Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Static Airplane Models
Just like the flying variety, static models can vary from the cheap and cheerful to the deadly serious with the choice of size, cost and the quality of the finished model being entirely your own choice. The most common variety to be found is the plastic model found in most toy shops and it is this type of model which is often the introduction to the hobby for many who go on to become serious aeromodellers.

If my own experience is anything to go by, your early efforts of gluing and snapping the parts together will probably be rather messy and taking the next step of painting and finishing with the stick-on markings known as decals can often be delayed. But eventually it is the realization that careful preparation and handling and, above all, patience learned from assembling these models that will have most effect on the quality of your finished model and will be the foundation of your later success.

Flying Models

The use of flying models is often referred to as “aeromodeling”, whether it is for fun or competition. The flying model plane may frequently be designed and built according to exactly the same principles that apply
to a full-sized airplane. So the construction of this type of plane can be considerably more difficult. This is not always the case. The strength of materials does not change in scale. So for example a wing can be cut and shaped from foam for a model because the strength of the foam is sufficient for the greatly reduced weight of the model - but this would be impossible for a full sized airplane.

The key to model airplane construction is lightness. So flying model planes will normally be made mostly from a very light wood like balsa and covered with a skin covering – or whole sections such as the wing illustration may be formed out of a strong, light material such as foam. In the early days, and still to be found today, the covering was a tissue paper skin painted with dope. Surprisingly, when the dope dries and hardens, it shrinks the tissue paper over the frame of the airplane, making a very light but strong construction with a hard, though rather delicate finish. These days, modern technology offers greater strength and robustness with very thin and light plastic materials. Traditionally, the fuselage is built up of longerons and formers along with ribs and spars for the tail and wing surfaces. In the more sophisticated models these may be made from solid sheets of thin ply or increasingly these days from very strong, lightweight composite materials.

Models can be powered with many different types of engines, though, because the builder is trying to produce a model as faithful to the original, full-sized airplane as possible, a balance must be struck between the power required and the size, sound, and appearance of the engine (which may have to be disguised).

Kits Versus Pre-builts
Until just a few years ago, models were only sold in kits. You opened the box to discover a bunch of parts, plans, hardware, and an instruction manual. The kits on the market today are the same. Many people enjoy building kits and going through the entire process of putting the plane together.

However, not everyone enjoys spending weeks or months building a plane when their main interest is to fly one. If this is your preference then choose a pre-built plane, which is also a great option for beginners.

Pre-built planes include the following types:

RTF is the acronym for “Ready to Fly”, which means that very soon after taking everything out of the box you can have the plane in the air. You’ll have very few things to assemble. Or, you can also find what are called “true RTF’s”, pre-built kits where everything is assembled, including the radio gear and engine.

This is the acronym for “Almost Ready to Fly”, a type of model airplane that is just that - not complete, but almost. After some hours of assembly, which varies with the kit, the plane will be ready to go. Typically, this type of pre-built comes with the wing halves, tail fins, and fuselage completely assembled and covered. Therefore all you have to do is fit those sections together, install the radio gear and power plant, attach the landing gear, add a few small pieces of hardware, and you’re finished.

If you decide to buy a kit to build yourself then you may well have the choice of pre-built wings or building the wings yourself. As a beginner it is preferable to pay the small extra cost and buy the pre-built wings. These are usually a moulded foam core with a thin wooden veneer. These are more robust and much less likely to be badly damaged in an accident.


There are many initial considerations with model airplanes--here we’ll go over the basics so that you’ll now what to expect.

The cost of your hobby can be whatever you decide to make it. The principles of flight remain the same whether you make paper airplanes from cast off copy paper or the most complex, technical models. All the same, before you do anything else, it’s wise to determine your budget--and then stick with it. For instance, if your really strapped for cash you can find sites on the web which show you how to build models from paper and cardboard, or you could buy a nice fun plane for  $100--or spend $1,000 or more for just the basic equipment of a high-end version. Know in advance where you’ll fall on the scale.

Packages are available that come with all the equipment needed--these often start around $150 for a beginner, and head into the thousands for those involved in competitions.

This can be an expensive sport, and can get out of hand if you allow it to, so it’s best to understand the financial aspects of model airplanes before you go out to buy. Yet keep in mind that you do not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy model airplanes; if you pay attention and give it your all, you’ll have a blast no matter how much you spend. Don’t forget that everything you learn with a low cost model will save you money when you move on to something more expensive.

Trainer RC
Radio-controlled model airplanes are controlled by a radio system that consists of a transmitter (the box that remains with you on the ground), a receiver, receiver battery, and servos. The majority of radio systems are sold with everything needed, which often includes a rechargeable battery pack. It’s best to seek the assistance of a professional instructor when learning to fly your model (for reasons we’ll explore shortly). One advantage of learning with an instructor is that he or she can teach you on what is called a buddy system.

This system is similar to those found in driving-school cars. The instructor has controls just as the student does. In RC buddy systems the instructor will start out controlling the plane with his controls, then gradually allow you to take over. However, if the instructor sees you’re about to get into difficulties, he or she can quickly take over, saving you both cost and embarrassment which usually come in equal quantities when your model makes unplanned contact with the ground!

Trainer planes generally use a radio with four channels. One controls the throttle, one the elevator, one is for the rudder, and the fourth is for the ailerons. More on this to follow….

The Joy of Flight

You’ve always had that dream. You know the one, you take a step and all of a sudden you’re soaring above the clouds. Ever since childhood, the mysteries of the deep blue sky above have attracted you. You wanted to be an astronaut, a pilot, anything to get you up there, where you’d have limitless freedom to bank and turn and glide above the static world below.

But, sadly, life got in the way of your flying dreams. Somehow, at some point, the line of people destined to become pilots diverged from your own. How and why this happened is a personal tale, but it doesn’t mean those dreams must be lost forever (and if you did end up becoming a professional flyer – well done!).

Thousands of people take up flying each year, but they attend no courses, enter no cockpit, and don’t even visit an airport. Still they get the sensation of freedom, the command of controls, the satisfaction of a great landing on a blustery day.

We’ll discuss something that’s more a passion than just a simple hobby. The type of model airplanes in which we’re interested can have wingspans of up to 20 feet, can reach speeds up to 200 miles per hour, and can travel as far as the eye can see. These are serious planes for serious hobbyist.

The great thing about model airplanes is that there is something for everyone. You can choose a simple plane, perfect for a child or novice flyer, or build one from the ground up and get involved in some serious competition. Prices for model planes vary from $30 for an offthe-shelf model to thousands of dollars for a one-of-a-kind creation.

Because of the hobby’s great diversity (and the wonder of flying), you’ll have a blast getting started and quickly become hooked! And this is a social pastime--there are many clubs where you can meet other model plane enthusiasts, plus get the opportunity to watch experts at work.

Convinced? Well then, you’ve got a lot to learn. So sit back, tighten your seatbelt, and put your hand on the throttle--it’s time for lift off!