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-   -   THINGS TO CHECK ON AN RTF (https://www.rcuniverse.com/forum/electric-training-102/6582895-things-check-rtf.html)

aeajr 11-05-2007 09:21 AM

by Ed Anderson
aeajr on the forums

I think ready-to-fly airplane packages are great. This is how I started flying. If I had been required to build a kit to begin my flying experience I would never have gotten into the air. Now, after thousands of flights and almost five years, I have expanded to 20+ planes, multiple radios and all kinds of tools and things. I am having a ball. But there are things I know today that would have helped me with my first plane. Let me pass on some tips.

Regardless of the plane, RTF or not, it is the pilot's responsibility to insure that the plane is flight ready. If you put a plane in the air without checking it, without following the instructions, any problems that follow, any damage that is caused is your fault and responsibility. It does not matter if the plane is defective, if you did not check it, any damage that occurred is your fault. I can't make it any clearer. No full scale pilot would takeoff without checking everything. You should do the same.


There is a manual or instruction sheet that comes with your plane, read it! I read the manual several times on anything I get. It took the manufacturer time and money to create it. I contains important information. Some instruction sets are poorly done and some are very good. In either case, READ! If there is a video included, watch it. It was put there to help you. Take advantage of that help.

If they have a web site about the plane or product you purchased, visit the site. Sometimes there is an FAQ, frequently asked questions page. Sometimes there are additions to the instructions that have been added since yours was packaged and shipped. And sometimes there are coupons, or specials for owners. Go, look and see, and benefit from the manufacturer's web site.


I often post this in my notes on the forums, "RTFM". To put it politely, it means, " Read The Friendly Manual".

I have read so many trouble reports by new flyers. They crash, they have problems and are angry and upset. Why was this happening to them? Often, the answers were all in the instructions.

We had one club member who used to buy RTF planes, show up at the field and ask me how to get them set-up and flying. I would ask him for the instructions. "Oh, I left those home." So I sent him home to get them. No matter how experienced I might be, unless I have this plane, I check the instructions.

He brought a computer radio to a meeting and asked me to show him how to use it. "Sure, where are the instructions?" He left them home. I could not help him as I had never seen that radio before.

Needless to say, he crashed and crashed and destroyed things. Fortunately for him he had the money to do this. But he occasionally created a safety situation and we had to "advise" him to change his ways. He has yet to become a successful flyer. He is still a nice guy and I hope some day he will be successful, but he needs to follow instructions.


1) Does the plane need to be balanced, or does the balance need to be checked?

2) Are there linkages to be connected? Do they need to be adjusted? How do you adjust them?

3) Is there tape or glue to be added. Is there covering material to be removed?

4) Do the batteries need to be charged?

5) Do they recommend some kind of "break-in" procedure?

6) What is the proper range check procedure for the radio system?

7) What is the working range of your radio system?

8) How do you adjust the surfaces to get the plane to fly correctly? Are they moving in the correct direction?

9) What is the proper placement of the battery and how is it moved to adjust balance?

10) Is there a maximum recommended voltage that can be safely accepted by the ESC?

11) What wind speeds are recommended for new flyers?

12) How much space is recommended to fly this plane?

13) Who do you call if there is a problem? Do you call the hobby shop or the manufacturer? Is there a web site?

14) Are there repair tips? What kind of glue can you use? Where can you get replacement parts?

15) What channel is your plane using and how do you avoid channel conflict?


Often, in order to meet a packaging goal or to keep the shipping weight down, the manufacturer will expect you to do something or to add something. These are usually common household items like tape or glue. In some cases the plane's balance has to be checked and/or adjusted. They may include weights, or you may need to buy weights, but coins work too. A dime is about .1 ounces and a quarter is about .2 ounces. Coins can actually be cheaper than buying weights.

It is common to have to mount the tail and the wing. Are there alignment marks or procedures that you are to follow? Do you have to remove covering material so the glue will hold properly? How many rubber bands are needed to hold the wing properly? Don't use less than the recommended number of rubber bands.

