Our simple radio controlled airplanes are a great introduction to radio control flying and you can fly them straight out the box without too much trouble, even if you've never flown a rc airplane before.

But before you do, always read the manufacturer's instruction manual before you do anything!
The information that follows on this page should only be taken as a general rule of thumb - refer to the proper manual for setting-up and flying tips for your particular airplane, this is very important.

Weight and balance
If you've purchased a RTF kit and followed the manufacturer's instructions, the weight and balance should be OK but it is always necessary to check the balance before flying any model airplane, as an incorrect balance will cause the plane to crash immediately.

All flying model airplanes, just like real ones, have a center of gravity (C of G) that effects the plane's balance and thus it's flying characteristics.
This C of G, as a general rule, will be approximately 1/3rd of the way back from the leading edge (front edge) of the wing.

To test your airplane's balance, place the tips of each index finger under each wingtip 1/3rd of the way back. Gently lift the model up so it balances on your fingertips.
If the balance is correct, the model should be either level or with it's nose pointing slightly downwards.
If the tail is pointing downwards do not fly it yet! Instead you need to add weight to the nose of the model. Modeling clay or fishing shots are ideal. Add only enough to make the plane balance correctly.

Getting the balance correct is of paramount importance if you want to keep your airplane in one piece.

Pre-flight checks
Pre-flight checks are essential for any flying model airplane. Even obvious things can be missed if you're too eager to get the model in the air, and such mistakes normally result in a crash!

Your model's instruction manual should outline the pre-flight checks needed for that specific airplane, but as a general guideline basic checks include:

Wing securely fastened
Control surfaces moving freely and correctly
Motor operation correct
Radio control gear (batteries) OK
To test the radio gear properly, here's what you should do - switch on the transmitter, then the receiver, and with the transmitter antenna fully collapsed, walk away from the model backwards to a distance of 30 feet or so. As you walk, keep moving the rudder stick left and right and watch the rudder of the airplane.
If you only get a few feet away and the rudder starts 'twitching' or not responding to the stick movements, do not fly. Check the batteries of the radio gear, they may need replacing.
If they are new but the rudder still doesn't respond properly, then other people may be flying model airplanes nearby on your frequency. Again, do not fly if this is the case as the interference may cause the plane to crash.

The test glide
While not necessary, you might want to test glide your model before flying it. The purpose of this is to assess it's glide characteristics and to give you an idea of what to expect if the motor runs down unexpectedly.
A test glide is best done over long grass if possible - if something is wrong then the model will have a soft landing.

Do the pre-flight checks as per the manual and when ready, turn on the transmitter first, then the receiver switch on the model. Extend the transmitter antenna fully.

Make sure that all controls respond correctly and that control surfaces move in the correct sense ie moving the stick on the transmitter left moves the rudder left etc.

Holding the airplane at face-level and facing into the wind (important: flying any rc airplane is best done in a gentle breeze or no wind at all - if it's a windy day, wait for another!), gently launch the model from your hand. Don't throw it like a dart, a smooth but firm push is all that's needed.
Be sure that the plane is level, or pointing slightly downwards when you launch. If it is launched pointing upwards, it may stall and crash.

All being well, it should glide gently to the ground after a smooth, even flight (use rudder to control the glide direction).

The powered flight
Assuming that all is well with the model and radio control gear, and you've maybe performed a successful test glide, you're ready for your first powered flight!

There are 2 ways of launching; you can hand launch, as described above for the test glide or you can take off from the ground.
We'll focus on a hand launch as this is sometimes the only option with some rc airplanes, and take-offs are covered a bit further down the page.

With all checks complete and radio gear on (don't forget to turn on the receiver in the plane too - I have seen a model plane launched, only to smash into the ground seconds later because the operator only turned on the transmitter!) fully extend the transmitter antenna and hold the model at face-level, pointing level or slightly downwards and into wind. Switch on the engine to full power and give the airplane a firm push out of your hand, but not too hard.

As soon as it has left your hand, hold the transmitter with both hands, thumbs on sticks.

Important: use small stick movements to start with - over compensating is the biggest cause of first flight mishaps!

Gently turn the plane and get used to it's characteristics. Use the elevator to control altitude if there is one, or the motor power if not.
Don't move the sticks to their maximum positions - keep the moves soft, smooth and small.

Use common sense; don't fly close to people or objects and keep the model at a sensible height and distance from yourself, but not too far away that you can't see it properly - although the radio control gear has a range of hundreds of feet, you don't have to fly your airplane far before it gets too small to see what it's doing.

Always keep the transmitter antenna pointing upwards at least 45 degrees too, as this ensures maximum performance of the rc gear.

Trimming the airplane
'Trimming' is the term used to describe the action of adjusting the airplane controls while flying, so that it flies in a straight and level line on it's own.

You may find that the model has a tendency to turn one way or another when you aren't steering it (particularly to the left) due to the torque from the motor.
Use the small trim tabs on the transmitter to fine-tune the controls, but these may vary from model to model.

After you move a trim tab, let the model fly on it's own for just a couple of seconds, then re-adjust accordingly. The aim is to get the model flying straight and level with no input from you and the transmitter.

The take off
If your plane has an undercarriage and you are flying from a smooth, flat surface such as tarmac you might prefer to take off from the ground rather than hand launch.

With all checks complete, place the airplane on the ground facing into wind, and stand immediately behind it. Turn the engine on to full power and let the model accelerate along the ground.
You may need to use the rudder to keep the plane going in a straight line. Soon it will take off from the ground and you can fly it around.

If you are flying the airplane in an area of grass, the plane may not be able to get enough speed up for take off so you'll have to hand launch it instead.

The landing
What goes up, must come down!

All airplanes must be landed into wind, this is very important.
Line the model up to where you want to land and reduce power or turn the engine off completely. Keeping it in a straight line using the rudder, let the model glide down in a smooth line until it touches the ground.

If the plane has elevator control, use that for fine height adjustment, but if there are no elevators then you can use the power of the motor to the same effect - motor back on/more power briefly will slow the descent.

If at anytime you are unsure about your final approach, turn the engine back on to full power and do another circle before lining it up for another landing.
There's no shame in missed approaches! It's better to try 5 times and go home with your model intact, than to rush a landing and take the model home in pieces!

Having said that though, always try and land well before the motor battery dies or you might be landing somewhere that you didn't want to!

Important tips to remember:
When the model is coming towards you, the turns will be back to front. This is something that will catch you out in the early days, but you'll quickly get used to this 'reverse co-ordination'.
If you get into trouble and your model isn't doing what you want it to do, cut the motor! 9 out of 10 times this will greatly decrease the chances of any serious damage, but of course this depends on the situation.
Always make sure that the radio gear batteries have lots of charge before you fly; even just one dead battery will result in a dead model airplane, guaranteed! I know, because I've been there...!
Be sensible and responsible.

Remember also that flying model airplanes for the first time is usually a nerve-racking experience so don't be too concerned if you find your heart in your mouth!
Just keep things smooth and practice at your own pace (and the model's).
With time you'll gain much confidence and will soon be able to move on to bigger and better rc airplanes, and impressive aerobatic stunts.