Chapter 2. First Helicopter Selection Guide

Table of Contents

2.1. Classification of helis used in this guide
2.2. Overview of selected machines
2.3. Summary of helicopter sizes

The things to consider when selecting your first helicopter are:

The reason for this is: when you are learning to hover, you will crash. This is a given. Everyone crashes. When you crash, you do not want to spend a fortune repairing the helicopter, because everyone has limited funds. When you crash, you do not want to wait forever for replacement parts, because every day you spend waiting for a part is a day you are not flying the helicopter, and learning something.

Size is very important, because larger helis are more stable and easier to hover. They have more inertia, so they move slower and they give more warning of their intent. Micro helis are more difficult to hover because they are very skittish and wander off in a new direction with very little warning of their intent. Larger helis are not any easier to fly, though.

If you live in an area like Seattle where it rains almost continuously for nine months of each year, I would recommend a fixed-pitch Piccolo. Otherwise the Lite Machines Corona is the best electric trainer available today. The Corona is very stable and acts like a much larger helicopter, so it is nearly ideal for learning hovering.

To make a plane analogy, the Corona is basically the Slow Stick of r/c helicopters. It has a simple fixed-pitch rotor design which is very durable, and usually receives very little damage (if any) in most beginner crashes.

You may be tempted to buy an aerobatic 3D helicopter for your first helicopter. This is a bad idea, because aerobatic helicopters are usually much less stable. They are usually designed with a high center of gravity and very sensitive controls so they can roll and flip faster for aerobatic moves.

Think of this plane analogy: if your were an R/C airplane beginner, should you buy a hotliner for your first plane?

Be sure to purchase your helicopter from a shop that carries a full line of replacement parts and can ship replacement parts quickly. When you are R/C/ learning to hover it's virtually guaranteed that you will crash a few times, and when you do you will want replacement parts ASAP. Any r/c helicopter for which you cannot buy replacement parts is not properly repairable, and is basically a paperweight.

Also, lithium-polymer batteries are fragile and easily damaged in helicopter crashes. For this reason, we do not recommend using lipo batteries on your first helicopter. Some helicopter are not flyable using NiCad and NiMH batteries, and require lipo batteries, and therefore these helicopters are not recommended for beginners.

Also, GET A SIMULATOR. Even a free simulator such as FMS will save you at least 100 dollars or so in replacement parts when learning hovering.

The Walkera helicopters are not recommended for beginner helicopters because the electronics are of very poor quality. Various problems which have been reported include:

These problems will make learning hovering much more difficult.

Recommended first heli choices:

Not recommended for the first heli, but good for 2nd heli:

2.1. Classification of helis used in this guide

  • Living room flyer: These helis are flyable in small indoor areas and also outdoors when completely calm. They are typically fixed pitch helis using wide blades which are efficient at low headspeeds, and weigh up to about 350 grams.

  • Gym flyer: These helis are flyable in larger indoor areas, and also outdoors when relatively calm. They are typically collective pitch helis up to about 600 grams.

  • Backyard flyer: These helis reqire a small outdoor field and are flyable in mild winds up to about 8 km/h (5 mph). Not flyable indoors!

  • Large field flyer: These helis require a larger outdoor field and are flyable in winds up to about 16 km/h (10 mph. Not flyable indoors!