IS YOUR BEST RC HELICOPTER A KIT, OR IS IT ALREADY BUILT?
Making the best RC helicopter decision when it comes to purchasing a kit or a pre-built heli, is more dependent on the person rather than the helicopter.
Once again this is a choice that was not available until a few years ago. All RC helicopters were sold in kit form and you had to spend hours, days or even weeks putting them together.
Recognizing that people’s time is at a premium these days, manufactures have started introducing pre-built or ready to fly (RTF) helicopter kits. Most micro helicopters are sold as ready to fly or almost ready to fly.
Larger helicopters are still mostly in kit form; however some manufactures offer pre-built versions that have even been flight tested – usually at added cost over the basic kit.
What you decide is the best RC helicopter (kit or RTF) is really a matter of individual preference. Before you can know if a kit or pre-built is right for you, it is necessary to understand what building a helicopter is all about.
I actually get that exact question often when I am out flying and my answer is always the same – "building a helicopter is just like putting together a very complicated Meccano set – only harder."
There are hundreds of parts, and each one is important. Because of all the rotating parts, things have to be balanced correctly; helicopters always have some vibration so using thread locker on bolts and set screws is essential.
Helicopters are potentially the most dangerous of all RC models "serious injury or death" seems to be the legal buzz phrase lately and it certainly is true with larger RC helicopters. Not building one correctly will add to that danger substantially.
RC helicopters are not difficult to build, you just have to keep your wits about you and follow the instructions to the letter. None of this "I think this bolt goes here to hold the rotor blade on" and hope you are right. Finding out you were wrong as a razor sharp rotor blade flies off your helicopter at over 400 kph towards you or a spectator isn’t the kind of feed back you want to experience.
You have to realize, even if you do get a pre-built kit, you will still have to perform maintenance on your helicopter or repair it after a crash. One way or another you will have to eventually pull up your sleeves and dive in. This can be intimidating if you don’t have the confidence to put it all back together correctly.
Well, have I just scared the *#@! out of you? Remember this hobby is not for everyone, if you really dislike anything mechanical, this hobby is probably not for you. That is not to say you won’t enjoy flying a RC helicopter, but just like real helicopters, for every hour or so you are up in the air, there is required shop time to keep everything running 100%.
My personal recommendation for your best RC helicopter is to purchase a kit and build it yourself; at least for your first helicopter. This is the best way to familiarize yourself with each component and how every component works in relationship with the next.
Building a RC helicopter is an immensely rewarding experience, especially your first. You learn so much and when you see your heli flying with all those hundreds of parts that you hand assembled – that is a very powerful feeling of accomplishment.
For me, building and performing maintenance on RC helicopters is actually more enjoyable than flying. I build and maintain to relax and have fun. The rewards come when I fly. It is a perfect balance.
I recognize not everyone is the same. Many of you might be like me, but there are just as many if not more in this hobby who live to fly, building and maintenance are nothing more than necessary chores.
This is where pre-built kits make a lot of sense. Once you know all about how RC helicopters are built and you really don’t enjoy building them or have the time – then get a RTF kit. This would be the best RC helicopter for that type of person.
I actually fall into this category when it comes to RC airplanes which I also fly. I really don’t enjoy building them. I don’t like gluing all the balsa together, I don’t like covering them – basically I just want to fly. For these reasons, I only purchase RTF plane kits now.
I wanted to point this out, because RTF helicopter kits are perfect for people who have the knowledge of how they go together, but really dislike the process of building them. I also gave this example in case you are like me and dislike the fussy building process when it comes to planes – you might actually really enjoy building helicopters – they are completely different. They are similar to RC cars and trucks in this respect.
Time in the shop or at the field – as long as you're having fun... who cares!