My Great Planes Spirit 2M glider came RTF, including the radio system. This was my second plane after my Aerobird. The Aerobird did not need to be balanced, the Spirit did. If I had tried to fly it without balancing it first I would likely have broken it badly on the first flight. It took four ounces of weight in the nose to get to balance properly.

A friend's RTF was brought to the field so we could help him. Following the instructions we did a range check and found there was a problem with the radio system. No problem! He packed it up, took it to the hobby shop and they exchanged it immediately. He was back at the field in an hour. It was clear it had not been flown so there was no question of flight damage. If he had flown and crashed it, they could have easily refused to replace it, and they would have been right, as crash damage is not covered under warranty. It was the pilot's job to make sure the plane was flight ready.


Often RTFs come with flight instructions and tips. One of the most important to follow is related to wind. Many planes, especially two channel planes, do not handle wind very well, especially in the hands of an inexperienced pilot. If you don't know this, you could loose your plane, or worse, you could hit someone or cause damage. What wind speeds are recommended, especially for new pilots?

Sometimes the plane will "porpoise" or tend to roll, or want to dive. Is it you or is it the plane? The instructions may tell you.

Once the pilot has become comfortable with the plane, there may be adjustments that can be made to make the plane more responsive. Sometimes it is that switch on the radio, or a button you need to push, that goes from mild to wild. Or maybe you have to turn something on the linkage, or move the linkage to a different hole. Go back and read the manual for the proper procedures to make those adjustments.


Just because the plane says ready to fly, don't take that literally. Compared to a box of sticks and a tube of glue, it is ready to fly. However there are often set-up procedures, or assembly steps that need to be followed. It is best to read the instructions to see how to do them correctly. You will have a much better flying experience and your plane will last longer.

Clear skies and safe flying!

ozrcboy 11-05-2007 04:45 PM

Although you have already labored the point fairly well I thought I might just add my 2c worth about balance.

Obviously the best way to balance the aircraft is by moving components which are already onboard - clearly the battery is the biggest contributer here, but in a smaller model even where you put the reciever can matter.

However, if that doesn't do it then you have to add whatever weight it takes to make the plane balance. Of course you want to keep the aircraft light, but if it is not correctly balanced, particularly as a beginner, you are going to have a very difficult to control and not fun to fly aircraft. To add as little weight as possible make sure you add the weight as far forward or back as possible (in the correct direction). However, avoiding the idea of packing the spinner with clay or anything like that. Chances are the clay wont be evenly distributed and you will unbalance the propeller introducing vibration.

ozrcboy 11-07-2007 07:32 AM

You should sticky this one aeajr.

aeajr 11-07-2007 07:57 AM

Let's see how much interest their is an what kind of contributions we get. But thanks for the endorsement.

ArrowNaughtic 11-07-2007 11:10 AM

very well put together and informative. Just wish i had read this 4 months ago when I started into planes. I bought a GWS Estarter for the gf for her birthday and we built it together. We did spend alot of time balancing it and really labored over how perfect things needed to be as far as tail and elevator placement relative to the wings and fuselage. Proudly we can say it flew its first try. It also crashed quite spectacularly on its 3rd flight of that day. I was so impressed with it, I bought myself one and decided i was an expert now on building and setting up this particular model. I tore the tail section off on its maiden flight. Lesson learned the hard way! I now have 2 more complete kits waiting to be built and got enough parts to actually rebuild the tore up one from scratch.
When I bought the 2 kits from my LHS I also bought a Aerobird Challenger. I have flown that 3 ch almost exclusively and have become more proficient at control and also found that i can actually relax a little and enjoy the flight, not have to fly it all puckered up all the time. I am still a n00b at planes but am becoming more proficient at checking things before flights and doing a range check prior to launch. Build and rebuild techniques have been gleaned from these forums and I can honestly say that without RCU I would have tossed in the plane aspect of RC and stuck with just heli's.
I wish many of the LHS's would perhaps usher a new pilot to check out some of these forums before even starting thier build/battery charge/maiden flight. 20 minutes on the internet can pay off in hours of enjoyment! I know i spent alot of time after my first crash and rebuild process here.....learning what i could so I could avoid it in the future.
Just a side note............. I bought a flight sim for practicing with the heli's but found myself flying planes alot more than the heli's. My ability to fly the planes more comfortably is directly related to time spent on the sim. Too bad RTF packages don't come with a way to link up with your computer and teach you some basic skills prior to your maiden flight/fright!

