Are ARFs Good for the Hobby?

Are ARFs Good for the Hobby?

For years now, the passions have soared and tempers have flared over one hot topic—Are ARFs (Almost Ready to Fly) planes good for the RC Hobby? For many, they have been a godsend and with today’s limited amount of free time, they make becoming an experienced pilot quick and easy. For dyed-in-the-wool model building veterans, they are a blight that has all but destroyed the art of model building and so, has forever changed the hobby of RC Model Airplanes. What about you? What do you think? We’d like to hear what you have to say.

Updated: March 19, 2012 — 12:17 PM


  1. ARFs are better than good Gerry, they’re great! They are less expensive than building a kit plane and they fly better than most models built in the basement. It’s not even close most of the time.

    There have always been two distinct parts to our hobby; there’s building, and there’s flying. Now there’s a third — “assembling”, then flying. To me, assembling an ARF still requires a degree of skill and care, and personalizing an ARF makes it more fun.

    Perhaps not having the time and effort invested in building makes some of us better fliers, an argument I could make. I’ve built over a hundred planes, all the way back to some Airtronics kits, a Jensen Ugly Stik, some red box Top Flite warbirds, and many others. Sorry to say, my efforts paled in comparison to modern ARFs. and I thought I was a pretty good builder. Ever look carefully at an Extreme Flight product? Or an Aeroworks? Even the stand-way-off scale foam warbirds look and fly better than most of the planes I’ve seen built by modelers including me of course.

    So, what part of the hobby do you like? Building? Or the ultimate — scratch building? Great fun, and a nice sense of accomplishment is yours. I used to like it. Now I like assembling and flying better.

    And on top of everything else, an ARF costs LESS!. There’s room in our great hobby for everyone. No one should put down any segment of R/C. The old tarts at the field should be ignored if they complain about our modern ARFs. Maybe they should go back to flying Galloping Ghosts and Reeds too. Unless it makes them happy. Then I’m for that too.

    1. Gerry, thanks for the article. I have been building and flying since 1978. In the early years of my flying, kits were it. I spent many hours and years building and a small amount of hours flying whenever I had time. Allot of my early planes were scales and sport with 2 to 3 years building time strictly due to my time allowed to the hobby.

      As my position at work changed so did my spare time. Eventually around 1992 I had no free time for the hobby. In 2008 I got the bug to fly again and spent a couple of years rebuilding one of my old planes. While I was rebuilding my old plane I purchased a Parkflyer just to get flying again. My first flight with the parkflyer after not flying for 18 years was a perfect take-off and landing as well as numerous maneuvers, just like I never left the hobby. I began to purchase some ARF’s to reduce the build time and get flying again. Without the ARFs I would not have been able to get back into the hobby due to my work demands.

      I recently retired and now have more time on my hands and I am looking for the kit that I can spend some build time on. My current hanger of planes and helis are 9 planes (2 kit planes and 7 ARF’s), heli was built from scratch with approx. 2 1/2 years to complete. My flying skills these days are better than average with 3D being my current interest.

      Those that are against the ARF’s I believe are the good old boy’s that do not like change, not bad people that is just how they are. Those that are very busy these days and do not have time to build lean towards the ARF’s due to the reduced build time. There is also that argument that the ARF’s do not allow the builder to learn about the plane dynamics. This is totally not true. The ARF’s still require the builder to set up the controls properly and understand what they do in order to make the plane fly correctly.

      Bottom line, without the ARF’s I don’t think allot of folks would be flying and there would be some struggling hobby shops. I am the President of the Conejo Valley Flyers in Newbury Park Ca. We are a small club struggling to stay afloat due to the low number of club members. There is that friendly rivalry with the kit guys and the ARF guys but it is just like the old flathead vs. overhead valve motors in the early 50’s. I believe without the ARF’s our club would not exist today. There is room for both and I think both are important for the sport if it is to continue. These days’ time is precious and the ARF has provided a means to get some folks flying that would not otherwise be flying.

      Mel Tufto CVF President

    2. i am 82 years old this year.i have been modeling since 1946 . have builb from scratch ,my own designs ,modified kits/bashed kits;and enjoyed all of it. now i fly only electric arf’s ;they fill my needs as a hobby. the mental challenge convetring to electric , and flying arf’s is very gaatifing for a
      old modeler

  2. Good comments high nitro. Back in the day life was a lot slower and no computers. So building was a form of entertainment in itself. I think those who are against arfs really are pineing for the good old days more than comparing kits to quick builds. Ah the good old days… yea right. Magazines were black n white too. doesn’t make them better. Ill take ipods, Colorado TVs and arf planes that cost less n fly better

  3. Gerry,
    I think ARF’s are probably good for business but not good for modeling. I hear all the time ARF’s is a form of modeling, there is a degree of technical know how needed and some thought to the process of final assembling the craft. Its modeling. No its not IMO. It completely robs the modeler of intuitive thought, planning and actually modeling (building) a real RC flying machine. Excuses are made for lack of time, busy schedules and the like which to me are just cop outs to avoiding true model building as it has been for over a hundred years.

    Newbies to the hobby beginning with an ARF is a real tragedy IMO. One who gets into the hobby in this manner versus doing a scratch built model with plans never learns true flight characteristics of a craft if they haven’t had to assemble every aspect of a airplane. Doing it the old school way challenges and causes a builder to ask himself questions why a certain aspect of a plane does what it does before he commits to glueing the parts together. He must consider the ramifications of his building techniques thus learning what modeling is all about. Nothing would please me more than for ARF’s to disappear.

    The other excuse in support for ARF’s is cost. Well, all I have to say is true modeling requires a price to pay to truly be a part of a long rich tradition of modeling. To experience the hobby to the fullest one should have to go through the steps of building a model craft from the ground up. In summary I believe ARF’s have attracted a dumbed down culture of enthusiasts that have limited appreciation of flight and thats disappointing. Happy flying

    1. So according to your theory full scale airplane pilots are also members of this “dumbed down culture”, right?

  4. Thanks for the comments Guys! Please keep them coming! For a taste of kit building, check out my Build-along posts for the Florio Flyer 60 fun fly plane on the MAN site! Just do a “Florio” search!

