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Five Beginner Airplanes For The New Pilot

Manufacturers have made becoming an rc pilot easier and more affordable. Whether it's for you or your child, here's five great first airplanes to consider!


Cheap and Slow is the Way to Go!

Let's face it, we all have to start somewhere! Beginner radio-controlled airplanes are plentiful in today's hobby, but some that are marketed as "beginner" or "trainer" are just a little too hot and heavy for a new pilot with relatively no experience. In a hobby where a crash is measured in dollar signs, it makes sense to invest the bare minimum for a child's first rc airplane, as they learn the muscle movements and hand-eye coordination needed to master the plane.

The simulator is a great introduction to the hobby as well; I taught myself to fly on one of the early versions of RealFlight. But I also taught my wife to fly on a Hobbyzone Champ with no prior experience on a simulator, proof positive that the real thing works, too! Let's take a brief look at some beginner airplanes that will help make that first flight experience a good one!

Flyzone INUM Elite

CLICK HERE for the Flyzone INUM Elite

The INUM Elite is a bargain at $59.99 and offers 3-channel control in a super-lightweight airframe. Designed for indoor flight, the INUM Elite is perfect for someone that's never touched the sticks. It's slow and predictable: two traits that equal success when learning how to fly.

Parkzone Night Vapor

CLICK HERE for the Parkzone Night Vapor

You can count on the Vapor to be as slow as possible, making it a great choice for the new hobbyist. It's price point is a bit high for what you're getting: a carbon fiber frame covered in a lightweight thin film. But despite it's delicate looks, the Night Vapor is actually quite durable. I attribute it's durability to the slow speeds and low mass, making it difficult to hurt even if you dork it into a fixed object.

Hobbyzone Champ S+ RTF

CLICK HERE for the Hobbyzone Champ S+

Hobbyzone took the popular Champ and added SAFE technology to the tiny airplane. The Champ S+ combines the forgiving nature of the original Champ with a number of high-tech safety features. SAFE technology allows for three different flight modes, a Panic Recovery mode that levels the airplane when the sticks are released, a virtual fence that prohibits fly-aways, and even an Auto-Land function. While some purists may argue such features dilute the learning process, the Champ S+ definitely helps reduce aircraft damage with it's SAFE features. Once the basics are mastered, a larger plane without the safety features is usually the next logical step in one's rc career.

E-Flite UMX Radian

CLICK HERE for the E-Flite UMX Radian

Another Horizon Hobby aircraft makes it's way into our beginner list, and for obvious reasons! The HH team definitely knows how to make a beginner-friendly airplane, and the UMX Radian is just such an airplane. Designed for indoor flight and outdoor flight in still winds, the UMX Radian is a lightweight motor glider with AS3X Technology inside. AS3X reduces the buffeting from outside forces and acts as a "behind the scenes" controller, making the flight experience more enjoyable. It does require a transmitter, making it perfect for someone that owns a Spektrum transmitter and wants to teach their child or spouse how to fly. An FPV version is also available for the budding first-person-view pilot.

Flyzone Micro Calypso

CLICK HERE for the Flyzone Micro Calypso

Another Flyzone aircraft rounds out our list of beginner airplanes. The Micro Calypso is designed to fly slowly without any adverse handling characteristics. Unlike the UMX Radian, the Micro Calypso is available in a ready-to-fly version for the same price as the UMX Radian. The Micro Calypso has generous dihedral, making it inherently stable and our fifth choice for the perfect beginner airplane!

What's Your Favorite Beginner Bird?

Did you start out with one of the planes listed above? Or do you have a different aircraft that you taught a friend or family member to fly on? Share with us your favorite beginner airplane!

Last edited by Matt Gunn; Feb 14, 2017 at 10:24 AM..
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Feb 14, 2017, 03:04 PM
Registered User
I'm kind of surprised that you don't have the Apprentice on the list. Similar to the Champ I suspect but no auto pilot for landing. It's been a great trainer, for myself and my 9 year old son who is now able to take off, fly, and land by himself in Safe mode (1), and has also been practicing his aerobatics in advanced mode. having the steerable nose wheel I think is also a plus over the Champ.

