How can I get started in RC, and what does it cost?

Like most sports, hobbies and avocations, R/C flying can cost anywhere from a little to more that folks like you and me can imagine ever spending on a sport, hobby or avocation.

The good news is you can be up and flying for less than $100. You’ll need a plane, but which plane? There are hundreds of planes to chose from, but here are my top three recommendations for a first plane. These three all retail for for around $100 and include everything you need to get flying – transmitter, battery, battery charger and airplane.

For me, that price tag is important. These planes don’t have the best equipment available. Once you get into the hobby, you’ll want a better transmitter, a better battery charger and so forth. But some percentage of people don’t get into the hobby. If you turn out to be one of them, you’re only out of pocket a hundred bucks for the experience. And if you do stay with it, none of these planes are in any sense a waste of money.

#1 – The Hobbyzone Champ – $89 ready to fly

If you don’t like to read, then skip the rest of this post and just go out and buy a Champ.

The Champ a great first plane. First off, it’s cheap. For less than $90, you get everything you need. No assembly required; just charge the battery and go.

It’s the easiest and safest plane there is to fly. It’s hard to break, but easy and cheap to fix when you have to.

I’ve seen a first timer, with zero RC flight experience, successfully fly a Champ … into the side of a building, 25 feet up. Then pick the undamaged plane up off the ground and fly it around until the battery wore out.

It’s a ‘high wing trainer,’ designed to be easy to learn on. It has such low mass that it will easily survive most crashes over grass. It’s a three-channel airplane with fewer controls to coordinate. Its 20″ wingspan makes it easy to safely fly in small areas.

Its strengths are its weaknesses. Because it is so small and light, it doesn’t handle the wind very well. If you live in a windy place like Kansas, your flying days will be limited unless you can find a nice site to fly indoors. No ailerons and lots of stability mean it’s not very aerobatic. It’s not especially fast. The stock transmitter is limited to a few hundred feet.

If you live in or around Wichita, the Champ is available at HobbyTown USA in Eastgate.

#2 – HobbyZone Mini Super Cub – $99, ready to fly

The Mini Super Cub (MSC) was my first R/C airplane, and it’s another great choice for just under $100. Assembly consists of rubber-banding the wings on.

Like the Champ, above, the MSC is a 3-channel, high wing trainer – no ailerons. With a 32″ wingspan, the MSC is a good deal bigger – and correspondingly heavier – than the Champ. It will handle more wind than the tiny champ. It needs a larger area to fly in – a football field or thereabouts. Crashes do more damage to the plane, though its foam is easy to repair.

The MSC is a natural for upgrades and mods – faster motors, ailerons, etc. – if you feel you’ve outgrown the stock configuration. A highly modified MSC was my son’s first plane, and it’s still a blast to fly.

Its bigger brother, the HobbyZone Super Cub, makes a pretty good starter plane too.

If you live in or around Wichita, the Mini Super Cub and Super Cub are available at HobbyTown USA in Eastgate.

#3 – Dynam Hawk Sky – $109, ready to fly

 At just over $100, the Hawk Sky is the most expensive of my top three, but it’s also the biggest with a 54″ wingspan. It is the fastest and most aerobatic and the most amenable to modifications. Being heavier and faster, the Hawk Sky takes a larger area to fly in safely, and is more likely to break when you crash it.

Unlike the Mini Super Cub an Champ, the Hawk Sky is not a high wing trainer. It’s less inherently stable than those planes which, combined with its being bigger and faster, makes it harder to learn on.

With ailerons and a mid-wing configuration, it’s much sportier than those planes. It will do rolls and sustained inverted flight. Motor upgrades are simple, when you’re ready for them, and can turn this plane, already pretty fast, into a real hot rod.

The Hawk Sky will handle the wind better than the MSC and way better than the Champ, an important consideration if you live in Kansas.

The Hawk Sky is available online from various sources, including Nitro Hobbies.


There are a ton of good planes out there and hundreds of opinions on which ones are the best. These are my recommendations, but do your own research. Stop by the WattFlyer and RCGroups forums and read what others have to say.

See you in the sky.

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2 Responses to How can I get started in RC, and what does it cost?

  1. Les Cumberland says:

    Just new to the hobby of R C Flying.
    After reading your advice on a first plane, I realised I have made a huge mistake, I just bought a ART Cessna 182, OK, I think it is a nice plane and eventually I will get to fly it I hope, as a beginner it is too advanced I think, with too much to do to it before I can attempt to fly it.
    I wished I had bought a Cub complete with 3 or 4 ch transmitter RTF. R/C Model.
    As you say I don’t know if I will get the bug to continue deeper into the hobby.

    Reading your article has been very informative, there is so much to learn, it is a minefield of information to absorb at the start of this hobby.
    And difficult to get the answers, Difficult to find where to buy parts in the UK, Motors, servos esc, etc etc
    Interesting point, this Cessna 182 is able to have Floats installed if one desires to venture into water landings.
    BUT It is not easy to find where one can purchase the Float Kit for the Cessna 182.

    • Mark says:

      First off, welcome to the sport.

      You should seriously consider joining RCGroups and/or WattFlyer, two great online forums dedicated to RC. RCGroups is much larger and includes RC cars, trucks, boats, planes, helis, etc. etc. WattFlyer is a smaller forum but a bit more personal and friendly sometimes; as the name implies, they only deal with electric-powered RC flying (planes, helis, blimps). I know for a fact that there are UK people on both and I’m sure you can find recommendations as to the best ‘local’ places to shop for parts.

      I buy a lot of stuff from HobbyKing. It’s cheap but everything ships from Hong Kong so you’ll be waiting a bit for shipments but not any longer than those of us in the U.S. In fact, they have a UK warehouse which stocks some stuff, especially batteries, locally. Some of their stuff is great; some of it is crap so it’s “buyer beware.”

      If you’re talking about the Art-Tech Cessna 182, that looks like a very sweet plane and not a bad trainer but it would be a very good idea to find someone to ‘mentor’ you for your first flights as it’s also massive enough to tear itself up on a crash.

      You might consider getting a Champ as a pre-trainer trainer to build your confidence and absorb your mistakes. Another great place to start is with an RC flight sim on your computer. FMS is a free flight sim – not the best out there, but free and good for learning orientation, practicing your landings and so forth. Other sims are available from US$50 to US$250 or so.

      Best of luck!


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