My Guide To Thrust To Weight Ratio For RC Planes

As with any aircraft, the thrust-to-weight ratio is a crucial factor in determining RC planes’ performance and flight characteristics. How do you calculate this ratio and make adjustments based on the results?

The optimal thrust-to-weight ratio depends on the type of RC plane and its intended type of flying and operator skill level. Lower thrust-to-weight ratios result in a less responsive, sluggish, and slow flying experience. Higher ratios will make the plane faster, more agile, and more maneuverable. 

It is important to understand the thrust-to-weight ratios for RC planes, how to calculate the ratio and methods for improving this characteristic. This information will help you understand your RC plane’s performance and what you can do to tweak the aircraft for the best performance and flying experience. 

Understanding Thrust To Weight Ratios For RC Planes

If you are interested in flying RC planes, you must familiarize yourself with flight principles like a normal pilot must, so you can understand your aircraft’s performance or lack of performance.

Weight is an important metric to understand for flight, which is why the baggage and passenger weight on real-life passenger and cargo aircraft are carefully monitored and regulated.

Check out this guide if you’re interested to know about RC plane’s carrying capacity.

The weight the plane can carry is related back to the thrust and power of the engines on the aircraft. How do these factors relate to flying RC aircraft?

Some definitions of these aspects affecting flight are necessary so we are all on the same page when we talk about these terms.

What Is Meant By Weight And Thrust For RC Planes

To understand the concept of thrust-to-weight ratio, it’s important to first understand the individual factors of thrust and weight and how they affect the performance of RC planes.

Thrust refers to the force produced by the motor or engine that propels the plane forward. The amount of forward thrust generated depends on the motor’s power, the type of propeller used, and the plane’s design. Generally, more powerful motors and larger propellers generate greater thrust.

Weight, on the other hand, refers to the mass of the plane, including the motor, battery, receiver, and other components

The plane’s weight affects how much lift it can generate, affecting its ability to climb and maintain altitude. Generally, a lighter plane can achieve higher climb rates and maintain altitude more easily than a heavier one. This also means that the size of the RC plane can affect the thrust-to-weight ratio.

Factors that affect thrust and weight include the size and shape of the plane, the materials used, and the selected components. 

For example, a larger plane may require a more powerful motor and a larger battery to generate sufficient thrust, but this also increases the plane’s weight. 

Additionally, certain materials may be lighter than others, such as using a carbon fiber frame instead of a heavier metal frame, which can decrease the plane’s overall weight.

You must know your RC plane’s thrust and weight metrics to calculate the thrust-to-weight ratios for your particular aircraft. 

Various tools can be used to measure thrust and weight. A digital scale can be used to weigh your RC plane to accurately measure its weight.

Measuring the thrust can be a little more complicated. A thrust stand, like this one on Amazon, is a digital device that you can use to measure the thrust of the motor and propeller. The thrust holds the plane or motor in place while the motor is activated, and a sensor measures the amount of thrust produced.

If you are a DIY person, you can build your own homemade thrust stand fairly simply and combine it with the digital scale you use to weigh the aircraft.

Some RC motor manufacturers supply the thrust value as part of the motor specifications. If you have the motor model number, you can research the motor online to discover its thrust value if you don’t have a thrust meter. 

The thrust stand will read the motor thrust in grams or pounds, depending on your local measuring conventions.

You cannot calculate the thrust-to-weight ratio of the RC plane without knowing the weight and thrust.  

What Is Thrust To Weight Ratio For RC Planes?

The thrust-to-weight ratio measures the amount of force produced by the aircraft’s motor relative to its overall weight. A higher thrust-to-weight ratio allows for better acceleration, faster climb rates, and increased maneuverability. 

Conversely, a lower thrust-to-weight ratio can result in sluggish performance, reduced climb rates, and difficulty maintaining altitude. 

For these reasons, all RC plane enthusiasts need to understand the importance of achieving the optimal thrust-to-weight ratio for their aircraft.

The Role of Thrust-to-Weight Ratio in RC Planes

The thrust-to-weight ratio is essential in determining how your RC plane will perform, especially for fast-paced flying and aerobatics. 

An incorrect thrust-to-weight ratio will reduce the aircraft’s climb rate and maneuverability, making the RC plane sluggish and unresponsive and have difficulty maintaining altitude during flight.

The optimal thrust-to-weight ratio for an RC plane depends on its intended use and design. For example, a glider or slow-flying trainer may require a lower thrust-to-weight ratio to maintain a stable and controllable flight. In comparison, a high-speed jet may need a higher thrust-to-weight ratio to achieve maximum performance.

