The Lowdown on What You will Need
follows assumes you will be purchasing new items from a discount mail order or
Generally speaking, you can get all the major items for the airplane for around $400
and the cost you will normally be quoted will be in that neighborhood.
That is what we've all been told and have come to believe but apparently not much
thought has been put into the answer. Unfortunately,
$400 is roughly half of what you will actually spend getting started.
That sum will get you a good basic radio, a decent .40 size engine and good .40 size
trainer as well as miscellaneous items you will need to
complete the plane. Most models do not come with everything you need.
fuel tank, etc. need to be purchased separately. Many
kits come with poor quality hardware that should probably be replaced.
These "not included" parts are covered by your $400.
If you build your first plane, which I strongly recommend that you do,
you will probably spend in the neighborhood of $100 on basic
glues and a
small building board of some type. If you do not build your first plane,
you will still need a lot of the same tools and glues even to assemble an
Almost-Ready-to-Fly models are a good value for beginners because they
are already built and often come with most of the accessories that kits do not
include. Some come with radios and engines and some do not.
You will probably spend less on an ARF than you would if you bought
the kit and accessories separately.
Nevertheless, I still recommend that you build your first trainer
A trainer should teach you the basics of flying as well as the basics of building. When you move on to more advanced aircraft the way it is built is
more critical and it is not the place to start learning how to properly
construct a model. If you never plan to build ever, then go ahead and get
You are now up to $500 and that still does not cover everything. You will
actually spend around $600 to get into the air but you will end up spending $700
if you do not give up immediately. The additional money will
cover the costs of some basic field equipment that is essential: a manual
fuel pump (which I prefer over electric pumps that break too often), a field
glow igniter, a jug of fuel and a few other items.
Most people buy
electric starter, motorcycle battery and charger fairly early on. Beginners tend
to have problems
hand starting their engines and get frustrated when they keep
flipping it and can not get it to run.
If you have a motorcycle battery you can buy a
power panel that hooks up to the motorcycle battery and provides power to your
starter and to your glow plug clip. You will not have to buy a separate glow
igniter — just a clip.
You can get into the air more economically with a smaller plane. You will
save a few dollars on the cost of the kit and engine and less covering is
needed, but the rest of the costs are the same. However, small trainers
are a poor choice.
If you go to any
club and ask for recommendations, most flyers you talk to will recommend a .40 size trainer. In fact, if you look in various catalogues
and hobby shops, you will see that there are very few other options as far as
size goes. By the way, ".40" is the size of the engine in cubic inches.
In other words, it is a 0.40 cubic inch engine.
There is a good reason why this size
engine/trainer is recommended. A .40 size model is the smallest size that
can be seen easily in the air. Smaller trainers get small quickly in the
sky and it is difficult to see which way they are going.
a leading cause of crashed models.
A trainer larger than a .40 size is even better from a training and flight
quality standpoint, but it also represents a bigger investment. Most
trainers get crashed a lot so you want as small of a trainer as is feasible to
learn on. Again, the .40 is large enough to see, but inexpensive enough to
not send you into bankruptcy.
As a direct result of this, there are also a large number of kits and ARF's
other than trainers that use .40 engines. Manufacturers know everyone has one
and .40 size
models fit easily in any car — even two-seaters. You do not have to buy a
van, SUV or trailer to transport your model around.
Now that I think of it, there are two more costs that will take you to around
$800. To be a member of most clubs you have to join the Academy of
Model Aeronautics (AMA). The reason for this is your membership in the
AMA provides you with liability insurance. There is also the cost of
joining the club and a lot of clubs charge you a one time join fee which is
often called a "runway fee."
I strongly encourage you to join the AMA and be a member of club. You
will get more help and learn faster with fewer crashes.
Ultimately my answer to how much it costs is to answer how much it costs for what I
believe you should start with. Unfortunately, many people
who did not listen to these recommendations or did not know any better quit
the hobby before they ever started due to a bad experience from having the wrong
airplane or equipment. Remember... these are just the costs of getting started.
Advancing costs more.
Several experienced R/Cers whom I have
discussed my views with said that I should clarify some things:
quoted assuming you are starting with nothing and will purchase
everything new from a hobby dealer.
Most clubs have members
who will sell their trainers for much less than the cost of new equipment.
Be careful that the
plane looks like it is airworthy. Many trainers have a rough life and are
better put by the curb or left in the last tree they landed in.
beginner shows up at a club field with a trainer that is "ready to
fly." At this point he has
spent $350 - $550 on his plane, radio, engine, club membership and AMA
The Instructor provides
support equipment to help the beginner get into the air. The beginner then
realizes what he needs and then spend a couple hundred dollars on
his own field equipment.
You can learn to fly with a
less expensive plane. These planes are often poor choices
because of their marginal ability to maintain flight. If you purchase one of
these, you will spend more because you will have to buy a
second plane. A poor flying airplane will impede your progress.
based on defacto standard items but not the least expensive. For
example, I use a Sullivan starter which is a great starter.
However, there are other starters available that are less
expensive. You can probably save around $100 by purchasing store-brand