In some instances a transmitter is supplied with most first models. These kits are especially designed for people getting in to the hobby and can provide you with a cheap entry in to the hobby.
However, you may want to purchase your own transmitter. The good thing is that you can find a good transmitter relatively cheap! The open source community along with manufacturers have produced some really nice transmitters that generally do more than we need.
One important thing to consider when purchasing a transmitter is the mode type. There are two different modes as shown below.
Image: Note that the throttle is not spring loaded as shown above where the stick remains at the bottom position...
So how do you decide which mode is right for you? It may be that you have owned an RC boat or car before. In which case, you already have a preference which side the throttle is on. However, you may not be so lucky! You may have to find a local flying club to try out some different transmitters to see what you like. Alternitively visit a local hobby store to have a look at the transmitter options there.
There is no advantage between mode 1 and mode 2 transmitters. They achieve the same thing - it just comes down to your preference.
Here are some great examples of radio transmitters that are affordable and not only make a good first radio; they’re great to use long term!
Hobby King 2.4Ghz 4Ch Tx & Rx
Image: Hobby King 2.4GHz 4Ch Transmitter & Receiver
This radio transmitter is a fantastic starting point and will allow you to get a taste for the hobby without burning a hole in your pocket! Sure, it doesn't look great and it has limited features - it's only $30-odd!
Image: Turnigy TGY-i6S
As an entry level radio transmitter this radio sure pcks a great deal of features! Like most radio transmitters on the market today, this radio is operates on the 2.4GHz spectrum and has frequency hopping to avoid any interferance from other RC moddellers.
Turnigy 9X 9Ch Transmitter
Image: Turnigy 9X
The Turnigy 9X is a popular transmitter in the RC community becaise it's affordable and packed full of features. This radio is great as a first radio transmitter. It's also great to keep for the long term as it will allow you to fly a great deal of different models.
The coolest features include: The ability to save your models in the memory. 8 channels allowing you to control more than just the plane i.e. a camera or lights, the ability to upgrade components of the radio like the battery.
The TGY-i10 is a great radio transmitter that has a multitude of features. As you can see, it has a great screen that allows you to see a great deal of information about your model.
The feature list is quite extensive but the best part is it comes with a great battery, the ability to download model settings from the internet, expand th memory of the transmitter with an SD card and the list goes on!
Which One Should I Choose?
It really comes down to budget and the time you would like to spend learning radio features. If you think you're going to be hooked on RC flying, you're better off investing in the TGY-i10 or Turnigy 9X. They are two fantastic radios that give any other radio transmitter a run for its money when comparing feature sets.
Sure there's other options in the market. In most cases, other options are much more expensive. So why are the above radios so cheap and packed with features. It's simple - you're buying directly from the manufacturer! Also, the software that runs these radios is open source. That means that you're not paying for the software like you do with some proprietary manufacturers.
One thing is for sure; all of the above radios truely are a great choice as a first radio or for long term use! You can't go wrong!