Andrew Jorgensen
It's better than bad, it's good!

RC Airplanes

Noah said to me something to the effect of, "Daddy, let's buy an airplane and fly it!" He's three years old. I don't know where he got the idea, but it sounded like a good one so I promised him I'd look into it. My friend and co-worker Jake Cahoon flies RC planes so I asked him if it was possible to buy a decent airplane for cheap. He said he'd been thinking about the same thing and he'd look around on the various forums, etc. and see if anything cheap was worth buying. A couple of days later I walked into his office and saw a very small plane on his desk. "What's that!?" I asked. "I got it for thirty bucks at Toys'R'Us," he says. I was so impressed I bought one on the way home from work that very day.

Aero Ace

Apparently these things get rave reviews on hobby forums and the like, and with good cause. The Air Hogs - Aero Ace is easy to fly and works precisely as advertised. It's made of a higly flexible foam and are very light-weight, I've crashed ours several times and it's still as good as new. The lightness of the plane makes it almost impossible to fly in much wind but if you've got enough wind you should be flying a kite, not a plane. When I say it's easy to fly, though, I'm not kidding. We let Noah fly it as much as we do and he does just fine. His friend Abby (also three I think) was even flying it through the lower branches of trees and recovered nicely from a couple of crashes, it doesn't take much.

It's a dual-prop plane. Altitude is controlled by speed. Turning is accomplished by varying the speed of the two motors. The controller takes 6 AA batteries. The plane charges off the controller in about 20 minutes and flies for a solid 10 minutes, which rounds out to about 25 minutes or so of good times if you're taking turns. My experience has been that this is just the right amount of flight for one evening. They say you can charge the plane about 25 times off a set of batteries. I haven't flown it enough yet to know for sure but Jake confirms this assertion. It comes in 3 channels and 6 colors (two per channel).

Now I don't want to give the impression that these things are perfect: I had to return my first one for a faulty battery and my second one didn't have the antenna screwed in properly. The wings on the one I have now are a little bit lop-sided. It's clear that SpinMaster's quality control leaves something to be desired but for the price I'm not surprised and if you can return a defective one and get one that works it's worth the trouble. I've also been told not to expect as much from the other Air Hogs planes, this one is their best.

I highly recommend buying one of these. I never owned anything remote-controlled as a kid and for $30 I've got something that more than makes up for that.