Flying High: The Ultimate Guide to Balsa RC Airplanes

Flying High: The Ultimate Guide to Balsa RC Airplanes

Balsa RC airplanes have long been a popular hobby for enthusiasts and beginners alike. These model airplanes are constructed from lightweight balsa wood and come in a variety of types, including gliders, trainers, and sport models. The unique features of balsa RC airplanes allow for a customizable experience, enabling builders to create their own designs and experiment with different construction techniques. Balsa RC airplanes are ideal for those who enjoy creating and building, as well as for those who love flying. Whether you are looking to build your own balsa RC airplane, purchase a pre-built one, or just appreciate the beauty and functionality of these model airplanes, there is something in this hobby for everyone. In this article, we will go over the various advantages, types, and construction and flying techniques of balsa RC airplanes, as well as provide tips on maintenance and care.

Advantages of balsa RC airplanes

There are several benefits of owning and flying balsa RC airplanes. Here are some of the top advantages:

  • Balsa wood is lightweight and offers excellent durability, making balsa RC airplanes both sturdy and easy to maneuver
  • If you crash your balsa RC airplane, repairs are generally straightforward and inexpensive.
  • Balsa RC airplanes offer versatility in design and customization, from the type of balsa wood used to the specific model design.
  • Balsa RC airplanes allow for a more hands-on and interactive experience than pre-built models, encouraging learning and skill-building
  • Balsa RC airplane communities are thriving, with many websites and forums dedicated to the hobby, allowing you to connect with other enthusiasts to share tips and experiences.
  • For those who prefer pre-built models, there are plenty of options online, such as Horizon Hobby or HobbyKing, where you can select from a variety of balsa RC airplanes at different skill levels.

What are the advantages of balsa wood?

Balsa wood is a popular material for various applications because of its unique characteristics. Here are some of the advantages of balsa wood:

  • Lightweight: Balsa wood is known for being one of the lightest woods available, which makes it ideal for applications that require a lightweight material.
  • Strength: Despite its lightness, balsa wood is surprisingly strong and has a high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Easy to work with: Balsa wood is easy to cut, carve, and shape, which makes it an ideal material for hobbyists and craftsmen who want to create intricate designs.
  • Floating: Balsa wood is buoyant, which makes it a popular choice for model airplanes, boats, and rafts.
  • Inexpensive: Balsa wood is relatively inexpensive compared to other types of wood, which makes it a cost-effective choice for many applications.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional craftsman, balsa wood can be a great choice for your project. You can find balsa wood at many craft stores or online retailers like Amazon and Michaels.

Types of balsa RC airplanes

There are several types of balsa RC airplanes available on the market. Here are some of the most popular models:

1. Gliders

  • Balsa gliders are lightweight planes that can stay aloft for an extended period without the use of a motor.
  • They are ideal for beginners and provide a great introduction to flying RC airplanes.

2. Trainers

  • Trainer aircraft are larger and more stable than gliders, perfect for those who are learning to fly RC airplanes.
  • They offer easy control and are forgiving of pilot errors, making them ideal for beginners.

3. Sport Models

  • Sport models are designed for more advanced pilots, with greater speed and maneuverability than gliders or trainers.
  • They can perform impressive aerial stunts and are perfect for those who want to take their skills to the next level.

4. Scale Models

  • Scale models are made to look like real aircraft, from vintage biplanes to modern fighter jets.
  • They are popular among collectors and hobbyists who enjoy building and displaying their models.

5. Electric-Powered Models

  • Electric-powered models use a rechargeable battery instead of fuel, making them cleaner and more efficient to operate.
  • They are popular for indoor flying and in areas with noise restrictions.

Popular balsa RC airplane manufacturers

If you’re looking to purchase a balsa RC airplane, there are many manufacturers to choose from. Here is a table of some of the most popular brands:

Manufacturer Specialty Notable Models
Great Planes Trainers and Sport Models Extra 300SP EP, Spirit 100
SIG Manufacturing Classic, Scale, and Sport Models Kadet Senior, Rascal 110
Hitec Micro, Park Flyer, and Sport Models Twister, Sky Scout

How Many Types of RC Planes Are There?

