Learn the Interesting History of ARTF Aircraft

Almost Ready-to-Fly (ARTF), also called ARF, is a remote controlled or guided airplane that is mostly built and pre-covered. This ARTF only needs less time for assembly and requires the installation of radio, power system, and servos.

This type of plane is an amazing way to introduce yourself to basic models and techniques in building aircraft. Without necessarily going far in deep and serious plane construction, you can actually come up with a plane of your own by following the plan and kits or parts available upon purchase.

Whether you are into the traditional construction of ply radio control (RC) plane/balsa or not, the idea of having your own ARTF aircraft is an excellent choice for developing your skills in building planes. Picking ARTF plane models is indeed a perfect solution to your desire to build and fly your own plane.

Understandably, buying your own ARTF plane goes with a cost. As advice, you must understand that having this type of plane is not also a cheap hobby. The buying of an ARTF kit, with all its powertrain components and radio gear, should be seen as a hobby and an investment, noting the cost of the necessary items to build and fly the plane.


Interesting beginning of ARTF aircraft

The development of ARTF plane kit was a product of the RC invention. In 1937, Dr. Walter Good and his twin brother, Bill, started this RC idea. The RC model airplanes are born from this breakthrough development in plane engineering.

The brothers had their first flights at the airport in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The historic flights involved their 8-foot Free Flight (FF) model, where the brothers put their primary form of RC equipment. 

In 1939, they made their Big Guff airplane for RC. Interestingly, another avid plane builder from Australia named Ross Hull also launched his 13-foot RC glider in New York in the same year.

However, in 1938, Leo Weiss was also credited for his first tone reed system. When tech company Raytheon got it, it also promoted its uRK-62 tube, paving the way for single-tube receiver development.

In 1939, Howard McEntee published twin-frequency transmitter schematics.

By 1941, Leon Hillman and Thracey Petrides published their single-channel RC system.

During the World War 2, the United States maximized the usage of RC airplanes, dubbed Radioplanes, as artillery target drones.

Accordingly, the FCC Order 130-C started on March 1, 1946, and made the 6-meter band allocation for the amateur service of 50 to 54 MHz.

“Many modelers, such as I, quickly learned some radio theory and Morse code to be able to fly on the 6-meter band, which gave them an almost personalized frequency at local fields,” admitted Bob Noll in his article at Modern Aviation.

In 1949, FCC provided the first examination-free frequency, which was 465 mc and was limited to 5 watts. 

In the same year, Ed Rockwood paved the way for the first commercial enterprise audio-frequency-modulated reed radio with the development of his multichannel system. The RC modelers had their great year in 1952 when the FCC approved the use of the 27.255 mc frequency, being the first test-free and license-free band, with its output limit of 5 watts. 

In 1953, Frank Schmidt developed a five-channel reed set inspired by Rockwood’s design. Another developer, Don Brown introduced the Galloping Ghost system in 1954. According to Modern Aviation, the system might have been known as the first multi-control system.

By 1956, the so-called first handheld transmitter was developed by Jack Albrecht. Fast forward to the 1960s, at least three significant developments in RC system happened. Doug Spreng flew the first commercial digital RC system in 1962. 


FCC also approved the five frequencies on the 72 MHz band with 80 kHz spacing in 1965. The following year, Proportional Control System’s (PCS) introduced the “revolutionary” $299.95 worth of a completely proportional system with servos and batteries.

Radio-controlled model of S.E.5a W.W.1 aircraft constructed from an E-flite ARF kit (custom-made pilot added)

In the mid-1970s, well-known toy company Mattel joined the RC venture and introduced its cheap single-channel pulse-proportional system, which only cost $29.95. Kraft Systems had its first synthesized RC system on the market in 1976.

“This radio system allowed the operator to change frequencies using the same transmitter and receiver. It had electronic circuits that generated a range of frequencies from a single reference frequency,” Noll wrote.

As the RC system continues to develop, Futaba came up with its Futaba Advanced Spread Spectrum Technology (FASST) in 2011. This model was followed by Futaba’s S.Bus protocol which uses one signal cable to control multiple servos.

Important dates in the history of radio control for model airplanes in U.S.A.

Below is a quick summary of history of radio control, as penned by Don Gray and Giuseppe Fascione in March 2006.


At age 21, twins Walt and Bill Good had their first flights at the Kalamazoo Michigan airport after using RC to their 8-foot gas FF model named KG-8.


 The American Army and Navy utilized RC airplanes called Radioplanes as artillery target drones during the Word War 2.


Jack Albrecht made what is believed to be the first known handheld transmitter.


 Zel Richie launched the first commercially available proportional system called Space Control.


Jerry Nelson piloted the first jet model flown with Dyna Pulse Jet and a reed radio system.


 Howard Bonner promoted the Transmite servo for relayless reed receivers.


 The introduction of FM and PCM.


Giant toy company Mattel joined the RC hobby with its cheap single-channel pulse-proportional system.


 JR Radio introduced the first computer transmitter.


 FASST was introduced by Futaba.


Futaba introduced S.Bus protocol, with one signal cable to manage different servos. This innovation improves reliability, has a lower cost, and is used up to the present time.

ARTF aircraft popularity in recent years

The coming of many ARTF models on the market is great proof of the immense popularity of this hobby or venture.

With an ever-increasing number of manufacturers, you must be extra cautious about buying your own. You have to consider doing some research from video sites or internet forums before buying your own. 

It is also advisable to buy ARTF models made by reputable brands.


ARTF RC aircraft final assembly

Aside from installing the radio gear and motor/engine, your own ARTF RC aircraft should be assembled following some guidelines:

1. Hinge the control surfaces

2. Make sure to fit the landing gear

3. Assemble the fin and tailplane

4. Install the fuel tank (if IC)

5. Check and fit the other peripheral hardware parts

Enthusiasts at RC Airplane also advised new ARTF aircraft hobbyists to regularly check with fellow modelers or contact a hobby shop staff for more information about what they should do to assemble and fly their plane. Advice forums such as RC Universe and RC Groups are also the best help when you need one.