Getting Started Flying: Scratch Build or RTF?


Many beginners contemplate this question of purchasing an RTF or build from scratch.

RTF packages are great to get started. The thing I find the most disappointing about RTF's is that most of the electronics, TX, and RX are not compatible future planes when a beginner pilot becomes more skilled and progresses through the hobby. The planes can be parted out and reused from some other builds but then it becomes a scratch build. Beginner RTF's may be fun to keep around and fly just for fun even after more advanced skills are developed.

Problems with scratch building, especially for a beginner who has never flown; They either come out too heavy, have CG problems, or are impossible to trim out. As a builder you have to mitigate these problems and correct them before you attempt flight. Also there is limited product support for your pieced together plane so you may have to figure out problems on your own or look for help from the community.

What else have others done to get started flying RC? Which path do you think is best.

My goal is to get started flying with quality equipment that will last for many years ahead and be usable for up to the first ~five planes that I will own/fly. I would like to get started in the hobby with quality gear that will be compatible with my future planes as I progress with my skill but also keep the total price similar to a RTF package some choose to begin with. I've been drawn to FliteTest because they want to help people get started in the hobby while keeping costs down.

I've decided to go with the scratch build path. I've built FT-22, FT-Simple Soarer, and FT-Old Fogey. Fogey will be the first one to get electronics. My simple soarer glided 100 ft. with a simple toss, so I'm looking forward to actually powering DTFB planes and flying them. I know I'm going to crash and DTFB airframes are cheap to replace and I like building.

After much deliberation and way too much time crunching the numbers, I finally ordered parts. I didn't go as cheap as I could have, but still think that its is reasonable for what I put together here. I'm starting from complete scratch, hence the long list of items. I decided on getting two power setups because it saved me a second order from HK which comes out to about $20 in shipping. The power systems may not be the correct setups but it should get me flying. I'm hoping to be able to fly all the FT Models with these two systems.

Larger order from HobbyKing: $275.31 after Shipping
1x TURNIGY Plush 25amp Speed Controller= $13.60
1x TURNIGY Plush 18amp Speed Controller= $12.15
1x hexTronik 24gram Brushless Outrunner 1300kv= $9.90
1x Turnigy NTM 28-26 1200kv and prop accessory pack
2x Turnigy 1300mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack= $17.90
1xTurnigy 2200mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack= $9.99
1x Turnigy 500mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack= $7.15

3x TP Slow Fly propeller 9x4.7 = $2.73
1x 3.5mm 3 wire Bullet-connectors pack= $5.25
10xTurnigy TG9e 9g / 1.5kg / 0.10sec Eco Micro Servo= $25.90
1x Male XT60 connectors (5pcs/bag) GENUINE= $2.25
1x Female XT60 connectors (5pcs/bag) GENUINE = $3.30

1x Turnigy Accucel-6 50W 6A Balancer/Charger= $24.10
1x HobbyKing HK-010 Wattmeter & Voltage Analyzer= $19.65
1x Turnigy 9X 9Ch Transmitter w/ Module & 8ch Receiver (Mode 2) (v2 Firmware)= $69.97
1x HobbyKing 1500mAH LiFe 3S 9.9v Transmitter pack= $7.59
1x Turnigy 9X LCD Backlight Kit = $5.15

Other items:
1x Servo Lead Extension (JR) 26AWG(10pcs/bag)= $2.83
1x Simple Prop Balancer= $1.68
1x Lithium Polymer Charge Pack 18x22cm Sack = $2.84

Flight Test Order: $13
20 Control Horns
5 Firewalls

Altitude Hobbies Order: $13.29
Linkage Stoppers 1.8mm dia.
.047" music wire for control rods
APC 8x4E prop
APC 8x6Eprop

Lipo battery tester/alarm 2pcs. $6.27
FMS Sim cable for TX to USB. $6.21 (To be able to use RCDeskPilot SIM)
Thera-Band Blue tube 2ft long. $2.90 ( will be cut into prop savers)

Hobby Lobby: ~20
SureBonder cordless hot glue gun
Glue sticks

Lowes: ~$8
Utility Knife with 10 blades

Rubber Bands ~$1
Bamboo Skewers ~$2
Marking Flags for landing gear~$3
Welding MIG wire for control rods~$Free for me
Heat Shrink~$2-I had some from other projects.

