For most people, the beauty of an airplane's design lies in its lines and curves. For the flier, however, the beauty of a design includes what that design can do. That feeling is as true for R/C (radio control) pilots as it is for pilots of full-size aircraft. Their differences—aircraft size, and the fact that R/C pilots remain on the ground—have very little impact on the way given designs perform. As a result, R/C hobbyists have been able to model and fly aircraft that range from the Wright Brothers' first plane to the magnificent Space Shuttle.
RealFlight 7.5 R/C Flight Simulator

Start Here.

Find out what you're getting into. Many helpful books and DVDs are available about airplane modeling. Or, before attempting the "real thing," you can try your hand at one of the R/C flying simulators available for your PC. There are a number to choose from – one of the best is Great Planes RealFlight 7.5! In addition to a wide variety of airplanes, it also offers plenty of heli and multi-rotor aircraft options for you to fly. If you prefer to fly with a "real" model first, check out the helpful Starter Sailplanes tab above.

Find an instructor.

With an instructor, you'll learn faster and with more confidence than if you start out solo. If your instructor's radio has a trainer system, you can buy a compatible radio, connect the two, and fly with less risk to your plane. To find an instructor, check with hobbyist friends. Check the phone book for flying clubs. Attend fun fly events (announced in newspapers and free circulars) and ask around. And consult the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) by calling 1-800-435-9262, writing 5161 East Memorial Drive, Muncie, IN 47302, or visiting their website at Ask for the locations of clubs near you.

Let Tower Hobbies Help.

Tower Hobbies Phone Sales Staff and Technical Support Staff give you access to years of R/C modeling experience and information. Just call our toll-free number, 1-800-637-6050. They'll help you select a plane and accessories.
Sailplanes can be excellent trainers. Often less complex and expensive than powered models, their stability and slow flight are perfect for beginners. R/C sailplanes can feature several different tail configurations. The conventional tail is recommended for new hobbyists. Most fall into one of two types:

Thermal Sailplanes

Thermal Sailplanes ride on the continuous currents of warm air that rise from the land. They seem to float across the sky. Pilots must be able to detect invisible thermal currents and take advantage of them (rising warm air is often found over such terrain as freshly plowed fields and paved parking areas). With experience, pilots can keep their craft in the air for 15 minutes or even longer.

Slope Soarers

Slope Soarers get their lift from wind that rises when it meets a hill or upward slope. The lift lasts as long as the wind blows. Because they fly in stronger wind conditions, slope soarers are faster than thermal sailplanes, and the extra speed gives them excellent aerobatic capabilities.

Tail Types

Conventional Tail

Conventional TailCharacterized by a standard rudder and a stabilizer mounted on the fuselage. Found on the majority of R/C sailplane kits, it's easy to build and works well.


Mid-TailCompromise between the conventional and T-tail, the mid-tail has many of the T-tail's benefits and is also easier to build.


T-TailStabilizer is mounted at the top of the rudder, where it is less affected by the wake created when air flows over the model's wing. This design can be difficult to build.


V-TailStabilizer is bent into an upward V shape, and there is no rudder. A radio with mixing capabilities is usually required.

The Model

Some sailplanes are better suited to first-timers than others. Look for a model in the 2-meter class that requires only 2-channels of control—preferably a Thermal Sailplane rather than a model designed for slope soaring. If you select a kit, choose one that's sturdy and comes with good building instructions. Like powered models, a sailplane will require some accessories, although the list is generally shorter.

Hand Launch

Hand Launch Sailplanes
Smallest sailplanes in the thermal category feature wings that span up to 59-60 inches and can be launched with a hand-toss. Such small models may require miniature radio equipment, which costs a bit more than standard size. Thus, you might prefer to start your R/C career with a 2-meter model.


Two-Meter Sailplanes
Spanning 72 to 79 inches, these are the most accessible type of sailplanes for beginners. The added size gives them greater stability, and they will usually accept standard 2-channel radio equipment. Launching is best done with a hi-start or winch (explained later).

Open Class

Open Class Sailplanes
"Open Class" encompasses all sailplanes with wingspans exceeding 100 inches. Because of assembly difficulty and slow control response, they are not recommended for beginners. Like Standard Class models, however, they can carry a lot of additional weight for options - and are absolutely majestic in flight.

Electric Sailplanes

Electric Sailplanes
For easier launching and thermal chasing, some sailplanes are designed to include electric (battery powered) motors and propellers. The motor may be turned on and off during flight to power the sailplane from one thermal current to the next.

How do you know what sailplane to choose?

Below are some proven options—models that customers have told us gave them an excellent start in the hobby. Use the links below for information about the models and the specific contents as well as any additional items that may be necessary to operate the model.

Choosing A Flying Site
Preparing For Flight
R/C Airplane Radio
Radio Control Functions
Check Your Radio Controls
Check Control Surfaces
Adjust Trim
Hand Launch
Land Your Airplane
Helpful Links