Radio-controlled glider

What are the most common radio-controlled glider repairs?

Published: June 25, 2019


Categories: R/C Gliders

Radio-controlled aircraft such as gliders (also known as sailplanes) are no different than any other radio-controlled aircraft – they occasionally bite the dust when you’re flying them. Not to mention, as you own your glider for any length of time, parts may sustain some wear and tear.

It doesn’t matter whether your radio controlled aircraft is “toy-grade”, which means that it is ready for action right out of the box, or whether you built it yourself, these vehicles are all built around the chassis, which is basically the body of your vehicle.

According to the Radio Controlled Airplane World website, radio-controlled sailplanes, are unique for one main reason – these are aircraft with no motor.  Instead of using a gas-powered engine to turn propellers and fly, which is commonly used on radio-controlled aircraft, gliders use columns of warm air (also known as thermals) to keep them airborne.

What are the three standard glider materials?

  • Balsa/plywood
  • Foam
  • Moulded fiberglass

On the assumption that you will eventually need to repair your radio-controlled sailplane at some point, it’s a good idea to have a basic repair kit on hand. So, here’s a list of essential supplies to keep on hand for repairing your damaged glider.

  • Glue gun
  • Soldering iron
  • Covering material (Try to have plenty of color matches on hand.)
  • Covering iron
  • Soldering iron
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Fiberglass or cotton material (good for reinforcement)
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Clear packing tape

What do you do if your radio-controlled glider “bites it”?

Scope the crash site to make sure that you do not leave any pieces behind. This is probably the most important procedure in the repair process. When you get your glider back to home turf, it’s time to re-assemble all the broken-off pieces. Hopefully, you won’t find that you’re missing anything.

What are common mishaps that can happen to your glider?

  • The landing gear can pancake into the fuselage or tear off completely.

The logic around this type of damage is clear. After all, the first parts to touch the ground is generally your landing gear. Any error in landing your glider can cause a hard landing. Repeated hard landings will eventually result in breakage of the plywood that holds the landing gear.

How to repair it:
  1. Remove the landing gear and put all the parts together. Use thin Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue.
  2. Strengthen the landing gear’s inside platform using triangular balsa stock.
  3. Then use denim or fiberglass, along with epoxy, to bind all the pieces together solidly.
  4. If you have a foam glider, make sure to use foam-safe epoxy or CA when gluing the pieces back together. Then use a clear or other type of reinforced tape
  • Wingtip damage when landing

** First of all, go for prevention. To begin with, prevent rip tears in the wing tips by providing them with a protective covering. You can find several products on the market that can provide that protective covering. Two of those products are adhesive mylar (which sticks to the covering), and plastic wingtip guards. Either one can prevent damage by absorbing any abrasive contact with the ground. However, hindsight is generally 20/20.

Here’s how to repair it if you missed the memo on prevention.
  1. Remove any torn covering shreds. Then fill in the damaged plywood or balsa wingtips. Although you can use wood fillers, spackle or lite spackle are easier to use. You can easily apply it using an old credit card or putty knife. One advantage of spackle is that you can sand it faster than if you used balsa wood, and you get a smoother surface.
  2. When replacing the wingtip covering, cut out a piece of color-matched covering that stretches around the entire damaged area.  This covering should overlap the covering still in place by 1/2” to 1”. It is best to use a covering iron with a higher heat setting, which allows you to stretch and mold the covering around the wingtip curves, which can present some challenges.
  3. If you cannot find covering that matches the other wingtip color, place the new covering color on the other wingtip so your aircraft looks like new instead of like a repair.

**When you have finished repairing your wingtip, this is a great time to take the preventative action of protecting your wingtips that you probably wish you had done before you damaged your wingtips.

  • Holes in the film covering

This kind of damage can occur in four ways:

  1. Inadvertently poking your finger in the covering when picking up your plane
  2. A stick penetrates the covering when landing.
  3. Broken parts damaging the covering
  4. Damage incurred while transporting your glider to the flying area.

**You should not procrastinate in repairing these holes because, left unattended, this kind of damage can negatively affect your aircraft’s aerodynamic stability. Each flight will compound this damage.

You can spot-repair in your flying area by applying some high-quality tape over the damaged covering film. Cut the tape so that it extends 1” beyond or around the damaged spot.  Apply the tape to one side of the tear; then gently pull the tear together before pushing down on the whole tape piece.

When you bring your plane home, perform a permanent repair.
  1. Make sure that you have the same color as the damaged cover on hand. If not, buy some. You can often find information about your covering and brand printed at the beginning of your radio-controlled sailplane’s assembly manual. However, if you can’t find your glider’s cover match, you can still use a clear covering material to repair it. Regardless of whether you are using matching color or clear covering, the repair procedure is essentially the same.
  2. Tack down the repair covering on one side of the tear using a covering iron at the lowest setting. When doing this, work from the center out to prevent the formation of air bubbles under the film. Pull the repair covering until the gap in the damaged covering closes. Then, once again, tack the covering down by working outward from the center. When you have finished this process, turn up the heat on your covering iron and run it over the entire area you just repaired to achieve a solid bond that should last the entire life of your radio-controlled sailplane.

Photo credits:

  1. Featured image: Bob Adams: License:
  2. Burlington RC Flyers: License: