New to RC Plane; Hobbyzone Challenger good choice?? - RC Groups
Thread Tools
May 28, 2004, 04:32 PM
Registered User

New to RC Plane; Hobbyzone Challenger good choice??

Greetings all:

I just found this marvelous website after doing a google search on RC planes. Thirty years ago, I used to spend my hard earned pocket money on the old Guillman (sp?) balsa planes. When I was in a hobby store the other day looking for a gift for my nephew, I became mesmorized by the RC plane aisle. I must have one!

After two visits to the store and consultations with several very learned hobby store employees, I think a Hobbyzone plane might be the thing for me. My only question is which model. They have a Firebird II for $84 but it was suggested that I spend the extra $25 and go for the Commander at $109. Then, of course, I spotted the Challenger for $149 which apparently gets me the third channel for loops, etc. I walked out totally confused. One half of me says "go ahead and spend the extra $40 to get the thrid channel so when you are advanced to use it, it will be there". But the other side says "this is your first RC plane, you are already considering what looks to be a mid-line plane with either the FireBird or Commander. This will be already be a challenge for you to fly. If you like it, you can always get another down the road".

So, what say you wise RC plane pilots. Can you offer some guidance to this RC plane pilot wannabe??

Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
May 28, 2004, 05:00 PM
Registered User
aeropal's Avatar
I walked out totally confused.
Welcome and congratulations . . for not making an un-informed purchase, and seeking out more information. This website may help.
Beginner Parkflyers
May 28, 2004, 06:26 PM
Dead stick!!
Peter Young's Avatar
Hi Will91

I agree you must have one.

The Hobbyzone planes are a great way to dip your toe in the water and see if this is for you. The big advantage is that they are cheap for what you get (a complete ready to fly package), and there's a high chance of success as long as you follow a couple of basic rules (dont fly in any wind at all initially, and fly in a big enough space so you are not dodging obstacles).

The big disadvantage of these planes is that if you decide to move on to bigger and better planes almost none of the gear is able to be reused. I went this route and was happy enough with that consequence, as I probably would not have got into the hobby at all if I went with the more expensive option - see below.

That being the case, I would probably suggest getting the cheaper 2 channel option, and saving your money towards the next inevitable purchase. There are definately advantages in getting 3 channel, but you will get a real feel for the hobby from a Firebird 2, and the three channel will not be enough to keep you happy for long (i.e. when you get into the hobby you will quickly outgrow the 3 channel Hobbizone plane). Basically the Hobbyzone plane is a "sunk cost" - you spend it and it's gone. But for that money you get a cheap insight into the hobby, and you learn skills that will be useful with your next plane.

The cheapest (long term) but most expensive (short term) option is to buy gear that will get you started successfully now, and grow with you as you get hooked into the hobby. This could involve:
GWS Slowstick plane and 2 batteries
Hitec Flash 5X transmitter plus micro servos and receiver (comes as a package)
20 amp speed controller
Good charger like a Great Planes Triton

The total package will cost you many hundreds of dollars, but then the next plane you buy will only cost $50-$100, as all the gear from the slowstick can be reused. But it's a big outlay, and you need to be sure this hobby is for you.

Good luck

Last edited by Peter Young; May 28, 2004 at 06:33 PM.
May 28, 2004, 09:03 PM
Registered User
As an intermediate step (and avoiding the Slow Stick completely, IMO a good idea) consider the Easy Star RTF package. All it really needs is a better charger (and another battery or two, so you can fly while charging).

But the basic decision remains; you can buy a low-cost all-in-one package that's basically disposable (you can of course hand it on to someone else), or you can kit yourself out with things that you can reuse later, but at considerably increased cost.

Whether you go with the Slow Stick or Easy Star setups, you will be looking at $300-$400 worth by the time you're ready to fly.

