your circumstances and budget. The use of a flight simulator such as RealFlight is also recommended. An instructor is highly recommended.
What's the differnce between RTF, PNP, TXR, and KIT and which one is right for me?
RTF (Ready to Fly) - An RTF plane includes the plane with the motor, servos, and ESC already in place. It will also include the radio, receiver, battery, and charger. An RTF will require some build time - anywhere from 15 min to a few hours depending on the brand/model. The radio and battery charger are very basic but they will allow you to get in the air with one simple purchase. This is normally best for beginners as it will allow a beginner to purchase a plane without a ton of research on radios, receivers, batteries, and chargers. If a beginner becomes very interested in the hobby, a higher quality full featured radio and battery charger can be purchased later.
PNP (Plug and Play) - A PNP foam plane includes the plane with the motor, servos, and ESC already in place. A battery and charger are not included. A radio and receiver are not included. This is good for people who have a full featured radio with model memory (the ability to fly and save multiple planes using one radio). Those who have been in the hobby for a while or plan to progress in the hobby generally have a large collection of batteries and a charger. For people with their own radio, batteries, and charger, the purchase of a receiver is all that is needed. This is referred to as RXR by Great Planes and Flyzone for their foam planes. This is also sometimes referred to as ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) on some Hobby Websites.
TXR (Transmitter Ready) - Great planes and Flyzone use this term to describe a foam plane which includes a motor, servos, ESC, and receiver already in place. Generally, includes a battery and charger (exception is the Flyzone F4U Corsair, and Flyzone Beaver). The use of a Tactic Anylink radio adapter allows a TXR plane to be flown with any major radio brand. See our Tactic Anylink page for exact radio compatibility.
KIT - A KIT plane is an airframe only. It does not include any motor, ESC, or servos (though usually includes servoless retracts on planes with retracts). It also does not include a battery, charger, radio, or receiver. Airframe only kits are good for advanced hobbyists who want to pick out and install all their own electronics. Please note, some manufacturers such as Great Planes will use the term ARF to describe a KIT plane.
What equipment do I need as a beginner?
There are two directions you can go as a beginner. You can purchase an RTF (Ready to Fly) RC plane which will include everything you need. You may also choose to purchase a separate radio, receiver, battery, and charger. Why would you choose to purchase all of these separately? The simple truth is radios and chargers which are included with RTF RC planes are very basic and will be outgrown quickly. The charger will be a slow fixed rate charger with a charge rate appropriate to the battery which is included with the RTF RC plane. It will not be appropriate for many other size batteries. However, it will be simple to operate. The same is true for the radio included with an RTF RC plane. It will be very basic but also simple to operate. It will lack the features you need as you progress in the hobby. Many beginners choose to purchase an RTF kit because it is simple to learn. If you choose to purchase your equipment separately, here is a list of equipment you need along with some general guidance:
Radio - There are many types and brands of radios. Ideally, you need a radio with the proper number of channels for the planes you fly. For example, most planes have ailerons, rudder, elevator, and throttle. This will require at least a 4 channel radio to control. Many planes also have flaps and retractable landing gear. This will require another 2 channels. This means a 6 channel radio is required for those planes. If hard earned dollars are going to be invested in a radio, we at Motion RC recommend a 6 channel radio as the minimum that should be considered. There are also many other features that should be considered. A radio with model memory appropriate to the number of planes in your hanger is a must. If you own 20 planes, a radio with a minimum of 20 model memory slots should be considered. A memory slot will store the binding information to the receiver, the trim settings for a specific plane, and all other settings (such as dual rates and expo settings) for the plane. This will allow all planes you own to be flown from a single radio. Advanced features such as telemetry should also be considered. Some radio/receiver combinations have basic telemetry built in, some have it as an option, while others don't have it at all. Telemetry allows you to know critical data such as the voltage of your battery pack, the airspeed of your plane, etc. Another nice feature is the ability to assign any function to any knob, switch, or stick on your radio. Some radios allow this while others do not. We have tried most major brand radios and chose HiTec radios as our favorite.
