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How many channels do I need?

Old 02-20-2015, 09:34 AM
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nwr1cxo
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Default How many channels do I need?

Well, hopefully this doesn't start one of these raging debates!

I'm going to get into RC airplanes. I'm going to start with a Super Cub. I plan to buy Phoenix flight sim. I'm on a budget. My goal / dream is to get good enough to fly WWII Warbirds (P-40 Warhawk, Spitfire & Stuka). I have no idea how long it will take to go from zero to a Warhawk.

I have the opportunity to buy a used Super Cub plane only so I will be getting a Spektrum transmitter.

My question: How many channels should I get for my first transmitter. My budget has up to $150 right now for the transmitter. I can get the DX6i but will that be good enough to get to the basic flying of a warbird some day or do I just go cheap now, save my money and some day get something with more channels. I'll never be abot to spend $500 on a TX. I see some people have 12 channels for all sorts of things. I will never get that sophisticated. One day I hope to be able to do a loop or combat role but I know my limitations.

What do you recommend? I know it's a tough question to answer but any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Old 02-20-2015, 11:27 AM
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DadsToysBG
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Let me start out by saying "never say never" in this hobby. I've made my self a liar many times over. What you think now is enough will change in a few years.
For example a 80" war bird could use 8 to 10 channel radio. Remember "to much radio" will fly a simple plane, but a simple radio will not fly a 80" war bird
If you find buying new is hard look at used. buying as much as you can now will save in the long run. for example, buy a 150 radio and in a couple of years you need a 300 radio. You sell the old radio for $75, the new radio cost you $375. A good radio can last up to 10 years. That makes it on of the best buys out there.
As far as how you will fly I can guaranty with in a couple of years you will be doing a lot more then loops.
I hope you noticed I didn't mention radio brands. That's a whole new kettle of fish. Dennis
Old 02-20-2015, 12:27 PM
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Rafael23cc
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Common question, complex answer.

Here we go.... Transmitters are categorized not only by number of channels, but also by "features" just like computers. Additional memory, programming flexibility, etc. So the simplest answer is: buy as much radio as you can afford. The radios with more channels will have more features that will make your life easier as you progress thru the hobby. and since radios last a long time, this radio could be with you a good 10 years from now.

A radio properly cared for, will last you a long time. In my 25+ years int his hobby, I've owned several radios, but in reality, I've only needed two, maybe three. My first radio was great until it burned up by an electrical spike at my house. My second radio, could be my current radio if I hadn't decided to upgrade. I've done the "upgrade" thing a two more times. All the other radios I own are additional radios purchased in combo deals with used aircraft. So technically, I've gone thru 4 radios in 25+ years, only one of them being un-usable at the end.

Also as mentioned above, you never-say-never in this hobby. You might be saying it now because you are starting, but once you get the bug, the sky and your budget are the limit.

Also as mentioned, there is a lot of discussion about brands, with a lot of "cheerleaders" out there, so i will refrain from recommending a specific brand.

Rafael
Old 02-20-2015, 03:46 PM
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FLAPHappy
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First of all, if you are a beginner, Stay away from the super cub, and warbirds. Cubs are hard to handle on the ground, and most warbirds are low wing, which is not advisable for a beginner. Stay with a high wing trainer to start. My opinion varies on the number of channels but a good starting point is a 7 channel radio. Take it slow and try to get a club training instructor to help you.
Old 02-20-2015, 08:11 PM
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j.duncker
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7 is a good answer. 1 each rudder, elevator, motor, left aileron, right aileron, undercarriage and flaps.
Old 02-22-2015, 08:14 PM
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jester_s1
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FLAPhappy- He's probably talking about the HobbyZone Super Cub, which is a pretty beginner friendly plane. It doesn't like wind much, but that's ok for a first airplane.

nwr1cxo- Now for your more complicated question. 6 channels is plenty for most planes out there until you start getting into more complicated scale planes. It will even work for most of the more simple warbirds. For a typical sport type P51 for example, you need 4 or 5 channels for the standard controls, then 1 more for retracts. If you add flaps, you'll probably be able to get away with a single channel for them and use a Y harness for your ailerons. But, of course, when you start to get fancy and want landing lights and bomb drops and get into bigger planes with twin tail servos and such, you can fill up your receiver pretty quickly.