There are various types of RC planes, and they can be classified according to their design, control mechanism, and intended purpose. Here are some of the most popular types of RC planes:

  • Trainers: These are beginner-friendly planes designed to help new pilots learn to fly. They are typically stable, easy to control, and forgiving of mistakes. These are a great starting point for anyone new to RC planes.
  • Aerobatic: Aerobatic planes are designed for pilots who want to do stunts and tricks in the air. They have high manoeuvrability and can perform rolls, loops, and other acrobatic moves.
  • Scale: These are detailed replicas of real-world aircraft, and they’re designed to look as close to the original as possible. They’re perfect for collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate the beauty and history of aviation.
  • Warbirds: These planes are modelled after military aircraft from World War II and other conflicts. They’re a great choice for history buffs and those who enjoy simulated air battles.

There are countless models available on the market, but it’s essential to find a model that suits your skill level and flying preferences. Before purchasing a plane, make sure to read reviews and do your research. Websites like Hobbyking and Amazon offer a variety of options for purchasing RC planes.

Building your own balsa RC airplane

Building a balsa RC airplane from scratch is a rewarding and educational experience. Here are some tips to get started:

1. Choose a plan or kit

  • Find a plan or kit that suits your experience level and interests.
  • Start with a simple design and work your way up to more complex models.

2. Gather your tools and materials

  • Get the necessary tools and materials, including balsa wood, sandpaper, a sharp hobby knife, and glue.
  • A cutting mat and T-pins will also come in handy during the building process.

3. Follow the instructions

  • Read and follow the instructions carefully, taking note of any special considerations and safety precautions.
  • Ask for help or advice if you run into any problems.

4. Enjoy the process

  • Building a balsa RC airplane takes time and patience, but it can also be a lot of fun.
  • Take breaks when needed and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your project come together.

Resources for building balsa RC airplanes

There are many resources available to help you build a balsa RC airplane. Here are some websites and products to check out:

1. Balsa USA

  • Balsa USA is a leading supplier of balsa wood and other materials for RC airplane building.
  • Their website offers helpful tips and tutorials for building your own RC airplane.

2. Guillow’s

  • Guillow’s offers a range of balsa RC airplane kits and plans, as well as tools and accessories for building your own airplane.
  • Their website also offers video tutorials and tips for beginners.

3. Building RC Airplanes

  • This book by Stephen M. Sikora offers a comprehensive guide to building and flying balsa RC airplanes.
  • The book includes detailed instructions and illustrations for building several different models.

Can you build an RC plane from scratch?

Yes, it is possible to build an RC plane from scratch if you have the technical expertise and knowledge. However, it requires a lot of time, resources, and effort to make one. Here are some things to consider if you are planning to build an RC plane from scratch:

  • Research and gather information on building RC planes. There are many online resources available, including websites, forums, and video tutorials that can guide you in the process.
  • Choose the type of RC plane you want to build based on your skill level and interests. There are different types of planes, such as park flyers, trainers, and aerobatic planes.
  • Create a plan and design for your RC plane, which includes the materials, parts, and tools you will need. Make sure to have a list of all the required equipment.
  • Shop for the necessary parts and materials. You can find most of them online or in hobby stores, such as motors, speed controllers, batteries, servos, and propellers.
  • Assemble all the parts together, following your design plan. Make sure to test every component before finalizing assembly.
  • Test-fly your RC plane in a safe and controlled area with an experienced pilot or instructor, and make any adjustments if necessary.

If you are new to building RC planes, it is recommended to start with an RC plane kit or purchase a ready-to-fly model. There are many online stores, such as HobbyKing and Horizon Hobby, that offer a wide range of RC planes, kits, and parts for hobbyists of all skill levels.

Flying balsa RC airplanes

Flying a balsa RC airplane can be a thrilling experience, but it is important to do it safely and responsibly. Here are some tips for beginners:

1. Find a suitable location:

  • Look for an open, flat area with no obstacles or people nearby.
  • Avoid flying near airports or other restricted airspace.