    1. I’m not going to say which is better. It’s a personal choice. I myself love the building process. I have probably built more than I have flown, and I learned so much as a kid building model airplanes. Reading and understanding plans, visualizing things in my head, understanding strength of materials and assemblies. I’m not saying building is better, but you sure learn a lot. I ended up becoming a structural engineer and owe a lot to building model airplanes when I was younger. I’m just getting back into the hobby( now that my kids are older and I have more time) and I was surprised to see how much has changed. I’m okay with all the changes, I just can’t seem to find many “kits” these days.

  5. AFR’s are great for me ! … I was into the hobby big time many years ago but had it give it up when I became a single parent … now I’m getting back into it and yes that thril of flying something built from scratch is a wonderful feeling … however as we age and the fingers just don’t do what they used to do . . . and when you have limited space and time . . . pulling something out of the box, installing a receiver, bolting on the wings, then charging a battery and fly . . . is great too …

  6. I too have been a long time builder and flyer. ARF’s are OK but for me they have no soul. There is a sense of pride that accompanies a newly built plane or sailplane. that I think doesn’t come through when a plane is just assembled from a completed pile of parts. I agree that todays ARF’s are less expensive than a kit built or even scratch built plane, for me though thats not the point. It’s the quality time spent in my shop building and preparing a new winter project for the start of a new flying season, I consider this therapy, down time and a get away from all the problems with the rest of the world. There is so much to be learned when building. Whats really sad, is that the number and variety of kits are dwindling away in favor of the ARF’s

  7. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I just got into the hobby but as a kid I 1/2 built never finished a couple of free flight planes. At 50 I purchased an ARFand a couple of small ready to fly planes and learned to fly on my own. Now I purchased a couple of kits and started building. I enjoy learning all the components and assembling and building, But it’s not for everyone. If your a builder you may start with a ARF and for sure you’d proceed to a kit. ARF’s grow your interest after that who knows where it takes you. Whats before being a kit builder a plane designer/engineer lol Should we all design our own planes and get rid of kits? Loving the hobby!!

  8. I’m not as young as I once was….I have Carpal Tunnel in both hands and cannot build like I used to….If it wasn’t for ARF’s I wouldn’t be still in the hobby….period.

  9. I have mostly ARF’s too, but eventually I would like to learn to build a plane. And the reason for that is to learn the nuts and bolts because ARF’s crash, too, and you need to have a basic knowledge of building to fix them properly. Not all ARF’s are foamies – my NextStar is balsa with Monokote covering.

  10. Well that’s a pretty exclusionary view E. Johnson has. Not a very kind view either. He’s basically saying that if you don’t enjoy the hobby the way I do then you should not be in it. Does that included flying circles in a pattern and only Nitro powered models too?

    The reality is that ARFs are great. They make flying accessible to many more than otherwise would be able to fly. Not everyone has the ability to assemble a kit (even with practice) and it often results in frustration. I guess though that’s what he wants as he does not want anyone new showing up to disrupt his circle flying frenzy.

    I personally enjoy both but would never have gotten into the hobby without ARFs to start with. I guess that makes me an undesirable to E. Johnson but I’m probably a better pilot then he is as I’ve been flying while he’s been building! 🙂

  11. I was into the hobby 25 years ago building kits, first was a Great Planes PT 40 and second was a SIG Kadet 40 and I crashed both and since both took me months to build I never continued in the hobby.

    That was until a couple years ago when I walked into a Local Hobby store and noticed many planes that were of a similar size and could be up in as little as an hour or two. I immediately purchased a Parkzone T-28 and from that point on was back being addicted to RC airplanes. If it wasn’t for ARFs I can honestly say I would not be in the hobby at all.

    I enjoyed building, but at the same time I have neither the room, nor the time to build for weeks at a time. I was honestly a little disappointed when I purchased an Eflite Super Cub with a friend of mine and we ended up taking more than 30 hours of build time. I had to take time off of work just to get it done before flying season ended last year. I thought that plane should be allowed to be called an ARF because it was no where near ready to fly. It should be called a covered kit. A true ARF I think should be less than 10 hrs of build time. Just my opinion. I LOVE THEM!! I want to be in the air, not in a basement sniffing glue and away from the family for that much time.

  12. I have been modeling for over sixty years and can see both sides of this argument. Today’s young people are used to electronic gadgets and games. They want instant satisfaction. The ARF allows them to get into flying with a minimal amount of time spent getting a model ready to fly. Hopefully this will get some of these younger people started into RC and keep them into the sport. Maybe later on they will become interested in building.

    From the other standpoint, I enjoy spending time at the workbench building from scratch. I enjoy the construction sequence and looking at the engineering that goes into the design of the model. I also enjoy the challenge of deciding what sequence to follow when building the model. These are the types of things the scratch builder likes. I must say that I am also one of those guys that likes an engine over an electric motor. I like the precision of the parts fit, the sound, the oil and all of the other things associated with the engine. The electric motor does have advantages, but I still like castor oil.

  13. I just returned to RC after a 25+ year absence. I have 3 small children and very limited space in my house to do building. I started off with an ARF trainer a year or so ago, and I have another ARF in a box waiting for time/space. But. I’m now slowly building an old Craftair Mystique. I may have an hour or two a week to spend building this plane, and I can just about guarantee that it won’t be ready to fly until 2013. In the meantime, I can use my ARF trainer to get stick time so that I’m ready to take the mystique up when it’s ready.

  14. How is this ARF issue even a discussion point. No one is outlawing building. This is a HOBBY for FUN, not a penance or rite of passage. It is not a cult where only the builders have earned the right to be fliers. I have been 55 years in the hobby and for me ARFs are what I like. Actually I prefer completely ready to fly and have paid people to get models ready from helis to large scale. How does this make me a bad person?