At $279 inclusive it's been a great gateway plane for us to get started in the hobby. A few tough landings but no major crashes (knock on wood), plus replacement parts, wings, etc are both plentiful and reasonably priced.

just a thought!
Feb 14, 2017, 03:13 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Don't be surprised; I kept the aircraft small for this list! I plan on making a larger airplane list soon. Thanks!
Feb 14, 2017, 03:56 PM
Hard to beat the "original" Champ, in my book. Slow, easy to see, too light to inflict much damage, and small enough to be flow at the local school, etc. Early on I wore one out, bought another and wore it out, too. They're still fun even when you've got some experience under your belt!
Feb 14, 2017, 05:46 PM
Registered User

and for people who dislike horizon hobbies

and for those more "hands on"
or the more compact

the more traditional
and for who enjoy building

There is a whole "spectrum" of choices that YOU can choose including what transmitter you prefer.
Feb 14, 2017, 10:19 PM
Registered User
Champ and UMX Radian are some of the best beginner plane and many pilot's must have in their collection. On the other hand the Champ S is not.

Feb 14, 2017, 10:44 PM
Registered User
The Champ is a Champ for small 3 ch flyer. I hear UMX Radian is another good small bird.
Feb 15, 2017, 12:08 AM
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HH Sports Cub S.
Feb 15, 2017, 02:58 PM
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Magnum Reloaded! (US) (EU)
Feb 15, 2017, 06:56 PM
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madwinger's Avatar


Success in beginning RC is not in the plane, although a good beginner plane is essential. Success is in the mentoring and training. I had little to no success both in the 80's with standard balsa trainers because the only guy that was willing to give lessons wanted 25 bucks an hour. And as little as a year and a half ago when I picked it up again with a new age Sportsman S+ that was over $300.00 that I tried to teach my self with no success.

Today a year and half later I can fly because of joining a club, asking for help and keeping at it thru multiple ruined aircraft because the guys at the club made sure I was getting better all the time.

I am sure 80 to 90 percent that buy a "trainer" end up giving up because they do not get help, mentoring and encouragement that is need.

I urge all of you out there to be a mentor or our hobby will die a natural death.

The 3 planes I learned on was a PNP Parkzone Sport Cub. 4 chanel no AS3X. 3 of them. By the time I got thru the third, I could take off, keep it in the air with some grace, loops and rolls and back on the ground.

No matter what you start with, we all know its going to take time and money and lots and lots of help.

Last edited by madwinger; Feb 15, 2017 at 07:03 PM.
Feb 18, 2017, 11:51 AM
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mike_o's Avatar
You have to be very American to avoid getting the Multiplex EasyStar on a list like that. While Multiplex have several strong candidates for the list (including the TwinStar, the Panda Sport, and the Shark), the EasyStar is the mother of all Bixlers and likes.

I started out with a TwinStar kit, build it myself with cheap parts from Ebay, and flew it based only on the paper manual. No prior simulator and no instructor/help. I still have that plane, and it hasn't even been crashed.
Feb 18, 2017, 12:23 PM
pull up -- PULL UP!!!
Originally Posted by mike_o View Post
You have to be very American to avoid getting the Multiplex EasyStar on a list like that..
Did you notice that the list is intended to be restricted to small planes? I expect the EZ-S and/or it's clones will make the bigger aircraft list.

Personally I would delete the Champ S+, only because high tech can be sport-ending for beginners when it gets quirky -- which is all too common. And I would delete the Micro Calypso because it's not quite up to UMX Radian standards. Perhaps I'd add Duet based on it's rumored novice friendliness -- I've never actually seen one. And while it's picture is up there, I don't think the Champ is listed as one of the five. That's still at or near the top of my beginner list. But that's okay because this isn't my list.
Last edited by hard line; Feb 18, 2017 at 12:32 PM.
Feb 18, 2017, 02:26 PM
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mike_o's Avatar
Originally Posted by hard line View Post
Did you notice that the list is intended to be restricted to small planes? I expect the EZ-S and/or it's clones will make the bigger aircraft list....
No, I didnt, and I even looked for such a remark after noticing the planes were rather small. Still can't see that anywhere...

Personally I find 140cm plane with a low wing load easier to see and fly, at least if it isn't too windy.
Feb 18, 2017, 02:32 PM
pull up -- PULL UP!!!
Originally Posted by mike_o View Post
No, I didnt, and I even looked for such a remark after noticing the planes were rather small. Still can't see that anywhere...
Post 3
Feb 18, 2017, 04:26 PM
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mike_o's Avatar
Originally Posted by hard line View Post
Post 3
Ahh, I get it now, thanks. I read that as a "longer" list as I didn't relate it to post #2. Perhaps Matt should put that in post 1 somewhere...

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