I want to address the attitude I'm seeing in you for budget. It's a fairly common beginner thing to think of the cost of getting into RC as a one time cost. But it's not. The actual budget that you have to work with is expenditure over time. So it's really smart to figure out how much per month or per year you are comfortable spending on RC. Once you have that number, you deduct your standard expenses like AMA and club dues (you do plan to join a club to fly those big warbirds, right?) and fuel, batteries, and parts. What's left is how much upgrading you can do and how fast you can do it. I knew a guy who had good income and a very patient wife who had 50 fully ready to fly planes after only 2 years in the hobby. And then there are the guys like I was who only owned 2 planes at the 3 year point. The point though is to understand that the expensive planes and radios aren't out of your reach even on a limited budget. They only mean waiting a bit longer for your next acquisition. So while one of the wealthier guys in my club can plop down the cash for a 150cc carbon fiber IMAC plane this month and then show up with a Nosen P51 the next, I waited 2 years without buying anything in order to get my 50cc IMAC plane. So the point is to think of it as cost over time and make your spending planes based on your priorities of learning.

I'll also suggest a progression of planes to get you competent for those warbirds. Start with the Super Cub if you must, but a .40 sized glow powered trainer and an instructor is much better. The second plane should be a Sig 4 Star or a Goldberg Tiger II. Those are nice flying low wing sport planes that will let you develop your skills but are also more forgiving than your typical warbird. Then the first military plane should be the Hangar 9 P47. It's designed to be easy handling for the intermediate pilot, so it's not as snappy as some of the heavier loaded and more detailed planes. After that, you should be all set for whatever interests you.
Old 02-23-2015, 10:46 AM
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bikerbc
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It depends --------on your Super Cub .. I have a Hanger 9 super Cub and I am short 1 channel with my DX8 transmitter . Thats with a gas engine needing a kill switch and dual elevator servos . 6 channels is enough for most 60 size sport planes but anything bigger or anything needing retratcs and flaps you are could start to run into troubles . Just a simple trainer will use 3 or 4 channels so 6 sounds like a lot but you will be surprized how soon a you will out grow a 6 channel radio . I dont think you need to go out and buy a 18 channel but a 8 or 9 might be worth concidering . Also if it were me I would look at Futaba , JR , Srektrum , Airtronics ,and maybe the Tactic . The Tactic seem to ,be gaining popularity and they are cheap . An 8 channel is only$212. with 2 free servos ..Thats quite a good deal .. I however have no idea how easy they are to programe or how durable they are .. A Radio is one of the bigger investments that is important . The longer you have it the more you become used to it and it will get easier to programe . It will follow you thru several planes so dont cheap out . This is just my opinion . Its good advice to hold off on war birds untill you have a little more experience flying . Tigers are a great plane to start your low wing training . They can also be set up as a tail dragger so you can get tail dragger experience too . Then you will be almost ready for war birds . Cubs are not actually very good trainers . At least not stick built ones . The little foamies are possibly okay . A regular Cub can be a real handfull on takeoff ,they can leap into the air stall and cartwheel down the runway . You need to use the rudder to make cordinated turns . There are many other high wing trainer planes that would be a much better choice to learn on . I would get involved with a local club and get an instructor . He will have a recomendation of what you should be looking at . The club my even have a plane that you can borrow to train on untill you get one of your own .
Old 02-23-2015, 11:44 AM
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I like the 7+ channel as well for the same reasons. Now, as for a plane and since you're on a budget, I'd be looking at used or kit build trainers. A kit plane is cheaper to buy than an ARF as well as a learning tool. It also lets you stretch out the costs for the various required parts so that you can buy them just before you need them. This will make a limited budget a bit easier to work around than jumping in feet first
Old 02-24-2015, 08:07 AM
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jester_s1
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Something else to consider is the more difficult to see matter of build quality. Entry level radios have cheap gimbals and lots of plastic parts. With the mid grade radios, you usually get ball bearing gimbals and hall effect sensors instead of potentiometers. The screens are bigger with more programming abilities, you have more switches that are usually assignable for mixes and rates. So you can set up your radio with the features and feel that you want. I'll still stick with the recommendation that a 6 channel radio is plenty for a guy's first 2-3 years of RC flying, but it's also helpful for the new pilot to understand that comparing radios is much more than just the number of channels.
Old 02-24-2015, 08:58 AM
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I'll probably raise some heckles here with my opinion.But here goes:

1st. You don't HAVE to go with a 2.4ghz radio system. They are the latest greatest and they do have advantages. But for someone on a tight budget, plenty of 72mhz equipment available that works just fine. And the thing I notice now at the flying field is the pin board is wide open, I can pretty much use any channel I want cause everyone else is on 2.4 now.

2nd. Your first year or two of flying you will probably not need more than 4 channels: Rudder, Throttle, Ailerons, Elevator. If you know for sure you are going to stick with this hobby, then it makes more sense to go ahead and get a good 8+ channel radio. If you are not sure about your commitment and money is tight, you can get a 4 channel system on 2.4 or 72mhz for very little investment. I just bought a complete new in box 72mhz flight kit (skysport tv4 TX, 127df Rx, 4 servos, flight battery, chargers, etc.) for $50. But I would caution, get help from an experienced person if you try to buy these online.

3rd. While a .40 sized glow trainer and instructor are the best way to go, the instructor is the really important part. I teach people to fly with glow trainers, but I have also taught many people to fly on the Hobbyzone Super Cub. If money is still tight and you don't move to glow engines after mastering the Super Cub, then my recommendation for the next plane would be the Parkzone T-28, P-51, or P-47. They will still work fine with a four channel radio, but are advanced enough to improve you skills and get you ready to move towards the real war birds. Also, some of the electronics, batteries, servos, etc, can be interchanged between the Super Cub and the others I mentioned.

4th. The simulator is a priceless tool for learning, but even simulators are better utilized when you have an experienced person to help you progress. So, regardless of what simulator you get, find an experienced pilot to help you!

Just my opinion, for what it's worth.
Old 03-05-2015, 07:53 PM
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I've been flying rc planes every year since 1979. I've had 6 channel radios for the past 15 to 20 years figuring I'd need the channels. About five years ago I started using a fifth channel for dual aileron servos. Looking around our club, we once had a guy who used retracts. Several have used flaps. Other than that everyone is flying on four channels, or maybe five for dual aileron servos. Actually I sometimes fly dual ailerons on four channels using a Y splitter, and some others do too. Many have 6 to 10 channel radios. What do they do with all those channels? Beats me. But the computer radios have more features in the 6 channel sets than in the 4 channel sets, so I stick with 6 channel radios, but if I didn't have those features I'd still be flying the same planes just as well.

You should definitely have at least four channels. Beyond that, it really doesn't matter much. Radios are cheap, and they have been getting cheaper pretty steadily for about 50 years. Get one you can afford and see if you need more channels later. Don't worry about what you "might" want later.
Old 03-07-2015, 03:11 PM
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I went the budget route when I got back in to the hobby a few years ago. I got a 9 channel Futaba 72 MHz for $125 with three receivers from a club member. He switched everything to 2.4 and I got a bargain on a really nice radio. Almost everyone in our club in on 2.4 so I never have a problem with my frequency. Tower Hobbies still sells the FM receivers and they work fine for me. I've seen a lot of good FM radios on eBay but checking with the older club members would be a great way to go.
Old 03-07-2015, 06:09 PM
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chuckk2
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Well, you could get a 2.4Ghz conversion for the Futaba, which includes compatible 2.4Ghz RX's.
Or, you might consider anything from a 6 to a 9 channel 2.4 system.
Old 03-09-2015, 05:41 PM
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To throw my .$.02 in.. I have been flying for about 5 years. I finally bought a DX6i 2 years ago. I still do not have a plane that needs the extra 2 channels Everything I fly does just fine on 4 channels. It all depends on how fancy you want your radio. My suggestion would be to buy what you can afford and go fly the plane.

