How Do I Know if I Should Buy a Ready-To-Fly (RTF) or an Almost-Ready-To-Fly (ARF) Model?

Originally by Frank Granelli for Sport Aviator

How do you decide whether your trainer should be an Almost-Ready-to-Fly (ARF) or a Ready-To-Fly (RTF) model? The Hangar 9 Arrow kit pictured is a RTF. The engine, fuel system, nose gear and radio are factory-installed. The wing, main landing gear and tail parts bolt together. No adhesive is used. Total assembly time can be as little as 30 minutes and requires no special tools. Hangar 9 Arrow Ready-to-Fly (RTF) kit

The Midwest Aero Star ARF pictured requires engine and radio purchase and installation plus fuel system and nose gear installation. The wings and tail parts use adhesive for assembly. No special tools are needed but some alignment work must be performed. Total assembly time is usually around 20 hours.Midwest Aero Star Almost Ready-to-Fly (ARF) kit

Both aircraft are excellent and each has its strong points. The RTF requires very little work and saves a lot of time. It is also the least expensive as the low purchase price (usually $250 to $380) includes radio and engine. But with only one exception, the Hangar 9 Extra Easy 40 Trainer that includes a JR 421 computer transmitter, the radio systems supplied use basic, 4-channel, non-computer transmitters and non-ball bearing servos. These radio systems do not allow for much growth. Your next airplane cannot have flaps or retractable landing gear for example. You also must use the .40 cu. in. engines supplied with “forty-size” trainers. Again, future growth potential is limited as high performance “forty-size” aircraft do better with additional power.

With an ARF kit, you choose the radio and engine. Five, six and even seven channel radio systems with computer radios and ball-bearing servos are available from every manufacturer for less than $300. There is plenty of growth room with these systems. 45 cu. in. high performance engines are also offered by every engine manufacture for around $80 to $120. These engines are more powerful than the .40 engines and again allow future growth as the pilot develops additional skills. Most ARF trainer kits sell for about $100.

Buying an entire ARF trainer system will cost between $450 and $550. In addition, some basic modeling building skills are necessary. RTF’s cost about $150 less and require no building skills. The choice is up to you.

Read more about selecting a trainer model:

How Do I Know the Difference Between Basic Trainers and Aerobatic Trainers?

How Do I Know the Number of Channels that My Trainer Needs?

How Do I Know What NOT to Fly as My First Plane?

How Do I Know Which Size Trainer is Right for Me?

How Do I Select My First ARF Trainer?