RC Airplane Engines
and the Support Equipment
All RC airplane engines require some form of
support accessories to fuel up, start and do simple field maintenance. Here are
hints and tips on selecting the best for your application.
When you are starting out in this hobby, keep things simple
and inexpensive. The "Field Pack" from
Hangar 9, shown below is an
excellent starter kit (like the pun?) and it's price is very good.
The manual fuel pump included should be mounted to your fuel
bottle and the fuel tubing hooked up and you are ready to start most
RC airplanes engines.
The actual box is cardboard but it should last long enough until it can
be replaced by a more substantial wooden or plastic field box.
This kit will enable you to fill the tank, ignite the glow plug,
and start your RC airplane engines by using the "chicken stick". You can also
change the plug and the propeller.
This is all you need to get going- as you will see below, things can get a
lot more complicated!
As I mentioned above the price is certainly right at less than
$50.00. If you would like more details and the possibility of purchasing
this item from an excellent on-line hobby shop, then click on theRED
ROCKET HOBBY SHOP icons.
Red Rocket offer the best in customer service and there is
no sales tax!
The Next Stage.
As you progress in this hobby the above simple initial approach will need a
few additions. Maybe the first addition should be a 12 volt battery. This will
enable you to start your RC airplane engines with an electric starter rather
than using the "chicken stick". As well as giving much more
starting power, the electric starter is step safer than the "chicken
stick". The battery can also be used to power an electric fuel pump
and via some form of voltage dropper, can light the glow plug as
well. I prefer not to do this and use separate glow igniters. I find this
more reliable. A 12 volt battery charger will also be required, but
usually a charge will last a long time (Obviously depending on usage)
Electric Starters are available in many shapes and sizes. The
Hangar 9 model shown is a good general purpose, heavy duty type that should
last a lifetime and start anything but the largest of RC airplane engines.
The alligator clips that are usually supplied can be replaced by phono-plugs
to allow the unit to be plugged in. It all depends on the set-up you use.
Once you have acquired this number of RC accessories, I think the cardboard
box, shown above, will be inadequate to carry the weight!
The Field Box.
The Hangar 9 Field box is only available as a build it yourself kit. The fuel bottle is strapped to one end and the 12
volt battery is placed at the other end to balance things out.
There is a compartment for the transmitter and the opening above the
battery box (at the right hand end) is to accommodate a power panel. (See
The centre area is where your tools can be stored and various small
parts and RC accessories can be stored in the drawer. A word of
warning! If too many tools and stuff are stored in the Flight Box, it
can get very heavy! I always take a separate tool box that
contains the heavy tools and leave it in my car. The only tools in the
Flight Box are for simple field maintenance, such as changing plugs etc.
In my experience the above listed equipment will last a lifetime
and service and start all RC airplane engines up to 1.6 (27cc) capacity.
For the larger engines we require more power!
Here we have a real bargain, a complete kit of all the components shown in
the photo, that will start and keep running you RC airplane engines!
The Hobbico Ultra Tote Complete includes the following-
The fuel pump can be reversed for emptying the tank and the voltage
for the glow plug can be adjusted.
This last feature can be very useful when starting flooded RC airplane
engines by slightly increasing the voltage to the plug. Please
be very careful when in this kind of situation. Remember the starter is
powerful and if the flooded RC airplane engine is turned over in this
condition (known as hydraulic lock) then a severely damaged engine
will be the result!
Always check by turning the engine over a few times, by hand (with the glow
plug disconnected!) If it will not turn over, then the engine must
be relieved, by removing the plug and turning by hand again, until all
that fuel is removed from the engine's cylinder!
you may realize, I am not a great enthusiast of plugging the glow
into a panel! It is good to have it as a back-up, but I much prefer to use a
separate, battery powered glow igniter similar to the one shown here.
I can list three more reasons why it is not a good idea, when
starting RC airplane engines-
A long electrical cord from the panel to the glow plug is
required. This must be kept out of the propeller and is an obvious safety
It is possible to plug into the 12 or 6 volt supplies with the
glow plug lead! This will burn out the glow plug immediately!
( Do not ask how I know this!)
If the 12 volt battery is low, then running the starter and the
glow circuits at the same time will really lower the power and
probably result in a no-start.
The next items to consider are a tachometer and a battery checker.
The tachometer is used to check engine RPM of RC airplane engines
and is a good indicator that all is good in the engine department.
Once you have established a good RPM that results in a successful flight then
this RPM should always be the same.
It is also a good idea to check the low speed RPM. This should give
you a safe, reliable idle speed for landing. I prefer to set-up the
throttle with the throttle trim lever fully forward. When the
landing is complete and the taxi back to the pits is complete, the throttle can
be closed completely by using the throttle trim lever. Note that a
safe idle speed should be at 2000 RPM or even a little lower.
In the world of RC airplane engines, the battery checker is an
essential tool. It is used to check the onboard battery voltage. It
is a great idea to check this before every flight. The checker is an expanded scale voltmeter (ESV) that measures battery voltage very accurately
and is clearly marked with a green "OK" zone. DO NOT FLY if the
battery voltage does not reach the green zone, when under load.
The photo at left shows the Hanger 9 DVT Digital Voltmeter/
Tachometer (HAN 111). This new unit combines a tachometer with a
This unit can check the receiver and transmitter batteries,
under load and can be used with either JR or Futaba
The final item to consider, for your flight box, is a 12 volt
fast battery charger. The 12 volt applies to the input voltage of the
charger. The unit can be plugged into your car's 12 volt outlet and
receiver and transmitter batteries can be charged. Please make sure that the
charger is compatible with your batteries!
If you are using Gas powered RC airplane engines, then you must ensure
that the complete fuelling system is gas compatible. Some Glow
components will actually melt when exposed to gasoline!
If you fly both Gas and Glow, then you must have two
separate fuel systems.
flyers should also carry a fire extinguisher. Remember that gasoline is
extremely flammable and I have seen fires on the flight line!
As always practice safety first! Some of today's RC airplane engines
are NOT TOYS! Serious injuries and even death can result from miss-use of
these units and models!
For your information, I have added a "hyperlink" to
the above photo's
that will take you direct to the appropriate page on the
RED ROCKET HOBBY SHOP website, or to our new Merchant Partner Hobby
People or RC Planet. Once there you have access to further information and you can purchase the various RC accessories from a
very dependable, safe and useful on-line hobby shop.