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RC Airplane Engines


Your rc airplane will need an engine. The obvious exception are gliders, but we're not talking about gliders here are we? There are several types of engines available to you. The most popular tend to be internal combustion engines, electric motors, jet engines, and rocket engines. Sometimes enthusiasts refer to airplane engines as powerplants, so keep that in mind.

Another type of engine is the old rubber band propulsion. This simply entails a long rubber band wound up over and over again before take off. This may be the most widely used "engine", think childrens toys and some model airplanes. But we won't discuss this here because it's sort of out of place for our discussion. We want the real thing!

Rocket Engines: are generally used on gliders. They boost the glider high into the air, which allows for longer glide times. Solid fuel pellets used to be used for this sort of thing, ignited by regular wick fuses. You can expect a short burst of rocket, just to get the glider into the air. Don't expect to use this type of "engine" more than once. Once you blow the rocket, you have to replace it completely.

Internal Combustion Engines: These create noise. LOTS of noise. You can also expect engine exhaust and routine maintenance. For your bigger rc airplanes, one popular engine is the glow engine which are fueled by methanol, nitromethane, and some sort of lubricant like synthetic oil or castor oil. You need a glow plug to start these suckers. Glow engines generally come in two stroke (cheaper) and four stroke (better fuel efficiency but less powerful than a two stroke) and sometimes six stroke.

Electric Engines: contain a battery that powers an electric motor. In the old days, these were powered by DC-brushed motors and regular old rechargeable packs of nickel cadmium (NiCad). Of course, you could only expect flight times of between five to maybe ten minutes. After that technology moved to brushless DC motors and nickel metal hydride (NiMh) batteries which gave much better flight times. These days, however, lithium polymer batteries (LiPoly or LiPo) are used giving them better flight time than even glow engines.

Jet Engines: Older jet engines used a high-pitched propeller fan (and are multi-bladed) inside a duct work in the fuselage of the plane. .40 to .90 cubic inch displacement engines were usually powered by two stroke engines. Nowadays we use jet turbine engines in rc airplanes that resemble small versions of commercial turbojet engines, which is pretty cool! These take a mixture of synthetic motorcycle engine oil and A1 jet fuel. Most of the time these are too expensive for the average hobbyist.

Which type of RC Airplane engine you end up using yourself can depend on many different things such as the amount of money you have to spend, to how much time you want to spend on upkeep, to how much of a mess you want to clean up. In the end it probably just comes down to a matter of personal preference.

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