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10 Terrific First Planes

10 Terrific First Planes

From our sister publication Electric Flight’s annual Buyer’s Guide, these 10 trainers are best best for first-flight success.

 

HobbyZone Sportsman S+

This plane lands by itself! In fact, with its SAFE Plus technology, all phases of flight—from takeoff to landing—become worry-free to bolster the novice pilot’s confidence. What sets this model apart is the innovative technology offered by the installed Spektrum GPS module, which provides the pilot with attitude and positional guidance. This means that the Sportsman will not fly off into the blue or get into an orientation that’s difficult to recover from. And if you need time to sort things out, press the holding-pattern button and the Sportsman will circle overhead. The brushless motor, speed control, servos, and all the electronics are installed for you. Only some minor assembly is required, which we completed before the flight battery finished charging. In the air, it is inherently stable, and its AS3X three-axis stabilization gives the plane a much bigger feel. In the Beginner mode, releasing the sticks returns the plane to straight and level flight. When you are comfortable flying the plane in the Experienced mode, it is time to try some basic aerobatics. In the Experienced mode, the plane is agile and has enough power to perform loops, rolls, and stall turns. If you’re a beginner pilot who doesn’t have access to an instructor or who just needs the added peace of mind offered by the SAFE Plus technology, the Sportsman S+ is the ideal plane to earn your wings. $199.99 (BNF); $229.99 RTF); horizonhobby.com

Ares Fokker D.VII

This 15 3/4-inch-span model is just the thing for impromptu dogfights at the local gym. The Fokker D.VII incorporates the Hitec Red 2.4GHz protocol, which is compatible with all current 2.4GHz Hitec aircraft transmitters. It is available ready to fly, with a Hitec Red transmitter, or pair to fly, with a Hitec Red receiver that’s compatible with your own Hitec air transmitter. This 3-channel flier comes fully assembled and features durable foam construction with numerous scale details, like the dummy Mercedes D.III 6-cylinder inline engine, machine guns, detailed side panels, and an attractive paint scheme with authentic four-color lozenge camouflage on the wings. In the air, it has good stability and plenty of power for loops and wingover-like maneuvers. It is happy inside a large indoor flying area but can be flown outside on very calm days, but remember to keep the model upwind of yourself. It is easy to fly and sturdy enough to take mild bumps and hard landings. Should you hit the ground harder than you’d like, it’s quick to repair with foam-safe CA. $89.99 (PTF); $119.99 (RTF); ares-rc.com

 

E-flite UMX FPV Radian

The easy-to-fly, 3-channel UMX Radian includes the Spektrum VA1100 ultra-micro-airborne FPV system for a fantastic pilot’s-eye view. The FPV system is compatible with any Fat Shark 5.8GHz FPV headset or video monitor. The 28.7-inch-span UMX Radian features Spektrum AS3X flight stabilization for smooth and stable flights. A 4-channel minimum, DSM/DSMX-compatible transmitter is required to get the UMX Radian airborne. Assembling the UMX FPV Radian literally takes only minutes, and setup is quick and painless. Soaring is the Radian’s forte, and it is not designed to be highly aerobatic, although it is quite responsive. An occasional loop, however, is fun to do. Being a glider, the UMX Radian naturally excels in the glide. With only a few knots of wind, the plane can be held motionless in front of you. If flown aggressively, the plane will tip-stall but recovers quickly. The key to flying the UMX Radian is smooth control inputs to increase glide performance. The UMX Radian has gentle and relaxing flight characteristics and can be flown by anyone with a minimum of RC experience. These flight characteristics also make it ideal for the FPV experience, especially if you are new to this type of flying. $189.99; e-fliterc.com

 