2. Check the weather:

  • Check the weather forecast and avoid flying in strong winds, rain, or other adverse conditions.
  • Choose a calm and clear day for your first flight.

3. Start with a trainer plane:

  • Choose a trainer plane for your first balsa RC airplane, as these models are easier to fly and more forgiving.
  • Practice basic maneuvers such as takeoff, landing, and turning before attempting more advanced maneuvers.

4. Use a simulator:

  • Consider using a simulator such as RealFlight to practice flying a balsa RC airplane before taking to the skies.
  • Simulators allow you to practice and refine your skills without risking damage to your airplane.

Resources for flying balsa RC airplanes

There are many resources available to help you learn how to fly a balsa RC airplane. Here are some websites and products to check out:

1. RC Groups:

  • RC Groups is a popular online forum and community for RC airplane enthusiasts.
  • Their website offers a wealth of information and advice on flying balsa RC airplanes.

2. RealFlight RC Simulator:

  • RealFlight is a popular RC simulator that allows you to practice flying a balsa RC airplane on your computer.
  • The software includes a range of planes and flying sites to choose from.

3. AMA Flight School:

  • The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) offers a range of resources and training programs for RC airplane pilots.
  • Their Flight School program includes online courses and in-person instruction for pilots of all skill levels.

Maintenance of balsa RC airplanes

Taking care of your balsa RC airplane is essential to keep it in good condition and extend its lifespan. Here are some tips for maintaining your airplane:

1. Clean your airplane after every flight
– Remove any dirt, debris, or moisture from your airplane after each flight.
– Use a soft cloth or brush to gently clean the surface and remove excess oil or fuel.

2. Store your airplane properly
– Store your airplane in a dry, cool place to prevent warping or damage from moisture.
– Avoid storing your airplane in direct sunlight or near sources of heat or humidity.

3. Check for damage before and after each flight
– Inspect your airplane for any damage or wear before and after each flight.
– Check for cracks, splits, or other signs of damage, and repair them as soon as possible.

Replacement parts for balsa RC airplanes

If you need replacement parts or repairs for your balsa RC airplane, there are many resources available. Here are some websites and products to consider:

1. Tower Hobbies
– Tower Hobbies is a popular online store that sells a range of balsa RC airplanes and replacement parts.
– Their website offers a user-friendly interface for finding the specific parts you need for your airplane.

2. Horizon Hobby
– Horizon Hobby is another online store that sells balsa RC airplanes and replacement parts.
– They offer a wide range of parts and accessories for many different types of balsa RC airplanes.

3. Local hobby shops
– Consider visiting your local hobby shop for replacement parts or repairs.
– Many hobby shops offer repair services and a range of balsa RC airplane parts and accessories.

How do you take care of an airplane?

Taking care of an airplane is crucial to its longevity and safety in flight. Here are some basic steps to follow:

Steps Details
Regularly clean the exterior Keep the exterior of the plane clean and free from debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive products that may cause damage
Perform regular maintenance checks Check the engine, tires, fuel system, and other important components regularly to ensure everything is in working order
Store the plane in a dry, protected space Avoid exposing the plane to harsh weather conditions. Consider storing it in a hangar or covered area
Follow manufacturer guidelines Always refer to the manufacturer’s guide for maintenance and care instructions specific to your plane model

For more detailed information on taking care of your airplane, you can visit websites such as or products such as The Complete Private Pilot Training Course on Udemy.


Flying balsa RC airplanes can be a thrilling and rewarding hobby for all ages. From building your own airplane to learning to fly it, balsa RC airplanes offer an exciting and educational experience. By following the tips for maintenance, you can keep your airplane in top condition and extend its lifespan. And should any repairs or replacement parts be necessary, you have several resources available to keep your airplane flying. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced RC pilot, balsa RC airplanes are a great way to enjoy the thrill of flight and challenge yourself. So why not give it a try and see what adventures await you in the skies?