DTFB: $1 per sheet. Probably bought 20 sheets by now.

Other Notes: Use extra servo screws to mount motors. Purchase connector adapters for your charger or get extra connectors of your choice to solder to your batteries.

It brings me out to ~$370. The hot glue gun and utility knife will be used at tools for other projects not just for hobby building. I also wanted to support Flite Test a little as thanks for the work they are doing and will probably buy something from them again.

I hope that some other new hobbyists will find this helpful in making the decision to buy RTF planes or scratch build while learning how to fly.
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Junior Member
nice man! For me I seriously considered flying scratch first. But in the end. I want to fly. And I want experience knowing what a plane is supposed to fly like. I'll work up to scratch building. But for now. Store bought is the way I have decided to go. That said I did build a a storch! I'm just not quite sure where to fly it! Its kinda big!


Things that were forgotten about:
Heat shrink -- I had some.
Motor mounting hardware -- Use extra servo screws or machine screws. M2.5 machine screws are to big and do not fit though the motor mounts. I'm probably going to drill the mount to make them fit.
Connectors and adaptors -- See below

Also make sure you understand all what type of connectors you are using and purchase the proper adapter/extras. I had to switch some of my battery packs to XT60. I also had some issues with the TX Life Pack connectors. I had to cut the connector off and solder it to my LiFe pack and put an XT60 on the other end. I was frantically searching google after my order arrived to figure out what the best solution was for the connectors.

This list also does not include a 12V power supply. But I charge off of my car battery for now until I come up with something better.


Building is a lot of fun. However, you may soon realize that repairing is a pain in the rear. My suggestion would be maybe learn to fly a little bit first. Get a Delta Ray, it will likely pay for itself in saved crashes and frustration.


Senior Member
Wow Brother, you got it bad! From what I saw, you pretty much have every thing you need except a sim. You can save countless hours fixing planes if you spend twice the time on a sim.
The one thing I did notice is that you did not include a workable trainer. I have not built one yet but the Storch seems like a good choice. Start with your 24 gr motor then move up. Another good choice would be the "Maker Hanger Trainer" which I have built. Wonderful platform to learn on.
At any rate Offaxis you seem to be on the right track, keep us posted on your progress and have some fun along the way. WJ.


I also purchased a Sim cable for my 9x and downloaded RCdeskpilot with all the FT planes . the cable was ~$6.50 off eBay. The problem was I got all my electronics at the same time and had the old fogey built and waiting. So I got the itch to fly it with out any Sim time and it was way too windy. But it was worth the crashes. My wife and I were laughing so hard at our attempts at flight. She loved it. I hope I can keep her interested in the hobby. I need a flying buddy.

I set up my dual rates tonight because my throws were huge. With the gusty wind, it was impossible for a beginner to fly. I'm still learning to program my TX. I'm so glad I got a decent computer radio that has these options.

So far I nosed it into the ground numerous times. Hit 2 trees and got stuck in another. I threw walnuts at it to dislodge it. Broke the wing in half and had to rebuild a power pod. No busted props, motors or electronics so far.

That also reminds me. I ordered Thera-band blue tube to cut into prop savers because I did break an o ring.
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Tonight went much better. After setting proper dual rates and forcing myself to be easy on the sticks, I was able to get some nice flight times. I even found out that with a 500mah battery the Old Fogey is able to almost hover. My wife got some video of the flight. I think it flies very well. Then I handed the TX to my wife and she is well.... still learning. But it was fun and totally worth it. I still have zero SIM time and think I did alright.

Unfortunately the motor mount set screws came loose and pulled out the wires. I think i can salvage it with some solder and heat shrink.