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How Do I Choose the Best Scale Glider?

Mal Baxter
Mal Baxter

Choosing a scale glider can be a daunting task for beginners when facing the multitude of model aircraft available. Intermediate and expert scale model pilots can have even more choices. Scale glider models are commonly based on real flying aircraft, scaled down to hobby size and made in varying degrees of durability. To select the best model, consider the skill level of the operator, the materials of the model, its components and ease of handling, the kinds of flying you may do, and costs.

Like their full-sized counterparts, scale glider aircraft are characterized by long, ponderous wings and graceful lines that provide unpowered lift, and they stand out among models. Model gliders are good for beginners to learn on before attempting radio-controlled flying with powered aircraft. With large wingspans, they typically feature low drag and great aerobatic capabilities.

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Woman posing

These craft are sometimes made from wood, plastic, or fiberglass, and sometimes polymer foams, carbon and composites, in numerous wing configurations. Able to ride natural winds like thermals and drafts around slopes, scale gliders can also be controlled from the ground by a transmitter. For beginners, the more indestructible the model is, the better, for the literally steep learning curve of model flying. Scale gliders attract enthusiasts with their signature profiles and are often based on numerous real-world aircraft with their own fascinating histories. Hobbyists may prefer models based on their favorite real-world aircraft.

Scale glider models typically come in various sizes and can range in cost from tens to thousands of dollars. Wing shape will affect their maneuverability, so it pays to do a bit of research in wing differences. People may plan to try thermal soaring, riding rising thermals, or slope soaring, gaining lift on updrafts around hills and cliffs. Combat is another hobbyist favorite. These or other plans may all weigh in on your choice of design, wing configuration, and cost.

Degree of controllability may affect your choice — for example, if the ailerons and elevator are controllable, and if there is a motor. Another consideration is how much work will be required preparing the model for actual flight, as well as the type of launching you will likely be employing — hand, tow, bungee, or piggyback. It's important to keep in mind that some scale glider models are better suited for beginners who can later grow into the increased options of intermediate levels. Advanced and competition-grade gliders are best left to those who have learned their craft from experience.

In addition to the scale glider, kits may come with other accessories to sweeten the pot. These might include cockpit interiors,stickers, and other design elements. Cameras permit stunning aerial views for recording or live viewing. Some models feature opening canopies for added effect. With the detail and degree of design found in so many choices, half the fun of choosing your model may be in the search.

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