  15. I’ve been out of the hobby for some time now, so I’ve never owned or flown an ARF. As I am older with more responsibilities now, I simply do not have the time to build a kit model but doing so is very gratifying. There is nothing like seeing something you created from a box of wood lift off for the first time. It depends on if you just want stick time or want to fly something unique. I like flying stuff that nobody else has at the field (e.g., Balsa USA’s Northstar and Enforcer) which are NOT ARFs. They draw a lot of attention which is cool. When I get back into flying, I’ll probably get an ARF just to get back into the saddle quickly. Although I love kits having either option is good for the hobby. Options are good.

  16. I agree with Andy and some of the others here. This hobby is big enough for RTF’s, ARF’s and kits. I wonder how E. Johnson feels about RTF’s. My grandson and I would not be in the hobby if not for them.

  17. I probably would not have stayed in the hobby if I had to scratch build everything. I am working on my second kit build now. I am still to nervous to fly the first one.
    I am definetely not too nervous to fly my ARFs. If and when I have an accident, I know i can get back flying quickly with something new for a low price.
    Even better yet, I can keep a smaller foamy RTF in my car and fly when ever and where ever I get the urge.

  18. I started out loving flying more than building. Now I love building more than flying. I’m not good enough yet to be a scratch builder, but I sure do enjoy the laser cut kits. Unfortunately, the ARF craze has all but eliminated laser cut kits.

    I would love to build kits and sell them to people but I’m not sure they are any better than the same plane in an ARF. Maybe I’ll donate them to a kid at a club.


  19. This is to me, one of those senseless discussions that nobody wins. There is room in this HOBBY for everyone. I prefer to build my own planes, its part of the enjoyment for me. I have two sons, both in their 30’s, both with family/careers and little time to build, but love to fly.

    The fact is, ARF’s and RTF’s have provided a lot of forward moment to our hobby and we should rejoice in it, not argue about it.

  20. I think they are great for the hobby simply because they allow people to participate who wouldn’t otherwise. I’m a father of a young child and have a busy wife. I also don’t have enough space in my home to have a dedicated hobby room. So I wouldn’t take the time to build airplanes and also have the time left to go fly them. I can do the hobby because factory built planes are plentiful which makes the hobby able to fit into my lifestyle. For those who can make the time to build and want to, there are still kits available and plenty of plans for those who want to go that route.

  21. Once again, it is a matter of preference. As a 30+ year builder, designer, and AMA Experimental Aircraft Inspector, I chose to build because I like flying aircraft that no one else has. In fact, it is impossible to fly what I fly without being a builder. Yet, even I have now slipped into the ARF world. I recently had an article published on this website known as,
    “Big Stik Receives a Make-over.” Yes, there are ARF stiks, but none like mine…this is one of the benifits of being both a modeler and a flyer. I would hope that for the longevity of our sport, people would consider both aspects of this fantastic hobby.

  22. I have built planes from scratch, or kits, but prefer the quick build time of ARF’s. I want to spend time flying not building. I like to look at manuals before a purchase, just to see how assembly of the parts will go. I convert all my planes to electric, so ARF’s are the way to go for me.

  23. We are expeirencing a very high degree of technology in models that are ARF, BNF, and RX ready models. Some of the inovation that is going into these models is suprising and some of the gear that is being produced just for spacific models is amasing and what is sad is that they are not releasing some of these inovations to the public.
    The foam models that are coming out of China are a joy to behold with folding wings, ratchet worm gears, smoke trails for the electric planes and on and on. The video that is in this MAN letter of shooting rockets from a model is going to cause a roar with modelers and I am sure you will see that being adapted to furure models.
    I look forward to see what comes next as I feel that it is unlimited in it’s advancement for the model aviation industry.

  24. Maybe I’ll be a dinosaur … but, design, build and then fly it is best, at least for me.
    I understand that some people do not have time to build models, but have built at least one will give them the expertise to make repairs if necessary, and also understand the structural issues and focused and also the great satisfaction of seeing to build a flying creature.
    Remember Murphy’s Law “inevitably the destruction of a model starts to open the kit box”

  25. La Daga
    I think the ARF’S is a solution, but i am not agree in the quality of some, near in the line of the cheap and weak, and the satisfacción of scrach and build is marvelous!

  26. HI, I’ve been in the hobby for about 15 yrs and I was under the impression that the word (HOBBY) means that you construct something from scratch, so yes I do think that the hobby is becoming a lost art because of the ARF plane, but I am also guilty of buying a ARF from time to time.

  27. I understand ARF and am quite tempted, but I love to build. I build from kits, I haven’t reached the level of scratch building. There is no greater joy than seeing your plane that started as a box of bits on it’s first flight especially a warbird. I find building very relaxing – and a challenge to puzzle through the problems. What I do have is the ability to repair after some major crunches and put it back in the air. I will never be a great pilot.

  28. Which part of the hobby are you talking about?
    I’ve been in Rc since 1968 but I’m not a model builder. Yes I have built models, even from plans, but my joy comes from piloting, not building.
    There are builders who don’t pilot. There are pilots who don’t build. There are some who love engines, electronics, balsa, foam,… They all are part of the hobby. Look at the topics in the forums. It’s amazing. Gliders,ducted fans, helicopters, arialphotography, flying wings. …
    So yes, ARFs are good for the hobby but maybe not for every individual in the hobby.

  29. I think Mr. Henry Ford would agree that ARFs are good for the hobby. Otherwise we would be going to the flying field in the carriages that we built ourselves, to fly our scratch builds…
    Let’s be realistic, the same way there wouldn’t be 10M cars being built in this country and millions of people depending on this industry, there wouldn’t be a fraction of the people enjoying and depending on the hobby today if not for ARFs.
    It is like saying you should also stack your own batteries because then you have a better sense how they discharge….
    If you like to build you should do so, it is an art that shouldn’t be lost. The artists that are capable of doing it have the deepest respect of this dumbed down enthusiast. But bashing ARF and “hoping it disappears” is narrow minded at best.

