Having the right runway could make or break your RC flying experience. However, with the right tips and tricks, you can have the runway of your dreams that works perfectly for taking off and landing your RC plane.
Making your own runway can be as difficult or easy as you make it. There are a variety of free or paid ways to make your runway including:
- Flat carpet
- Conveyor belt
- Roofing felt
- Concrete or asphalt
- Smooth grass
The most important thing to remember is to make sure it is as flat as possible.
We will discuss each of these methods of making a runway in more detail in this article as well as give you our personal preference for which way works best for most people.
Using fake grass or astroturf is a great way to get the perfect landing strip and keep it perfect for YEARS with little to no maintenance. As long as you make sure that the ground underneath the turf is flat and stays that way you will rarely have to do any upkeep at all to a runway made out of turf.
The biggest downside to astroturf is that it is quite expensive. If you only need a small amount you might be able to pick up some turf online or on a place like Craigslist for quite cheap but if you are looking to do a large space than the cost can add up.
In my opinion the amount of time and effort you save with this method far outweighs the cost but some people are looking for the cheapest method and this certainly isn’t it.
When I mention flat carpet I am talking about the depth of its pile and not the ground underneath. Obviously you will have to have the ground flat for your runway no matter which method you use to make it but if using carpet you will only want to use some that is commercial style or indoor outdoor carpeting that is extremely low pile.
If the carpet is something that feels soft you don’t want that at all. You want a hard thin carpet that will not hinder your RC plane from gaining speed on takeoff.
Again this can be an expensive option but if you can find a place that is removing old carpet then it can be free as well. Since this carpet will be outside then how dirty it is really doesn’t matter so if you can find a business that is replacing the carpet you might be able to score a free runway.
If you don’t want to go dumpster diving or ask some flooring companies to save you some flat carpet then your next best option is to buy a carpet remnant. These are often the ends of a roll or sometimes carpet someone ordered but never picked up. These can be found at many local stores like Lowes or Home Depot and you can also find them at many local carpet stores as well.
A large conveyor belt, the kind used in bulk conveyor applications, can work great for a runway but the issue is finding a used one. Buying one new will simply blow your budget and not be worth the cost so many people never go this route.
If you are in a town that has many manufacturing plants then you might be able to find a used or damaged one on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, or by simply hitting the dumpsters near those plants. A nice rubber conveyor belt could last you a lifetime if you are only using it as an RC runway and it will withstand the elements without any issues.
If you have never done a roof before or been around when one was being done then you may have no idea what roofing felt is however it makes for a great RC plane runway so learning about it is a good idea.
Roofing felt (also known as roofing underlayment) is the black roll of “paper” that goes on to a roof prior to the shingles being installed. These rolls will normally have 100-400 sq feet of paper on them at a price of $20-$50 on average.
You can often find partial rolls of roofing felt on local for sale sites or pages from people that have extra lying around. One downside to this type of material for a runway is that it doesn’t hold up well and is easily pierced or ripped so one of the above options is normally better if you want your runway to last a long time.
Concrete or Asphalt
These are by far the best possible ways to make your own RC runway but they are also the most expensive by far as well! Concrete and asphalt will last a very long time and will work great for takeoff and landing (as long as you don’t crash on landing) but the cost of pouring concrete or asphalt makes this a rare runway type for model planes.
If you live in the country where you have a nice long driveway then you might be able to use it for landing and takeoff without having to spend anything on a runway at all. Assuming this is not the case for you then you will likely not want to go this route because of the expense.
Of all possible options mentioned above, a majority of RC plane pilots seem to have a preference for grass runways. Not only is this type of runway free but it also provides a sort of cushion for landing your RC plane on. This can be especially helpful if you are a beginner as crashing onto concrete or asphalt can be very unforgiving!
Although grass is the cheapest by far it also requires the most work to keep it looking and working nice. If you let the grass get too long then your RC plane will get slowed down by it and have issues taking off. You will likely have to not only mow it regularly but also use fertilizer, weed killers, etc. so as to keep all of the grass the same height and consistency as weeds are much more sparse and that can make the runway very bumpy.
The site selection and topdressing (mentioned below) will need to be done with all runway materials (besides concrete/asphalt) so it is important to know all about those no matter which material you choose.
For more information on building an RC plane runway be sure and check out the video below.
This is just as important to RC plane runways as it is for normal sized planes. You need to find the appropriate site to take off and land with your plane.
Some things to consider are:
- The flatness of the area
- The site’s level
- How much work it would require to level it
- The site’s drainage
- The site’s slope
- Proximity to a real airport
- Amount of trees or obstacles
Each of the above things are all important when deciding exactly where you want to place your runway. If you can find a spot that is good for all of the above things then it will require much less work before you can take off than if you have a site that has issues with some or all of the above things.
The most important thing to consider of everything mentioned above is how close the runway is to a real airport. If you are within a certain number of miles (five in the USA) then you cannot use an RC plane in that space. Make sure to follow the laws in your area for how far away you have to be from an airport.
Once you have picked out the perfect spot for your runway the next thing that you need to do is to topdress your plot. What I mean by that is to fill out the surface to make it even and smooth. Make sure to use either loose dirt or sand to make it easier to get level. I would not recommend using sand unless you are going to use one of the above materials on top of it as grass doesn’t grow well in sand.
There are a variety of different materials that you can use to build your RC car runway. For most people a good combination of less upkeep but not breaking the bank will often point them towards carpet, astroturf, or a conveyor belt. Which one you choose is up to you and up to what is available near you for a decent price.
Just plain grass is the most common thing used to take off and land but if you are creating your own runway and not just taking off in a local park, one of the other options mentioned above will likely be far better.