Photo gallery 3 - some more of my models

Fairey Spearfish 22" span

This was built using the plan from the old Veron kit. I made one or two changes as follows:

Used a vac form canopy from Small Scale Custom Services (see useful addresses section)

Added the two recesses each side behind the cowling where the exhaust stubs on the real thing were.

Altered the shape of the top of the fin to make it agree better with my scale drawings (these were copied from the instruction sheet with the Contrail 1:72 scale vac-form plastic kit of the Spearfish). Also added a movable trim tab to the fin.

Made a pair of balsa main wheels of a slightly larger diameter than shown on the plan

Cut a more accurate set of main undercarriage doors from thin card, and surrounded the main gear legs with balsa, sanded to a round section, to give them some substance.

Finally, I made up a five bladed prop (like the real plane had), using blades from three Sleek Streak type props embedded in a balsa and ply hub. As can be seem from the photo below, the front of the spinner is removable to allow access to the winding hook - simply held on with two dowel pegs.

The finish was sprayed overall interior grey/green using Humbrol enamel thinned with cellulose thinners (the real aircraft were painted like this while the authorities decided what to do with them - some never got repainted!) All markings were airbrushed as described elsewhere on these pages.

Initial flights were looked promising, until the crash! - I had to shim the front of the tailplane up to get a reasonable looking glide - no nose weight was necessary, but there again the prop was fairly heavy. All up weight without rubber was 36.5 g. I finally glued the tailplane in position, allowing any fine tuning to be done using the elevator trim tabs. I started with 2 loops of 7/64", which seemed about right. During the first serious trimming session, the model climbed out nicely on a stable looking left turn, then half way through the flight it straightened, turned right, and cruised in a shallow dive towards the ground. Unfortunately it landed badly, and smashed off the right wing.

After this was repaired and recovered, I tried again, and made a second nose block with a conventional two-bladed prop, in case this made trimming easier (less mass whirling away at the front!)

With a competition deadline approaching, I resumed trimming on a rather windy evening on Hungerford Common. It was not long before two good-looking flights were achieved - a stable left climb and cruise, with good height. Unfortunately on the next flight, the model was flipped on its back by a gust, and dived in downwind very fast, ripping off a wing, pulling out several formers and most of the stringers on one side of the fuselage. Verdict - not worth repairing, so the model was ceremonially cremated (my kids always enjoy that!)

Such is life - you have to remain philosophical when building flying free flight models.

Boeing F4B-2

This model was one of my first attempts to build a rib-for-rib replica for indoor competitions, and the work was been very satisfying, but slow. To many eyes, the structure will look way over the top, but you have to remember that for BMFA competition classes you only need a flight of 15 seconds to qualify, and the flights are judged on realism, not duration. Static judging is 50% of the marks, so it pays to make an effort! Basis of the model is the Dave Diels 1/24th scale plan, but with many additions. The most obvious change is the extra wing ribs. These are from light 1/32" balsa, all with individual lightening holes cut out. I have also dropped the top spar so that it is now about 1/20" below the upper wing surface, and is hence invisible. This meant the only way I had of installing this spar was to slide it through from one end, and glue in-situ using thinned aliphatic adhesive. The ailerons are separate, and are be hinged using wire from sandwich bag ties. Both wings have been set up to have a little upsweep at the tips, giving a bit of effective dihedral at the extremities (the upper wing is otherwise flat). Washout has also been built into all tips.

Turning to the fuselage, a few bits of soft balsa sheet were let into the structure - mostly 1/32", but 1/16" around the nose, The additions below and ahead of the cockpit are to help bring out the distinctive transition on the real aircraft between fabric covered and metal areas.

Fin and tailplane parts are as per the plan, but the rudder and elevators have been built separately.

Wheels are balsa, and the prop a Tern 6 incher, cut down slightly to 5.5 inches. The pilot comes from Small Scale Custom Services. The finish is fully airbrushed using enamel paints thinned with cellulose thinners. The chrome yellow wing is actually a richer colour than it looks on the photos, which were washed out slightly by the flash. Most markings are airbrushed, but some (Felix the cat and the fuselage lettering) are home made decals.

