I made up this list of kits for modellers who want to build a trainer rather than to buy an ARTF. Most have fully built-up structures, i.e. wings made from ribs and spars and fuselages from longerons, uprights and spacers but where the structure is different - it will be mentioned in the text. All prices are as per those advertised on Sussex Model Centre’s website as of March 2010 unless otherwise stated and have been rounded up to the nearest pound. You will have to allow for the extra cost of postage and packing. Other suppliers are available of course, and this is no direct endorsement of SMC.

Engine sizes refer to two-stroke engines; if you plan to fit a four-stroke please fit something slightly larger. Any of these designs may be converted to electric power; about 75-100 watts per lb being sufficient for a trainer and many of the three-channel models may be converted to four-channel configuration by reducing the dihedral and fitting a false trailing edge and strip ailerons. Generally speaking, I have found that the more mature beginners are better off starting with a three-channel model. Younger beginners seem to be able to manage four-channel models equipped with ailerons from the outset. There are exceptions of course.

Many three-channel models are vintage models mostly derived from free flight designs, i.e. models which were originally not fitted with a radio to control the flight pattern. They were simply fitted with an internal combustion engine and a small amount of fuel to allow for an engine run of not more than about thirty seconds. The models were trimmed to fly in wide circles and once the fuel was exhausted, they would glide back to ground. The first widely available radios were single channel and only controlled the rudder. This allowed the modeller to fit a bigger fuel tank and to steer the model about the sky.
 

Three-channel models (rudder, elevator, throttle)
This firm produces a wide range of vintage models and any of the high wing monoplanes would do but I will restrict my comments to just three of the most popular: the Junior 60, the Radio Queen and the Super 60.
 

Junior 60

A 1946 free flight design produced by Keil Kraft it features a very short nose. Over 1.5m (5ft) in span, it takes a .15-25 engine,(2.5-4cc.). Nice slow flyer with an under-cambered wing section which some beginners might struggle to cover. Reserve your lightest wood for the tail surfaces and you won’t have to put too much lead in the nose. Not very good in a wind but beginners shouldn’t learn to fly in a wind in excess of a Force 2 because the model is blown about all the time and beginners struggle to maintain control in those conditions. See Flair Models section below. £70. 

Radio Queen
Specifically designed for radio-controlled flight in 1949, this was the first model aircraft to fly across the English Channel. It was powered by a .19 diesel but a .40 two-stroke is recommended on the box lid. Over two metres in span, these will fly on a .40 four-stroke quite happily. I used one as a basic trainer to teach beginners with for years until I sold it. £85.

Super 60

Replaced the Junior 60 in 1959. Slightly smaller with a longer nose this handsome model reminds me of an Auster light aircraft. Flat-bottomed wing section makes it easier to fly in a wind and a  .20-25 engine is recommended. Also available as a four-channel model with ailerons but I feel that the three-channel version is a nicer flyer. In the 60’s and 70’s until the foam-winged trainers took over, the Super 60 was the most popular first radio controlled model. £77. 

Novice
Not a vintage model, this is a 50” (1.25 metres) span machine designed for engines of about 1.5cc or 0.09 cu.ins. There is no undercarriage. Simple construction. Said to fly well.

Bushwhacker

The kit of Alex Whittaker's RCM&E plan design. Click here to see a full review of the kit and links to build photos etc. See MyHobbyStore (below) for the plan links. 

 

Flair Models - www.flairmodels.co.uk

Junior 60
Flair produces the 1955 version of the Junior 60. This model features a wider fuselage than the Ben Buckle design. This wider fuselage was introduced to accommodate the rather large receivers which had become available by the mid fifties. It also features a larger rudder and a stronger wing structure than the 1946 version which, after all, was designed for free flight. I learned to fly on one of these and it went through three tail-planes and two fuselages! Remarks about light tails and not flying in winds also apply to this version. £78.

Black Magic
Again a vintage model, this elegant design with its inverted engine and high-mounted tail is a bit more involved in the construction than many vintage designs. Has a 1.5m wingspan (5ft). For .15-25 engines. £78.

Piper Cub
Available as a three-channel model and advertised as such on the Flair website, this was a popular trainer through the 1990s. Please refer to the Four-Channel Models section below for details of the four-function version.

SIG Models kits and a wide range of other American kits, are available from Pegasus Models of Norwich. 