  30. And then you have the the guys who spend hours of meticulous attention to detail crafting their scratch- or kit-built planes, and would love to be able to fly them, only to be so paranoid of a crash damaging their pride and joy that they never learn to fly. Not trying to flame anybody, it’s just a fact. Forty years in the hobby and they are mostly unable to fly. For some, it’s just too hard to put hundreds of hours at risk.

    At the same time you have kids with ARF’s or RTF’s who know nothing of building (yet) but can fly like crazy after a couple months.

    How do you compare their situations? To me, the kids who already know how to fly have a lifetime in front of them in which to learn how to build, if that’s where their interest leads them. They have this luxury because they started with an ARF/RTF.

    The guy who’s been in the hobby for 40 years and can’t fly has two hurdles to overcome. First, he has to get over his fear of crashing, and second, he has to learn how to fly. An ARF/RTF can help him, too.

    For those in the middle of these two extremes, they have the best of both worlds available to them. They have the skills to build from scratch if that’s what gives them enjoyment. They have the freedom to buy an ARF and improve their flying skills if time and money are limitations.

    Compared to what it was 50 years ago, the hobby is already huge and still growing. No one is a master of all of its aspects. Surely there’s room for everyone without anybody needing to be considered superior or inferior, or whether ARF’s are “good” or “bad.”

    I wonder what E. Johnson thinks of scratch building with foam?

  31. Do airline pilots help build the planes they fly? I love planes and flying but am not good at building. Does that make me any less of an aviation enthusiast? I am 65 and just starting the hobby and if not for RTF and ARF I would be sitting on the sidelines. Doing something I always wanted to do gets me excited about the hobby

  32. Come on guy’s, there is something for every one in this great hobby of ours. When I started building and flying you had to build your own or you didn’t have an airplane. Today we have the best of the best, including the ARF’s. They have taken over and we see less builder kits out there however, in spite of that if you per sue your interest in the the hobby, and there are many, you will find enjoyment……and that’s what it is all about. Learning, improving your flying skills and having fun with others. Our hobby is growing every day and everything that happens in it promotes it, as have the ARF’s. They are here to stay so let’s all be happy!

  33. Is this a great country or what? Each of these opinions are correct for each person and that’s part of what makes our hobby so interesting and enduring. Nobody has to be, build, or fly the same thing as the other person.
    I too have been in the hobby for some 40+ years and have enjoyed every aspect of it. I have flown F/F, C/L, and R/C. I still scratch and kit built planes of all sorts and enjoy the challenge of it. I was out of the hobby for a while due to career and time constaints. I’ve had to do some catching up with the latest advances in our hobby and have found that many of them have been a real boon for model aviation. The great innovations in electric flight and radio technology most notably.
    As I was “playing catch up” I noticed a trend on many of the forums at various hobby supplier websites. That trend was young people learning about and exploring model aviation. They were reviewing and discussing ARFs and associated gear. A great many comments had to do with recommended improvements and modifications to the plane. Most very well thought out. A good many felt so excited about being able to learn to fly on a very resilient “foamie” that they were going to try their hand at building a plane from scratch or a kit. Had it not been for a “plane in a box” these same youngsters might have stayed in front of the TV, video game, or on the streets.
    We have to remember that we will not be around forever. If our hobby is to both continue and thrive, it needs the passion of the subsequent generations and those that have never tried it to keep it going. Yes, things change, they always have and always will. After all we don’t have to stare at the backend of a horse to go to town anymore. Is that bad? Happy flying folks!

  34. Why does it have to be one or the other? I love building kits and if you want something unique, then thats the way to go. It’s just another part of the hobby. On the other hand there are some fantastic ARF’s out there. So why not have the best of both worlds?

  35. I have no problems with ARFs overall, but seeing the same plane with the same covering scheme over and over gets annoying. You need to customize them people! ARFs are helping keep the hobby alive, but are hurting the modelers creativity, and their building (or repairing) skills.

    My main issue with ARFs is the effect it’s having on the kit industry. Finding kits is becoming harder and harder, and is driving up the price of them @ swap meets due to the rarity. Don’t stop making ARFs, but don’t stop making kits either!

    Another point I brought up on this very topic on RCG is this; why not make the plans for ARFs available? Either in the box, or ordered separately, it would allow a) those that bought and subsequently crashed the ARF to more easily cut replacement ribs/formers or B) allow us kit builders to take an ARF design we like and modify and build it to our own liking. I understand their need for a replacement wing & fuse kit & parts income, but what about making the plans available for sale after the ARF is discontinued?

  36. Having just returned to the hobby after a loooong absence, my first new model was a foam RTF, and it got me up and flying first day. I live in a rural area with no club, I had to teach myself. (my previous modeling experience was CL) My foam trainer is now almost 2 years old, has many many flights and still going strong, although somewhat battered.

    But I am a builder at heart and am working on my second scratch built model from magazine plans. This is what I want to do. But I can understand that people want to just fly, and that is great. If not for that foamy, I would probably not be flying now, because I don’t think a kit or scratch built model, (or wood ARF) would have survived my learning period.

    I do believe that a lot of people are missing out on the great satisfaction of building your own, but not everyone has the skills, tools, space and time for that.

    Get out and fly, no matter if it is ARF or kit or scratch built!

  37. No doubt about it ARF’s have made the industry richer and more available to many more than the kits did. I love building and miss the kits that were once available, quite a few more choices in the types back then. However Arf’s do keep people flying, what bothers me is how many repairable ARFs end up in the trash because people lack the skills to repair the plane and have succumbed to the ” disposable ” attitude. I think everyone should attempt to build at least a trainer to learn basic skills of how our craft are made and why they fly let alone learn how to fix it.

  38. i wish some would have a large scale 70 ‘to 80″ aeronca chief or apiper vagabond gas arf because i have looked every where,mabay a sonix

  39. They both have their place, sadly the ARF’s now dominate the market. I say sadly because it is dificult now to walk into a shop and purchase a kit (poor variety). I tend to now walk in a shop, walk around and turn around and leave. They are selling cheap crappy toys. Thank goodness for plans.