The model was rushed to a finish in time for the Alumwell October competition in 1999, and test flights had to be done between competition flights. It was no great surprise that I did not manage a qualifying flight. Got a good static score though! The model resisted all attempts to get it to fly left, so later in the day I gave in and tried a right hand pattern. This looked much more stable, and I did manage one hand-launched flight where the model completed two successful circuits.

Since then, Richard Crossley has been helping me get the thing sorted, and the first recommendation was to add more noseweight, and raise the elevators a bit. This gives better longitudinal stability, and I was able to go back to a left hand flight pattern. The rubber size was increased to one loop of 1/4" (it's a draggy little aircraft) which allowed it to take off and circle (albeit for a limited time), but despite many thrust line adjustments it tends to straighten up before landing - dangerous in a sports hall! I nearly got a qualifying flight at the 2000 BMFA Indoor Nationals, but the model clouted a metal post as it came it to land during its best effort. Still, when it is not bumping into things, it looks nice in the air, and flies quite smoothly.

I would like to offer a big thank you to Chris Parent and Doug Wilkey for the information, advice and encouragement they have given me for this project - I couldn't have done it without them!

Above is a picture of the real F4B-2, from U.S.Navy squadron VF-6B, circa 1931, that I have based my model on.

Dime Scale Stearman 76

In total contrast to the F4B-2, this 1930's design contains a minimum of structure, and is of dubious accuracy, yet has a real charm about it. The challenge is to turn it into a practical flying machine without spoiling its vintage charactor. The model is from the kit produced by Scale Model Flight Co. (available from Penn Valley Hobby Supplies ). The original design was kitted by Comet, but I doubt if the contents then lived up to the very high standards of this "reissue" - which has great wood, genuine Japanese tissue, machined nose cowl, old style balsa prop etc.

First thing to check out was the incidence angles of the flying surfaces (something early kit designers didn't always seem to bother with!) The kit has zero degrees on the stab, and zero on both wings. The accepted wisdom for biplanes currently seems to be to start with approx. plus 2 degrees on both wings, with zero on the stab, so this was sketched in on a copy of the plan (I wanted to keep the original in an unspoiled condition). Next the slot for the tailplane was made deeper, to allow shimming after test flying. I drew in a wire undercarriage, not attached to the balsa legs, to absorb landing impacts, and altered the nose bush design to allow a larger hole for the rubber to pass through. Other additions were some extra sheeting where the lower wings butt join onto the fuselage sides, a couple of extra stringers on the upper decking (I mean just having one at the top doesn't give you much chance of covering it successfully!) and various extra gussets here and there. I also wrapped 1/16" sheet around the engine cowling instead of paper, to give something more substantial to get hold of. In the interests of stability, I enlarged the tailplane slightly, by 105% linear on a photocopier. This small increase meant that I could still use the kit printwood outlines, as long as I cut them out slightly oversize.

Finish is coloured Japanese tissue with airbrushed markings. Wheels are laminated balsa, and the prop is yet again a Tern 6 incher. The model has proved to be an excellent flier - best time so far is 58 seconds.

Antonov AN-2

This peanut scale model was built using the Pres Bruning design. Everything is exactly as per the plan - didnít seem a reason to change anything as Pres is an excellent designer. By using carefully selected wood, I was able to keep the weight down to 11.5 grams (without rubber), including a full airbrushed paint job. The prop is the cottage cheese four-blader shown on the plan. Hardest part was forming tha canopy, which has undercut sections either side (allows the crew to look down on the real aircraft). The part was heat formed over a balsa mould, and I managed (after several attempts) to get the plastic pulled around the bottom of the mould enough to form these sections by grasping the edges of the still soft sheet with an oven glove! Canopy framing is made from strips of painted decal sheet.

Strangely enough, like the Boeing, this was another model which was not happy flying left - it just did not look stable, and kept dropping a wing. Eventually, going right proved to be the answer, and now it climbs away and Cruises in wide right hand circuits. Still some experimenting to do with thrust lines and rubber sizes, but it looks very promising.

Previous page

Next page

Back to home page