RC Airplanes



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A look at an RC Airplane Engine (gas powered)

The engine in an RC airplane is a pretty fascinating thing. It is very much like any other kind of gas powered engine so if you are familiar with how they work then you have a good sense for a plane engine. Let me point out a few things about the engine that you might not know if you are unfamiliar with them.

I also have a tutorial on how to fuel up and start the plane engine. How to start an RC airplane engine



If you have bought your plane and engine in an all inclusive kit then you are pretty much ready to go. They have been matched to fit together perfectly. But if you have bought a plane kit and you need to add an engine to it you should make sure you get a size and type engine that is compatible with the plane. For the majority of planes the mount that the engine goes to is a standard four bolt mount that will fit a variety of engines. But the big difference can be in the size. So make sure you get an engine within the recommended size for the plane.

The Types of Engines

Glow plug

First lets talk about the name of this kind of engine. Generally they are called Nitro engines because of the fuel they use. They are Internal combustion engines just like in your car or lawn mower but they burn a different kind of fuel and they don't use spark plugs. They use something called "Glow Plugs".

In a nutshell the glow plug is what starts the combustion cycle going. You apply an electrical charge to it and it heats up. This "glowing" gets the engine going. To get the glow plug glowing you use a hand held tool called a glow plug starter.

A glow plug starter

This hand held tool that looks a lot like a screwdriver is the glow plug starter. It has a battery in the handle. You press it down onto the glow plug and lock it in place with a twist. The voltage is applied and the plug glows.

Some types are rechargeable and they can be bought with the recharger all in one kit.

Placing the glow plug starter

Glow Plug starter is in place and charging up the plug.

This is something you do just to start the engine running. Once it is running you remove the starter.


Model airplane engine strokes and sizes

Model engines come in a variety of different sizes (from very small to very big) but they come in two different types - a 2 stroke or a 4 stroke. These names refer to how often they fire. A two stroke engine fires once every revolution of the engine and a four stroke engine fires once every second revolution of the engine.

The vast majority of RC engines are two stroke for a few very good reasons. They are very easy to manufacture and thus much less expensive. And because of their simplicity they are more powerful than four stroke engines. This high power to low weight ratio is very important to the craft of flying and designing rc airplanes. All of these things make them good candidates for RC planes. The four stroke engines do however last much longer, sound more realistic and run smoother. Four stroke engines are often what are used when building replicas of real planes. But, for the most part you will be using a two stroke engine.

The size of engines

They are measured as a displacement number. The size of the engine is denoted by the amount of space the piston travels through in a single stroke. While this sounds difficult to understand the only thing you really have to know is that the bigger the number the bigger the engine. And be sure to get a size that is compatible with the plane you will be installing it into. The mounts for these planes are almost all very generic and compatible but within size limits. Read through the recommendations that come with your plane and get an engine that is within the recommended size. The engine I use in this tutorial is a .455 cu in.

Let's take a look at the engine

the RC airplane engine

It is a pretty simple set up. This picture shows some of the points that I have been telling you about. The glow plug is on the top.

The throttle linkage is the gas pedal. This is linked to a servo in the plane that you operate with the hand held controller. So, turning this linkage makes the propellor spin faster or slower.

The propellor shaft is what you mount the propellor and the spinner to.

The muffler is important because these small two stroke engines can be very loud.


The engine mounts

The engine mounts very simply onto the engine mount inside the front of the plane by four bolts. This picture shows the two bolt holes on this side of the engine. There are two more holes on the other side.


the engine adjustment screws

The idle screw (near the carburetor) is adjusted to set the idle speed of the engine. And the mixture screw is a fine tuning adjustment of how the air and fuel are mixed.


Engine is mounted

And there you have it. The engine is mounted in the plane and ready to go.

Just a matter of four bolts then hooking up the two fuel lines, connecting the linkage for the throttle (gas pedal) and putting the propellor and spinner on.

Want to watch some videos about this exact engine and how I install it in a plane and run it? Check out my RC airplane playlist on Youtube The videos include assembling the plane, installing the engine and starting the engine up.


Sports Cub S RC Airplane

The HobbyZone Sports Cub S RC Airplane

  • Everything you need to fly RC today
  • SAFE technology from Horizon Hobby
  • Recovery with the pull of a trigger with Panic Recovery mode
  • Proportional 4-channel control with working throttle, rudder, elevator and aileron
  • Steerable tail wheel for easy ground control


Fieldl Pack

Start-Up Field Pack

  • Sturdy cardboard construction Tote Box
  • Includes manual fuel pump
  • Two Hangar 9 glow plugs
  • 4-way wrench
  • Rechargeable glow driver with charger


The Evolution Engine

Evolution Trainer Power System: A

This is the exact engine that I purchased and use in my plane, and in this tutorial. It is available on Amazon.


Book: Getting Started in Radio Control airplanes

Getting Started in Radio Control Airplanes

The most comprehensive and up-to-date book answers all of the beginning hobbyist's questions about building and flying remote control airplanes. Step-by-step techniques and are illustrated with a wealth of photography and cover all the basics, from choosing and building a first model to covering and finishing it, understanding and installing glow engines, flight basics, and much more