  40. If I buy an ARF that has terrible parts availability or is soon discontinued, and how many of us really check that before we buy, when I crash and I have no skills in the workshop do I just buy another and put the first in the landfill? Scratch building or kit building gives you an inside look. It builds your repair knowledge as well as a plane. Someday I will be a better pilot and then I probably will get myself a real nice plane but until then I must assume that most of my crashes are self inflicted and I do not need the best plane in the world I just need practice. Recycling my electronics into my next and better build.

  41. Hey guys. I have been flying since 73 and have built a lot of aircraft from kits. I still have four, two are still flying and two that need only the radio gear. I built an 80 inch Eindecker from a kit and it flies great. My old Sr. Kadet flies great even with floats. I built an ARF for my boy and two ARFs for myself. They also fly great. Right now I am repairing a T-34 Mentor 40 that was damaged I got from a friend. It will fly again. It is an ARF.So I guess there will always be pros and cons concerning kits and ARFs, and the best thing to do is live and let live, as they say. Enjoy the hobby as much as I do and do your own thing. Have fun…….

  42. The popularity of the ARF speaks for itself, ARFs are here to stay!

    I’ve been interested in RC flying since I was first exposed to model flying (CL) as a young kid back in the early ’70s. But the curve required to get into the hobby kept me out of it until recently when I found that changes such as ARFs, 2.4mHz FHSS and LiPo/brushless have revolutionized many of the great things about the hobby.

    I went the nitro route for airplanes (after looking seriously at electric helicopters and deciding to wait) and love the idea of obtaining an airframe and then matching the servos, TX/RX, fuel tank, engine, fuel mix, batteries, propeller, etc to it (very similar in almost every way to creating your fighter ship in the now defunct Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG, which also was one of the my favorite things about the game).

    At some point I will assemble a kit from scratch, but not till I become a better pilot (and do the time and effort required by a kit some justice) and have assembled and repaired my own share of ARF planes (the crashed plane is the true modeler’s ARF kit!). We have several people in the local club who prefer modeling and have offered to mentor anyone interested in building kits.

    There is little more that you can ask from a hobby then to have the range of participation and of cost that RC planes does, and to have a group of fellow hobbyists that stand both behind you and next to you as you wade into the deeper aspects of the hobby.

    This is sure a great time for the hobby, another golden age.


  43. I started building model airplanes when I was 5. When I was 16 I took one full year to build a one twentieth U-Control scale model of a B29 from plans and data provided by the Boeing Airplane Company. Now that I’m in my older years I do not want to spend my time building – I prefer to be at a field flying. ARF’s allow me that opportunity. I can build anything anytime any where – my skills are not diminished because I don’t want to stick build any more.

  44. This hobby has, to it’s vast discredit, become like a pack of small dogs: nothing but ARF, ARF, ARF! It takes no talent to assemble an ARF which, sadly, seems to be the point. It’s no longer MODELING, merely flying.
    When I arrive at the field, I get to say “I designed it, I built it,” and have the pleasure of having people think that my extremely clean design has a monster engine in it (actually, it’s a 1982 Standard port Como). Those flying ARF’s can only say “Look what I took out of the box.” That people can find the joy of accomplishment in merely buying someone else’s work goes a long way in explaining this country’s imminent demise’

  45. I think ARF’s are the way to go. I plan on building some kits like I did in the 70’s. But until I retire ! kits will have to wait.

  46. I’ve been off and on again over about 40 years in modle avation from control line to now. i remmber the old radio systems like Kraft, Roal, Heith kit, Apollo and seen the hobby change over the years. I was raised on Kit building . It taught me a lot and after retiring form the navy and mecomming a michinest my love for building was pased on from modles to metal. seeing the finished product ..seeing it work( or fly) is awesome. Arf’s have come a very long way, just as strong and better quality and faster to get into the air. Now I admit i havent flown for a very long time and have my one and only kit built plane hanging on wall but soon i hope to get the bug again and i’ll go arf to try it out but i’ll always love kit building . bottom line is all planes, sadly, crash for one reason or another, some are a total loss and some are rebuidable and all cost money and time. I feel everone should do a few kit planes you jsut might be suprized and you may hate it .I have a feeling if you do a kit and it turns out well you’ll be hooked


  47. It’s interesting watching new club members quickly progress beyond trainers thanks to good flying ARFs. However, some of them quickly lose interest because there’s no new challenges. Thank goodness for the Scratch Foamies forum(s).

  48. For some, the buy and fly is fijne. They don’t have to doanything but take it out and fly. There is no pride in it. However, to build it and then fly it, that is different. We now have two catagories: flyers and we have modeler/flyers. There was a time in modeling competition that the flyer had to be the builder. Sadly, that is no more. If more people don’t start building and then flying, the hobby will become like everything else that is designed for instant gratification. The craftsmanship and the challenge will be gone. By the time the true modelers die off, there will be no “hobby” lefft. Just the buy and fly fellows who cannot stick two pieces of balsa together.

  49. Five years ago, at age 59 I wanted to build a few models, returning to my beloved hobby after 40 years; the god of electric flight, Keith Shaw was one of my flying buddies back then. I was to have the better part of a year on my hands, off work and at home while receiving, and recovering from intensive treatments for a very serious medical problem. Little did I know that kits were nearly a thing of the past; so I scrounged and found some sources on the internet. An art and a way of life are lost or nearly so. That can’t be good. I hope enough real modelers are out there, handing down the love and the life to kids and grandkids. How many of you ARF and RTF’ers have ever put yourself into one of your machines, and built it to fly?