__________________________________________________ ___________________________________

Of all the things I ever lost....................................... I miss my mind the most!

SackOHammers 11-07-2007 02:59 PM


There are RTF packages available that include a flight sim specific to that plane. I discovered this yesterday or the day before in a banner ad from Tower Hobbies in this forum section. Here is a link:

It comes with a Radio and motor, etc. It also comes with a trimmed down version of Real Flight simulator that you can use with the transmitter you get.

aeajr 12-19-2007 12:42 PM

Another thing to think about, when comparing one RTF to another is whether it is easy to upgrade the plane.

For example, can you switch from NiMh to Lipos?
What if you want to change the motor?

How reusable are the electroncis?

Can I move the receiver, servos, ESC to another plane?
Does this use standard parts or a single integrated electroncis package?

Of course all of this comes with the question of, do you really care? Should you care?

My first Plane was an Aerobird. It used a 27 MHz radio with an integrated electronics package. While I could have moved it to another V tail or elevon plane, it really was not intended for this. But I did not care. It was low cost and rugged. It was my way of discovering if I was going to like this RC flying thing.

5 years later I have multiple computer radios, 24 planes and the old Aerobird doesn't get flown that much anymore, but it still works and I can still use it. I got plenty of value out of it.

However, this is still a point of evaluation:

Easy Star - $180
Super cub - $160

Both are top rated self trainer planes.

Easy Star uses standard 72 MHz radio, receiver, ESC and servos.

Super Sub uses 27 MHz radio system which is really intended for this plane alone.

Does that make the Super Cub a bad choice? Absolutely not! It is one of the best first planes on the market. And HobbyZone provide options, like a parachute drop, for the plane that is not available with other radio systems. Cool?

The Aerobird 3 is another very popular first plane. All 27 MHz with propriatary electroncis package. Has lead to many successful pilots. And, at $110 it is a super bargain. So should you care if the parts can't easily move to another plane? I don't think so.n If you wanted to take the Aerobird Brushless, you would have to replace all the electroncis. Some would say that is bad. I would say, why take the AB3 brushless at all. Invest that equipment and new radio in a new plane and now you have two planes to fly.

On the other hand, it would be easy with an Easy Star. Replace the motor and the ESC and you are good to go! But the Easy Star costs more too.

People will raise these points with you, as a new pilot. You will have to decide for yourself. But I bring them up here for your consideration.

Any questions? Comments? Counter points?

aeajr 11-13-2008 08:58 AM

For all you new RTF flyers who assume that your RTF is truly ready to fly right out of the box, I am going to bring this to the top again.

Kapelusprime 02-19-2009 12:55 AM

Thank you, this is just the type of info I have been looking for. I have some experience with two planes that I neither built nor needed much of anything, weight or trim for example. I flew them with good results, now I've ordered an Exceed F-15-E EDF RTF kit. This will be my first EDF, I'm looking forward to flying it and tweaking it for maximum ease of flight and performance. I've been a static model builder for many years and have some limited helicopter, fixed wing prop and R/C car experience, I always love to learn a new trick or tip. I would like some tips geared toward EDF kit's and more importantly. Could you give a brief R/C plane hobby lingo to laymen's term run down?

please and thank you

aeajr 02-19-2009 01:29 AM

There are terms/definitions threads out there. Use the search feature to find them.

