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They are called Discus Launch Gliders and I'm hooked

They are called Discus Launch Gliders and I’m hooked

This is no exaggeration; I have logged more flying time in the past year than I have in the combined previous 25 years I’ve been in this hobby. You’re probably wondering how in the heck I was able to accomplish that? Easy, I got rid of the motors from my airplanes.

To many this may sound like sacrilege but late August 2011 I purchased my very first sailplane and have been pretty much a glider pilot since. All the blame for my new obsession rest with fellow modeler and friend, Mike Wizynajtys.

It all started several months prior to buying that first glider when Mike told me about an aspect of R/C that looked interesting to him, called Discus Launch Gliders (DLG). He emailed me some Youtube video links featuring DLG flying. I watched those videos and saw guys take a plane; hold onto the wingtip and spinning like an Olympic discus thrower to get the plane into the air. I was amazed at how high they were launching these planes. After watching a couple videos I thought, “That looks like an interesting spin on flying R/C”. [pun intended]

At first I wasn’t too sure about this whole “glider” thing because I fly testosterone driven, smoke belching, manly aircraft. I’m talking macho machines with spinning daggers of death capable of dismemberment in the blink of an eye. Figured if I even looked at a glider, my man card would be revoked. Although the brute force involved for getting a DLG aloft fulfilled the “manly” aspect, so I was interested.

After a many months of kicking the idea around and both of us doing research on the subject, mostly in the hand launch section of RC Groups, Mike jumped first and bought a used DLG off the internet. Shortly after the plane arrived Mike installed a receiver and programmed his transmitter to fly a plane [cough, cough] with no motor. After the plane was set up and ready to fly I gave him a hand with the maiden flight. That day we took turns controlling the sticks while the other one threw the plane by using a very safe overhead launch (AKA Javelin style). Even though neither of us had ever flown a glider before, it was apparent some adjusting was necessary to get the CG a little more forward.

A few days later, with all adjustments made, we performed maiden flight part deux but this time at my house. We did many flights using the overhead throw to launch the plane, in order to get used to a plane not capable of motoring itself out of trouble. Then Mike decides our man cards are in jeopardy and its time to do as the plane is designed; grab a hold of the wing and discus launch that sucker. With his transmitter in one hand and the wing tip of the plane in the other he did a cautious discus spin. With this launch he gets it up high enough to quadruple the flight times we were getting previously, going from 5 seconds to 20.

Mike invites me to give it a whirl [more intended puns]. Whoops… That flight ended with an unfortunate meeting with the side of my house. No damage is done and we go back to flying again, both taking turns trying our hand at this very unfamiliar and awkward discipline.

With each subsequent throw we are both gradually improving our technique and get a little more comfortable with the launch as well as flying a glider. With improved technique came higher launches and with higher launches came longer flights. All was going predictably well… That is until “IT” happened.

We had been at this for about forty minutes and with my umpteenth turn on the sticks I was in yet another flight that; due to a lack of a motor and not really knowing what we were doing, was going to end as quickly as it began. Although before the plane could float its way back to earth, luck would intervene and change things.

Despite being a very calm day the plane did a little bobble about 30 feet above the ground. At that point I put it in a gental left bank to make a circle and the very moment I did the clouds parted and a choir of angles started to sing. As narrow beam of sunlight came shining down on that blessed little plane I completed half a dozen circles with no loss of altitude at all. What had happened is I just received my very first taste of flying a glider in rising air. That would be my last flight of the day because I went inside to search the net for my own used DLG. I was hooked!

Even though Mike and I both feel we still have a lot to learn about thermal soaring to this day, we sure have come a long way since those humble beginnings in my backyard and have done a lot too.

Discus lauch

Taking an R/C airplane from less than 100 feet above the ground to several hundred in a rising thermal can be an exhilarating experience, Although its the competitive aspect we have found most enjoyable.

In just one year we have competed in several local contests and traveled out of state to participate in much larger events. In June we traveled to Kentucky to be part of the largest DLG contest in the country, called “The Bruce”. I know Mike will return blame now because going was my idea. Then in July we became first time competitors at the Nationals in Muncie, IN flying the discipline known as F3K.

