Editors Note: The following article is not a step-by-step guide for engine break-in procedures. Instead it is an article discussing safe techniques for the starting of an rc airplane engine. For proper break-in procedures of any rc airplane engine please refer to the engines manual.

Safety should be paramount when it involves radio control airplanes, especially when they are on the ground and running. However, too often individuals develop unsafe practices for handling rc aircraft and then teach these techniques to new pilots. Here we talk about safety procedures for the starting of any rc airplanes engine.

In this article we discuss using an electric starter. While you can start your engine using a start stick, we have found that a little investment in an electric starting kit is invaluable for both your safety and your sanity.

The Night Before

A common Murphy’s Law occurrence is that you get to the field, set-up your gear, and find that one of your vital electronics is completely without power. It seems simple advice but, be sure to charge all of your equipment the night before you plan on flying. Even if you believe the power levels are good, plug in your electronics and ‘top off ‘ that charge.

And for the new pilot make sure you have a few extra glow plugs on hand for your engine as well as the engines manual should something not go according to plan.

The Set-Up

Tie down your airplane and get all your gear set-up paying close attention to where your airplane and equipment are placed. It’s important to keep all items clear to the left, right, and forward positions of the airplanes propeller. This prevents any possible injury to other people and damage to your gear from the likes of a propeller spinning off or breaking.

Person using a wrench to tighten the spinner nut on a Piper J3 CubNext, check that your propeller and spinner (or prop nut) are securely fastened to the engine. RC airplane propellers can and will loosen during flights and if left unchecked you risk serious injury from a potential propeller spinning off. Make sure you check it each and every time before a flight.

With all items secure turn your Transmitter (Tx) on and make sure that the throttle is set to the idle position. One too many times we’ve seen a pilot forget to put their stick to idle, start the airplanes engine, and all heck breaks loose. With the Transmitter (Tx) turned on, now turn on the airplane receiver (Rx) and begin a pre-flight check to make sure all of your control surfaces are working properly.

Starting The Engine

With one hand holding the airplane fuselage, place the glow starter onto the engines glow plug. Be sure to stay clear of the propeller and if you need to, go around to the back of the airplane to put the glow plug on. Warning: With the glow plug installed the engine now has an active & glowing plug and does have the possibility of starting even without your assistance.

Continuing to stay clear of the propeller and holding the planes fuselage with one hand, place the electric starter firmly over the spinner. Do not activate the electric starter before putting it against the spinner as this may result in an engine backfire and possible damage to both you and your engine.

A person using an electric starter to turn over a glow rc airplane engineMake sure the starter is placed firmly over the spinner & crank up the juice! Keep the electric starter running until you hear the engine turn over. As an added measure, even after you hear the engine turn over, keep the electric starter going for a few more seconds ensuring that your rc airplane engine is fully running.

With the starter still spinning and the engine turning over simply pull the starter from the spinner and place it away from the path of the propeller. Now you can safely walk around to the back of the airplane and remove the glow plug starter. Do not remove the glow plug starter by placing your hands or arms over a spinning propeller. You greatly increase your risk of serious injury by doing this.

Final Run-Up

Looking around to ensure that all items and persons are clear to the left, right, and forward positions of the spinning propeller, go around to the back of your airplane to begin your engine testing. Never stand in front of a airplane during engine run-ups!

Finally, increase the safety of those around you by standing behind your airplane with the elevator between your feet during engine run-ups. This ensures that the airplane will stay in place until you’re ready to roll out onto the runway.


  1. varun.shivanna
    October 2, 2010


  2. jonathan
    July 1, 2011

    my older rc planes dont have kill switches. whats the easiest and safest way to kill the motor?

  3. Chatter
    July 1, 2011

    The safest way you can ‘kill’ your engine would be to pinch the fuel line leading to the engine. I’ve done this many times in the past and it has always worked well. Your engine will increase its RPMs right before it dies, so don’t worry when that happens as it’s supposed to. The other way (I do NOT recommended) is to put your finger over the carburator and to stop all the air flow into the engine. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an option as often times the carburator is too close to the propeller and you run the risk of getting your hand caught in it – not good.@jonathan

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