Kapelusprime 02-19-2009 02:12 AM

I just found your thread on every thing you ever wanted to know about electric powered flight. I feel like a huge dummy!
An tips on EDF RTF kit's

aeajr 02-19-2009 05:12 AM

I have never flown or owned an EDF, so I can't help you there. Sorry.

aeajr 03-22-2009 06:21 PM


Understanding the basic parts of the plane may help you figure out a problem on an RTF.

tacx 04-04-2009 10:12 PM

Hi Everyone, I am new to the game. Just purchased and set up a new E-flite Apprentice. Went thru the instructions step by step. Eveything seems ok, but I don't understand the "range test". How does holding the trainer switch while checking all the functions at 90 feet differ from checking functions at 90 feet without holding the trainer switch?? I know there has to be a simple answer but I'm just not seeing it.


BigTb17 04-06-2009 06:21 AM

tacx, the radio has a far greater max range than 90 feet (probably 900-3000+ feet depending on the transmitter). However, it would be impractical to carry the plane that far away every time to check the range. Most transmitters have a way of going into a reduced power mode for range testing (holding the trainer switch in your case). If in this reduced power state you can still have full control at 90 feet, then by the manufacturer's calculations you should have good range at full power.

If you do the test without holding the switch (or whatever the manual says with other radios) the test doesn't really help you much. Say for instance the radio's max range is 1000 feet (I don't know what your radio is rated, but 1000 is an easy number for an example). If there is a problem and the range is reduced by half, you could only get 500 feet away before going out of range. If you range test without holding the switch the radio will work fine at 90 feet, but in flight you might go beyond 500 feet and lose signal. However, if you do hold the switch during the test, you would lose control at 45 feet, due to the radio's half range issue. This would tell you there is a problem so you can look for the cause and correct it before flying.

I hope this helps you and any others who may have the same question about range checking their radio.

Note: I make assumptions and use examples here to explain the basics, but as the theme of this thread stresses, you must always check the manual for your radio to find out how to range check your system. Many radios have a different procedure for how to reduce the power, as well as how far to take the model to safely determine acceptable range.

Good luck. Have fun flying!

tacx 04-06-2009 07:23 PM


Thanks very much. It makes sense now. The manual never explained the purpose of the range check. It just said to do it.

Thanks again

AV8TER65 04-07-2009 08:04 AM

Congrads on the E-flight apprentice. I to have bought the bird and love it. It is my first one also. Here is a link you might enjoy to meet other apprentice owners. Great info there and even upgrades and mods that have been done to the Apprentice.
Hope to see you there,

aeajr 05-11-2011 07:15 AM

Here is an excellent video on doing a preflight on an RTF airplane

acdii 07-28-2011 06:30 PM

Here is a tip for those who get an ARF or RTF. I always check everything I get 100%, no matter what it is I buy. These planes are no different.

Keep this simple rule in your head and you will never have a problem.

Trust but Verify!

The person who assembled your plane is human, and humans can make mistakes, especially if they are getting near quitting time, are bored, tired and just dont give a snot. When you get the plane out of the box, before you even open the book, check everything. Make sure the screws are tight, the joints were glued, the wings are straight, the tail is straight, and all the parts are there.

My first RTF is a T-34 Mentor by E-flite, and even though it looked well built, it wasnt. First thing I did was I checked all the joints that I could see and reach, and found several that were glued, but not securely. After some touch ups with medium CA, they were good to go. The screws for the motor mount weren't tight, snug, but loose enough that they would work out in flight. Some of the predrilled holes were slightly off too. One landing gear strut was really tight and the hole wasnt deep enough. Little things like this can cause much bigger problems later.

I picked up an Apprentice 15e recently, and on this plane I found it perfect right out of the box, no flaws. One thing I did change was the landing gear though, the wheels are too small, so I swapped them with larger ones that came off the T-34, which I put even larger wheels on, and an even larger nose wheel, the one extra I had for the T-34, so I can fly off grass. So even though it is RTF, there are always a few things that will need to be done before first flight that dont come with the kit. If you fly off grass, chances are you will need larger wheels.