E-flite UMX FPV Radian

The easy-to-fly, 3-channel UMX Radian includes the Spektrum VA1100 ultra-micro-airborne FPV system for a fantastic pilot’s-eye view. The FPV system is compatible with any Fat Shark 5.8GHz FPV headset or video monitor. The 28.7-inch-span UMX Radian features Spektrum AS3X flight stabilization for smooth and stable flights. A 4-channel minimum, DSM/DSMX-compatible transmitter is required to get the UMX Radian airborne. Assembling the UMX FPV Radian literally takes only minutes, and setup is quick and painless. Soaring is the Radian’s forte, and it is not designed to be highly aerobatic, although it is quite responsive. An occasional loop, however, is fun to do. Being a glider, the UMX Radian naturally excels in the glide. With only a few knots of wind, the plane can be held motionless in front of you. If flown aggressively, the plane will tip-stall but recovers quickly. The key to flying the UMX Radian is smooth control inputs to increase glide performance. The UMX Radian has gentle and relaxing flight characteristics and can be flown by anyone with a minimum of RC experience. These flight characteristics also make it ideal for the FPV experience, especially if you are new to this type of flying. $189.99; e-fliterc.com

E-flite UMX J-3 Cub

If you are looking to move up from beginner to intermediate, the new UMX J-3 Cub is for you. Its small size makes it an ideal park flier. It is a nice stable airplane to begin with, but E-flite has made it even better with its AS3X stabilization technology. Foam construction makes this Cub a light and sturdy craft that is ready to fly right out of the box. The box itself is designed to hold the plane and has a Styrofoam frame inside that cradles the plane and gives it plenty of protection during transport. This Bind-N-Fly Basic model comes fully assembled, including landing gear, wing, motor, and all of the control surfaces. All you need to get it in the air is a compatible 4-channel radio and a 2S 200mAh battery and charger. If you care to fly off of the water, you can convert the Cub to a seaplane with the optional set of floats. In the air, the AS3X system allows the Cub to trim itself and gives the plane great stability. Basic aerobatics are a cinch to perform, and the plane always had a nice crisp response to control inputs. We were able to do loops and rolls with power to spare. The 200mAh 2-cell battery pack that we used provides about seven minutes of flight time. You’ll want to keep track of the time because the Cub needs a little speed to stay lined up with the runway. Overall, the J-3 Cub is a blast to fly, and you’ll want to keep it in the car for a little lunchtime flying. $129.99; e-fliterc.com

 

HobbyZone Conscendo S

The HobbyZone Conscendo S is available ready to fly as well as in a Bind-N-Fly version, which requires you supply your own Spektrum DSM2/DSMX-compatible transmitter. The Conscendo S comes with a brushless powerplant, folding prop and spinner, and perfectly sized actuators for all control surfaces. The small but mighty AR636A receiver has some really cool features programmed into it, from the limited Beginner mode to an Experienced mode. The Beginner mode is smart and lessens the control-surface authority available to keep a pilot from overcontrolling the aircraft. It also enables a self-leveling feature. The Intermediate mode allows for more pitch (elevator) and roll (aileron) control and does not have the self-leveling of the Beginner mode. Experienced mode gives you unlimited control authority. A 2-cell 1300mAh is included and provides plenty of flight time, but if you want to fly for longer periods, we found that a 2S 1800mAh pack fits just fine. Excellent instructions and a simple assembly will have you ready for the flying field in less time than it takes to charge the battery. $129.99 (BNF); $149.99 (RTF); hobbyzonerc.com

E-flite UMX J-3 Cub

If you are looking to move up from beginner to intermediate, the new UMX J-3 Cub is for you. Its small size makes it an ideal park flier. It is a nice stable airplane to begin with, but E-flite has made it even better with its AS3X stabilization technology. Foam construction makes this Cub a light and sturdy craft that is ready to fly right out of the box. The box itself is designed to hold the plane and has a Styrofoam frame inside that cradles the plane and gives it plenty of protection during transport. This Bind-N-Fly Basic model comes fully assembled, including landing gear, wing, motor, and all of the control surfaces. All you need to get it in the air is a compatible 4-channel radio and a 2S 200mAh battery and charger. If you care to fly off of the water, you can convert the Cub to a seaplane with the optional set of floats. In the air, the AS3X system allows the Cub to trim itself and gives the plane great stability. Basic aerobatics are a cinch to perform, and the plane always had a nice crisp response to control inputs. We were able to do loops and rolls with power to spare. The 200mAh 2-cell battery pack that we used provides about seven minutes of flight time. You’ll want to keep track of the time because the Cub needs a little speed to stay lined up with the runway. Overall, the J-3 Cub is a blast to fly, and you’ll want to keep it in the car for a little lunchtime flying. $129.99; e-fliterc.com

