Some Purchase Recommendations
Electric Powered Planes
The best hobby value around is the all-inclusive ready to fly (RTF) airplane package. It makes a perfect gift to yourself or to someone else who wants to learn to fly rc airplanes.
These RTF packages are becoming more popular, as (1) they are lower cost (2) all the purchase decisions have been made for you [there is nothing more to buy] and (3) they actually fly well.
One of the best examples of these packages is the Aerobird series of rc airplanes. The electric-powered Aerobirds are designed to be simple to assemble, durable, and a stable flyer.
They are made of foam instead of fragile wood. The propeller is positioned behind the body to give it extra protection. You can launch them either by throwing or by using the wheels for take-offs.
Here's a video of the Aerobird Challenger in Action. You can find the Aerobird and other complete RTF packages in our store below.
Nitro Powered Planes
The RTF package concept is also a good value for nitro-powered planes. The most-complete package around is the Hobbico Nexstar .46 Select. It includes the airplane, engine, radio, a flight stabilization system, and even a computer flight simulator.
The radio that comes with the Nexstar package is a Futaba 4 channel system. I use Futaba radios and find them to be well designed and high quality. The flight simulator is a custom version of the very popular Great Planes RealFlight.
For engines, I am partial to O.S. engines as I have had good luck with that brand, and the Nexstar comes with an OS .46 FX engine. They definitely have a reputation for quality and performance. This size and configuration (high-wing, large, tricycle landing gear) are a great format for training aircraft. Don't worry if they look a little boxy.
After it accomplishes its purpose of teaching you to fly, you can sell your trainer to help fund your next, more glamorous, model. The SIG Kadet LT-40 and the Thunder Tiger Trainer 40 would also be good starting points.
Some options for beginners' gliders are the Thunder Tiger Whisper and Windstar, the Great Planes Spirit and the Goldberg Gentle Lady. These large wing area and high-wing polyhedral designs make for slow-flying and slow-turning aircraft, just what the beginner needs. These will require either a launching system (winch or high-start) or a shallow slope.
Windstar Glider, almost-ready-to-fly (ARF).
If a radio is not included with your airplane (RTF), then get at least a 4 channel radio. You will not outgrow this radio for a while, and when you do, it has a good resale value.
The JR Quattro 4 channel is available in a couple of good packages: the Regular version, with 4 standard size servos, or the Lite version, with 2 micro servos. The Lite version is a much better option for a three channel electric airplane, as those generally require smaller and lighter servos (third channel is the speed controller). The Regular version will be great for a 40 size glow trainer.
As with any hobby, part of the fun is all the neat accessories. See what other items you should consider purchasing.
Whatever you do, do NOT get a model that is advertised as very aerobatic! Or a scale model, one that looks a lot like the real thing. These categories of model may look nice, but will cause you nothing but grief when learning to fly. You can always get one after learning. Stay away from flat, straight wings, as these do not have built-in stability.