RC Glider Wingspan

What Wingspan Do I Need To Glide Successfully?

Published: August 2, 2019


Categories: R/C Gliders

It’s always exciting to soar across the sky borne on the power of the elements. RC gliders are the perfect choice for all those who are looking for something unique and less dependent on electrical parts and motors. Then, the question begs itself – if I’m to use the power of wind, what wingspan is best?

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Let’s start with the basics. The minimum size is 1.5 m (about 5 feet) on average. That said, there are 30 – 40 cm (an average of 1.15 feet) wingspans for beginners. Long wingspans help the craft stay up by gliding through the air without having to use the motor all the time.

Powered gliders include a propeller and a small motor, allowing you to get the glider up fast. Once it’s up and maintaining adequate altitude, you can minimize the power and catch thermals for practically infinite flight time. This post has more information about what makes a good RC glider.  

Is Bigger Better?

Size does matter when it comes to wingspan – bigger is always better for stability. On average, a 78.7-inch wingspan (6.5 feet) will do. This will never disappoint. Size is a complicated thing. One thing pros look at is the wingspan to wing chord ratio, with the norm being seven or eight to one. A full-size glider may have a much bigger wingspan. Shorter wingspans (40 inches) render the craft more flexible and versatile.

It’s of benefit to have raised wing tips because this provides more stability. You don’t need this, however, if you have a dihedral in the center of the wing and ailerons like many hand launch gliders. The wing’s weight also matters, and it is related to the wing area. It’s a good idea to measure your stabilizer as well as your wing. To get the wing load measure, you need to divide the wing area (sq/dm²) by the weight in grams. This will determine how the glider will move in different weather conditions.

Most models come with nominal values. The wisest thing to do is to start with hand launch gliders that have no electronics and wingspans ranging from 30 to 40 cm (around 1.15 feet). This is when you see how they really fly. Center of gravity (CG) is of paramount importance as well.

What is the Optimal Wingspan?

Most pilots say 2 meters (just over 6 feet) is the optimal wingspan length. Of course, machines with bigger wingspan will have a better glide ratio, better performance, and a better sink rate, but the turn radius is greater, and they normally need a higher start to reach thermals. You also need to take factors like site, budget, transport, and shop size into account.

How Big a Wingspan Can You Get?

In the course of our research and through almost a decade of flying experience, we’ve found that the answer to this is up to 5 m (16.5 feet). A model’s wingspan could be predetermined if the craft has to comply with a particular specification. The biggest glider wingspan we’ve heard of is the Orlik II, manufactured back in 1939 by Warsztaty Szybowcowe in Poland.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Big RC Glider Wingspan?

Once more, here’s a roundup of the pros and cons. A big wingspan is not suitable for aerobatic flight, where a 1.6-m one would be excellent. It is hard to assemble and the process isn’t very fast. Glow is required. On the upside, it is very good for long-term gliding and the craft is easier to see. For thermal machines, the golden standard is 3.2 -3.4 m (10.8 feet). 

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