Building and flying remote controlled model airplanes has been a beloved hobby for generations of enthusiasts, offering the satisfaction of designing, assembling, and piloting your own aircraft. This guide will walk through the entire process of constructing your first RC plane from kit form to a finished flying machine. We’ll explore the components needed, assembly techniques, installing radio gear, initial testing, and finally the exciting first flights of an RC plane you built from scratch. You’ll gain insight into the aircraft design principles and piloting skills involved while enjoying a constructive hands-on project. Read on to learn the steps, tools, and tips to successfully build an RC airplane from plans and have it gracefully take wing at your command.

What is an RC Airplane?

How To Build RC Airplane?

RC airplanes, often referred to as model airplanes, are small radio-controlled aircraft that are flown for recreation and hobby purposes. RC airplanes are operated by a pilot on the ground using a hand-held radio transmitter. Commands from the transmitter are received by a receiver inside the aircraft, which controls servos connected to the flight control surfaces like the rudder, ailerons and elevator. This allows the pilot to steer the aircraft in flight.

Why Build an RC Airplane?

Building and flying model RC airplanes has been a popular hobby for decades. Some of the reasons why people enjoy building and flying RC airplanes include the challenge and satisfaction of assembling an aircraft from a simple kit and making it fly. Building a model airplane requires patience and attention to detail. Successfully completing an RC airplane build is an accomplishment. The learning experience around aerodynamics and aviation that comes with assembling a model aircraft is also appealing. Building an RC airplane teaches the basics of aircraft design and function.

Another major appeal is the exciting experience of piloting an aircraft and developing flying skills. Flying an RC plane gives a sense of freedom and requires concentration and hand-eye coordination skills. The tinkering and customization possible with RC airplanes is also enjoyable. Models can be painted, modified and equipped with different motors and accessories. Finally, the social aspect is a big part of the hobby, as RC flying is often done in groups at established airfields. It’s fun to share the hobby with other enthusiasts.

Overview of the Building Process

How To Build RC Airplane?

The process of assembling an RC airplane from a kit generally involves several key stages: Selecting an airplane kit – There are many types of RC airplanes in different sizes and complexities to suit different builders. Beginners should start with a trainer airplane that is easy to fly. Gathering required tools and materials – Basic building supplies like glues and hobby knives are needed, along with the aircraft specific components. Assembling the airframe – The balsa wood or foam airframe parts must be carefully constructed per the kit instructions. Installing the electronics – The motor, radio receiver, servos and battery must be mounted in the proper locations. Setting up and testing the electronics – Transmitter and receiver are bound together and control surfaces are centered and tested. Checking airplane balance and performing a radio range test – Properly balancing the plane and testing the radio system are critical pre-flight steps. Finally, making first flights and trimming the aircraft – With care and small adjustments, a homemade model airplane can fly smoothly.

Choose an Airplane Kit

How To Build RC Airplane?

Types of RC Airplanes

There are many types of RC airplanes that cater to different skill levels and interests. Trainer airplanes are designed for beginners learning to fly RC. They have stable flight characteristics, are rugged and forgiving of mistakes. Trainers include high-wing models that naturally resist stalling. Good starter trainers are the HobbyZone Champ and Hangar 9 P-51 Mustang. Aerobatic airplanes are capable of loops, rolls and other acrobatic maneuvers. They require more skill to fly and often have lower aspect ratio wings. Popular aerobatic models are the Extreme Flight Extra 300 and Hangar 9 Sbach 342. Scale airplanes are detailed scale replicas of real-life aircraft ranging from single engine props like P-51s to jets like F-22s. They require precision flying to mimic full-size behavior. Examples are the Flyzone Calypso and FMS Rafale. Warbirds are scale military fighter and bomber RC airplanes, fun for recreating historic air battles. Warbirds include the FMS P-47 Thunderbolt and Freewing F4U Corsair. Electric RC planes run on rechargeable LiPo batteries, they are quiet and have no fuel mess but limited flight times. Glow/gas planes have long air time but need propellant and produce exhaust.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Kit

When choosing an RC airplane kit, key considerations include your skill level which should match the kit difficulty. Complex kits will overwhelm beginners. Also consider the intended use, whether you want a trainer, aerobatic plane, scale model, etc. Study reviews and opt for well-regarded kits that fit together precisely for good kit quality. Consider airplane size as larger planes are more stable but need space to fly, while small models can fly indoors. Ensure the kit includes motor, servos and basic components or can integrate purchased items for electronics. Pick between balsa wood, foam or other construction types to suit your preference.