UPDATEon the Apprentice: CHECK the Prop Shaft!!!!!!!! Mine worked itself loose, I dont know what they used to lock the set screw, but it didnt work. Ihavent had any blade strikes, but did chop up some grass, but Idont see that being enough to loosen the shaft from the motor, so the lock tight they used failed. Had I not noticed it, Imost likely would have lost the prop in flight and would have been one very unhappy flier.

aeajr 02-12-2012 08:51 AM


I believe I included the recommendation to range check before you fly.  Most if not all RTF packages have a range check procedure.  But also check the recommended maximum range.

You may see RC guys flying planes high and far away and figure you can do that too, but maybe not.  Many RTFs come with limited range radio systems.  This does not make them bad as the radio is likely suitable to this plane. 

However, sometimes people pull the electronics from a crashed RTF and try to use the included radio/receiver combo to fly another plane and don't realize that it is a limited range radio/receiver. 

RTFM, read the friendly manual and the box and all the documentation that comes with your RTF.  There should be a range limit statement.

nitro208ca 05-14-2012 11:38 AM

Ihave to admit, that your post is very imformative about the difference between RTF and ARF. To put it in basic terms, the " RTF" mainly means that it comes with everything you are going to need for that aircraft (I.E aircraft itself,transmitter, receiver, battery, charger,glue).Like you said the person still has to put the aircraft together, tune it, caliberate it, tweek it,etc,etc

aeajr 11-12-2013 07:19 AM

Control rod deflection -

Most aircraft have servos in the front and use control rods to move the tail surfaces. This works well most of the time, but under flight loads the control rods can bend and flex such that they rod moves but the control surface does not move as you would expect.

When it this a problem? As speed increases, the pressure on the control surface increases. There is no were this is better demonstrated than in a dive.

You get the plane high and take it into a power dive because it looks so COOL! When you pull up elevator to pull out, nothing happens. the plane continues on right into the ground.

What happened?

Chances are you control rods are flexing under the extreme pressure of the dive. when you pulled elevator the control rod flexed and the elevator did not move enough for you to pull out, and you crashed.

When you check your RTF, try to see the full length of the control rod. Now operate the radio to move the servo to move the rod and the surface. Everything look OK?

Now apply a little pressure to the control surface, typically the elevator is the one you want to pay the most attention. If you apply pressure and that control rod starts to flex and bow, you have a problem. You need to support that control rod or you need to avoid high speed maneuvers. And while avoiding high speeds seems easy enough, you can find yourself in a dive that you did not intend and if you can't pull out you may have a problem.

What to do if that happens?

First, turn the motor off!!!!!

If the elevator won't pull you out, try the rudder! If the rudder works it will turn the nose of the plane to the side and you may be able to turn it back into level flight or a climb which will slow you down and can save your plane.

acdii 11-12-2013 10:52 AM

I had something similar happen on a built plane I got at a swap meet. Everything looked fine, and I got a few flights on it, until one day I had control issues and fought with it until it finally lost enough altitude and crashed. Turned out the push rod to the rudder came apart, but deep inside the fuse where it was impossible to see.

So if the push rod is a multiple piece one, like hollow tube with two piece ends, check them well and secure them even better if you can.

If the place were closer in, I might have been able to tell it was the rudder that wasnt working and I might have been able to get better control over it and had less damage done. Of course had I not OVERPOWERED the plane with a DLE20, it might not have come loose either. Even a 91 FS is too much for it, I think a 70 FS might be the right size. It is a big plane, but a slow flyer, with a huge wing. Size is deceiving.

Fly4Fly 06-09-2015 07:35 PM

Ha this thread needs to be brought back up to the top. Very good info

aeajr 06-07-2017 08:55 AM

With many RTFs now coming with some kind of flight stabilization you might want to add checking that this is working properly to your check list. Also, be sure that you understand what this stabilization does. Can you turn it off?

This is something the plane does for itself. Make sure what it does and how it works.

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