At the February meeting I met some new folks interested in learning to fly. One of the questions new people always ask is “Should I go gas (meaning glow) or electric?” That is a good question and like all good questions it deserves a good answer. But the answer to this question may depend on whom you ask. We have some members who only fly electric and not glow, and others who fly just glow and gas but not electric. So naturally, most flyers will tell you that what they fly is the best choice. I’m one of the guys that fly both, so I’ll try to give you a fair evaluation. Remember, this article is aimed at folks just getting into the hobby who don’t have any equipment to start with. If I show any dollar amounts it’s just for comparison, you could spend more or you could spend less. New flyers will want to check in the Library section on our club’s website, there is an article that goes into much more detail on the subject of getting started in R/C flying. But now, at the risk of offending both the glow and electric folks, here it goes.

As a beginning flyer you will want to start with a “40 Size” trainer. “40 Size” refers to the glow engine displacement in cubic inches and indicates forty-hundredths of a cubic inch. These trainers have about a five-foot wingspan. The largest selection of trainer models is in this size range. They are easy to see and handle well in the wind. The “40 Size” trainer is what most of us learned to fly on. Engines and electronics in this size range are the most reasonably priced. Equipment gets more expensive as you go either larger or smaller in size.

ELECTRIC: Besides the aircraft, motor, battery and radio you will need some support equipment. Most of the electrics use Li-Poly batteries for power, so you may need an extra battery, ($60) depending on the charge time. You will need a Li-Poly battery charger ($100) if one is not included and perhaps a battery balancer ($60). Depending on the charger type you may need some type of 12-volt power supply ($50).

Minus: Electrics tend to be built light and may not hold up as well as glow models in a crash. There is a smaller selection of “40 Size” trainers. Li-Poly batteries are one of those good news bad news things. The good news is they deliver a lot of power; the bad news is that they do not perform well in extremes of heat (like in summer in car interiors) or cold (fall/winter flying). Li-Poly batteries can catch on fire in a hard crash or while being charged and must be watched while charging.

Plus: Electrics are clean, there is no oily exhaust so there is little or no clean- up after a flying session. No engine adjustments after starting are necessary. Also, no engine break-in is required, simply insert a charged battery and fly again. The receiver usually runs off of the main battery, so there is no need for a separate receiver battery.

GLOW: Besides the aircraft, engine, battery and radio you will need some support equipment: a gallon of fuel ($15); some type of fuel pump ($15); and a glow driver ($15) to heat up the glow plug while starting the engine. An electric starter ($25) and 12-volt flight box battery ($20) to run the starter, or a “chicken-stick” to flip the propeller, are also needed to start the engine.

Minus: Oily exhaust residue needs to be cleaned up after a flying session. The engine needs to be broken-in before flying and most times needs to be adjusted after starting. You need to run the engine dry after a flying session and for prolonged storage. The receiver battery will need recharging after several flights.

Plus: A large selection of “40 Size” trainers is available. Simply refuel to fly again. The models are usually built stronger than electrics in order to better absorb engine vibration. The engines are a little harder to start in the winter, but not really subject to major variations in hot and cold conditions. The receiver battery should be checked between flights but you can get in several flights before they need recharging. Well there you have it, a brief comparison between glow and electric for those getting started in the hobby. I’m sure that there are a few points I’ve missed both good and bad about gas and electrics. But this will give you some idea of what’s involved with both choices and hopefully it will give you something to think about. Remember to check out the Library Section on our club’s website for more information for beginners. The choice is yours.

Fly Smart, Fly Safe, Larry Dudkowski