Me launching and Mike timing for me at a contest

Me launching and Mike timing for me at a contest

Let me give you a little overview on the competitive side of DLG. Here in Michigan, where Mike and I live, there is fairly decent sized contingent of DLG pilots and in our short time we’ve seen that number increase as the popularity of this aspect of R/C spreads. Our local contest are held at the Greater Detroit Soaring and Hiking Club (GDSHS), and many times those contest will draw guys from Ohio and Canada.

Currently there are 10 different “task” under F3K rules and all are timed. A contest director can make up a single contest using any combination of task which he feels provides good mix of challenge and variety. A task typically involves multiple launches and flights within a time window. One example of an F3K task is the 5×2, which involves five flights with a maximum time of two minutes each and all five must be completed within a 10 minute window. There is no penalty for flying over or under the two minutes, however when that happens the consequence is lost time. What the pilot is attempting to do is get all five flights as close as to the 2-minutes as he can. Those who are able to do this and quickly re-launch the plane between each flight are able to record plenty of actual flying time. The pilot with the most accumulated flying time within the 10 minute window is awarded 1000 points for the round. The rest of the pilots in that group are awarded points calculated on how many seconds they dropped in relationship to the best time.

Several gliders working a thermal

Several gliders working a thermal

Bet I know what some of you are thinking about this whole glider thing because it’s probably the same thing I thought prior to getting one: Gliders are for those that don’t know how to fly very well or are afraid of powered planes. That might be the case for a few, especially those that only have an interest in flights that last 30 seconds or less. However if a pilot wants to fly a glider as intended, i.e. keep it aloft for several minutes by just riding rising air, that requires a special skill set. Let me tell you gentlemen, powered flight experience is often a handicap when it comes to learning how to steer a sailplane efficiently.

A storm coming through, the second day of 2012 F3K Nats at Muncie, IN

A storm coming through, the second day of 2012 F3K Nats at Muncie, IN


Watching gliders fly may sound boring but F3K is far from that. Picture if you will, several pilots and their timers wandering around a large flight box. Planes flying everywhere and being thrown at speeds in excess of 70 mph. Depending on the task being flown and the number of pilots in a group, it can look like a chaotic mess or a well orchestrated ballet.

Mike Wizynajtys (left) Author; Scott Rhoades (right) at the 2012 nats photo by Wolfgang Ludwig

Mike Wizynajtys (left) Author; Scott Rhoades (right) at the 2012 nats
photo by Wolfgang Ludwig

Have an interest in DLG? Think we’ve gone off the deep end flying gliders? Would love to hear from your. Don’t be shy, leave a comment below.


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  1. Mike Wizynajtys says:

    Yep… That’s just about how I remember it, Scott. Those beginning times with the DLGs were the most fun I’ve ever had in all my years of RC flying. For anyone reading this, one of the aspects Scott left out and we continually joked about is how much we communicated with each other that first year. I’d call Scott once every other day or he’d call me. We always had some revelation to communicate to each other or some experience we had while flying alone. That year not only did we fly at least once every month of the year but we flew several times a month, right on thru the winter. Of course, that was a mild winter for Michigan I do remember flying when it was so cold that the launch made our arms ach. Even this winter with the much colder winter I’ve flown every month but December and that had more to do with a busy schedule than anything else.

    If you’ve ever thought of giving it a try, I highly recommend it. DLG flying is a blast, from learning the launch to learning how to read the air the challange is significant and rewarding. Keep this in mind. Anyone can simply fly a DLG. Learning to fly one is easy but learning to fly one well is quite a challenge. It’s one of those that keeps you comming back for more. You just know you can throw it higher or that you can ride that thermal or find the elusive lift. After flying DLGs Ive found I have little use for bombing around the sky with a powered plane…. There is no challenge to it.