Receiver - This is a small component which resides in the plane. The receiver literally receives radio signals (control inputs) from your radio allowing you to control the plane. All the wires from the servos and throttle are connected to the receiver. In general a radio and receiver must be the same brand and type to communicate. There are exceptions to this. One exception is the Tactic receiver found in Flyzone TXR planes (see TXR explanation above). A receiver must have the same (or fewer) number of channels as your radio. For example a 9 channel radio will communicate with a 6 channel receiver without issue. There are additional features to consider. Some receivers have basic built in telemetry, some have it as an option, and some do not have it at all. Some receivers can be powered by an optional external battery while some can only be powered by the flight battery pack. An additional battery connected to your receiver can be very beneficial to prevent a brownout. The Motion RC complete selection of receivers is here
Battery - Electric RC planes use a lithium polymer (LiPo) battery pack to power the motor, servos, ESC (speed control), retractable landing gear, and lights. The battery pack may be a single LiPo cell or multiple LiPo cells. In general, small micro sized planes use a single cell LiPo battery while larger planes use a multi cell LiPo battery. The multi cel LiPo will have two wire leads. The first is the discharge connector which will connect to the ESC of your plane. The second is the balance connector used to balance the cells during charging. The balance connector is not used during flight. Each model plane has a recommended battery. Why are there so many batteries and why do many planes use different size batteries? in general, larger planes need larger capacity batteries to achieve reasonable flight time. Capacity is measured in mAh (milli Amp hours). A 2200mAh battery will allow a longer flight time than a 1300mAh battery. A 2200mAh battery is also larger and will likely not fit in a plane designed to use a 1300mAh battery. Another key measurement is the discharge rating (C rating). In very simple terms the "C rating" is a measure of how fast your LiPo can be drained of energy. Given the same size battery, some planes will drain it of power faster than others. A plane which drains a battery of power quickly will need a battery with a higher C rating than the plane using the same size battery which drains the battery slower. There is a point at which a high C rated battery does nothing more than drain your wallet. There is a misconception that a battery with a higher C rating will make your plane faster. This is not true in many cases. If you are using a battery with the proper C rating for your planes motor/ESC/prop combination, the plane will be drawing all the power it can. Using a higher C rated battery cannot force the plane to draw more power and become faster. If you are using a battery with a C rating to low for your plane, than yes, using a higher C rated battery will make your plane faster. There are many hobby shops pushing expensive batteries with high C ratings simply because they are expensive and the hobby shop makes more money. Do not fall prey to this. Simply get a battery that is adequate for your plane. Every plane on the Motion RC web site lists the recommended battery for that plane. One concept directly related to the C rating is IR (Internal Resistance). In general, batteries with a higher C rating have a lower IR. IR will increase as your batteries age and there is no way to prevent it. Treating your battery properly will help IR to increase more slowly. Eventually, the IR of your LiPo pack will be high enough that it can no longer supply the amount of amperage needed to power your plane. At this point your plane will not fly properly and you will likely think there is something wrong with it. You will give full throttle and the plane will fly as if it is at half throttle. At this point you need a new LiPo. While a LiPo pack can last many years if treated properly, they do wear out and they will never last forever. Very small LiPo cells have a much higher IR than large LiPo cells. The key is to check IR after the first few charges and keep track as the battery ages. Next, each cell has a nominal voltage of 3.7V while a fully charged LiPo cell is 4.2V. Thus a fully charged 3 cell LiPo is 12.6V with a nominal voltage of 11.1V. Proper storage of your LiPo batteries is key to the longevity of the LiPo battery pack. If you store your LiPo packs fully charged or discharged, they will age prematurely. Ideal LiPo storage voltage is about 3.85V per cell. A good LiPo charger will have a "storage" function. Another key to longevity of your LiPo pack is to land before your battery is fully drained. Ideally, we land when our packs are no less than 3.7V resting voltage per cell. If you drain you packs further, you risk damage to the battery pack (you will see it "puff up"). If your pack is at 3.7V per cell resting, the voltage will be much lower while under load (throttle) in the air. You can see this in real time if your radio and receiver have voltage telemetry. Most people simply set a timer and land when the time is up. This should be followed by a voltage test of your LiPo battery. If your battery is still at 4.0V per cell after landing, then add more time to the flight timer. Our selection of LiPo batteries are listed by the number of cells in the LiPo pack.
Charger - Why are there so many chargers? What is the difference? The main differences are the speed at which a charger can charge a battery, the maximum number of cells in a battery pack that can be charged, and the features of the charger. For example, the basic chargers that come with RTF planes are very slow and are only good for the specific size battery that came with your plane. Eventually, you will need one good charger that can charge all your batteries quickly, store them properly, test them, and do all this safely. At its most basic you want a charger that allows you to select the number of cells in the battery pack you are charging and the charge rate for the battery pack. Ideally, you want to see the voltage of the battery pack and each individual cell in the pack on the chargers display screen. As a rule of thumb, if you don't know how fast to charge your LiPo pack, charge it at 1C: for a 2200mAh pack, this would be 2.2A - for a 3000mAh pack, this would be 3.0A - for a 600mAh pack, this would be 0.6A. Many packs will allow charge rates above 1C. Please see manufacturer recommendations. The ability to set the number of cells and charge rate will allow you to charge all your batteries with one charger. A key feature of the iChargers is the ability to check the IR of each cell in the LiPo pack. This very useful feature allows you to see the health of each cell in your LiPo pack. This feature is found on very few chargers. How do you connect a LiPo battery pack to the charger? The chargers included with RTF planes charge a LiPo pack using the balance port while a good high quality charger will use the main pack connector for charging and the balance port for balancing the pack. You must have both LiPo pack connectors hooked up to your charger while charging the pack. Always use a balance charger in LiPo balance mode to charge multi cell batteries. It is very important to keep all cells within a pack at the same charge and a balance charger will do this for you. You also want a charger with a temp probe that will automatically turn the charger off if the battery pack reaches a high temperature (high temps are not safe). Lastly, most good chargers do not include a power supply so you will need a power supply for your charger. Many power supplies will allow multiple chargers to run at the same time from the same power supply. To keep it simple, we have a link to the required power supply for each charger.