Recommended First RC Airplane Kits

Good starter RC airplane kits include the ParkZone T-28 Trojan, a popular rugged high-wing trainer, easy to assemble from foam. The HobbyZone Super Cub S is a versatile high-wing model for learning RC flight. The FMS 1400mm Piper Cub is a larger scale Cub with pre-installed electronics. The Stevens AeroModel Funtana X100 is a classic mid-wing trainer with forgiving flight traits. The Great Planes PT-60 Twin is a unique twin-engine foam trainer. Read reviews, watch build videos, and consider your skill level before selecting a first RC airplane kit. Going for a proven trainer design is best for learning.

Tools and Materials Needed

How To Build RC Airplane?

Building Tools

Constructing an RC airplane requires some basic modeling tools and supplies. Essential building tools include hobby knives with spare blades for trimming kit parts. Thin and medium CA glues are needed for assembling wood and foam airplane components. Activator spray accelerates glue curing. Sandpaper helps smooth rough edges. Clamps or helping hands hold pieces for gluing. An iron can be used to heat-seal covering like Monokote film. Useful extras include a rotary tool, drill, ruler, masking tape and building board. Having a full range of building tools makes RC airplane construction easier.

Radio Control Equipment

The radio control components allow the model airplane to be remotely operated. These include a 6+ channel 2.4GHz transmitter and receiver pair. The transmitter is handheld by the pilot, while the receiver gets installed in the aircraft. Digital proportional systems provide precise control. Four mini servos are needed to operate the rudder, elevator, ailerons and throttle. Sturdier metal gear or digital servos are recommended. Short servo extension leads connect the servos to the receiver. All the radio equipment should be bought from a reputable hobby brand for reliability.

Motor and Propeller

An electric brushless motor provides thrust for the RC plane. Power and size depend on the aircraft and desired performance. Outrunner motors are common for RC use. The propeller converts motor torque into thrust. 2-blade props between 9×6 to 11×7 inches are typical for most models. Larger planes use bigger 3-blade props. Motor kv rating, battery voltage and amperage determine ideal propeller size. Carefully balancing the prop is critical.

Flight Battery and Charger

RC planes are powered by rechargeable lithium polymer battery packs rated from 1000mAh to 5000mAh capacity. Higher capacity extends flight time. Common voltages are 3S (11.1V) or 4S (14.8V). Batteries must be matched to the motor specs. Smart chargers properly charge and balance multi-cell LiPo packs. A suitable field charger is needed to recharge between flights. Having spare charged battery packs is recommended.

Assemble the Airframe

Follow Kit Instructions for Assembly

The key to properly assembling an RC airplane airframe is carefully following the kit instructions. Model airplane kits include printed manuals with step-by-step assembly diagrams and directions. Read the instructions fully before starting the build. Ensure the plans and diagrams make sense. Inventory the kit parts and hardware before beginning. Have needed tools and adhesives on hand. Build over a non-marring surface and keep work area clean. Go slowly and double check each construction step. Follow adhesive curing times. Refer back to the instructions frequently to avoid mistakes. Seek help from online build logs or forums if unsure. Taking the time to methodically construct the airframe per the guide will result in a straight, strong and flyable model.

Tips and Tricks for Proper Construction

Some useful tips for cleanly assembling an RC airplane kit include: Test fitting parts before gluing to ensure proper alignment. Lightly sanding joints creates better adhesion. Avoid applying excess glue which can warp and weaken joints. Wipe away adhesive squeezout promptly with a moist cloth. Let assemblies cure completely before disturbing. Shaping airframe joints and surfaces with sandpaper and hobby knives gives a smooth finish. Use threadlock on small fasteners to prevent loosening. Drill holes for wiring and rods before joining components. Check for squareness as the airframe structure comes together. Perform a dry assembly of major components first. This practice results in a well-crafted airframe that maintains symmetry and accuracy.

Install Radio Control Components

Mount Receiver, Battery, Servos

Once the airframe is complete, the next stage is installing the radio control electronics that allow remote operation of the RC airplane. The receiver gets mounted in an accessible location like the fuselage or wing and secured with double-sided foam tape. Vibration-absorbing foam can isolate it from vibration. The flight battery pack needs to be positioned close to the plane’s center of gravity, often in the forward fuselage. Velcro straps hold it in place. The mini control servos get mounted in precut slots or trays in the wing, tail and undercarriage. Servo arms should be perpendicular to the pushrods. Sturdy mounting is key for servos to operate control surfaces smoothly. Wiring should be routed cleanly through the airframe with connectors accessible. Taking care when installing the receiver, battery and servos sets up reliable functioning.

