RC helicopter for Christmas
Dos and don'ts
This article is for ordinary people rather than future or actual RC heli flyers. This is for those, who are not so lucky, and need to surprise their beloved ones who actually love helicopters. Yes, this article is for people who have no idea, how, what and where to buy or what should be skipped.
Obviously, this article is just a guideline, not a law, there can be other good solutions, but if you have no idea, then it's better to read this, than to get embarrassed at the Christmas tree. And this is even more important, because Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner with full of irresistible offers, the deals of the century.
If you have to surprise a little one, over 3 or 4, there's a good idea. The Little Tikes My First Flyer is your choice. The co-axial helicopter is equipped with a semi-intelligent flight controller, therefore the transmitter is quite simple: 4 functions (including the emergency stop), easy to fly even for them, but it provides the RC feeling. And the helicopter is prepared for collisions, the rodor discs are framed, the risk of any damage is low, serious damage is almost impossible. And its price is also not so high, depending the source it costs between 30 and 50 pounds. A detailed review is available here. We recommend it indeed, despite, we don't have any commission from the dealers and the manufacturer.
Under 3 or 4 we could not find anything good. Couple of years ago the Lego Duplo had few kits with helicopters, but it seems, they were not so successful, the Lego Duplo doesn't offer anything in this topic. The only exception is the VTech Toot Toot helicopters, which are available everywhere in toy stores and on the online market places.
Older children, like 6 or 7-year-old kids can get co-axial helicopters. Most of them are 3 channel versions, they are not recommended. Yes, they are not so expensive indeed, however the 3 channel limits the control to up-down, forward-backward, and turning left or right directions. Moving sideways is not possible.
The lack of the fourth direction does not sound a big deal, but these lightweight models like to break out sideways. A pilot with a routine can manage it quickly with turning in directions and controlling the move forward or backward, but this is super complicated to a beginner.
A four channel co-axial model can move sideways as well, and it's possible to control breaking-outs sideways as well. Many models are very good, and our recommendation is the Merlin Tracer 60, 80 or 90 which are still available, and even spare parts are still listed - in case of a crash. These models themselves are not young, around 8-9 years old, but our old Merlin Tracer 80 is still flying, and survived dozens of crashes even more serious ones. Two blades and a landing skid was replaced throughout the years. This helicopter can be given to adults as well, as first RC helicopter, no age limit. The price is around 70 pounds. We found more on eBay and Amazon as well.
Similar category, still count as toys: Align T-Rex 100X or ESky Sport 150 v2 RTF. They are conventional helicopters with one single rotor and a tail rotor, but the first one is flybar version and discontinued sadly, the second one is flybarless and still available. Both models available in RTF (Ready To Fly) kits, therefore they come with transmitters - but the Align T-Rex 100X i-Version has no transmitter, instead, an Android app or an iPhone app can control it through the special adapter. The KX022005A is still available at few stores and we found it on e-Bay. The ESky Sport 150 v2 RTF is available - for example - at ATModels in backorder.
It's a bit more difficult to fly them than the co-axial models, especially due to the the relative high "pillow effect". This means the helicopters are slipping away close to the ground (until 30-40 cm), because the air pillow underneath them behaves like a skate rink. It's better to practice in a bigger and empty room first, or outside when the air is deadly calm.