Beginner's Guide to the RC Plane Hobby



This guide provides the perspective RC plane hobbyist with enough information to make informed decisions when purchasing a RC plane system and how she or he can be successful in the hobby. Sections on types of planes and transmitters are provided so the RC hobbyist can know what options are available. The First Flight section provides tips on how to achieve a successful first flight of his or her plane. The next section provides information on the basic flight of the plane. 

Flight Basics

Control Surfaces and Axis of Movement

A plane has three primary axis of movement: roll, pitch, and yaw. The plane is controlled by three control surfaces: ailerons, elevators, and the rudder. The propeller provides the plane with thrust.

Ailerons are located at the bottom of the main wing and provide the plane with roll.

Elevators are located on the horizontal stabilizer and provide the plane with pitch.

The rudder is located on the vertical stabilizer and provide the plane with yaw.

Supporting control surfaces called flaps provide increased lift on the main wing when desired. They can also be used when landing to slow the plane down.

Control Surface Video

The ailerons on a RC plane are controlled by moving the right stick of the transmitter/controller to the left or right. The elevators are controlled by moving the right stick up or down. The rudder is controlled by moving the left stick left or right. Moving the left stick up or down controls the throttle.

Control Surface Quiz

Please match the the control surface to the axis of motion it controls.

  • elevators
  • rudder
  • ailerons

Types of RC Planes

Types of RC Planes


Trainer planes are designed for maximum stability and ease of flight. They may have fewer control surfaces (rudder only)  than a normal plane and have a slower, more accessible, airspeed.

Park Flyers

These planes are designed to be electric powered. They are lightweight, durable, and can fly in almost any field safely.

Scale Models

These models try to capture the flight and physical characteristics of existing real planes. 

3D Planes

These planes have very high thrust to weight ratio and feature nontraditional flight modes. They can perform spectacular maneuvers and provide new and interesting challenges for the pilot. 

3D Plane Demo Video



Simulators provide a safe virtual space to practice flying techniques. They cost less than a single plane and can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. A simulator can have tens or hundreds of  models to fly. 

RealFlight RC flight Simulator is very popular and supports many transmitters. RealFlight 8 has VR support to further increase immersion in both normal and FPV (First Person View) modes.

Purchasing a simulator first before buying plane is a great idea. Gaining experience flying in the simulator can avoid expensive crashes in real life. 

RealFlight 8 Video



Transmitters, or controllers, are used to control the plane. There are two main transmitter technologies: megahertz and gigahertz frequencies.

Megahertz transmitters require frequency crystals in both the transmitter and receiver. When flying with other pilots, it is important to make sure everyone is using a different crystal frequency to avoid interference.

Gigahertz transmitters do not require frequency crystals and allow hundreds of planes to fly in the same airfield without interfering with each other. Almost all modern transmitters use gigahertz technology.   

Each control surface of a plane requires a separate channel on the transmitter to control it. The throttle and supporting control surfaces also require their own channel. It is important to buy a transmitter that has the required channels for both your current and future plane purchases. A six channel transmitter is enough for basic planes. Advanced planes may require more channels. 

Transmitter Quiz

  • A plane with a propeller, ailerons, elevators, rudder, flaps, and landing gear requires a transmitter with at least 6 channels.
  • A Spektrum transmitter that uses gigahertz technology requires a frequency crystal to function.

First Flight

First Flight

Before attempting to fly your plane, you should verify it is properly bound to the transmitter. The plane's user manual should provide detailed steps for accomplishing this.

Choosing a suitable airfield is an important step. The field should have at least 2250 square feet (a 150*150 ft square lot is preferable) of unobstructed airspace. If you are going to fly at a club, familiarize yourself with the rules of the field.

A field toolbox is very convenient to have. It should consist of the following:

  • a large screwdriver
  • a set of small screwdrivers
  • a wrench
  • tape and glue
  • extra propellers

Before taking off the plane, a preflight check should be completed. The video on the next page explains in detail how this is performed.      

Preflight Checklist Video

Preflight Checklist Quiz and Conclusion