Radio Controlled Planes – From Music Hall to Favoured Pastime

Radio controlled planes have a rich history and are very popular, despite being a relatively new addition to the model family. Flying radio controlled, or rc planes, is suitable for flyers of all ages and skill levels, with some even participating in sanctioned contests. So how did rc planes come to be and what is a suitable model for you?

The earliest prototypes of radio controlled planes were simple hydrogen-filled model airships, which, in the late 19th century, were part of music hall acts, using a basic form of spark-emitted radio signal to enthral captivated theatre audiences.

The idea of remote controlled aircraft was then further developed for military purposes. By the early 20th Century, the Royal Aircraft Establishment had built and tested the Larynx, a monoplane with a 100-mile range and top speed of 200 mph. Powered by a Lynx IV engine, it was essentially an early cruise missile guided by an autopilot. In WW2 the RAF developed the Queen Bee, a modified de Havilland Tiger Moth, which was used as an unmanned target drone.

Radio controlled aircraft technology was eventually extended to scale models and today, aircraft model enthusiasts are simply spoilt for choice, with different kits requiring varying amounts of assembly, costs and levels of skill and experience. They are also made of different materials, with some radio controlled planes being made mostly of foam or plastic, with others consisting solely of balsa wood. Finally, some rc planes are created to incredible detail, with a detailed cockpit, illuminating navigation lighting on the plane's exterior and extracting landing gear, whereas others are constructed purely for flying.

Generally, the ideal choice of rc plane and engine depends on the pilot's skill level.

For beginning hobbyists, park flyers are ideal. The term denotes small, primarily electric rc planes, so named because their size enables them to be flown inside large public parks, with slower models also being suitable for indoors activity such as gymnasiums and living rooms. Examples of suitable models are the Silverlit X-Twin Acrobat 3D and Air Dasher, the Hobbyzone Mini Super Cub and the Parkzone Super Decathlon. Beginners should also check out flight simulator software, with many programmes, such as the RC Plane Master Flight Simulator from Reality Craft, coming complete with controllers.

For intermediate flyers there are glow plug engine, sailplane and electric radio controlled planes. Glow plugs, similar to spark plugs, ignite the fuel in the model airplanes, acting as small internal combustion engine. Sailplanes, or rc gliders, do not depend on propulsion, and instead sustain continuous flight by exploiting the lift produced by slopes and thermals, controlled remotely from the ground with a transmitter. An ideal choice for any intermediate radio control pilot is the Hobbyzone Aerobird 3.

For expert pilot, jets, helicopters, and other high end competition aircraft prove to be popular and an adequate challenge. Jets commonly use ducted fans or micro turbines to power them, constructed from carbon fibre and fibre glass. These can often reach speeds in excess of 200 mph, requiring quick reflexes and are therefore unsuitable for novices. Examples of rc airplanes suitable for experts are the Parkzone Spitfire and Park Flite F4-E Phantom.

So regardless of your particular skill level, there is a suitable radio control plane to suit you to let you participate in one of the most popular pastimes around the world.


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