How to: Thermal RC Gliders

Written by robert osborne
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Radio controlled gliders, or RC gliders, stay aloft on rising masses of hot air, or thermals. RC glider owners frequently launch the aircraft with bungee cords, winches or motors that drive a propeller. Some owners launch the gliders by hand. Radio-controlled glider flight is very relaxing, and does not require high levels of concentration. In fact, RC glider pilots often fly from the comfort of a lawn chair. An RC glider pilot constantly searches for thermals in which to fly the glider for extended periods.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Find an appropriate flying field. A good glider flying field has no trees, power lines or other obstacles. Search for a short cut grass field, although a hay field also works.

  2. 2

    Obtain permission from the field's owner before you fly. Educate the owner about RC glider operation. Explain that gliders are quiet and will not present a nuisance.

  3. 3

    Prepare your glider for flight. Assemble the glider. Turn on the receiver and transmitter. Confirm that the glider's control surfaces operate correctly.

  4. 4

    Launch your glider into the wind. Use the launch method appropriate to your glider.

  5. 5

    Maintain constant visual contact with the glider. Watch for changes in the glider's flight characteristics. Thermals are present if the glider climbs upward or if one wing rises.

  6. 6

    Circle the glider within the thermal. Turn the glider in the direction of the rising wing. Circle the glider using both aileron and rudder controls to maintain efficient flight. Continue circling as long as the glider is climbing in altitude and remains in sight.

  7. 7

    Turn the glider out of the thermal. Exit the thermal when the glider stops climbing or if it becomes hard to see.

  8. 8

    Watch the glider's flight pattern. Search for another thermal at your higher altitude.

Tips and warnings

  • Put your name and phone number inside the glider. If the glider becomes lost in a strong thermal, someone may be able to return the glider using your contact information. Do not let the glider fly too far downwind. Flying upwind will be challenging if you lose altitude. Consider joining a radio-controlled flying club. Flying with others provides an opportunity to expand your skills.

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