Kadet Senior
Classic American design 78” span model, (about 2m), tricycle undercarriage. £79.25. Up to .46 motor.

Kadet Seniorita

Smaller version of the above. Has a 5ft (1.5m) span, for .15-25 engines. £59.


 

Four-channel models (rudder, elevator, throttle, ailerons) 

Unowot (pictured above)
This model benefits from the practical research which Chris Foss has carried out over the years with both i.c. sports models and slope soarers. The wing is made from expanded polystyrene foam covered in an obechi veneer in two halves. You simply epoxy the two halves together and bind the centre section with fibre glass tape. The fuselage is built from liteply sheet and the sides are already cut out for you. It is also available as a three-channel model. 25 motor. Has a 60” span (1.5m), for a . 25 motor. £86. This was my second model and flew well on an Irvine .20 car racing engine!

Mentor

An established design by David Boddington, it should be a very strong model. Has a 59” span, for .25-40 engines. £75. Available direct from DB Sport and Scale. 
 
 
The Gazelle.
A slightly out of the ordinary trainer. 54-inch wingspan .35 to .40 size engines. 
Available as either a 3 or 4 channel, foam wings, balsa and ply parts. Approx £52

 

Piper Cub
A semi-scale trainer by Dudley Pattinson, available with a built-up or foam veneered wing. 73” (1.85 metres) wingspan. Lite-ply fuselage, for .25-40 engines. £105 - both three and four-channel versions.

Mk4 ATF Kite
Similar in appearance to the Unowot. Balsa veneered foam wings with a sheet fuselage. May be built with either a tricycle or a tail-dragger undercarriage. Has a 65” (1.65m) span. For a 40-46 engine. £105.

  • Goldberg Models

Eagle 2
A 63” (1.55m) span model with tricycle undercarriage. Advertised as having “lots of interlocking parts,” to speed construction. For a .29-40 engine. £100.

Falcon III

A 56” span (1.42m) model with ply fuselage and built-up wing. A classic American sports/trainer, perhaps a little 'hot' with the recommended .35-46 engine for a beginner. As it only weighs 4lbs, it should fly well on a 25. £64.
 

Prangster
Although very little actual building is required, this one is worthy of a mention here. Almost un-stallable and bounces! You can build this plane as either a high winger low winger, and easily swop as desired. EPP foam fuselage and wings and Correx tail surfaces and ailerons. Wingspan - 52 ins. Weight - approx. 3 1/2 Ibs. Flies on a 25 – 46. £70.

T240

A very large trainer. 2.4m wingspan. Lite-ply body which slots together, built-up wings, A 91 engine is the minimum recommended but I have seen one fly quite satisfactorily on a 61 two-stroke driving a 14” prop. £161. Mine flies beautifully on a 91 four-stroke. Available from SMC or direct from SLEC. 
This popular modern plan design (pictured above) is for i.c. or electric power. It is available as a kit too and was featured in RCM&E in 2006 and again in the recent Plans Special issue. Designed by Tony Nijhuis, it's a four-channel trainer for a .40-.46 two-stroke engine.
 
Alex Whittaker's traditional high wing sport model is also a good trainer and very easy to build. A lengthy series of build articles in RCM&E through 2007 covered the construction so RCM&E subscribers can access these in the digital archive. Extra build photos are also here.
Kadett LT 40
Angular trainer with tricycle undercarriage, it seems to be a popular choice in America, 70” wingspan (1.8m) for .30-40 engine, £107.
 
There are five models available ranging from 3ft (0.92m) to 12 ft (3.6m) but the most practical choice for a trainer is either the Telemaster 40 or the Senior Telemaster which span 6ft and 8ft respectively (1.8 to 2.4m). They’re available online or call 07966 550131 or 01743 362125 after 6pm.
 

Telemaster 40

Classic American trainer, (originally a German design). Balsa and ply fuselage and built-up wings make this a very light model for its size. It is capable of flying very slowly. May be built with flaps. Originally flown on a .40, a .25 would probably fly it adequately. Has a 73" wingspan. £90.
 

Senior Telemaster

This is the original 2.4m trainer, (94” wingspan), at 10lbs, (4.5kg) it is very light for its size. Same construction as the T40. Originally flown on a .61 two-stroke, a modern .46 will apparently fly it adequately. Mine uses a .91 four-stroke which flies at low throttle settings most of the time. £119.