By all means, get a specially designed TRAINER airplane. A boxy looking trainer my not be beautiful to look at, it may not be exciting to dream about, but it will have the flight characteristics that you need for learning to fly R/C. Most people starting in the hobby have visions of themselves piloting a sleek, fast fighter plane with retractable landing gear and dropping bomb, but that is exactly what the DON’T need.
As an example, I happened to be in a large hobby store in California and overheard the following incident. This person had selected a scale P-51 Mustang kit, retractable landing gear units and the most expensive hi-power .60 in the store. He was looking at 7-channel radio sets and want to know what frequency would be the best. The conversation soon turned up the fact that he had never flown any kind of model airplane before, but he had seen some R/C models flying at an airport dedication show over the past weekend and was instantly hooked. As tactfully as possible, the salesperson, an experienced R/C’er, told him that he should not try to fly the P-51 without some previous experience with an R/C trainer. His quote was, “I’m not interested in those funny looking trainers. I want a scale model of a real airplane. Besides, I won’t need a trainer. I’ve got 3,000 hours in full-sized aircraft.”
Needless to say, the party could not be convinced to start small and work up to scale. He purchased all of the equipment and in less than ten days was back in the store making the purchase of a .40 Trainer and was overhear saying, “I crashed the P-51 on takeoff, now I’ll build a trainer. I also have an experienced instructor who will not only teach me to fly, but also help build the trainer.”
This story is not intended to put down any beginner, because many others have made this same mistake with the exact same results. So resist the temptation to build your dream ship right away, save it for later. The U.S. Air Force doesn’t start its flying cadet in F-15’s and you should take the same approach in learning to fly R/C.
Your first R/C model should be an airplane that is designed to be a trainer. It should be a ‘high-wing’ airplane (wing mounted on top of the fuselage) for best stability in flight. A high-wing airplane is more forgiving of pilot errors than any other type. Your trainer should also have a flat-bottom wing ‘airfoil’ (the cross section shape of the wing) so it can fly slow enough for you to keep up with it. A generous amount of ‘dihedral’ (the upward ‘V’