  2. Reblogged this on Sykose and commented:
    @SykOse. Live. Extreme.

  3. Robin Hoon says:

    I have taken up DLG flying as well, after many years of powered flight! My 1/4 scale Saito-twin powered Maule is packed away in the attic, as well as all my 3-D foamies and electric planes. The powered planes just don’t interest me anymore! Boy I never thought I would say that! There is something so pure and simple about gliders, and searching for lift…………… just doesn’t get any better folks! I get the feeling I did when I was a boy and I would throw that balsa glider over and over, trying to get longer flights every time. Every flight is different, and special again! All I can say is “Try it” you will be amazed at how much you enjoy it!


  4. Scott Rhoades says:

    Robin, I have too much of a love affair with my powered planes to let them set too long, but I know what you mean. I can fly out my back door and it’s just too easy to pick up the DLG and go flying. No fuel, no motor batteries to charge. Before I know it I’ve spent over an hour launching and flying.

    My Name is Scott and I’m a DLG addict.

  5. I’m more like Robin. As you know Scott, I have a brand new powered plane I bought in the middle of last summer that has yet to see the light of day… and I just ordered another DLG. I do however plan on flying the Mini Contender as soon as the weather gets a little better. Now that we’re back on daylight savings time, I’m thinking that going to be soon…..I hope.

    • Scott Rhoades says:

      Yep Mike I know you if get any deeper into DLG your wife will be enrolling you into a 12 step program. I’m keeping my addiction hidden by turning some props once in awhile.

  6. In fact, look at the header of this blog…. See those two planes, the red, white and blue one in the foreground and the yellow one behind it? Those were both my planes back 2 years ago. I think you might have taken that photo at the annual open house. It’s the only time I can remember having both planes at the field at the same time. Back then I loved both of those planes dearly. The big pattern plane now lives in Toronto. I had to fund the new DLG addiction. The yellow one bit the dust and the power system now resides in Frank’s Telemaster…. You know, the powered plane I flew once and then sold back to Frank because I realized it’s not my cup of tea inside two minutes.

    All that said, I really enjoyed flying your Handyman at the Chili Fly so I expect the Mini Contender to get flown as much as a “half dozen” times this year.

    Yep… My name is Mike and I’m a DLG addict.

    • Scott Rhoades says:

      Great, now I can never change the header picture just so your comment will stay relevant. 😉

      I should buy that Telemaster from Frank. I’m willing to try it as a tow plane for the 4m scale glider I bought. It will either work fine or provide one heck of a story for the blog. It’s a win win situation.

      • Change the header whenever you want. People will just have to assume I was out to lunch when they read that comment and go look…. as if that’s any different than their assumptions about me anyway.

        Say, I was just thinking. We wrote that nice electric power article but now I don’t use any of that knowledge anymore. I just buy ARFs and use the power system they recommend…. just like in the old days. It’s says it’s a .40 sized plane so I bought a .40 size engine for it. Except I don’t use any power system at all and that’s a big part of the attraction to DLG flying. No time spent fiddling with power systems of any kind at all. No noise, no broken props, just me, my radio and a set of wings. I do love DLG flying more than I’d have ever imagined.

  7. John Park says:

    Hey, just discovered this and am interested.
    How about a few u tube oor something refs so I can see them in action?
    John Park, Flint

    • Well, John… Ill try to hunt up the YouTube videos that initially piqued my interest.
      Here is one one of them.

      I’m hesitant to show you this one because I don’t want you to think you have to be a world class athlete to fly these planes. We have a gentleman we fly with regularly that is in his early 70s. He not a very high launcher and he still beats Scott and I on a semi regular basis. This is a thinking man’s game as much as anything. It’s really so much fun, you can hardly get a good sense of it on a video…. Heck, you can hardly get a sense of it until you’ve actually flown it. Anyway, here is the next video.

      These are good launching tutorials.

      This is a video of my favorite event. It’s called All Up, Last Down. Everybody launches and you have a three minute window. The last one down wins the round. In the event more that one pilot makes his 3 minutes, they tie. A round consists of three cracks at it. I like it because its head to head flying and there isn’t a lot of thinking. You just launch and try to find the lift and stay up longer than the next guy.

      There is another good one with a team of 4 guys flying but I think I can’t find it because I’m using my iPad and YouTube isn’t all that wonderful on YouTube.

    • Scott Rhoades says:

      Hey John, good idea on posting some videos. Here’s a link to one of my favorite Youtube DLG videos. This is the one that pretty much got me and Mike all jazzed up about trying DLG.

      If you want more just do a Google search F3K. It will bring more videos than you could ever hope to watch.

      • That Vladmir Models video is the one I wanted find. Now that I clicked your link I see that it’s not available on mobile devices like my iPad.

        John, that’s one of the best advertisements for this discipline of flying I’ve ever seen. Be sure to watch it.


  8. Hey Guys! I’m very interested in DLG. Could you recommend a good plane to start with. I have experience with 2M gliders many years ago but would like to get back into it and really like the idea of hand launch. Thanks for your time.

    • Scott Rhoades says:

      Tracy, That is a good question and is one that gets asked a lot on the forums. In fact Mike and I wanted to know the same thing when we first started looking into DLG. As we quickly learned there are many factors to consider when shopping for your first DLG; budget, intentions (would you like to compete), building experience, programming capabilities of your radio, ect.

      There are several good entry level kits that will provide a positive DLG experience and allow you to participate at any contest. Although my recommendation for anybody looking to give DLG a try, is to buy a used plane. As you read above this is what Mike and I did and there are many reasons why I recommend this route. But where do you find used DLGs? If you can connect with DLG flyers local to you, that would be a great place to start. The other place is in the classifieds on RC Groups.

      I know this isn’t a very good reply to your question. Unfortunately the answer isn’t very simple. I could write a whole article on getting your first DLG… In fact I think I will. 🙂

      If you have specific questions feel free to contact me directly at the “Contact Me” page located in the menu bar.


      • Thanks for the info Scott! I realize thats a hard one to answer. When I first got started flying powered planes I made the mistake of going cheap to start with and ended up frustrated and spending more money in the long run to get up to speed. Would rather not do that again. Ill definitely look in the used sections and keep researching what others are using.

        • Scott Rhoades says:

          You’re welcome Tracy. You are correct that you really don’t want to start cheap with DLG. Mike and I originally intended to go cheap, just to see if this aspect of R/C would even interest us. The thought was, if we didn’t like it then we wouldn’t be out much $. There is one specific “cheap” glider we were contemplating buying that is also advertised to be a DLG. Without naming names I will say it’s made by one of the bigger names in the world R/C market.

          When Mike asked around about this plane, a couple guys told him it was such a poor plane that it would likely turn him off of DLG. Unfortunately DLG’s are not cheap and cost will be a barrier for most people wanting to give it a try. I can say though that good DLGs do hold their value fairly well and can be sold easily if you find it just isn’t your thing.

          The offer to answer any of your questions is always open. When you do get a DLG and start flying drop me a note. 🙂


    • I don’t know how I missed that question earlier… Tracy, Scott is right, it’s somewhat of a loaded question in that you’ll get differing opinions and people sometimes hold tight to these opinions. If you can, do like Scott says and get a used plane. Why? Well, DLGs are not really like any other planes out there. Their construction and setup is different than you are likely use to. That said, you came from flying 2m gliders so these won’t likely be a foreign you as they were to me. If you are comfortable with joining wing halves and installing the surfaces in proper alignment and installing radio bits in confined spaces then building a DLG kit should be no problem. In that case, I see people recommending the Topsky range of planes as good first DLG. I’d take a look at the ones offered by Skip Miller Models. Don’t be tempted to buy anything expensive for this first plane. DLG’s take a beating even in the hands of a well seasoned pilot. In the hands of a beginner it’s an even tougher life. Fortunately, the Topsky offerings have bagged wings which are easily repaired and there are lots of parts available for them. If you get the more exotic planes, they can have hollow molded wings which are hard to repair and the replacement parts can take a long time to get.

      Good luck!

      • Thanks Mike! I looked at the Topsky you suggested. Very nice plane. Really like the mini! A couple of the lower end ones are in my budget. Might try to find a used one like Scott recommended. Appreciate your guys help. Can’t wait to start flying.

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