The 7 Best Remote Control Airplanes to Buy in 2018

You're number one for takeoff

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Remote control airplanes more affordable than most drones and are easier to operate, plus playing as this classic toy's pilot is a great way to while away a sunny afternoon no matter how old you are. But when it comes to buying a remote control plane, there are a few things to consider, besides budget. Do you want the most stylish design? The one with the longest air time? Or are you looking for a plane that can take off and land on water? Choosing the best option can be tricky, but fortunately, we’ve done the homework for you and put together a list of the best remote control airplanes for every budget and experience level, so you'll be speeding down the runway in no time.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: HobbyZone Sport Cub S

While it may be rather plain looking overall, the HobbyZone Sport Cub S more than makes up for a bland design with performance, control and price. Ready to fly out of the box, the Sport Cub doesn’t care if your experience level is beginner or expert. The inclusion of SAFE technology helps you battle windy conditions, regain stability with the single pull of a trigger and learn more advanced skills. The included 150mAh battery enables over 10 minutes of flying time on a single charge and requires under 60 minutes of recharge time to be back in the air. Unlike similarly priced models that are launched by hand, the Sport Cub takes off from any “runway” around 12 feet in length because four-channel controls provide a working throttle, rudder, elevator and ailerons. Even for beginners, throwing the Sport Cub into a loop, swoop or turn is incredibly simple and allows for hours of endless fun.

Best Budget: HobbyZone Duet

A fan favorite for years, the HobbyZone Duet is a terrific choice for those who want to stay wallet-friendly without skimping on controls or performance. Ready to fly right from unpacking, this beginner-friendly keeps costs down by removing some of the extras found on more expensive models. In this case, the lack of rudder control or ailerons only allows for three-channel controls, but in no way does that cheapen the fun. The inclusion of the three-channel controls also enables complete governance over climbing, steering and throttling right after the Duet is hand-launched into the air from the ground.

The dual propellers can spin at varying speeds to exert thrust differentially to aid with quick and smooth turns with minimal effort from the user. The Duet's 150mAh battery keeps you flying for up to eight minutes before you need to "refuel."

Best Seaplane: E-flite Timber

The E-flite Timber can tackle just about anything — it includes both tundra-style landing gear and EDO-style floats, which means that the airplane can handle terrain you wouldn't expect for a model of this size. The floats include dual steerable water rudders, so the seaplane is maneuverable on the water — expect high-quality shock-absorbing landing gear when using the tires. The durable Z-Foam material means that it’s lightweight but sporty, sturdy, and accessible for both beginning and expert aviators. Easy-to-install leading edge slats give the plane high-quality short takeoff and landing capabilities, which allow the plane to lift off or land in two feet or less.

This plane features a powerful brushless motor along with functional slotted flaps, LED navigation lights, landing lights, beacons and wing-tip strobes, all of which come installed and are battery-powered. The plane can fit a variety of batteries, including a 3S 2200 mAh Li-Po and a 3S 3300 mAh, which can provide eight to 12 minutes of flight time, respectively.

Best for Beginners: HobbyZone Champ

For beginners looking for everything they need to get started, the HobbyZone Champ is the absolute best solution. It’s ready to fly right out of the box (which means no assembly required), so the Champ can be up in the air both indoors and outdoors (with minimal wind) within minutes of unboxing. Taking off requires as little as 10 feet of runway space (although, add a little extra space for landing if you’re coming in fast) and the 150mAh battery allows the Champ to stay airborne up to 20 minutes, depending on performance and aggressive maneuvers.

The foam construction is also durable, which is good news for beginners who might find themselves notching a few crashes on their belt as they learn. The included 2.4Ghz controller eliminates interference from outside signals (also a plus for newbies).

Best Splurge: E-Flite Apprentice S 15e

Perfect for beginners and experienced operators, the E-Flite Apprentice S 15e ready-to-fly aircraft is a standout choice for buyers not concerned about spending a little more. With an 840Kv brushless motor installed, the Apprentice sets itself apart with a unique combination of power and quiet performance. Out of the box, assembly shouldn't take more than 20 to 30 minutes even for inexperienced users. With a 59-inch molded-foam wingspan, the Apprentice requires a sizeable field to maximize its potential after takeoff. The 3200mAH battery that lasts for around 13 to 15 minutes, depending on performance and aerobatics.

For the brand-new flyer, the inclusion of SAFE technology helps provide extra protection for the aircraft by quickly leveling out if there’s any trouble (read: a gust of wind) that can quickly knock the 2.2-pound Apprentice off course.

Best Glider: E-flite U2980 UMX Radian

There’s a reason E-flite planes continue to make this list: the quality is consistent across all manner of devices, including the UMX Radian, a deceptively powerful glider that’s both exciting and easy to fly. The AS3X technology enables stability in a large range of conditions, whether navigating windy fields or enclosed spaces. Although it's light, it’s hardy enough to handle tough landings, making it ideal for someone experienced at flying RC planes, or someone who is just learning how to pilot. However, keep in mind that while the 43-gram structure can handle turbulence, it shouldn’t be exposed to anything as strong as a major gust of wind.

The brushed power system relies on a single-cell Li-Po battery that offers up to 10 minutes of flying time and can be recharged with the accompanying USB charger; purchasing additional batteries can lengthen ​its time in the air. The three-channel control doesn’t allow for overly complex stunts but, combined with the curved wing, it guarantees a smooth, natural ride. The one-piece wing can be removed after use and stored for safe-keeping and easy transportation. 

Best for Kids: FunTech 3-Channel RC Airplane

With its colorful accents and durability, the FunTech Remote Control Airplane is perfect for both enthusiasts and beginners alike — especially kids. Coming fully assembled in the box, the plane, which has a 16-inch wingspan, is ready to fly as soon as you are. The FunTech Airplane is built for those not as familiar with the open skies: though its EPP foam body is lightweight, it can handle a few crashes as new pilots become more comfortable. Though it is not capable of overly sophisticated maneuvers, with a little practice, pilots will be able to master basic stunts and learn how switching the throttle can change the elevation and acrobatic potential. It has a 10-meter range and can be used both inside and out thanks to an infrared remote control that improves stability and performance in the air. The three-channel aircraft has a flying time of up to 10 minutes, although some users have reported it lasting as long as 25 minutes when fully charged.