What is a Trainer RC Plane? A Beginner’s Learn to Fly Guide

Beginner R/C plane on grass

There is a massive following for flying radio control model airplanes and the popularity is steadily increasing. If you’re a novice, it’s important to choose an appropriate trainer to serve as your first model.

While it’s going to be tempting to jump on the spit-fire airplane you see showcased online, this is not practical for your first time out. You need to glide into flying gradually.

What is a trainer RC plane? A trainer RC plane is a model airplane designed to help a student learn how to fly from someone with more experience. Many of the RC aircraft on the market today are created to be user-friendly, but trainers have specific options for ready-to-fly or RTF trainers for those who are just beginning.

This allows the student to get comfortable with the various flying techniques before they move on to a more advanced plane.

It’s important to be patient as it takes time to gain confidence and develop the necessary flying skills. As with anything, you have to start small and work your way up.

There are a few different RC plane training methods for learning to fly. But the user-friendliness of your plan is going to make things run so much more smoothly regardless of which option you choose.

RC Airplane Training Methods

When you decide that you want to fly radio control model airplanes, it’s not something you can just jump into. While you may want the top-of-the-line RC plane in the window, it’s a great idea to start off with a trainer. 

RC flying is a process that requires training with a specific type of plane initially. There are also three different methods that you can choose from as part of the learning process. Let’s go through those.

Club Instruction

Club instruction is boasted as being the best method of training for RC airplane flight. It is said to be the place where you should start if you want to dive right in with an IC plane as opposed to electric power. 

Research to see if there is a local RC flying club in your area if you intend to take the flying hobby seriously. There are certified instructors at many clubs or, at minimum, pilots who are experienced in RC that participate in teaching.

There are often club trainer airplanes used for students allowing you to test them out before you buy one.

When learning at a club, there are a few techniques that are used:


This is the traditional technique for instruction where a single transmitter is shared on a ‘buddy box’ system is used. With instruction using the single transmitter, the instructor flies the plan describing what he’s doing step by step. 

After completion of the flight, the transmitter is passed to you, and you fly the plane. The instructor is there to regain control if you have any trouble. This is not as common as the ‘buddy box’ system.

Buddy Box

With the buddy box, you and the instructor have a transmitter that is connected by cable. The instructor’s transmitter is the prime, while yours is the slave. 

By just hitting a switch, the instructor has the power to give or remove control without the loss of a transmitter. In more modern radios, they are incorporating wireless connections.

Ragland Technique

Clarence Ragland, an RC flight instructor based in New York, developed this technique and has been instructing for 30 years. He utilizes the side-by-side method but offers a unique method with the transmitter. 

The instructor uses his thumb and forefinger to hold and control the transmitter sticks while the student’s thumbs are placed on top of the sticks. As the instructor moves the sticks for flight, the student can sense the movements and see the response in the plane. This method is not widely used.

RC Flight Simulation

This has grown into a very popular method for RC plane training. Flight simulation software is boasted as being among the essentials if you’re serious about the hobby, right up there with the plane and the radio gear.

Radio control flight simulation is realistic software that runs on a computer to replicate a model aircraft in motion right down to the most intricate detail. Some come fitted with a transmitter-based control with others that allow you to use your own.

They connect to your computer by way of USB cable.

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The vast array of aircraft along with the different flying sites are incredible on the simulators. There is a wide selection of different planes, jets, helicopters, and gliders. 

There is the capability to edit the parameters for the virtual planes. If you have a real-time airplane, you can adjust the virtual model to the same detail.

Combining this with the use of your transmitter can provide as close to an authentic experience as you can get in the virtual world.


Teaching yourself to fly an RC airplane is a very realistic method of training. The RC beginner planes manufactured today have been created specifically for those who are new to the sport and are extremely user-friendly.

One- or two-channel electric RC planes are very basic and can virtually be flown right out of the box. They are the ideal introduction to the sport for little expense. They offer limited capabilities diminishing the true RC plane flying experience.

Self-teaching with a three-channel will tighten the learning curve somewhat but there is learning in this way is still realistic and many novices have used this method. 

It is even possible to achieve success using a four-channel plane (elevator, motor, ailerons, and rudder). The recommendation is that there be some simulation time to go along with the four-channel for ultimate success with the first flight.

For an IC airplane, some pilots have been able to self-teach with success. But being brand new to the sport and having zero knowledge about an IC plane or what they need to work will result in much better results for the first flight with instruction through a club. 

Having a more experienced flier show you the various techniques will be beneficial in this situation. Understanding the way to start and tune the glow plug engine and to keep it going is a challenge in itself. If you are mechanically challenged, personal guidance is critical.

Remember, when you’re participating in the self-teaching method and choose a public space to fly in like a park, there are rules to be aware of. Only electric RC planes are acceptable in certain places. IC planes have been deemed a nuisance due to the noise they make and aren’t welcome in most public areas.

Where to Begin

How you opt to train for your RC model airplane flying expedition is going to be based on what opportunities are available for you. The type of plane that you intend to fly will also have an impact.

You can begin very basic with a one or two-channel electric or jump straight on to something much more serious and advanced.

There are not any hard-set rules that you need to follow when you’re starting. You can mix and match any or even all the various methods until you find something that you feel comfortable with. 

The bottom line is to always be responsible when you take flight not only when you’re in the learning phase but throughout your interaction with the sport. And, above all, enjoy yourself.

You’re bound to have a blast once you get the hang of it!

Recommended: Our favorite RC Airplanes for Beginners

Image Credit: DM

Last update on 2024-05-28 at 04:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!