The biggest mistake I see new guys (myself included) is to get a more advanced plane than you are capable of flying. Buy a simple 3 or 4 channel foam plane that will stand up to quite a bit of abuse. You will crash. Learn to repair it and as long as you don't totally destroy the plane in a crash, they are able to be rebuilt. CA does a great job!!

Take your time and listen to others that have been down this road before. Do not be afraid to ask for advice.

Happy flying.
Old 03-11-2015, 12:59 AM
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I know you won't be getting into big gassers but they eat channels quickly. 1 left aileron 1 rt aileron 1 left elevator 1 rt elevator, separate channels allows for a more precise setting. So there's 4 channels, rudder 1, throttle 1, now that's 6 optic kill 1 for 7, battery 8, if you want a choke then there's 9. Add flaps and gear 11.
now there are tricks to reduce the number of channels like a y harness for the battery and not using an electric choke. So now your down to 9 no flaps or retract gear 7.
as stated 4 channels gets you in the air.
If you know this is the hobby for you and now matter what I'm going to fly. Get the biggest radio you can.
on the other hand you're just trying out to see what's it's like get a 4 channel
Old 03-11-2015, 10:43 AM
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BarracudaHockey
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And I ran out of channels on a DX-9 with a fixed gear plane

All depends on what you plan to fly. I'll tell you that better radios have bigger screens and more advanced programming features, not just more channels.
Old 01-11-2024, 07:23 PM
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You want to buy the most amount of channels your walllet has money in it for because not very far down the road you will wish you had those extra channels when you have flaps landing gear retracts a flight stabilization gyro, maybe a bomb drop, gain knob on said gyro it adds up quickly, then theres the kill switch and the choke if flying gas or nitro. Trust me get the most channels you can afford and you will thank me for it later.
Old 01-11-2024, 07:27 PM
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I suggest for this approach, buy a very simple used radio maybe 6 or 7 channel Spektrum dx6 or dx8 you can find them really cheap if you look hard enough. That way you are not out much money if you decide this is just too much for you. There are many 1 and dones in this hobby way more than people who decide to stick with the hobby , because it's expensive and it can be very time consuming and very hard at first.
Old 01-11-2024, 07:32 PM
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My 1st plane had flaps and a gyro. That required 7 channels to operate satisfactorily speaking so you can turn flight stablization on and off as needed in the fist days of learning. That way if you are using a stblizer to help you learn you can turn it off and sort of Ween yourself off the gyro. Thats what I did and it worked great and the flaps made the plane so much more fun to fly.
Old 01-12-2024, 06:00 AM
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Outrider6
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Being almost 9 years later now, I imagine the OP has already figured out the answers to these questions.

edited: I now see that the OP has not logged in here in 8 years.
Old 01-12-2024, 11:34 AM
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With limited funds, no previous flight experience and assuming you have not yet bought the Cub... forget the Cub because a small taildragger is not the best trainer option. There is much better low cost option. The cheapest entry into RC is to buy a HobbyZone Aeroscout S2-1.1m Ready-to-Fly (RTF) trainer. This package costs $200 from Horizon Hobby or Hobbytown and comes complete with a Spektrum DXs transmitter already set up and bound to the receiver. The DXs lists separately for $114, but the difference in price between the Aeroscout as a "Bind and Fly" (BNF) version without the transmitter and the RTF version of the Aeroscout complete with the transmitter is only $20 ($179.99 vs $199.99). True, the Spektrum DXs is an entry level transmitter with no computer or model memory capability and it has limited (and confusing) push button programming that can reverse servo direction. However, the DXs does technically have 7 channels, although one of the channels is the press-and-hold trainer switch button. The DXs is a full range transmitter and takes 4 AA batteries. It also has limited telemetry capability to monitor the voltage status of the battery in the airplane during flight. Once you have learned to fly, then you can buy a 8, 9, or 10 channel computer radio. But for starters, the extra $20 spent for the DXs is a bargain.