Connect Components with Servo Leads

The key radio control components must be interconnected with servo leads and power wires. The servos plug into the receiver output channels corresponding to each aircraft control surface, following transmitter setup. Color-coded leads prevent mixups. The elevator servo connects to the receiver’s aileron channel, rudder to auxiliary, and so on. The throttle servo plugs into the throttle channel. The flight pack lead attaches to the receiver battery input. Power distribution boards streamline multiple connections. Using servo lead extensions where needed prevents straining wires. Double check all wiring, secure loose leads, and ensure solid contacts for all connectors. Proper installation and connection allows transmitter signals to reach servos so controls operate instantly.

Set Up the Electronics

Bind Transmitter and Receiver

Before the installed radio equipment can function, the transmitter and receiver must be electronically bound. This entails putting the receiver into binding mode and having the transmitter enter bind mode using a designated button or switch sequence. The coded binding link is made with the transmitter close to the model. LEDs confirm successful binding and allow the transmitter to recognize that receiver. Binding establishes essential communication between the transmitter and receiver.

Center Servos and Check Directions

With the radio components bound, basic servo setup can occur. The servo arms must be centered within their range of motion using the trim buttons on the transmitter. Center the rudder, elevator, ailerons and throttle servo arms. Control direction is then checked by moving each transmitter stick and verifying the corresponding servo responds appropriately. Reverse any servos moving opposite to stick input. Ensuring servos are centered and moving the proper direction is critical.

Install Propeller Safely

The propeller can now be firmly mounted on the motor shaft, aligning it perpendicular to the spinner. Tightening the prop nut secures it in place. Use a prop balancer to check for and eliminate any imbalance that would cause vibration. Electrical tape on prop blade tips improves visibility. With the propeller installed, keep clear of the rotation area which can cause severe injury. Turn on the transmitter then battery, and briefly test the motor and prop function. The airplane electronics are now ready for flight.

Prepare for First Flight

How To Build RC Airplane?

Check CG (Center of Gravity)

Before attempting the first flight, the aircraft’s center of gravity must be verified. CG is the balance point where the plane will fly straight and level. The kit instructions specify a CG location, often given as a distance back from the nose. With the plane fully assembled and battery installed, lift the model at the CG point. If the nose drops, the CG is too rearward – add weight to the nose. If the tail drops, the CG is too far forward – add weight to the tail. Place small amounts of weight iteratively until properly balanced at the CG mark. A balanced plane will fly predictably.

Perform Radio System Range Test

It is critical to range test the radio system before first flights. Have a helper hold the aircraft while you walk away with the transmitter. Operate the controls while gradually moving farther back. Watch for jittery servos or reduced control throws indicating you are reaching the edge of reception range. Range should exceed 100 feet for safety, less indicates potential radio interference. If range checks out, the RC system has the reach for confident and reliable operation.

Find Open Area for Flying

For initial flying, locate a large open area free of obstructions like power lines, trees or buildings. Grass or paved areas like a soccer field or skid pad work well. Open spaces allow generous margin for error without risk of crashing into objects while learning to pilot the model. Have no nearby people or property that could be impacted by an errant aircraft. Let spectators know to give a wide safety margin. Ideal conditions for test flying help ensure success.

Final Thoughts

Constructing and flying your own RC airplane from a kit is an incredibly rewarding hobby. The process allows you to gain piloting skills and appreciation of aerodynamics, while enjoying the challenge of building a working aircraft with your own hands. Starting with an appropriate beginner-friendly kit, taking your time during assembly, meticulously installing the electronics, thoroughly testing the systems, and gradually progressing through taxi and flight testing will lead to success. Patience and properly following plans during the build phase pays off in smooth first flights. Gradually gain piloting proficiency at your own pace. Troubleshoot any issues that arise and adjust the model for optimal flight character. The pride of flying an RC airplane you built yourself is amazing feeling. We’ve covered the key steps here, so now it’s up to you to find a kit, setup a workspace, follow the plans, and soon experience the thrill of your creation taking to the skies!

Enjoyed this guide of How To Build RC Airplane? Then be sure to check out our other RC Rating guides.