2CH, 3CH, 4CH

We’ve discussed various formats of helicopters and you’ve probably (wisely) decided on a coaxial heli on which to learn basic flight skills. But there are more decisions to be made before you place that order for the heli of your dreams! All too often, hobbyists make the mistake of jumping directly to the most extravagant large format model with 6 channels, carbon fiber and anodized aluminum everywhere and end up frustrated when they are unable to fly it and end up breaking expensive parts.

2-Channel Helis

There is a lot to think about when you are flying a heli. It can be very taxing so it is best minimize the number of things to consider and focus on basic flight at first. A basic 2 channel coaxial micro heli will get you flying in no time at all, as they are very small, stable and will allow you to quickly master the basics of tail-in hovering. The two channels of control give you lift (throttle) and yaw (rotation left and right).

One of the most popular manufacturers in this class is Syma. The Syma 9093 Dragonfly and Syma 9083 enjoy a strong aftermarket of replacement parts and upgrades. While these are conventional tail-rotor helis, their micro size and 2-channel operation makes them easy enough to fly right out of the box.

Popular coaxial models in this class include the beautiful AH-64 Apache that looks good enough to display on the bookshelf!

 3-Channel Helis

This is the most popular entry-level hobby-class helicopter, as it allows forward flight. Moving the left stick forward or back gives throttle and causes the heli to lift up or drop down. Moving it side to side spins it around to allow you to turn around. Adding a third channel of control allows the heli to fly forward. This will allow the pilot to practice one of the most basic maneuvers in the learning process, tail in flight away from you, then a turn and flight back. This is harder than it sounds, as left become right and right becomes left on the return trip!

Syma also manufactures several popular 3CH kits such as the Syma S001 and the more recent all-aluminum Syma S006 model. While the S006 does offer some very nice upgrades, and does share some parts with the S001, the beginner may want to consider the availability of replacement parts as the S001 has been on the market for a while, which makes it pretty easy to find replacement parts.


4-Channel Helis

A 4CH helicopter is a little bit more challenging to fly, and may not be the most suitable for some beginners, but is capable of much more realistic flight. In addition to throttle/lift, yaw/rotation and forward/backward pitch, it adds left/right roll. This allows for not only more advanced turning and sideways motion, but generally improved forward flight as the swashplate has more movement, generally being controlled by two servos.


Flight control would look something like this:



We’ll go into the physics involved in cyclic blade motion in later articles, as the mechanics involved are very complex. These are remarkable machines in both their flying ability and engineering/construction. The fact that a beginner can pick up a Ready-To-Fly 4-Channel helicopter complete with electronics, battery, charger, and transmitter for well below a hundred dollars is causing the heli segment of the RC hobby to see massive growth in the past few years.


Some of the more popular coaxial 4CH models include the E-Sky Lama V4 RTF, the Walkera 5#6-1 and the E-Flite Blade CX2. These are considered “mini” helis and require a larger indoor space in which to fly. There are some micro 4-Channel models, but they are few and far between due to the added complexity. The Walkera 4#3 Dragonfly is one of the smallest in this class.


Again, it is important to take into consideration the availability of replacement parts, as the beginner is sure to go through many sets of main blades, skids, and even drivetrain gears in their quest to learn to pilot these machines. It is relatively easy to find replacement parts for the Esky Lama V4, and even upgrade parts to customize your heli, improve flight and increase durability.



NEXT: Learning to Fly

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