Apr 15, 2013 6 Comments by

Don’t have a perfectly manicured runway for your backyard flyer? Don’t sweat it, you can easily hand launch your plane to get it in the air. Here are five easy steps to perfecting the technique. Remember to always launch your model straight into the wind. Don’t throw your model downwind (with wind at your back) at a high nose-up angle; this will cause the model to stall, lose lift and hit the ground.

Step 1: Turn on your transmitter and receiver and add a few clicks of up-elevator trim.

Step 2: Grasp the model in your strong hand, and hold the transmitter with the other so you can advance the throttle with your thumb as soon as the model is in the air.

Step 3: Take a step or two forward, and toss the model forward and slightly upward with its wings and nose up or level.

Step 4: As soon as the model is clear of your launch hand, smoothly bring your hand down, and grasp the control stick.

Step 5: Never take your eyes off the model. If the model starts to climb excessively, add a touch of down-elevator. If it banks sharply and begins to veer off course, use some rudder and aileron input to keep it on a straight climb with wings level. Don’t begin a turn until your model is at a safe altitude of 50 to 75 feet.

For low-wing, sport or scale designs, the single-handed “overhand” pitch won’t really do. You either have to grasp the plane’s fuselage behind the wing (which is often too far aft of the balance point), or you can hold the plane from above the wing and launch it underhand in a nose-high altitude at a 20-degree angle. Holding the fuselage too far aft usually causes the model to pivot nose down during the launch. A far better and safer way is to have a friend hold the plane with two hands (one in front of the wing and one aft), so it can be launched sidewinder style, not exactly overhead.



Fixed-Wing Flight School

About the author

Senior Technical Editor About Me: I have a lifelong passion for all things scale, and I love to design, build and fly scale RC airplanes. With 20 plus years as part of the Air Age family of magazines, I love producing Model Airplane News and Electric Flight.


  1. crispin church says:

    is it correct with a outlaw or any delta type to launch a little to the left of the wind direction to stop it flipping over ?

    • Gerry Yarrish says:

      no, this article describes traditional cabin, high wing planes. The safest way to hand launch an outlaw type flying delta wing is overhand overhead if you have a bottm skid to grasp. If you don’t, then have a friend hold the plane from the wingtips (two hands one on each tip,) and launch forward in an underhand fashion.

  2. MICHAEL LATEO says:

    Can I ask a sad question please.
    I like the look of the EPP model in the photo, can you give model details?



  3. Tom says:

    Ok.now how to land? I find it take way more ground to land than launch..

  4. Alan_In_Pgh says:

    I fly mostly 3D profiles. Many don’t even have wheels that roll (like twisted hobbys mini yak). My technique that works very reliably is a gentle underhand toss at 45 degrees above the horizon at about 2/3 throttle.

    Works very well for me – though wouldn’t want to try it with anything bigger than 16 oz.

    Agree with all other advice – especially “launch into the wind”

  5. Tony Oravec says:

    I’ve seen a lot of hand launches over the last 50 years go splat because the launcher starts trying to set a new record for a hundred yard dash, and while off balance, tries to throw the model upwards at a 30 to 45 degree angle. The plane then pivots in his hand so that not only is it climbing at a high angle for it’s forward speed, but also is now at an angle of attack beyond the stall angle for it’s airfoil.
    Most of the planes I’ve launched, I’ve done so by taking maybe a step or two forward while holding the plane level and aiming at a point on the ground maybe 100′ ahead.
    Only plane I can remember that had to be thrown from a run was an early 1960′s kit design called the Wasp, very high wing loading back in the days when receiver, 4 servos, and battery pack weighed at least a pound and a half, and a .60 had less power than today’s .45s.
    Oh, and always as close to dead into the wind as is safe to do so.

Copyright © 2015 Air Age Media. All rights reserved.