What is 3D RC Flying? Come & Test Your Skill As A Pilot


3 D Flying

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If you’re looking to experience the thrill of flying aerobatics with your rc plane, you’ll need the answer to the question: what is 3D RC Flying?

The term 3D RC Flying means an RC Plane maneuvering acrobatically in three dimensions while in stalled flight. 3D RC maneuvers include the loop, the roll, inverted flight, or a stall turn.

3D RC flying not only looks cool, but it’s a lot of fun! Let’s take a deeper look at this advanced flight pattern, beginning with the difference between a 3D RC plane and others, finding the best 3D RC Planes for beginners, and even looking into the option of a 3D Flying Helicopter.

What is the Difference Between a 3D RC Plane and Any Other RC Plane?

The main difference between any RC Plane and specifically 3D RC Planes is that the 3D RC Plane is designed to function best when it is performing 3D maneuvers. There are a few things about the way that the plane is built that factor into this.

  1. Larger Control Surfaces
  2. Mid-Wing Design
  3. Two-to-One Power-to-Weight Ratio

Let’s take a closer look at why each of these construction factors makes a 3D RC Plane better for 3D maneuvers than any other RC Plane.

Larger Control Surfaces

A 3D RC Plane is built with larger control surfaces than any other type of RC Plane. A control surface is a term that is used to describe the rudder, the elevator, and ailerons of the plane. 

Essentially, any piece of the plane which is designed to move, responding to the radio operator’s commands, is a control surface. 

When a control surface is moved, the air around the plane moves too, giving the operator control over whether or not the plane turns, dips, or rises in the air.

The reason 3D RC Plane control surfaces are larger is that greater control surfaces mean greater control over the movement of the plane. 

One disadvantage to larger control surfaces and 3D RC Planes, in general, is that they typically cannot fly with great precision. Another is that control surfaces make 3D RC Planes more vulnerable to gusts of wind that other RC planes might withstand.

Mid-Wing Design

Most beginner rc airplanes exhibit a high wing to aid stability.

In contrast, a 3D RC Plane tends to have a mid-wing design to help with extreme aerobatics. This way, when a skilled pilot is attempting something counter-intuitive, like a loop, the plane’s self-correcting design won’t sabotage the maneuver.

Two-to-One Power-to-Weight Ratio

Most of the maneuvers executed by a 3D RC Plane are done when the plane has slowed to a speed below its stalling speed. 

To stall means that the plane’s flying speed is too low for the lift generated by the design of the wing. Usually, the plane will drop out of the sky and crash at this point, but a well-designed 3D plane will use a stall to perform 3D maneuvers, instead.

Advanced maneuvers are executed post-stall. The only way for a plane to recover and pull off the advanced moves in the air without crashing is if the plane has enough power to recoup. 

This means that 3D RC Planes must be more powerful than other models, allowing them to stall, perform a risky loop or roll, and then recover without losing altitude.

3D RC Planes generally have power capabilities that account for twice the amount of the plane’s weight.

Best 3D RC Plane for Beginners

The best 3D RC Plane for beginners is the GoolRC WLtoys XK A160 Airplane (Affiliate link to Amazon.com. For the UK, click here. For Canada, here). This is because the best plane for beginners is one that allows for time to learn how to fly with a plane that can handle its share of crashes.

The GoolRC WLtoys XK A160 Airplane is built to withstand the frequent crashes a pilot who is just starting out might suffer from. It is made from EPP polypropylene, which is not only environment-friendly but will resist the deformation that crashing into the ground might cause to less robust materials, such as wood.

In addition to being robust, the GoolRC WLtoys XK A160 Airplane is made so that a beginner can learn the ins and outs of regular RC plane flying, then ease their way into 3D maneuvers. This is possible because the GoolRC WLtoys XK A160 Airplane has two different modes.

One mode is the 6G, which increases the stability of regular flight, making it easy for a beginner to fly. The other is the 3D model, which extends the reach of the plane’s control surfaces and allows the operator to perform trickier 3D maneuvers when they’re ready.

3D Foam RC Plane

RC Planes that are made for 3D maneuvers often use foam for their build material. This is because foam planes are simply more durable than those that are made from carbon or wood, as well as having a low weight-to-strength ratio. 

A 3D Plane is built to maneuver at the very moment a plane stalls, meaning every move that is executed could lead to a crash, even if the operator is very skilled.

Foam RC Planes benefit from the fact that foam does not break when bent, and tends to snap back into its original position even after being deformed by an impact. 

Read more about what materials RC planes are made of, here.

What is an Indoor 3D Plane?

An indoor 3D Plane is an RC Plane that has not only been built with the typical 3D Plane qualifications in mind, such as extra power and control surfaces but made to fly inside instead of outside.

Indoor RC Planes are often smaller than the kind meant to be flown outdoors. They are also lighter in weight and made to fly more slowly, meaning the 3D variation requires slightly less power to perform maneuvers in relation to their weight.

Find out more about indoor flying, here.

3D Flying Helicopter

3D Flying Helicopters are similar to 3D RC Planes in that they are still made to perform advanced maneuvers. The difference between an RC Helicopter and a specifically 3D RC helicopter is simply that the 3D version only has one rotor collective pitch.

This simply means that a 3D Flying Helicopter is capable of lifting and decreasing its lift with very little response time required, which is essential for performing complex maneuvers. 


In conclusion, 3D RC flying is a type of flying style involving advanced in-flight maneuvers. It is executed best when the plane or helicopter has been built to not only withstand harsh crashes but respond quickly to the pilot’s control while stalling.

Featured image credit: burlington_rc Creative Commons, Flickr

About the author

It all started with a line controlled spitfire 50 years ago….

That turned into a life long interest in models, in particular radio controlled models, but I’ve only got back into it since I’ve been retired. As a result a lot has changed, and I’ve been happily starting afresh, researching into the hobby and finding answers to the questions all beginners have when starting out.

I hope you find some answers to the queries you have, and go on to enjoy all aspects of this fascinating hobby.

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