Parkjets.com gets a lot of traffic. Nearly 3 million page views a year. And lots of downloads. So sometimes we get questions along the lines of "where do I start?" Some free RC airplane plan sites can be confusing, so we thought a little guidance would be helpful.
First, its important to understand that all the plans on Parkjets are available freely in the public domain. Check out our post about it in detail. We have posted them here with the permission of the designers and don't provide direct support for any of the plans. Basically, we created Parkjets because it was difficult to find all the great designs out there in an easy to navigate website. We do try to answer basic questions we get, but sometimes we have never tried to build some of the designs, so we really don't know much about them.
The number one thing you need to know is that Parkjets is 100% free. We like to say its the number 1 site for free RC airplane plans out there. We don't require registration, we don't ask for your personal information or anything like that. We put out a monthly newsletter (please sign up at the end of the post if interested) but we view Parkjets as an RC plan resource for the community. So use it. It doesnt cost you a thing. We manage to get by on a few ads, but also largely from a generous site sponsorship from 6mmFlyRC.com (please visit them).
Lets break down the site itself a little...
The home page is pretty basic but contains blog posts, twitter feeds and "I want to know more about" section in the center. Just see something you want to explore and away you go. The blog is divided up into different catagories "getting started," "motors," and "building." You can click the top links in the top navigation to sort through the different posts quickly. Check out the post on flying safety, it is a must read.
The most popular page is of course the "Free Plans" page on parkjets. You will notice the grid layout and also on the right side bar a section that says "Show me Parkjets in" which is really just a fast way to sort though the various designs we have. You can select by designer name, build matierial, if a kit is available, etc. It's a fast way to narrow down your hunting. You will notice at the bottom of the grid you can go to the next page of designs, or skip around. Pretty standard stuff.
Once you click on an RC plane to view in more detail, the selector "show me parkjets" moves to the left. It's not the best web design, but it gets the job done.
On each RC plan page, you can see details on the design like pictures and video and also other information on the page too. Some of the plans even have recommended electronic equipment. Its important to note that some of these recommendations are quite old in RC years, like 3-4 years old, and the hobby has evolved with different motors and standards. So do a little homework or just send us an E-mail and we should be able to help you out with making a more modern choice. With parkjets, we compressed all the files and have them available for download in the standard .zip format, so anyone can get to them. Once inside the zip file, all the plans are in the standard .pdf format that is widely used with a free reader from Adobe.
We don't want to skip over an important part of the individual rc plans pages. For most plans, there is an opportunity to donate directly to the designer via Paypal. Parkjets doesn't get a cut of this donation. Its just a nice way to say thanks to the designer of your favorite RC Parkjet. So donate please! Sometimes just a few dollars means a big difference.
That is the short version of navigating around the site. So now let's get to some of the questions we get from parkjets newbies or just people wanting to build for the first time...
So which plans do you recommend for beginners?
If you have never flown and RC airplane before, we highly recommend checking out RC Powers for the awesome E-book and video series they have put together. Full disclosure: we are an affiliate and will get a little commission if you buy through us, but the important thing is to get it. It will save you money. It really is the best resource available for beginners. Having said that, Parkjets has many options for great plans for beginners, and depending on how much time you want to spend building, the answer varies. For some people, they like to build for months, doing a little at a time. For others, they want to start the build on a Friday and be out flying on Saturday. However you want to approach your first scratchbuild, we have some guidelines you should consider:
- First, make sure the documentation is up to your abilities. What we mean is that some plans on Parkjets are pretty basic RC plans. An experienced builder can fill in the gaps, figure it out and come out with an excellent model. But there are plans that include build instructions, comprehensive pictures, even build videos that will help the beginner be succesful. Excellent examples include any of the Tomas Hellberg models, and Steve Shumate designed planes.
- Make sure you understand what it will take to build the model. This typically not only includes the necessary foam and the equipment to put into your model, but also the right kind of paper or printer. A lot of the plans on parkjets are available in what is called "tiled" plans, meaning you can print them out on a home printer and put them all together. However, some plans are available in the A4 format (Europe and elsewhere) and some are available in "8.5" x 11" sheet format common in the U.S.. A lot of plans offer both, but just check out that detail as well, right by the link to download, it typically says what format the plans are availabe inside the .zip file.
- For beginners, we also recommend going with a profile or shock style model. You can see examples here and here. They are easy to build and are very stable in flight because of their design. And WHEN you crash it, it won't really be too depressing because you only spent a few hours putting it together.
Which models do you generally tell beginners to stay away from?
This is a sensitive area because we don't want to sugguest that any of the models are too difficult, but there are some really challenging models on parkjets. One of the more complicated builds is the Steve Shumate F-14. The swing wing is awesome but it can mean an extended build time. Same for the Steve Shumate F-22 and SU-37. Complicated builds. There are other similar models too, all with long build times and complicated finishing processes. Does that mean those RC plans should be off limits? Absolutely not. Just consider what you want and what you are willing to sacrafice when the model gets a little damaged.
How much does it cost to get started in RC Airplanes?
One post that is a good read is our "Buy or Build" post. It helps outline some of the differences between an out of the box solution found in a local hobby shop or online and building from scratch. But let's assume you are building from scratch. The cost of the plans are free. But you have to buy some foam, typically a couple of large sheets of Depron can be had for about $20. You need a motor and speed controller: About $40. A transmitter and receiver: About $200 Battery and battery charger: About $150 Servos and misc gear: $50. All told you can see that there is some upfront costs involved. But after that, you can take that gear and put it in just about any suitable airframe and have some fun at your local park. If you do it right, purchase the correct equipment up front, yo will save yourself a lot of lost money and frustration.
Getting started in RC, especially RC airplanes can be overwhelming. But if you take a little time, you can learn a lot real fast. And if you want the extreme short cut, again, check out RC Powers Online Course.
The important thing is to keep building, crashing, and learning!
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