The Aeroscout S2 1.1m (1.1 meter wing span) may look like the ugly duckling, but it is by far the best trainer I have flown in over 55 years of RC flying. Period. I bought one for my club to use as a trainer for new students and ended up flying it more than I do some of my much larger gasoline planes. It flies well in 15-20 mph winds with its full-time AS3X stability system which is built into the Spektrum receiver. It has tricycle landing gear with large wheels that work extremely well on grass runways mowed to 2" or less. It has a pusher motor/propeller that is protected from hard landings... this will save you multiple propellers and several bent motor shafts during the learning process. It has the SAFE mode training system built into the transmitter and receiver, including a panic button on the transmitter that will automatically upright the airplane to level flight from any out of control attitude. When in the full control mode, the Aeroscout can perform the entire Novice pattern aerobatic routines, including consecutive outside loops and climbing knife edge flight. The DXs transmitter can be easily bound to any wireless-trainer capable Spektrum transmitter to allow the DXs to serve as a "Buddy box" for dual instruction training. The only additional items you would need to purchase are a LiPo battery charger and a 3S-2200 mah LiPo battery with an EC3 connector. You would need to fly at a club with a Federally Recognized Identification Area (FRIA) to avoid having to add a FAA mandated remote identification transmitter module, but then, you should be flying with a club anyway to have access to a flight instructor. Do not try to learn to fly on your own without an instructor helping you, as most attempts at self-training end very badly... and I've seen it happen way too many times.
Old 01-12-2024, 11:41 AM
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With limited funds, no previous flight experience and assuming you have not yet bought the Cub... forget the Cub because a small taildragger is not the best trainer option. There is much better low cost option. The cheapest entry into RC is to buy a HobbyZone Aeroscout S2-1.1m Ready-to-Fly (RTF) trainer. This package costs $200 from Horizon Hobby or Hobbytown and comes complete with a Spektrum DXs transmitter already set up and bound to the receiver. The DXs lists separately for $114, but the difference in price between the Aeroscout as a "Bind and Fly" (BNF) version without the transmitter and the RTF version of the Aeroscout complete with the transmitter is only $20 ($179.99 vs $199.99). True, the Spektrum DXs is an entry level transmitter with no computer or model memory capability and it has limited (and confusing) push button programming that can reverse servo direction. However, the DXs does technically have 7 channels, although one of the channels is the press-and-hold trainer switch button. The DXs is a full range transmitter and takes 4 AA batteries. It also has limited telemetry capability to monitor the voltage status of the battery in the airplane during flight. Once you have learned to fly, then you can buy a 8, 9, or 10 channel computer radio. But for starters, the extra $20 spent for the DXs is a bargain.

The Aeroscout S2 1.1m (1.1 meter wing span) may look like the ugly duckling, but it is by far the best trainer I have flown in over 55 years of RC flying. Period. I bought one for my club to use as a trainer for new students and ended up flying it more than I do some of my much larger gasoline planes. It flies well in 15-20 mph winds with its full-time AS3X stability system which is built into the Spektrum receiver. It has tricycle landing gear with large wheels that work extremely well on grass runways mowed to 2" or less. It has a pusher motor/propeller that is protected from hard landings... this will save you multiple propellers and several bent motor shafts during the learning process. It has the SAFE mode training system built into the transmitter and receiver, including a panic button on the transmitter that will automatically upright the airplane to level flight from any out of control attitude. When in the full control mode, the Aeroscout can perform the entire Novice pattern aerobatic routines, including consecutive outside loops and climbing knife edge flight. The DXs transmitter can be easily bound to any wireless-trainer capable Spektrum transmitter to allow the DXs to serve as a "Buddy box" for dual instruction training. The only additional items you would need to purchase are a LiPo battery charger and a 3S-2200 mah LiPo battery with an EC3 connector. You would need to fly at a club with a Federally Recognized Identification Area (FRIA) to avoid having to add a FAA mandated remote identification transmitter module, but then, you should be flying with a club anyway to have access to a flight instructor. Do not try to learn to fly on your own without an instructor helping you, as most attempts at self-training end very badly... and I've seen it happen way too many times.
Old 03-26-2024, 10:55 AM
  #23  
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1 of the things I've taught all of my students in the past 30 or so years is get a 6 channel transmitter why? because when you learn to fly the next plane may have some other things on it like flaps or even retractable landing gear or even bomb drop so if one thinks a 4 channel is enough then you may not have a big enough flying space to fly in and how far do you want to go in the hobby just questions you have to ask yourself

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