Using 21 RC planes, we have endeavoured to supply all the information that anyone wishing to buy the best Beginner’s plane, or best Intermediate/Expert plane or to just fly remote controlled planes, would wish to know. Read on to find out how all of these planes were assessed against one another over all our tests to arrive at a best RC plane selection of “Best RC Plane of the Year” for each class.
About the Reviewers
Joe – Absolute beginner who first attempted flying 5 June 2010 – first “big time crash” was experienced 7 June 2010.
George Tadd – Absolute expert. Started flying when model ‘planes had twisted rubber bands for rudder control and throttle position was fixed. A regular model club attendee flying all sorts of new planes and is constantly requested to check and adjust the maiden flights of club planes. My (Joe’s) transition from a “constant crasher” to now being about “intermediate”, has been solely due to George’s patience and constant positive advice. His input to all of my previous reviews on this site has been absolutely invaluable and I seriously doubt that the reviews could have been done so successfully without his assistance. We will provide his valuable tips in point form towards the end of this article.
Why have we offered up the comparison grid?
Just like the concept that “oils ain’t just oils”, we have found many surprises during these reviews, mainly coming to the fore because I AM a beginner and George IS an expert. The following items have become evident:
- In most cases you appear to get what you pay for - if it’s cheap then there’s a reason. We found that most brands that were not well known, had considerable difficulty in flying properly. If you were an expert, sure, you could get it up there and maybe down again and then change i.e. COG, or motor mountings to combat torque roll or while you are up there adjust throw rates or tune up so it flies straight etc. If you were a beginner, however, these were usually suicide missions as this skill level usually has enough to contend with and the concentration overload will usually cause you to crash. - see Build Quality & Readiness for flight
- The unknown brand names seemed, in most cases, to need significant alteration and we doubt that the constructor ever test flew the plane at all. In one case such as the Dynan Cub, it actually flew better upside down rather than the correct way up. George, however, said the dihedral was wrong so he bought it down to “terra firma” and we then propped the wings up with sticks and it flew great. But a beginner would not know this - he would crash and then believe he was not capable of flying - see Build Quality & Readiness for flight
- Many of the planes’ Top brands and unknown brands have been reported to take-off and land on grass, but by what skill level, and what height is the grass? - see Flight capability
- The writings you find on the web and accompanying the planes’ write ups say “Park Flyer” but this can be misleading. At what skill level do you need to be and what size is the Park? - see ½ oval size & oval size (see Flight suitability)
- Another condition that concerned me in selecting a beginner’s plane is, what sort of wind strength should I be able to fly in and which is a good plane to suit my skill level and the strength of the wind I shall usually be flying in (as it varies with the geographic location)? – see Wind max (Flight capability)
- We also found that with some planes there were advantages using a different transmitter rather than the one supplied. This is simply so that you have more programmable settings such as in the Spektrum DX6i and DX8 to make flying a LOT easier for the beginner/intermediate. We found that some planes had radio systems other than 2.4 Ghz which are often far more likely to fail with interference ie FM or AM are a “NO, NO”. Our suggestion here is to go with a GOOD Transmitter from the onset, using as an absolute minimum, Spektrum DX5i. The DX6i and DX8 are recommended. You may pay more initially, but it will significantly reduce crashes and frustration as you can programme out individual plane flight peculiarities in flight. - see Supplied Tx See (Flight Suitability)
- We found that build quality varied immensely, although some top name brands were consistently better which led to less breakages and subsequently also ensured that the maiden flights were a lot easier. If you are buying a Beginners’ plane, make sure that you either pick a plane on our grid OR use a top brand name or you will usually find on the maiden flight, too much aileron throw, torque pull, wrong COG or motor mount incorrect and you will crash trying to get it down. Linkage sloppiness or movement caused by easily bendable materials in the rudder, ailerons, and elevators cause significant control problems in even slight wind situations and so we have endeavoured to take points off where we saw this evident in the plane and where our suspicions were substantiated when we flew the plane. After replacing the elliptical wheels on the EF2000, for example, before it would taxi at all, the COG was so far out that the plane had to be flown with full up-elevator, the under powered motor made sure it could not take off on grass and on a bitumen pad, it took over 100 metres and needed to hit a bump to take off. Is this indicative of buying from a major chain store where people don’t know the individual planes personally? We suspect it is. - see Build Quality & Readiness for flight
About the Grid
Whilst we have put the total points in on each field, it may be misleading in some cases if you only look at the total as the highest points may be allocated due to the plane being more aptly suited across a range but it still may not be the best plane for a specific suitability to yourself. Look at the factors on the grid as applying to yourself in order of importance and select the plane accordingly. We have awarded the Winning planes to the classes into which we believe the planes fit, with the most versatile plane across differing fields picking up the most points for the best plane.
