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The thought of radio-controlled (RC) planes may whisk you back to your childhood. Memories of that shiny plane buzzing through the sky, being careful not to clip any branches or low flying birds and always being cautious to lower the plane gradually so it didn’t crash. If this describes you, you also probably remember wondering just how much weight an RC plane could hold before it crashed or was unable to take off.
How much weight can an RC plane carry? The answer to this question can vary greatly depending on many factors. There is not a specific answer because there is such a variety of RC planes available. To determine the weight that can be carried, you must first determine the size of your plane. Most RC planes will be able to carry between 10 ounces and 20 ounces per square foot of wing.
Read on to find out how to figure how much weight your RC plane could be capable of carrying, and how to approach adding weight to your plane.
How Do I Determine The Appropriate Weight For My Plane?
This is, by far, one of the most important things you will do to protect your investment. If you don’t have the weight of your plane correct prior to flying, let’s just say it won’t end well, and you will be facing a great deal of frustration.
There isn’t one set way to determine the weight your plane can hold. Hobbyists may offer many suggestions to determine the weight your plane can hold.
Methods To Determine The Weight An RC Plane Can Hold
Below are two methods many owners of RC planes swear by when determining the weight their RC plane can hold. One is much more scientific than the other, and it is a personal preference when choosing which one to use.
Slowly Add Weight
One tried and true method is to slowly add weight to the plane, all the while checking the balance. You don’t want the plane to dip too far forward or back. In order to add weight, you will need to be prepared to add ballast to the front or back of the plane. This must be done carefully so as not to weigh the plane down too quickly or substantially.
Calculate the Weight That Can Be Added Based on Square Footage
Another way people have used to determine the amount of weight that can be added is by determining the square footage of the wings. With micro-planes, the square footage of the wings is obviously much less.
Several hobbyists suggest the following guidelines:
- Gliders – < 10 oz./per sq. foot
- Trainers: 10-15 oz/sq. Ft
- Sport planes: 15-20 oz/sq. Ft
- Warbirds and heavy scale planes: 20-25 oz/sq.
Notice how minimal the weight is that can be added to the plane successfully. This must be done gradually in order to eliminate the risk of damaging your plane.
Check out the video below to see what a load test of an RC plane can look like.
The Types Of RC Planes And How Much Weight Can They Carry?
Like anything, RC planes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and types. Each of these characteristics is going to determine the load that can be carried by the plane.
Types of RC planes:
- Trainer Airplanes
- Sport Airplanes
- Aerobatic Airplanes
- Vintage RC Planes
- RC Floatplanes
The six types of planes listed each come with their own specifications regarding size and engine strength. The variety of types also fit different skill levels of flyers. For example, if you are new to RC planes, you won’t want to start out with an aerobatic plane because the speed may be overwhelming to you.
Sizes of RC Planes
RC planes can be found in a large variety of sizes. You may choose to build or purchase an RC plane that is small enough to hold in your hand, or you may choose to purchase an RC plane that takes several people to lift.
Beginner or Small RC Planes
When you begin looking at RC planes as a hobby, you will probably want to begin with a small -scale model of a plane. These models are referred to as trainer airplanes or park flyers. They are small, less costly, and have a small engine.
Because of the smallness of these types of planes, you won’t be able to put a lot of additional weight on the plane, if any. The wingspan combined with the engine power won’t allow lift to occur, and you could end up damaging your investment.
Once you have become acclimated to the world of RC planes, you may be ready to purchase a larger model plane that will be capable of carrying more weight. Intermediate planes can generally handle more added weight than beginner planes.
Be cautious with larger planes because it also means larger engines and more power. When you have more power in an RC plane, controlling the plane can be more challenging. That is especially true when you add weight to your plane as that can greatly affect the plane’s handling.
The intermediate level of planes are often sport airplanes. These airplanes have much more speed and require much greater focus and practice to fly them well.
Advanced RC Planes
When you feel like flying trainer and sport planes is no longer a challenge, chances are you are ready to move up to the big leagues of RC planes. You are ready to move to scale and jet RC planes. Both types of planes are for advanced flyers.
Remember, as you move into a higher skill level, your price point is also going to substantially increase. When you are making an investment like this in a hobby, you want to make sure you are comfortable using the equipment.
Many advanced RC planes have details that are so intricate that they are often mistaken for real planes. Knowing this helps you to better understand the time, energy and money that goes into one of these planes.
Because the plane is a much larger scale, the engine is also more powerful, and the plane can carry a much heavier load than some of its smaller counterparts.
What Actually Adds Weight To An RC Plane?
Now that you know the various sizes of planes and the ability level needed to operate each, you may be curious to know what exactly adds weight to the planes. If you purchase your plane already built, from a manufacturer or experienced builder, the weight has already been accounted for, but if you are building your own RC plane, you need to be aware of the glue and other embellishments you choose to use.
Even the smallest changes in the amount of glue or the thickness of a material can cause the weight of your plane to be uneven. When building your own plane always make sure that each part is as close to identical as possible.
What Materials Add Weight When Building The Plane?
When you prepare to build your plane, you know that a key element is going to be glue. There are tons of model glues to choose from, but they are not all the same. I know you already knew that, but let me explain the difference.
If you choose to use heavy glue-like epoxy or tend to get “glue happy” when building the plane, you will add a lot of extra weight in just the construction. You must factor in the weight of the paint as well. In general, we don’t tend to think about paint having a significant weight, but when you are trying to make an object go up in the air, even a couple of ounces can cause an issue.
This can also cause an issue if you apply more glue or paint to one wing than the other. The difference in weight could cause the plane to always tilt to one side or the other.
Other items that add weight to the plane include; the battery pack and signal receiver. These items can help alleviate a bit of the weight but not significantly enough if you have a heavy frame already.
I hope you were able to gather enough information from this article to begin your hobby as an RC plane pilot or enthusiast or to answer the timeless question of how much weight can be added to an RC plane.
For most beginners it is almost always better to buy a premade plane that just needs some assembly. Even buying an already assembled plane is a good idea for a beginner as that way you don’t have to worry about the proper weight distribution as the work has already been done for you.