  50. In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.
     Carl Sagan

    I have a neurological problem that causes me to shake a great deal when trying to do something precise and thus I can’t accomplish such a feat. ARF’s are the only way for me to do some building or assembling to take pride in – couldn’t fly without. But I also admire a kit built or scratch built plane. Something for everyone. {:o{)>

  51. Different strokes for different folks. Fly what you like, like what you fly.
    I started building in February 1948. ARF/RTF’s are nothing new. We had them even back then. My first CL was a Wen-Mac Aeromite RTF about 1949-50. I still remember getting frustrated with the old Japanese wire frame silk covered rubber powered RTF’s. Had huge amounts of fun with the old Walker Hornets, and 74 gliders, and their Guillow equivalents. And let’s face it, they were slip-together ARF’s, not really high skill level kits. They kept me flying till I developed the skill set needed to build and trim a decent flying model, whether FF, CL, or RC.
    Hey, they (ARF/RTF’s) bring people into this hobby/sport. Some of those people will drop out in a short time, some will stay with it for life.
    Personally, I prefer building, There’s something especially soul-satifying to set down with a pencil, ruller, triangle, large sheet of paper, and some sheets of ply and balsa wood, and watch it fly (well, most of the time). I’ve had way too many problems with poor construction, poor glue joints, poor covering on those planes where someone else in a small company somewhere did the work. In fact, I once had an RC ARF come through with different airfoils on the two wing panels. But I’ve had some good flying, too. Never had any ARF last as long as the old Veco Smoothie I built around 1968. It’s still flying on tit’s third or fourth engine.
    On the other hand, it has really helped eye-hand coordination to fly a little 1.5 ounce ERC micro P-51 in 10 MPH winds.
    Variety is the spice of life. You should see the looks on the faces of some of my RC club members’ faces when they come out to my FF club’s FAC contests and see the detail on Peanuts, and how they fly in winds the RCers won’t even take planes out of cars in.
    Live a little, try different things one in a while.
    And yes, I fly ARF, Home Built, Kit, Electric, Glow, glider, rubber, CO2, rocket, CL, FF, and RC and boomerang.
    I even have a couple MANs from around 1944 or so.

  52. I am new to rc flying and my view is fly first to get a taste and thrill of piloting a plane then go back and begin to build something simple, fly it , test it, explore the capabilities of your plane. Develope a curiosity about why some airplane shapes perform differently than others.
    Fly, build, fly, tinker, fly. I started with a flight sim last summer with no prior experience then in Jan 2012 I soloed. Currently I own 2 parkzone planes and just finished my first handmade airplane. All said ARF’s helped accelerate my rc experience and has opened up my life to a whole new joy.


  54. I’m 85. Been flying models for about 75 years. My first ones were in fact ARF rubber powered of course. Think for example FROG. I like scale models. What I do now is to buy an ARF and then modify it for various reasons such as reinforcing those notoriously weak undercarriage fixings, producing something different and improving the appearance. My latest is the SIG WACO ARF modified to a cream colour with brown trim (per photos from Bob Banka).

  55. I started out in 1989 building kits because there weren’t many good arfs back then. I think arfs are great. There’s such a good selection now, and you definitely can’t beat the price by kit or scratch building. After getting busy with life, and getting away from the hobby for over 10 years I started back into the hobby with a GREAT PLANES VISTA EP and a .40 size ESCAPADE ARF. I am however a scratch builder who enjoys the unique models that are available only thru scratch building. I’m almost finished scratch building a CLOUD DANCER 120 that I started building over 10 years ago. I think that you should do whatever works for you. The more different aspects that there are to R/C flying the more people will get involved with the sport/hobby. I think that they’re all great, and everybody should focus on having fun and not take things so seriously as to get upset. Still a little ribbing and friendly rivalry can be a lot of fun too!!!

  56. I’ve gone from stick and tissue rubber power in the 40’s to composite, laminated, vacuum bagged gliders in the 80’s and now electric gliders and scale, mostly ARFs, but still build stick and tissue converted to electric. It’s all good and it seems to me that aircraft modeling in general has undergone a renaissance in recent years partly due to ARFs but more so from the electric ‘revolution’.

  57. I believe modelers (& they wont be considered such if they dont know how to scratch build) should start out with a “scratch build” kit so they can learn the basics of what makes a plane “tick”, then if they choose they can move on to an ARF, etc.

  58. Here is how it used to go before ARF. You bought the kit but had no idea how to build so it was never going to fly properly. Then you took it to the field and there was no one to help so you let it take off. Now you are a first time total beginner, trying to learn to fly and be a test pilot on a plane that is not going to fly properly. The plane simply rolled over, or swopped and dived and was wrecked in the crash. And then you gave up. Now you get the simulator, then a ready to fly electric, and a pal on a buddy box and then you get a successful entry into the hobby. Then you can decide if you want to build something. Also what about ready to fly engines and radios – we used to do that but no one is arguing of going back to that. To be a purist you have to build everything.

  59. This conversation has been great! I appreciate everyone’s comments. I personally fly both kind of planes for my job at MAN but I get the most enjoyment and greatest satisfaction by building scale airplanes from CAD drawings I do myself. Thank goodness for computers and laser cutters (or at least friends with laser cutters!) I don’t think our hobby is suppose to be a black and white, this or that, situation. The world is full of gray tones and so I think there is plenty of benefit for both sides of the argument. I think if we can get ARF pilots exposed to the workshop and veteran builders to try new products and materials, we all win! Keep the comments coming, I really want to know what you and the rest of our readers think!

  60. i like arf i tried building from a plain it was so heavy that instead of a small bell motor it ended up with a ic .40 and then it was still too heavy
    so without them i would not be flying i do repairs but i leave the building to the ones that wish to build and the ones that build that dont like arf then noone is forcing you to buy them
    but please keep building them as it give us something to buy when your finshed with them 🙂

  61. I’ve been in R/C since about 1978, so I was there in the 80’s when ARF’s started to show up on the scene. Back then there was the same argument against ARF’s. Old time scratch builders looked down their noses at the guys that flew ARF’s. But at the time, I thought what are we building for? We build to have an airplane to fly. The full scale guys mostly don’t build their planes from scratch, they buy them from Cessna or Piper or whomever. Why? So they can fly. There is nothing stopping anyone from buying a set of plans and building their own plane, so why pick on the guys with the ARF just cause they want to fly NOW. I think it’s a great thing and that ARF’s will keep our hobby vibrant and help include anyone, whether they can build or not.