About the Planes
Many of the planes listed on this grid have had a previously written detailed in-depth reviews posted on this site, evaluated as we compiled the Grid. Those that have not been previously reviewed in-depth on this site have still all been reviewed in the same way that the other written reviews were done and so all 21 planes have been judged on the same basis in the grid.
All COG’s have been set as per specifications and where a battery was not supplied, we used batteries supplied by HEI Hobby Express International which were Intellect batteries of the specified discharge rate, weight, size and capacity that were stipulated for the plane.
|Build Qualty. Asthetics, Readiness for uniform Flight||Note : TX may score low only as it does not equal a DX6i for change ability|
(1 to 10)
Ready for uniform flight
(1 to 10)
RX & TX
10 = good
0 = fail
|Modification needed for good to excellent controlled flight or assist take off /landing||Supplied by|| |
|RTF, BNF, ARF, PNP|
|Trojan T28D||Parkzone||10||10||DX8||No||None||20||RC Hobbies||329||BNF|
|BF109 Messesmitt||Parkzone||10||10||DX8||No||None||20||RC Hobbies||349||BNF|
|Ultra Micro T28 Trojan||Parkzone||10||10||Parkzone||8||None (Can easly take bigger capacity battery)||20||RC Hobbies||158||RTF|
|Super Sportster||Great Planes||10||10||DX8||No||Balsa plane (only foam qualifies to be in "plane of the year" in this grid )||20||Hobby Gear||170||ARF|
|Reactor Bipe 3D EP||Great Planes||10||10||DX8||No||Balsa plane (only foam qualifies to be in "plane of the year" in this grid )||20||Hobby Gear||289||ARF|
|Micro Sukhoi SU-26XP||Parkzone||10||10||DX8||No||None (Can take bigger capacity battery||20||RC Hobbies||139||BNF|
|Stinson Reliant||Parkzone||9.5||10||DX8||No||Wing paint bleeding edges||19.5||RC Hobbies||249||PNP|
|Ultra Micro P51 Mustang||Parkzone||10||9||DX8||No||Battery compartment can only take stock battery||19||RC Hobbies||149||RTF|
|Cessna 350||ST Models||9||9.5||DX8||No||Required flaps adjustment, left aleron down to compensate||18.5||RC Hobbies||195||PNP|
|F4U Corsair||Parkzone||8||9.5||DX8||7||Painting below Parkzones good standard/Required trim adjustments||17.5||RC Hobbies||369||RTF|
|ST Piper J3 Cub||ST Models||9||8.5||DX8||No||Needs larger, battery or additional weight for COG adjustment or trim down||17.5||RC Hobbies||239||RTF|
|Cessna Class 500||Art-Tech||8||9||Art-tech||8||Spinner not running true (Supplied and changed) Elevator develops play needs pinning||17||RC Hobbies||399||RTF|
|ST MX 2||ST Models||8||7.5||DX8||No||Rear trailing wheel not robust enough, needed considerable weight for COG adjustment||15.5||RC Hobbies||249||RTF|
|Mini Super Cub||HobbyZone||7||8||FM TX||3||Antquated FM TX gets interference - need to, but unable to change to DSM2 2.4 Ghz||15||RC Hobbies||Na||Na|
|Apprentice 15E||E Flite||8||6||DX8||7||Add weight, Alter motor mount||14||RC Hobbies||449||RTF|
|Alpha Dassault Jet||FMS-Hobby King||6||8||DX8||No||Linkages a bit loose, nominasted battery achieved correct COG (FMS badged inside)||14||Hobbyking||0||Na|
|Super Cub LP||HobbyZone||8||5||FM TX||2||FM TX not DSM2 - need to buy ESC, Reciever and change servos to get 2.4Ghz||13||RC Hobbies||199||RTF|
|Cessna 182||Art-Tech||6||6||DX8||5||Added weight, Reduce to aleron 48% on Dx8i TX, Use minimum servo holes||12||RC Hobbies||299||RTF|
|Dynam Cub||Dynam||3||1||DX8||No||Changed motor mount, Alter battery box, Push wings up and restructure support||4||No longer stocked in Aust||0||Na|
|EF2000 Jet||Hobby King||3||1||DX8||No||COG out, No manual/inst more powerful motor req'd ( no manufacturer badge anywhere)||4||Hobbyking||0||Na|
|Flight Capability||Note:||(wind speed is taken @ ground level)|
|0 = no, 5+ = yes||0 = no, 5+ = yes||Beginner||Intermediate||Expert||Comments|
|Grass height <320mm||Grass height <320mm||Kms per hour||Kms per hour||Kms per hour||Areobatic||Points|
|PLANE||Brand name||Grass take off||Grass Landing||Wind max||Wind max||Wind max|
|Stinson Reliant||Parkzone||9.5||9.5||6||9||18||7||59||Fabulous slow landing and fast even take off|
|Trojan T28D||Parkzone||9||9||4||9||18||8||57||Very forgiving plane|
|Cessna Class 500||Art-Tech||9||8||5||8||18||7||55||Front wheel assembly weak for weight of plane|