= Mike
May 28, 2004, 11:16 PM
Pedal Power!
lakedude's Avatar
The Aerobird remains one of my favorite planes. The Challenger is the latest version and I highly recommend for beginners as long as they have a big field to learn in. I would go with the 3 channel over the 2, learning to fly a 2 channel is a bit of an art form. If a 2 channel is setup perfect they are pretty easy to fly but you have no real time adjustment. With a 3 channel (or higher) you can make up/down adjustment in the air and do balancing/ trimming when you get down. With a 2 channel you are stuck with it however it comes and if it is out of balance you will crash.

Challlenger advantages:

Ready to fly out of the box.
Complete including batterys, a nice peak quick charger, motor, radio, servos etc.
Can handle some wind (Not at first! Fly in ZERO wind your first times).
Goes back into the box for easy transport.
Tuff as nails.
Pusher, saves props, can come in nose first and not hurt anything.
Port for fighting or parachute or other accesories.
Turns slow so a beginner does not over do it.
V-tail saves control surfaces on a not so hot landing.


Radio not reusable or as good as "real" 72MHz.
Prop will eat wing if power is on in a crash.
Too fast to use in a small area.
Does not turn very sharp without losing a lot of altitude.
May 29, 2004, 01:59 AM
Registered User
Thanks to all for the quick and very helpful replies I have already received here. I went back to the hobby store with my education furthered by you learned people.

I guess I had never considered putting a system together until today when I registered on this site and posted my question. Since I was fairly up to speed on the HobbyZone concept features, etc. (certainly furthered by LakeDude's input), I checked out the second option recommended by some here regarding putting a "kit" together myself. With Peter Young's list in hand, I had my hobby store friends price out a system. I actually asked them to lay it all out on the counter one by one. It was very helpful to get a "visual" of all the components. I asked them all sorts of dumb questions like, "ok, does that part go on the plane or in the radio? etc." I actually think they appreciated my interest and I thanked them for their course in RC Planes 101. Here is what they recommended if I go this route:

GWS E-Starter plane $35
JR 5 Channel Radio $165
10A Electrify speed controller $30-40
NiH battery $25-30
Piranha charger $50
Approx. total with tax: $330

A few notes to clarify...

1) They did not carry Peter Young's Hitec transmitter and claimed the JR was comparable
2) The price on the Triton charger was $135 and would have pushed the total price over $400. It seems the NiH battery would be fine for me since I am told it is already a step above NiCd. Plus, they told me the Li charger will not plug into the wall and requires 12VDC power supply such as a car battery or old computer power supply.

This is going to be a hard choice now. Part of me was definitely intrigued by actually having to put this together and being able to purchase other plane kits down the road and utilize the other components. The other part of me really didn't want to pay this much. Although I would love to give this store my business, I was wondering if there are internet sites that would offer these components at at better prices. Any suggestions would be appreciated in this regard. I had hoped that I would be flying this Memorial weekend but perhaps I best just research this a little more and sleep on it. I suppose I could grill some steaks over the holiday and postpone that maiden flight another weekend or two! That's not such a bad compromise.

In the meantime, any other input would be gratefully appreciated. Many thanks to all of you.
May 29, 2004, 06:08 AM
Dead stick!!
Peter Young's Avatar
I've had a couple of hiccups with Tower Hobbies, but I still find them excellent overall. That said, I would definately shop locally unless the price difference is significant. There is a great advantage in being able to go back to a local shop and ask if (a) the plane is put together right, (b) something is really broken or just installed wrong, (c) a million other things that can go wrong. son recently bought an rc car for half the local price using tower. Our local guy was disappointed, but understood why we went elsewhere given the price difference.

If it was me, I'd take the Tower prices into the local shop. If they can get within 20% of the Tower price I'd buy locally (assuming they are a good shop with knowledgeable and helpful staff, and a reasonable range of electric gear). The 20% is worth it for the follow up support - especially when you are new and have lots of questions.