  62. I started modelling in the mid-’70s and discovered an important thing about building: I have no talent for it whatsoever. I distinctly remember, sometime in the first Reagan administration, how great it would be if there was an inexpensive warbird I could just take out of the box and fly. Now there are, and I love them. I’d rather be at the field flying with my wife (yes, she flies now too), than sequestered in my shop huffing paint fumes.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t envy and appreciate the awesome craftsmanship that goes into a built-up plane — I do! It’s just not for me.

    Here’s what I suggest: Let’s encourage one another to thrive in their chosen area of the hobby, and be there for one another when someone wants to spread their wings and stretch out of our comfort zone.

  63. I like ARFs. It is a lot less painful to crash an ARF than a more labour intensive kit. They are good to learn on and perform very well.

    I have also started to scatch build and that is very interesting but it is a different hobby than flying. If you like to fly but not build, that is okay. Why should everyone like the same thing.

    However, I would like to see more kits for sale that you can build from cut balsa parts. It gives me an option for something between a scatch build and an ARF. There isn’t much selection out there (for balsa cut kits) anymore and you can’t just go down to your corner hobby store to pick up a kit. I would like to see more options and availability for what kits you can buy.


  64. I think that building a model airplane either from scratch or from a kit is half of the hobby. The other half of the hobby is flying. However, alot of people do not have the time or the skills to build a model, so the ARFs are for them. One of the best things about this hobby, is the many ways that you can enjoy it. If you like to build, you can build. If you like to build from scratch you can do that to. If you just love to fly, you can forgo the building and by a plane almost ready to fly. What a great hobby we have.

  65. ARF’s have simply expanded the model aircraft hobby to include EVERYONE who loves it. There are now two major elements consisting of model “building”, and model “flying”. After many years of not flying because of building and club hassles, I now love the electric ARF park flying hobby and now fly almost daily.

  66. Like the old saying goes: he (or she) (gotta be Politically Correct here….) would complain if he (or she….) was hanged with a new rope. My first control line plane in the 50’s was a solid balsa Testor’s Trainer that I held at arms length and slowly let out the 2 strings as I slung it in a circle and turned with it until dizzy, but it ‘flew’ and went up and down. I later screwed on some Erector Set girders and bolted a Thimbledrome Babybee.049 onto it and got my first taste of flying.Should I have stayed away from the field because it wasn’t a Nobler or some other fabulous plane of the 50’s? Not having much money, my first plane was a profile Sterling Ringmaster, then the real hotrod Topflight Flitestreak. Didn’t have the skills to do a ‘build up’ body so I stuck with profile. But even though these were basic and simple, the FACT is that I was able to fly and totally enjoy the hobby of Control Line flying. Decades later after Service and marriage, I got into R/C. My first plane was already built and hanging from a hobbyshop ceiling. I didn’t build it, but I flew the pants off of it and thoughly enjoyed the hobby. Building a kit is enjoyable and takes me a lot of time. So when ARFs came on the scene, it let me jump right into flying a nice looking well covered/colored model. I knew lots of guys who didn’t have the room or time or skills to build, but loved airplanes and ARF’s let them into the sky to enjoy it as much as the rest of us who do build a little or a lot. So to criticize people who buy and fly ARFs and RTF’s is just another old grouch who has to bitch at everything and has probly forgot how to just go out and have fun. Stay home and let the rest of us have a good time.

  67. As a long-time full-scale builder and pilot (RV-4) I have seen the same argument emerge within the membership of the Experimental Aircraft Association back in the 70’s when kit aircraft started to come out. The scratch-builders were afraid of losing the purity of the hobby. But look where it’s taken EAA, Oshkosh and now AirVenture which is on the scale of the Paris Airshow back in the 70’s. The resulting increased participation has even been responsible in progressively evolving aircraft design and aerodynamic and avionics improvements where the factory-builts were not advancing. They are now catching up as a result. Anything that increases the activity and interest in your favorite hobby is a good thing. ARFs are a good thing.

  68. I started out before ARFs came on the scene. I learned real quick that I would much rather fly than build. My hobby is flying. Others find joy in building. We are both in the hobby. Look at how diverse the hobby is by considering the types do planes out there and the variety of the power sources. Are we less in the hobby if we fly electric than gasoline? Or, aerobatic instead of WWII scale? I find fault in those that put their values on others. For those who say kit-only….where do you stop? Build you own radio? Manufacture your own fuel, covering, etc. there is no end to where that argument goes…. The minute you start to say “you must” it stops being a hobby. I say enjoy whatever part of this hobby satisfies you the most…. There’s enough variety of “stuff” to do to meet your needs regardless of what part of the hobby that is…

  69. My opinions towards Arf’s is this……I’m getting back into the hobby after a 20 year hiatus and am noticing a hobby in decline. I did buy a Hanger 9 Alpha used but new in box last fall which remains in the box for now but also bought a PT-40 kit that I’m building that will probably see the air before the Alpha. The PT-40 came from the local hobby shop along with most of the components needed which are american made. Of course good luck getting an american motor and radio system but I do realize I could have gotten a Fox or K&B motor. Contrast this to the contents of the Alpha box with is most if nor all asian. I’m not a racist…….just supporting america as I can right now. As an individual I say support the hobby in any way possible meaning embrace the individual who chooses to assemble the arf OR the grouchy old timer who says you suck because you not invest the time in building. This is a needles, meaningless feud.

  70. We the people, all have different circumstances in life, and in each there are trade offs. For those with limited time ARF’s are a great option, because with todays standards, they offer good quality and an amazing flight experience. For those with time on their hands, kits and scratch building, is the most rewarding because its your own creation and you give the airplane a soul if you will. Two very different experiences. For kids with time, I recommend both experiences, building to keep the art alive and to promote innovation through challenges. This will help the hobby spawn new products and materials. Otherwise, one day we won’t be able to fly if the boat sinks coming from China. Like the car industry, lets not forget how to make a great car. We must respect each persons situation, but if you have time, in the American spirit build and innovate. All the greats in every aircraft mfg plant were builders yet they hand that billion dollar ARF to a kid. Its that synergy between experience and skill that helps us improve products and reach a pinnacle of the flight envelope. God speed to all!