|Cessna 350||ST Models||9||9.5||5||7||15||7||52.5||Telescopic wheel really helps take off and landing|
|Super Sportster||Great Planes||9||9||0||5||20||9||52||Balsa plane, very light and built for very fast flying|
|ST MX 2||ST Models||9||8||2||6||15||9.5||49.5||Too reactive to controls to suit beginner|
|BF109 Messesmitt||Parkzone||9||9||0||6||18||7||49||On take off just watch torque roll to left|
|ST Piper J3 Cub||ST Models||9||8.5||4||8||12||6||47.5||Extemely stable plane|
|Apprentice 15E||E Flite||9||9||4||6||12||7||47||Large docile flyer|
|F4U Corsair||Parkzone||7.5||8||3||7||14||7||46.5||Tendancy to trip forward on takeoff from grass >320mm|
|Alpha Dassault Jet||FMS-Hobby King||7.5||8||0||7||12||8||42.5||Very light but handled wind well|
|Reactor Bipe 3D EP||Great Planes||9||9||0||2||10||10||40||Balsa plane, very light and built for stunt flying|
|Cessna 182||Art-Tech||5||5||4||6||8||7||35||Changed to larger wheel size, Hard to see plane|
|Ultra Micro T28 Trojan||Parkzone||0||5||4||7||10||8||34||So light it does not get damaged on drop to grass landing|
|Ultra Micro P51 Mustang||Parkzone||0||5||4||7||10||8||34||So light it does not get damaged on drop to grass landing|
|Dynam Cub||Dynam||5||5||4||5||7||5||31||Changed to larger wheel size, Hard to see plane|
|Micro Sukhoi SU-26XP||Parkzone||0||5||1||4||10||9||29||Less of a beginners micro, very quick response to controls|
|Mini Super Cub||HobbyZone||5||4||4||6||6||2||27||Changed to larger wheel size, Hard to see plane, No alerons|
|EF2000 Jet||Hobby King||2||5||0||5||8||6||26||Requires more poweful motor|
|Champ||Hobbyzone||0||5||1||2||4||0||12||Flutters to earth no damage|
|Super Cub LP||HobbyZone||8||7.5||4||7||11||2||39.5||No alerons for fast change|
|0 = no, 5+ = yes||0 = no, 5+ = yes||0 = no, 5+ = yes||0 = no, 5+ = yes||0 = no, 5+ = yes||0 = no, 5+ = yes||Comments|
|Fly in area||Fly in area||Fly in area||Fly in area||Fly in area||Fly in area||Points||Points|
|PLANE||Brand name||<1/2 oval size||<1/2 oval size||<1/2 oval size||oval size||oval size||oval size||+ means good for larger than oval||excludes TX|
|ST Piper J3 Cub||ST Models||9||9||10||10||10||10||58||Easy to see colour even at end of oval||123|
|Dynam Cub||Dynam||9||9||10||8||9||10||55||Hard to see plane||90|
|Mini Super Cub||HobbyZone||9||9||10||7||7||7||49||Hard to see plane||93|
|Cessna 350||ST Models||3||5||10||8||9||10||45||+||116|
|Ultra Micro T28 Trojan||Parkzone||10||10||10||5||5||5||45||Can't see plane||99|
|Champ||Hobbyzone||10||10||10||5||5||5||45||Can't see plane||76|
|Stinson Reliant||Parkzone||2.5||5||10||8||9||10||44.5||Extremely stable yet manouverable +||123|
|F4U Corsair||Parkzone||2||5||10||7||8||10||42||Plane a little jittery in wind +||106|
|Cessna 182||Art-Tech||5||6||10||5||6||10||42||Hard to see plane||89|
|Cessna Class 500||Art-Tech||2||4||10||7||8||10||41||+||113|
|Ultra Micro P51 Mustang||Parkzone||9||10||10||4||4||4||41||Colour makes even harder to see plane||94|
|Apprentice 15E||E Flite||0||4||9||6||8||10||37||+||95|
|Micro Sukhoi SU-26XP||Parkzone||7||9||10||3||4||4||37||Can't see plane||86|
|ST MX 2||ST Models||2||4||10||3||5||10||34||Areobatic plane with quick responses +||99|
|Alpha Dassault Jet||FMS-Hobby King||0||4||10||0||6||10||30||Good entry jet +||86.5|
|BF109 Messesmitt||Parkzone||0||4||10||0||5||10||29||Significant motor torque roll on take off +||98|
|Reactor Bipe 3D EP||Great Planes||0||3||10||0||5||10||28||Mid Intermediate really for an expert||88|
|Super Sportster||Great Planes||0||2||10||0||4||10||26||Fast plane really for an expert +||98|
|EF2000 Jet||Hobby King||0||3||4||0||4||5||16||No power||46|
|Super Cub LP||HobbyZone||8||8||9||10||10||10||55||Light on power||107.5|
Why these Suppliers
The plane suppliers have been given so that you may click on the link to the retail store that can and WILL supply exactly the same plane that we have reviewed. We wanted a supplier that we could use throughout the construction of the Grid and the evaluation of planes that would and could supply pretty much any plane we chose. They had to be big enough to have a supply of parts on hand so that we did not suffer undue repair delays after crashing. We also wanted to check out a MAJOR on-line bulk store and see how the similar products stacked up against your “street hobby shop” once we received them.
