How to Build an RC Sailplane

Written by richard may
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How to Build an RC Sailplane
Enjoy the experience of flying your own hand-built , remote-controlled glider. (soaring glider image by Alan Heartfield from

Flying a remote-controlled sailplane you built yourself can be a rewarding experience. The only thing keeping the plane you built in the air is your skill at flying. Building a sailplane from a kit can take some time, but the skills you learn can help you fix your plane after a crash. Once you construct your first sailplane, you can hone your piloting skills before going on to build your next model.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Sailplane kit
  • Hobby knife
  • Waxed tracing paper
  • Glue
  • Elastic bands
  • Hot iron

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  1. 1

    Purchase a sailplane kit suitable for beginners, such as the Terminator HLG or the Spirit 2 meter sailplane. Kits should contain a detailed plan, templates to follow when cutting out wings and other details, and pre-cut dies for the fuselage and similar parts.

  2. 2

    Compare the plan with the kit's pieces and identify each section of the plane. Mark the sections to make them easy to locate when you need them. Roll out the pattern sheet onto a flat surface and pin down. Place waxed tracing paper over the plans to protect them from glue as you work.

  3. 3

    Cut the sections required to make the fuselage from the kit die using a hobby knife. Some kits may require forming the shapes from balsa using a template supplied. Sand all the rough edges using fine grade sandpaper. Glue them together and clamp them until the glue has set. Elastic bands can be used to clamp pieces together.

  4. 4

    Construct the wing sections from the parts supplied or using templates to cut from balsa or foam sheets. The wing skeleton can be held together with elastic bands pinned to the work bench until the glue is dry.

  5. 5

    Assemble the tail and rudder section. These pieces can be more complicated as they contain the movable flight surfaces that control the sailplane. Take care to ensure the tail and rudder sections are perfectly straight to guarantee even flight.

  6. 6

    Assemble the wing and tail to the fuselage using glue, and clamp the pieces together using elastic bands. Once the glue has set, sand the surfaces of the sailplane with fine grain sandpaper in preparation for the skin.

  7. 7

    Insert the battery pack, servos and radio receiver into the fuselage. Connect the push rods for the rear elevator and rudder to their servos. Ensure the servos have room to operate and the push rods are not in contact with each other.

  8. 8

    Cover the plane with an iron-on skin, the easiest type for beginners to use. Test a small piece on an offcut of balsa wood to ensure the iron is at the proper temperature and will not melt the skin.

  9. 9

    Loop a length of wire around each wing at the joint with the fuselage. Suspend the sailplane by the wire to check the balance between the nose and tail. If the nose dips or rises, you may need to move the battery back backward or forward as necessary. If the battery pack cannot be moved, add small weights to the nose or tail of the plane. Check that the wings are horizontal and add weights if needed.

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