What is a good airplane for beginners?
So you are ready to try Precision Aerobatic Competition (or Pattern as many call it) and you are wondering what you need for an airplane. First, let me say that it's not necessary to buy and build one of those expensive pattern planes to enjoy the thrill of Aerobatic Competition. Most of the potential Sportsman flyers have the misunderstanding that they can't be competitive with anything but a full bore, YS185 powered, full composite, 2 meter plane and they couldn’t be more mistaken. I have seen a good pilot with a sport airplane beat a fully outfitted pilot many times.
The best thing to do is look at what you have right now. You will need a good stable aerobatic plane that you are very comfortable with. Something that is reliable and capable of basic maneuvers. The most taxing maneuvers in the Sportsman sequence are the Immelman and the two loops. Almost any of the popular sport-scale aerobatic models will be capable of these and work well. A .40 size glow model or 4 cell electric is recommended at minimum. They will just be more stable and visible than anything smaller.
All most all of the Edges, Extras, Yaks and the like will work very well. The biggest issue you will run into is most of these are optimized for 3D not precision. Giant control surfaces and 60 degree throws can make it difficult to be smooth and graceful. Some tuning of your setup can go a long way into improving your success. Setting some very mild dual rates and moving the Center of Gravity forward can do quite a bit to tame some of the more wild beasts.
According to the rules anything under two meters (78.75 inches) length and span and less than 5 kilos (11lbs) is allowed. That and a 96 db limit are the only restrictions. At local contest the Contest Director barely has time to think let alone do a tech inspection on every airplane. If you want to fly something larger contact the CD before event and make sure. The majority of times the CD will be so excited to have you come there will be no issue. Many events will even add an exception to the sanction to allow any AMA legal plane so make sure you check.
Once you have started practicing and are interested in a dedicated pattern plane here are some ideas how you may procure your first Pattern ship.
First, go to contest and talk to the pilots! All pilots love new gear so almost everyone will have a well set up plane from last year that they would love to sell. The depreciation on RC equipment is huge so you can get some great bargains and usually a ton of info from the owner.
Join the NSRCA and get the K-Factor Magazine. In there are a lot of adds from some of the model kit manufacturers that may be able to supply you with a nice beginners kit at a reasonable price. You will also find tons of information on how to set up that new plane properly.
Get one of the Sport-scale aerobatic ARF's or kits out there, for a 60 to 120 size. There are also many 50 to 1.20 size pattern plane ARF’s now available. These will range from the Sequence from Hobbico or some of the beautiful models from Seba Art or BJ Craft. Search the magazines and the web because there are plenty more including some very low priced versions.
Another option is some of the classic patter or senior pattern designs. The XLT, Escape, or Great Escape kit from Bridi Aircraft Designs, a Kaos from Great Planes, or a King Kobra from Sig Manufacturing and the Phoenix 7 from Horizon are all great flying classics. You don't need tuned pipes or retracts on these models and they can fly the beginning routines with ease.
Next, if you like scratch building, go to Insightrc.com and look at some of the free plans and short kits available there. Some great flying planes that are a straight forward build. Also, look for the thread on Jeff Carder’s beautiful Lightening on RCU. A great looking and great flying plane that he will email you the plans for.
Lots of great options for the aspiring pattern pilot each is unique and will quickly become your favorite airplane.