If you are starting your RC aircraft journey, you may be undecided about where to start. Should you choose an RC helicopter or an RC plane? Making the right choice between these two options may determine whether you will stick with the RC aircraft hobby or give it up.
RC helicopters are one of the hardest RC vehicles to operate and are harder to fly than RC planes. They require the pilot to have a closer visual and hands on the controls at all times. The active flying required for hobby-grade RC helicopters differs from other RC aircraft and takes time to master.
RC aircraft operate quite differently from RC cars, and there is a learning curve to becoming familiar with airborne RC vehicles. There is also a difference between RC planes and RC helicopters that may affect your choice of where to start. Our information on which is easier to fly will help you choose your path to flying RC aircraft.
Are RC Helicopters Harder To Fly Than RC Planes?
If you are asking the question of whether RC helicopters are harder to fly than RC planes, we have to assume a starting point to give relevant information.
Are you new to RC, are you familiar with RC cars and want to try RC aircraft, or are you already familiar with RC planes and want to fly helicopters?
Each RC vehicle type has different parameters that control how the vehicle moves. RC cars can be complex and have sensitive controls, but RC aircraft have added dimensions to their controls due to the added perspective of height as the craft moves through the air.
Helicopters have even more complex controls because they lack aerodynamics and fixed wings to give them gliding capabilities. In real life, helicopters are also more difficult to fly than fixed-wing aircraft, and the difficulty transfers to the RC versions of these aircraft.
Why Are RC Helicopters Harder To Fly Than RC Planes?
RC helicopters are more difficult to fly than RC planes for several reasons. Most of the reasons are due to the helicopter design and how it flies.
All helicopters, RC, and real-life versions are inherently unstable in the air compared to fixed-wing aircraft. The operator must constantly adjust the controls to keep the aircraft in the air and flying in a straight line.
Hovering is one of the most difficult RC helicopter maneuvers to master due to the fine adjustments needed on the controls to keep the helicopter in a stable hover. Nothing in the RC world quite matches the thrill of successfully achieving your first RC helicopter hover without crashing your chopper!
Due to the fine, constant controls required to fly an RC helicopter, the aircraft must always be within the operator’s visual range. If you cannot see what is happening to the helicopter, you don’t know what adjustments to make to the controls, and a crash is inevitable!
RC planes are more stable in the air and require less hands-on flying than RC helicopters. You can take your hands off the controls of an RC plane, and it will continue to fly in the direction the controls are oriented. In some cases, the controls will return automatically to straight and level flight when released.
These differences between RC helicopters and RC planes’ flight controls make RC helicopters harder to fly than RC planes.
Are RC Helicopters Hard To Fly?
We have seen that RC helicopters are more challenging to fly than RC planes, but are RC helicopters difficult to fly?
RC helicopters are not hard to fly; they are simply different to fly, requiring a different skill set compared to any other RC vehicle, including quadcopters, RC planes, RC cars, and RC boats.
Granted, the skills needed to fly an RC helicopter are a little harder to learn and take a bit more time to master, but this does not put learning to fly one of these aircraft beyond the reach of anyone.
Related read: Are Bigger RC Helicopters Harder To Fly?
This video gives you an insight of what’s involved to perform basic manoeuvres;
Are All RC Helicopters Hard To Fly?
A distinction must be made between different types of RC helicopters and the difficulty in learning to fly each type.
Many of the RC helicopters marketed as “easy to fly” are not hobby-grade, true-to-life model helicopters.
Many smaller RC helicopters use coaxial rotor technology, eliminating the need for a tail rotor. These helicopters also have automatic stabilizer electronics that remove the need for collective pitch control of the rotor blades.
These “easy to fly” (Amazon link) helicopters do not respond to the RC controls the same way that a hobby-grade helicopter does and do not need constant adjustments to stay airborne.
This can give RC operators a false sense of ability in thinking that the skills they learn on these helicopters are transferable to hobby-grade collective pitch, non-stabilized models with tail rotors. Collective pitch helicopters are often called 3D RC helicopters (Amazon link) to differentiate them from simpler models.
Unfortunately, the skill set for flying these helicopters is completely different and requires learning a new way to fly when crossing over to collective pitch or 3D RC helicopters.
If you already fly smaller RC helicopters, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that it will be a simple transition to flying larger, hobby-grade machines.
It is not an impossible transition, but you should not have any illusions that you are flying a completely different aircraft and the control rules are not the same.
Should A Beginner In RC Start Flying RC Helicopters?
Nothing prevents a beginner RC operator from starting with hobby-grade helicopters right from the outset of their RC journey, but expectations must be realistic.
It is important to approach the hobby with the understanding that there will be a significant learning curve on hobby-grade RC helicopters. Mastering flying these aircraft will take patience and persistence to achieve successful, accident-free flights.
The best RC helicopters to start learning, especially for self-learning, are the smaller models in the 180, 200,(Examples on Amazon), and up to 450 sizes. These helicopters will keep the initial costs low while you learn the basics.
You will need to invest in some spares to replace broken parts during your learning process, so it is important to start on smaller, cheaper models to keep your costs low.
RC planes are easier to fly, and you will become competent on these aircraft much faster than with RC helicopters.
RC planes are a good way to get started, but they require more space to fly, and the equivalent hobby-grade RC planes are generally more expensive than a good quality RC helicopter.
Check out my detailed article: Are RC Planes Hard To Fly?
If helicopters are your thing, start with helicopters, but be prepared to persist with learning the required skills, it is well worth the effort!
RC helicopters are more difficult to fly than RC planes, but this should not put anyone off learning to fly these aircraft. It is an extremely satisfying feeling to master your first controlled hover and manage repeated flights without crashing!
Not all RC helicopters offer the full experience of learning to fly a true-to-life helicopter, so make sure the RC helicopter you choose matches your expectations for the hobby!
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