RC Plane Types
There are many different rc aircraft types associated with radio control flying, many of which you'll see at an rc flying club field.
Remember that the word "aircraft" covers all flying machines, not just conventional aircraft. Also bear in mind that the most common rc aircraft types (aircraft and helicopters) can be scale, semi-scale and non-scale models. These three terms refer to the reality of the model; whether it replicates a real aircraft (scale), is a close representation of a real aircraft (semi-scale) or is a completely made-up design (non-scale).
Whether you end up flying scale, semi-scale or non-scale rc aircraft comes down to your own personal preference. There are plenty from each category to choose from these days, a reflection of the popularity of the hobby!
Trainer aircraft, or 'trainers', are designed for learning on. They are conventional in design and basic, with the wing on top of the fuselage for maximum stability in the air. Trainers can be powered by electric motor or internal combustion engine, glow plug (nitro) being the most common of the IC group. Trainers are available in many different sizes and shapes and count for a large sector of all rc aircraft. Ideally your first rc plane will be a trainer.
We will train people up on our trainers to a level where they are confident and capable of flying more advanced aircraft types.
Sport aircraft also make up a very large sector of all rc planes. They are a step or two up from a basic trainer but can also be used for training purposes, particularly low-wing training. Sport aircraft, like trainers, can be any size or shape and are more capable of performing aerobatic maneuvers than trainers are; the majority of sport planes are mid or low wing, making them better for performing such maneuvers. High wing planes like trainers, generally speaking, are not that aerobatic.
Aerobatic aircraft have been designed specifically for performing advanced aerobatic maneuvers and '3D' flying. This type of rc aircraft is typically mid wing with oversize control surfaces and motors (electric or nitro) that are more powerful than the aircraft actually needs. Aerobatic aircraft can be thrown around the sky and flown very aggressively, so long as the pilot knows what he or she is doing!
Warbirds have always been a popular rc aircraft subject; their classic lines and smooth flying characteristics make warbirds some of the nicest looking rc aircraft out there. Not particularly suitable as an absolute first model, although there are some RTF warbirds available that have been developed with the beginner in mind. The term warbird describes a plane that was used in war, notably the First and Second World Wars. The P-51 Mustang, Spitfire andCorsair F4U are classic examples.
Vintage rc aircraft are also a popular subject, particularly with modellers who enjoy the traditional building side of the hobby as well as the flying side. Many classic designs date back to the late 1930s and 40s and are large in size. 3 channel radio and a 4 stroke engine make the best combination in vintage aircraft, and they are often slow, gentle flyers. Vintage planes are also known as Old Timers in some parts of the world, and you might also see them referred to as planes from the 'Golden Era' of aeromodelling.
Multicopters are relatively new to the radio control flying hobby and feature three or more electric motors on booms coming out of a central hub or fuselage. These 'copters are very stable and also agile, and make excellent camera platforms.
RC multicopters are also sometimes sold as 'RC UFOs' but the term multicopter has become more common in recent years, with tricopters (3 motors) and quadcopters (4 motors) being the most common. Toy rc UFOs are also available, though usually with a single motor surrounded by an outer foam body.
Gliders are aircraft without motors. They are the simplest form of aircraft and require the least number of accessories. With an rc glider you have to rely solely on the wind and/or thermals to keep the aircraft airborne. Flying from a slope is a popular way of rc gliding, and there are several methods of launch for flying from a flat field.
Powered gliders, also sometimes called e-soarers, are essentially gliders with electric motors. The propeller blades fold back when the motor is not in use, and fold flat against the nose of the plane to reduce drag. Most powered gliders have the motor in the nose, but they can also have the motor on a fold-away pod on top of the fuselage, behind the wing.