The Best Planes
We have made four Best RC Planes of the Year Classes for electric foam.
These are –
- Best Beginner plane -- Most portable - Ultra Micro Trojan
-- Best oval flier ST Piper J3 Cub
- Best Intermediate/Expert – Relaxed flying plane ST Cessna 182 350 Corvalis– calm conditions
- Best Intermediate/Expert – Relaxed flying plane Stinson Reliant – windy and semi calm conditions
- Best Intermediate/Expert – Sports plane - Trojan T28D
For us, the selection has NOT been made with price being a factor! But we have put the RRP in the grid as you may wish to let price be a determining factor of any selection you make, particularly when the suitability for what you want is close.
1a. Best RC Beginner Plane - Most portable
Parkzone - Ultra Micro Trojan
With a wingspan of only 16.5 in (419.1mm), the Trojan Ultra Micro is by far the most surprising plane we have tested. It flies successfully in wind speeds equal to that of far larger planes (see grid) but unlike other larger planes, it is not damaged when it goes to ground, especially if you can cut the throttle. We crashed this plane 14 times without any damage and it refuses to die. It can be easily launched by hand or flown off from a hard surface. Landing is not difficult as it simply does not hit hard enough to damage the plane. This plane is by FAR superior to that of the Hobbyzone Champ and yet has all the good points and none of the bad. (See the in depth reviews for both planes on this site.)
1b. Best Beginner Plane - Oval Flier
ST Piper J3 Cub
We saw the ST Piper J3 Cub as a progressive plane for beginner to intermediate, handling exceptionally well in a medley of conditions with reasonable flight times and huge training qualities because of its use of ailerons. Absolutely the best plane for beginner full oval flying.
Both planes in Summary –
Whether a beginner or an expert, the Ultra Micro Trojan is truly a plane you can put in the car and fly in any small spaces, anytime, anywhere. It comes with one of the best matched Tx’s we’ve seen and is ready to go, straight out of the box. This plane is by far the best/complete, versatile and progressive package that a beginner could buy and provides the flight capability to take you through to expert.
The ST Piper J3 Cub on the other hand, is clearly the best full oval flier as it has excellent flight characteristics, slow grass landings and can still be easily seen at the end of an oval.
2. Best RC Intermediate/Expert – Relaxed Flying Plane in Winds
ST Cessna 182 350 Corvalis
In Summary –
Overall, the Cessna is on parity with the Parkzone Stinson Reliant and we have them sharing the award but each one is better than the other in relation to windy conditions.
With a wingspan of 1435mm (56.5in), the ST Cessna 182 350 Corvalis is majestic in its flight. It lands superbly due to the light but strong construction of its undercarriage, use of flaps and sprung telescopic front wheel. Also fitted with navigation lights and significant power capabilities, this plane can fly fast or incredibly slowly. The flaps work excellently on this plane. This is the ultimate plane for a relaxing recreational fly and is sure to catch the eye of anyone watching. Its takeoff and landings are very predictably smooth and precise. Long flight times, coupled with very easy battery access, are all part of this plane’s brilliant construction.