Ares Sopwith Pup

The Sopwith Pup is the perfect dogfighting partner for the Ares Fokker D.VII. With a 13 3/4-inch wingspan, it has pilot-friendly flight performance and stability. It is ready to fly out of the box and comes with a historically accurate paint scheme and surface details, like control surfaces and wing ribs molded into the lightweight foam airframe. For its size, the 3-channel Pup is very sturdy, and with its light wing loading, it has excellent slow-speed flight characteristics. An added feature is that the wooden interplane struts are attached to the wings with small magnets to prevent damage in a rough landing. It is available ready to fly, with a Hitec Red transmitter, or pair to fly, with a Hitec Red receiver that’s compatible with your own Hitec air transmitter. It has plenty of power for basic 3-channel maneuvers, and the rudder provides excellent turning and yaw control. Loops are easy to perform, but rolling maneuvers are limited. With the power reduced, the model slows down nicely, but because it’s a biplane, you need to keep the nose pointed down to maintain airspeed. Landings are a simple matter of closing the throttle and letting the model fly toward your intended arrival spot. When you are about to touch down, start pulling back on the elevator and your arrival will be soft as a feather. $84.99 (PTF); $109.99 (RTF); ares-rc.com

 

Multiplex FunCub XL

Made out of Elapor foam, this sturdy 67-inch-span model comes with all the molded parts needed to complete it and is available in kit and receiver-ready versions. Our kit version was easy to assemble in a few days in the workshop. Either way, you’ll need a 7-channel radio and receiver. Powered by a 6S 4000mAh flight pack, the FunCub XL has nearly unlimited vertical climb performance. Its aerobatic performance can go from mild to wild, depending on how you set up the control throws. We felt that the XL is very pilot-friendly on medium rates. With the throws cranked up to the max, roll rates are very quick and pitch changes are fast. This model would make a great first-competition fun-fly airplane. With its flaps, it also offers fun short-field performance, and we really enjoyed spot landings and touch-and-gos. $199.99 (kit); $399.99 (receiver-ready); hitecrcd.com

SIG Kadet Seniorita Sport

The SIG Senior and Seniorita have probably helped more people to learn to fly than any other model out there. To create this “sport” version, SIG added ailerons and made it a tail-dragger. Construction is balsa and light ply, with the translucent covering that is a signature look for Kadets. You’ll need to add radio and power systems, and assembly should take eight to 12 hours. This plane is designed for the new pilot, so if you have flown a trike gear model successfully, you are ready for this plane. At the field, any semismooth surface will work as a runway. The main landing gear is placed far enough forward to keep nose-overs to a minimum, and the wheels are a good size to handle small obstacles. With the recommended power system, there’s plenty of get up and go for short takeoffs, and this model really slows down well for landings. Slow-speed handling is comfortable and forgiving. At speed, the plane is also comfortable and controlled. With its ailerons, all standard aerobatics are at your disposal. This includes—but is not limited to—loops, rolls, Cuban-8s, stall turns, avalanches, and point rolls. The stall is almost nonexistent, and while gliding, energy retention is very good. The Kadet Seniorita Sport is a ton of fun, and we think it’s awesome to kick back and enjoy flying, whether you’re cruising the sky or turning up the power and doing some aerobatics. $249.99; sigmfg.com

Updated: January 26, 2017 — 3:14 PM
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