Couple of points re the package above:

1. Plane sounds good. It really helps if your local shop also carries spares.

2. JR radio - my experience is that these are usually better quality (and more expensive) than Hitec. The Flash 5 is a computer radio with 5 model memories. Make sure the JR has at least 3 or 4 model memories. One advantage of buying locally is that some shops will mix and match gear with a transmitter bundle - in this case you want the smallest available servos (make sure you don't get full size servos - only useful for glow and very big electrics).

Here's the Hitec package with small (but not tiny) servos:**&P=ML

It would be better to get HS-55 servos

3. Speed controller - I'd be getting a 20 amp. Often the price is not much more, and a 20 amp is much more useful as it will work with bigger motors and higher current draw setups.

This one is good because you can program the voltage cutoff, so it will be useful when you eventually get Lipo batteries:

4. Is this the charger?

This looks pretty good. The Triton is an expensive option. Lipo batteries will become very common very soon, but I can see why you would not spend more on a charger. You can get quite cheap lipo only chargers for later.

5. Nimh batteries can be better than nicads, as long as they are good quality (such as Kan cells). You can lose a little voltage and if the plane is only a marginal flyer this can be a problem. But in most cases nimh's are fine and they give you more flying time. Also they are easier to look after as you don't need to discharge them before charging. A good rule of thumb is to always buy Sanyo batteries if you have the choice (rather than generic brand).

Here's a great place to buy batteries:

The price difference is significant, and I guess that's why people start with the RTF cheap planes - to see if they are $300+ keen on this hobby.

Keep asking questions!

Last edited by Peter Young; May 29, 2004 at 06:20 AM.
May 29, 2004, 05:07 PM
Old F-4 Crewchief
fuzzyhead's Avatar
I think I'm one step ahead of you. I bought a Firebird II several months ago because of the cost and great package. My big problem is flying or should I say trying to fly in the winds. Even slight winds can cause a problem for the Firebird. After only 3 attempts at flying, I am already looking for a new plane that will handle at least some winds. Theres a lot of good info from this forum and three channel is that way to go. Take some time and read some of the numerous threads dealing with these issues. I wish I had. Check out the T-Hawk. Good luck.
Latest blog entry: The first F-4 I crewed.
May 29, 2004, 08:28 PM
Registered User
YeOldeStonecat's Avatar
Hi Will...

Middle ager here who used to do some balsa building as a kid, never having them last long.

Anyways...decided to get back into RC as an adult. After pouring through these forums....listed to their advice and got myself a Slow Stick.

On about the 3rd flight...finally had no breeze, first 2 attempts were on somewhat gusty all "clicked" and suddenly I began doing well. She's remarkebly easy, and rather tough despite her looks.

Picked up a Futaba 6 ch radio, Hitech 555 receiver, Hitech 85bb mini servos, Pixie 20 speed controller, and a 2 cell 1320m LiPol battery.

I built the plane completely stock, and she's taken a lot of abuse, still going strong and looking new after quite near 30 flights now. Very slow and forgiving, she gives you plenty of room for error.
May 29, 2004, 09:48 PM
Repair Specialist
Ken-Ohki's Avatar
the E-starter is a great little beginer plane, many people get it and set it up rudder elivator only to learn, then later add aileron control, sometimes even droping rudder.
I would recomend getting a bigger Esc, Something along the 20 amps line..
You can get away with a $50 or $60 charger NP, I got a duel variable rate peak charger from wattage that I use for 69 bucks. works great.

I really prefure the hitek radios to the JR line, but its really a personal preferance. My 600 mah battery last forever in my JR, but my Hiteks 600 only lasts about a hour and a half. But even bearing that in mind, I prefure the hitek. Im thinking the JR i have just isnt puttin gout as strong a single and perhaps has less range, so it would naturaly use less power. But that it just speculation. The feel of the radio is what I like most about the Hitek.

Good luck with it, THis is a great Hobby.