(Click here for in depth review)
3. Best RC Intermediate/Expert – Relaxed Flying Plane in Stronger Winds >12 km/hr
Parkzone Stinson Reliant
In Summary –
Overall the Stinson Reliant is on parity with the ST 350 Corvalis and we have them sharing the award. The Parkzone Stinson Reliant is clearly the best plane to fly in the more windy conditions and it’s an extremely close call to say it’s not as good as the ST 350 in calm conditions. We did not find that using the flaps helped landings. In fact, we found any of our three settings made the plane marginally “jittery” and would not advocate bothering to making them operational.
This plane is excellently built and possesses predictable gentle flight characteristics. The undercarriage is very well designed and the use of aluminum makes it very strong. Aesthetically, it looks great and the use of flaps allows it to land slowly. A little heavier than the ST 350, its strong point is the ability to fly in reasonably strong winds and yet not be unduly affected. It is clearly the best tail dragger plane we have ever landed on grass. Its takeoff and landings are pretty to watch. Very slow, predictably smooth and precise and in many cases, it was better than the majority of the tripod planes. However, on calm days the Stinson performed just under the ST 350 Corvalis due to the Corvalis’ long wings and shock absorber type front wheel.
Best RC Intermediate/Expert – Sports Plane
4. Parkzone Trojan T28D
In Summary –
The Trojan T 28D is of exemplary build quality and was one of the few planes that out of the box we could not fault at all.
The wingspan of 44.0 in (1120mm) allows this plane to be easily transported and it is essentially a sports plane, possessing a reasonably mild mannered and forgiving nature to flying. Make no mistake, however, the Trojan T28 can fly fast and react very quickly to control inputs. It has a very broad capability band (see grid and in-depth review on this site) and will take off and land on grass (See in depth review on this site
The Art Tech Cessna 182 Class 500 – An excellent example of attention to detail and high quality throughout as a package, with a high quality matched TX. This plane is fairly heavy and as such seemed to suffer damage to the unsprung front landing wheel. This was a minor fault we discovered within this plane and would urge the manufacturers to remedy this by some means, yet continue to stay within the parameters of scale and authenticity for the more discerning. It is perhaps the “prettiest” high wing Cessna on the market and given that this particular Cessna has a lot of detail, it certainly is a credit to Art Tech. If you are an accomplished pilot, you may well opt for this plane rather than the Cessna ST 350 as the quality is certainly there and it really becomes just a matter of personal preference as to which one you go for. We believe that as the ST 350 is lighter, has an excellent front wheel system and is subsequently less prone to damage and it suits a slightly wider market, ie closer to beginner yet covers up to the expert skill level. Something we missed in the in depth review was this - check your elevator for play as there appears to be no fulcrum anchor point on the elevator. If there is play, cut off the last bit of tail to get access and push two “U” shaped pieces of wire into the fuselage. This will stop the elevator rod from swinging out and allowing play.
(Click here for in depth review)
George Tadd’s Advice list for beginners
Whilst a simulator is fine, particularly the Phoenix (see review on this site), and certainly assists you in getting used to the appropriate stick movements so that you can make corrective control changes and do it instinctively rather than as active concentration changes, George offers the following advice:
- Always check plane through all control movements before getting into the air as most times if you are up there you may not be able to fix it i.e. reversed throws on elevators etc.
- Do not use “elevator up” until plane has reached its’ “leave the ground speed” or the plane will tend to stall and be difficult to control.
- Always fly and land directly into the wind, if at all possible.
- Always try to keep the plane in level flight, even when turning as wind may catch and tip the plane.
- Use descending straight legs when coming in to land.
- Trim plane level and straight flight at half throttle high up to avoid accidents.
- Avoid flying into the sun but should you get into difficulty use the transmitter as a sun shield.
This is a truly revolutionary transmitter which we simply could not fault and we selected it for use because even without a memory card, we could programme 30 planes into it. This capability allowed us to fly a number of planes within a few minutes of each other and by linking beginner (me) and expert George Tadd together, allowed us to swap back and forth at will, using the same conditions for both of us to fly in. This is a truly magnificent unit and the three rate switches, coupled with programme lock outs that we could put in, gave us the ability to tailor the planes for George and I for optimal flying for both of us at the flick of a switch. As per usual from the “guys who can supply anything”, the Spektrum DX8 transmitter was supplied to us by www.rchobbies.com.au.
We hope that by rating the planes using both a “true beginner” and an “expert”, that we have assisted you in selecting the best RC plane. The Parkzone Stinson Reliant and the ST Cessna 182, 350 Corvalis were the closest to call. But maybe you could let the price decide. Our special thanks goes to RC Hobbies for letting us run rampant in their shop of more than 80 planes and select anything we wanted from their store which we believe has the largest selection of tested planes and parts in Australia.