Sometimes we here at Parkjets get the very good question related to whether or not its best to buy a ready to fly airplane or whether it best to strike out on your own and build it. Most of the time, people want to know which is cheaper and what is the real difference (besides the obvious).
With ready to fly, or RTF, the RC airplane pretty much comes ready to go. Sure, there are always a few things that have to be done to the plane but typically its very quick and can be done in a matter of a few minutes. The same goes with almost ready to fly (ARF) RC airplanes. With ARFs, the owner will have to do some glue up or some minor construction, but typically, anyone can do it, it takes very little skill other than reading through the instructions. So what are the benefits of a pre-made RC airplane?
1. It will look fantastic and scale. Modern manufacturers go to great lengths to make their kits look great on the ground and in the air.
2. The system will work. In other words, the electronics and other necessary gear you need comes with the RC airplane, so you know it will work.
3. You will have a great set of instructions and the whole process is pretty much fool proof. With an RTF, you will be up and running in no time. With building, it can take a couple of days to weeks to complete a project.
Okay, so what are the disadvantages of an RTF or ARF RC Airplane kit?
1. You will crash it. And the electronics that came with it will probably not work in other applications. With RTF or ARF, the servos, motor, electronic speed controller, etc work well for that specific airplane, but won't work so well in other airplanes.
2. You have a limited canvas to customize your plane.
3. You have very little uniqueness at the flying field. In fact, chances are, lots of other RC pilots will have had or do have the exact same RC airplane as you.
Why do we prefer to build our airplanes most of the time? That is pretty simple actually. We like to build for two main reasons.
1. The money. Up front, building you own will cost a little more. After all, you are purchasing your own gear like motors, radio, receivers, electronic speed controls servos. You will need some basic soldering equipment too. Maybe a bench in the garage, if you get fancy, some diagostic equipment. You have to hunt down things like propellers and EDF fans, clips, control horns, push rods and a whole assortment of goodies to help you go from nothing to a fully flying machine. But once you are up and running...it's cheap.
The airframes, like the ones here on Parkjets can be constructed with a few dollars in foam, usually around $10-15 dollars worth. And all that gear you bought? It will work just fine.
2. Creative Control. Hey, its part of the fun and challenge. Building something from nothing. And with all the free RC plans out there, its easy to get the design that fits your style. The paint job is up to you. The decals, you can design your own. Some guys out there go crazy and make their own creations that blow the doors off of anything you can buy. For us, building offers something for everyone. You have control. You are not limited by what is on the shelf, only what is in your mind.
So there you have it, the pros and cons of building vs. RTF and a few things in between. And we don't mean to suggust this is an either or situation of course. Lots of people have fun doing both. And then there is the kit market, like the kits made by 6mmFlyRC.com that offer the builder a jump start on a project.
The important thing is to keep flying, keep crashing, and keep learning!