"I make things do what I want them to, THe hell with what they are designed to do."
May 30, 2004, 06:26 PM
Registered User
Jimbo45cn's Avatar


Perhaps I should put in my two cents worth. I am new to this also, and my first plane was/is the challenger. A couple of things. This plane in my opinion does not handle wind very well, and forget the advertisements about flying it in a ball field. I am just now(after 3 wings and 2 fuses) getting to the point where I can fly it in 5 to 7 mph winds. The first time I got it up and with the wind, this thing took off like a rocket and was a 1/4 mile away before I even knew it. It's a nice plane and I am getting it, but something a bit slower would have been better for me. Maybe you too. I fell for the 3 channel thing, and found out that this plane is pretty darn fast. I am now getting an EP Superstar as it is larger, heavier, handles wind much better and all the gear is transferrable. RTF if 179 @ tower, with 3 channel radio. If you want another alternative, Wing Dragon might be the way to go. 3 channel,transferrable gear, NOT a v tail, and a big fat wing that makes it fly real slow. Hope this helps. Jimbo
Jun 01, 2004, 03:16 AM
Silent Flight
daveWCO's Avatar
Howdy Will91:

Here's a few more comments:

Charger: You might check out Hobbico. I know they have one at ~the same price as the Duratrak that charges Nicads, Nimhs and Lipolys and two packs at a time.


I never did like the E-Start*r! Perhaps I just received a bad kit, but the foam was brittle and poorly cut, landing gear consistantly broke off and more....

I like the Hitec Flash 5X, as well. Among other places, check out Hobby Lobby for a good combo deal.

Keep us posted and welcome aboard!

Jun 01, 2004, 02:27 PM
Registered User
GWS E-Starter plane $35
The Slow Stick is the same price and will be easier to build and fly. The E-Starter is an OK first plane, but not as good as the Slow Stick, in my opinion. Your local shop should be able to order one if they are not in stock, or you can get them at

JR 5 Channel Radio $165
JR radios are great (I have three) but you can probably find a cheaper Hitec if cost is a concern.

10A Electrify speed controller $30-40
These are OK, though for about same price you can pick up a better quality 20A Castle Creations speed controller at

NiH battery $25-30
Depending on the capacity, this may or may not be a good deal. You'll want at least a 700mAh pack. 8-cell packs work best for the Slow Stick, though a 7-cell will work OK. Do not buy a 6-cell pack.

Piranha charger $50
Price sounds OK, but make sure the charger can handle 8 cells. Some of the lower end chargers only charge 7-cell packs. I have a Triton and LOVE it. I highly recommend getting one if you can afford it. If you decide this hobby is not for you, it's pretty easy to sell a used one here for $100+ so you won't be out a lot of money. is another site with inexpensive gear and good service.
Last edited by utahrc; Jun 01, 2004 at 02:32 PM.
Jun 01, 2004, 02:54 PM
Registered User
Spongebob's Avatar
If you really wanted to save money and go with the slow stick, has a rtf package with everything needed to fly (battery, charger, servos, transmitter, etc.) for just $200.
Jun 01, 2004, 03:54 PM
ziege's Avatar
Having played with a few of these planes (though not the ABC) I've got to say that most of this advice is very good.

The charger... don't get a Triton right off. You can get a decent charger for half the money or less.

I would say it depends on prevailing local conditions. If you have enough calm (and I mean no wind) days, the slow stick is wonderful...but don't bother if the winds go beyond about 5MPH. If winds are in the 5-10MPH range, the EasyStar is a great choice. I'm sure there are other great trainers too of course.

The 4-5 channel radio is a good investment, but many people hang onto single stick radios even after they upgrade.

For myself, I'd get a hitec neon (about $100 w/ 2 micro servos and electron 6 micro receiver), a Slow Stick (~$35), a couple of 7-cell battery packs (~$20 for 2), and a charger like the FMA minipulse (~$20). Total cost would be $175 or so, plus a bit for shipping. Add a few "necesities" like some epoxy, some fg strapping tape, and so are still shy of $200. If the wind is too strong, go with the same setup but an EZ* for about $40 more.

I have a fancier TX (eclipse 7), but I miss my single stick radios now that I don't have any, and may end up with a neon anyway.