  71. I got into RC modeling in the early 70’s with a Goldberg Falcon 56. A gentleman by the name of Dave Evans taught me how to fly. He worked for BC Tel at the time,
    ARF’s that I was familiar with at that time were foam cored wings with balsa sheeting. There was still a lot of work putting them together. I wouldn’t say they were true ARF’s. Other ARF’s I was familiar with were completely finished and were delivered with engine and radio, ready to go. With today’s ARF’s there is very little work to make a model. Most of them are already painted or covered, and with the new electric motors, can be put together and flown after a couple hours work.
    The reason I didn’t go with ARF’s, was I couldn’t afford them.
    After a fifteen year hiatus, I got back into the hobby with Radian Pro foam glider. I now own three EDF foam jets in different stages of construction.
    For the 1st few years, I bought, built and flew balsa kits that taught me the intricacies of aerodynamics, the importance of center of gravity and tight, strong glue joints. Now that I can afford them; and with my experience from my early days of modeling, I prefer them.
    For those who can afford them; I believe that ARF’s are a quick, easy way to get into RC modeling and flying. That’s not to say that you can do it in one day. One still needs research, instruction and knowledgeable help in getting your plane in the air.
    For those who don’t have the time or building space, ARF’s are a bonus to the RC modeling hobby. They may be a little more expensive than the build yourself kits, but they satisfy the “I WANT IT NOW!” faction of our chosen hobby.
    For those of you who have ever wanted to control a flying machine without the expense of learning to fly a full sized aircraft, I recommend exploring the RC modeling hobby. Whether with an ARF or a built up kit, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

  72. Having only started flying early last summer, I cannot say how things were in ‘the good ole days before ARF and RTF’.
    I can however state with no reservations that ARFs do a hell of a lot more good for our hobby than the crowd of old farts sitting around complaining about them at the airfield do.
    I refused to join one club and almost quit another during my first 2 months of flying due to the obnoxious peanut gallery of ‘old school’ a-holes standing around constantly saying how it was too easy now and people like myself did not deserve to fly because we did not build our own planes from a pile of sticks.

    1. RC aero-modeling got to where it is today through a history of constant progression in many areas:
      *Design & construction: scratch built > plans only > kit built (carved solid wood display > printed balsa > laser cut balsa > kit bashed) > ARF > RTF.
      *Control: static display > freeflight (hand-launch > towline > hi-start, gliders > powered) > U-control > RC (rudder only > rudder/elevator/motor control > full house 10 channel > telemetry > unlimited).
      *Materals: paper > cardstock > balsa sheet > balsa stick & tissue > Fiberglas > foam > carbon fiber > ?
      *Adhesives: casein powder > white glue > Ambroid > Tightbond > CA > ?
      *Size: micro to full scale, living room to controlled airspace.
      *Power: unpowered sailplanes > internal combustion (diesel > gas > glow, 4 stroke > two stroke, single cylinder > multi, puller & pusher > ducted fan) > electric (dry-cell > Ni-Cad > LiPo > ?), pulsejet > turbojet > solid fuel rocket.
      *RC hardware: rubber-powered escapement > galloping ghost > analog servo > digital proportional.
      *Radio: tubes > transistors, tone > spread spectrum, 27 Mc > 24GHz > ?

      Many of us old-timers (I started with a DeBolt LiveWire Trainer, Bonner Varicomp, OK Cub .09, Deltron TX/RX, rudder only, in ’57) started early in this progression and followed one or more of the various paths to the latest technology. We benefit from the knowledge and skills gained, and perhaps even more so from the unparalled satisfaction of seeing our creations grow from idea to controlled flight.

      Many stop along the path at the level of technology they are comfortable with. Purists might choose stay at the point where the joy of personal creation is lost. Some revel in the old-timer gear and designs. I’m a retired engineer pushing 70, and finally have the time and resources to choose the path I find most enjoyable, a mix of old and new: it’s stick and tissue rubber-powered free-flight kits modified for electric power and micro RC, and I have no criticism for those who would rather fly than build.

      I expect the vast majority of the younger would-be pilots will opt for the pre-built planes, and will neither enjoy nor miss the satisfaction of old-school modeling. It’s easy to divide the hobby into two branches, those who create and fly and those who buy and fly. Perhaps the flying part might best be considered sport rather than hobby. In any case, ARF/RTF is here to stay, and will continue to pull potential couch-potatoes away from their video games and out into the real world, with their eyes to the skies, and that’s a good thing.

  73. I like to build R/C model airplanes, and like to fly them also, in this order. I am sure that without ARF’s this hobby would not exist anymore. But I am convinced that building and flying an unique airplane is way more interesting than buying an ARF.
    I am 66, building and flying since was a kid, and I love it! Thanks to the ARF people who keeps buying and supporting the hobby!

  74. I too am an old timer from the days of kits, soldering your own tin and brass tube fuel tanks. When I see youngsters out flying foamies or artf models, I’m very happy. I’m getting back into the hobby after many many years away, I want to feel the joy of flying a model aeroplane again. Later if God permits, I will attempt to get back into kit building. Buy for now some of those ARTF planes sure look tempting. We need youngsters flying and buying to keep the hobby going, simple as that.

  75. I am a 14 year old and I think ARFs are the only way I could ever afford to be in the hobby and you get well built good looking and good flying models. My first plane, a foamy rtf was bullet proof and taught me lots before iI went onto a high wing trainer ARF wow, for 120 bucks i get a 40 sized plane! amazing. with limited income I still have to repair it when something goes wrong As i cannot afford a new arf all the time. plus with a cheap plane I can afford not to skimp on engine and radio gear. so ARF in my opinion are fully positive for the hobby, If you want, you can still build if you want to.

  76. im 74 now and have been building planes for most of my life ARF AN RTF are ok but i thank building a plane from a kit is best for you know how a real plane is built and you can enjoy it more for it takes a lot of hours to put it togather and once its finsh it look great and flys great to and you can hang it up so people can say did you build that plane it sure look grate v.stiglet

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