RC Airplanes



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Starting an RC Airplane engine - part 2

This is the second page in how to start up an RC airplane. In the first part I showed you the basics of setting up your fuel can and fueling up the airplane. In this part I will show you how to actually start it. I use an engine called The Evolution Trainer Power System. It is a gas powered engine that is specifically designed for beginners. It has smooth idling and running characteristics and it has been pre run at the factory which makes it real easy.But, most of this is very applicable to just about any engine.



Starting the Engine

Priming the engine

The airplane doesn't have a fuel pump so in order to get it started you have to prime it. You do this by placing your thumb over the carburetor and turning the propellor in a counter-clockwise direction. The engine I am using recommends six complete revolutions.

This gets fuel into the carburetor.




Now let's start this plane!

  • Turn on your transmitter
  • Turn on the airplane
  • Have somebody firmly hold down the airplane from behind


Now apply the glow plug starter to the glow plug on the engine. The glow plug looks like a little spark plug. The starter is the gray tool that looks a lot like a screwdriver. It has a battery in it and the tip is spring loaded.

You press it down onto the glow plug and give it a slight clockwise turn. This locks it down onto the plane so you can leave it in place without having to hold it. Now you can go ahead and start the plane.




  • With a finger give the propellor a quick turn in the counter-clockwise direction ( by counter clockwise I mean as if you are standing in front of the plane and looking directly at the propellor). Be careful! Just flip it with your finger in a way that immediately brings your hand away from the propellor.
  • If it doesn't immediately start give it another flick!

That's pretty much it. It should start right up. And from there you might have to tweak and adjust some of the settings in idle and run idle. Refer to the materials that come with your specific engine.

If you have any problems starting your plane you should refer to the troubleshooting guide that comes with your engine.


So, How does all this glow plug stuff work?


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.


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.





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.






Some Troubleshooting tips

  • Have you connected the fuel lines correctly? Is the feed line going to the carburetor? Or have you switched them around when fueling up?
  • Is your plane and transmitter on?
  • Is the battery in your glow plug starter charged up at full charge?
  • Are you using authentic fuel that is recommended by the manufacturer of the plane?
  • If you are using an electric starter is it hooked up correctly to the battery? It could be turning in the wrong direction!


Alternatives to using your finger!

You can use something called a chicken stick or you can use an electric starter. Almost every enthusiast invests in an electric starter. These are made to hook up to the battery in your car so you can start it out on your field or airstrip.


Chicken Stick

Chicken Stick For hand starting of all model airplane engines. Protect fingers from propeller nicks and cuts.



Electric Starter PowerPro HD 12V Starter

Makes starting an airplane real easy.

  • Reliable high-power 12V DC motor
  • For airplanes, cars, boats or helicopters
  • Convenient and easy to operate
  • High-torque output starts engines up to 1.8-cubic inches in size
  • Mounts easily to PowerPro PortaSource


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 airplanesGetting 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