If you’re a beginner, you may want to choose a plane with a lower thrust-to-weight ratio that’s more forgiving and easier to control. However, if you’re experienced and want to perform advanced maneuvers, you may opt for a plane with a higher thrust-to-weight ratio to achieve maximum performance.

Some examples of RC planes with high thrust-to-weight ratios include racing drones, aerobatic planes, and high-speed jets. In contrast, gliders and slow-flying trainers tend to have lower thrust-to-weight ratios.

When you purchase an RC plane without a motor, the manufacturer will often stipulate the optimal thrust-to-weight ratio for the aircraft’s structure, weight, and intended purpose. You must ensure you fit the right motor to the aircraft to achieve the optimal ratio for the best flying experience.

This means you must do a little math with the weight and thrust metrics you have gathered on your aircraft and the motor.

How To Calculate Thrust-To-Weight Ratio For RC Planes

Calculating the thrust-to-weight ratio of an RC plane is a simple process once you have the thrust value for the motor and the overall weight of the plane. 

The formula for calculating the thrust-to-weight ratio is as follows.

Thrust-to-Weight Ratio = Thrust / Weight

Once you have both the thrust and weight measurements, divide the thrust value by the weight value to obtain the thrust-to-weight ratio. The resulting value will provide insight into the plane’s performance capabilities.

As an example, if your motor develops a thrust of 840 grams and your RC plane weighs 1.2 Kg, the calculation would look as follows.

0.840 ÷ 1.2 = 0.7

The Thrust-To-Weight Ratio would be 0.7:1 for this motor and weight combination.

The motor value is on the left of the ratio, and the plane’s weight is on the right.

To give you an idea of the ideal thrust ratios for various RC aircraft types, here is a summary table for your convenience.

Type of RC AircraftThrust Ratio
Slow-flying RC Aircraft0.3:1 to 0.4:1
Trainer RC Aircraft0.5:1 to 0.8:1
Fast RC Aircraft0.8:1 or above

Based on these figures, the ratio we calculated will give the RC plane the performance of a fast trainer aircraft.

However, if the RC plane manufacturer recommends a thrust-to-weight ratio of at least 0.8:1, then the motor would not be sufficient to provide optimal performance for this aircraft.

Calculating the thrust-to-weight ratio can help you identify areas for improvement and modifications to achieve optimal performance. 

Improving Thrust-To-Weight Ratio Of RC Planes

There are several ways to improve or adjust the thrust-to-weight ratio of an RC plane, which can enhance its performance and flight characteristics. 

I have listed some factors you can investigate to improve the performance of your RC plane by improving the thrust-to-weight ratio.

  • Upgrade the motor. Upgrading to a more powerful motor can increase the amount of thrust generated. Ensuring the new motor is compatible with the plane’s design and components is important.
  • Choose a more efficient propeller. A more efficient propeller can increase the amount of thrust generated while reducing the load on the motor, resulting in improved performance and thrust from the motor.
  • Use lightweight components. Replacing heavier components with lighter ones, such as using a carbon fiber frame or smaller battery, can reduce the plane’s weight, improving the thrust-to-weight ratio.
  • Streamline the design. Reducing drag on the plane by streamlining its design can also improve its performance, speed, and efficiency.
  • Adjust balance and center of gravity. Properly balancing the plane and adjusting the center of gravity can improve its stability and flight characteristics, improving overall performance and maneuverability.

The aircraft’s overall weight can affect the thrust-to-weight ratio, but the weight distribution and center of gravity can also negatively affect the aircraft’s performance. Read this guide to learn the exact process of determining center of gravity of any RC plane.

The aircraft may be tail-heavy or nose-heavy, which will negatively affect the motor efficiency due to the incorrect attitude of the RC plane during flight. To learn more about each of the issues, check out these respective guides:

It is important to remember to make modifications gradually and test each change to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact the plane’s stability or safety.


Understanding the thrust-to-weight ratio of an RC plane is essential in achieving optimal performance and flight characteristics. A higher thrust-to-weight ratio allows for quicker acceleration, faster climb rates, and better maneuverability, while a lower ratio can result in sluggish performance and difficulty maintaining altitude.

Choosing an RC plane with a thrust-to-weight ratio appropriate for the type of flying you plan to do is important. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced RC plane pilot, understanding the role of the thrust-to-weight ratio and how to calculate and improve it can enhance your RC plane’s performance and flying experience.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Here are some hand picked RC plane weight related articles that may be of interest;

Paul Good

This awesome hobby has something for everyone, whether you like to build your RC from scratch and keep modifying till you've got it to just how you want it, to track racing. You might be out with a boat, or perfecting your skills with a plane. Are you taking some cool pics with your drone? I'm sure my site will help you on your journey.

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