Photo gallery 13

Mercury Mistral

I built this model alongside the Achilles - it has an identical wingspan of 24" but is a more modern design, so made an interesting comparison. As you can see, it is basically a miniature Mercury Sirocco. I used an old, partially started kit - the previous owner had obviously built the fuselage as all the bits for that were missing, but all the strip and die cut ribs were still there for the flying surfaces. Some of the strip wood was useable, but some was really horrible and hairy so needed replacing. I wasn't looking to optimise the performance so used the kit supplied prop and nose button. It could definitely handle a bigger prop if you wanted more duration.

It was an easy model to build and trim and I'm sure a beginner to the hobby would have no problems putting it together and getting it to fly.

Piper Cheyenne III

After getting the King Air to fly better than I had expected I was on the lookout for a similar modern twin with widely spaced long engine nacelles so I could take a new model to Geneseo in 2018. I decided to go for the Piper Cheyenne III, which has nacelles so far from the fuselage that it wouldn't even be necessary to cheat and move them out at all - I could swing 8 inch props on a 32 inch span model. The size of the model was governed by the tailplane span having to be less than the width of my model box. Another attraction was that I could do a full airline colour scheme on it as Alitalia used them for pilot training.

Structure is similar to the King Air - almost all 1/16" balsa. As you can see above I used a cracked rib wing with a single spar. The tip tanks are carved from soft blasa, then cut in half, hollowed out with a Dremel as thin as I dared, then the halves glued back together. The outer wing panels are removable outboard of the nacelles, using tongues and boxes.

The model is covered in white Esaki tissue and given just one thinned coat of non shrink dope. All the glazing was added after painting. Props are Easy Built 8" plastic items with the blades scraped thinner and the spinners are plunge moulded from 30 thou plastic card.

Finish is humbrol gloss white enamel and markings either cut from green and red painted sections of waterslide decal or home made laser printed decals. All-up weight with rubber on board (two loops of 1/8" in each nacelle) was 115 grams

I wish I could tell you that the model flew off the board, but unfortunately it has proved extremely tricky to trim. Best I have managed so far is a 20 second cruise at just above head height circling right, but then the next flight it went left, and the one after that straight on leading to a mushy stall. I will persevere though to see if I can crack the problem as I think it's a great looking plane. I'm wondering if that huge fin is the problem? Not much I can do if it is other than build a new one slightly smaller than scale.

Northrup Special Racer

As I'm limited in how many models I can take over to Geneseo in my model box, It's good to have one or two which can be entered in more than one event. Hence the decision to build a Goodyear racer which is eligible for both the mass launch event and peanut scale. These models tend to have masses of wing area for a peanut and can fly really well. There are plenty of plans out there, but I decided to plow my own furrow and draw up one that doesn't seem to have been modelled before.

I'm Grateful to Rich Weber for providing me with documentation for a few possibilities, of which I chose this rather distinctive little Racer - the Northrop Special, built by Russ Northrup in 1952. It has a quirky appeal with its inverted gull wing and wheel spats.

Structure is a mixture of 1/16" and 1/20th balsa - the fuselage box is 1/16", thicker than I'd usually use for a peanut, with the formers and stringers in 1/20th. The small wheels inside the wheel spats are fixed, and there is no wire in the undercarriage, which helps to keep it light. Covering is white Esaki, pre-shrunk on a frame for the tail surfaces and airbrushed with Xtracolour RAF High Speed Silver enamel. I used 10 thou plastic card for the wng and tailplane end plates - a first for me on a flying model. I thought they would be much more likely to survive wingtip arrivals than thin balsa.

Normally on a peanut scale model I would use a 5 inch prop, but the standard set up for these Goodyear racers seems to be 6 inch , so I fitted an Ikara example, but scraped as thin as I dared to stop the model being nose-heavy.

Initial test hops showed the model was slightly nose-heavy, so I shimmed the tailplane to give a touch of negative incidence, which sorted the problem. Somewhat to my surprise the combination of a loop of 1/8" rubber and the 6" high pitched prop worked really well - the wide chord wings must be the reason for this. At the 2018 FAC Nats I was getting times around 50 seconds without thermal assistance - thanks to Clive Gamble for the "proof of flight" photo!

Robinson Redwing

With the Fox Moth turning out to be such a good indoor flyer, I decided to copy Dave Rees's design methods and build an identically sized biplane for my next open rubber model. The choice of the Robinson Redwing was down to the fact that I liked how it looked, it was well documented, the colour scheme with red wings and silver registrations is attractive and not too difficult to reproduce. Also, as far as I knew nobody has modelled it before, at least at this size. Span is 29 inches and I was aiming for an all-up weight of 100 grams. The nose is shorter than the Fox Moth, but I thought the scratch built engine should add a fair proportion of the nose weight that would inevitably have to be added.

The weight of the components at this stage was 26 grams. The fuselage structure is mainly 1/16" square, but I have doubled up the lower longerons. The upper decking is very soft 1 mm balsa. Wings are classic Dave Rees structure - see article here for details.

The Genet engine cylinders were constructed by laminating discs of plastic card together, threaded onto cocktail sticks. The lowest discs are circular, so easy to cut out with a compass cutter, but higher up the shapes get more complicated, and had to be plotted individually using CAD.

I didn't want the finished cylinders to look as if they were just stuck onto the oputside of the nose, because on the original they clearly protude through oval holes in the cowling panels. Thus the cylinders were mounted on a dummy crank case and the four cowling panels were plunge moulded from plastic card.

The exhaust was made from "Hearty clay", a lightweight air drying modelling clay produced in Japan. lengths were rolled out and curved round templates of different radius while they dried. These were then cut to length and assembled. It's nice stuff to work with and tougher than other brands of clay I have tried. As far as I know there is no UK stockist, so I obtained mine from a supplier in the USA. I'm told if you keep it in an airtight container it will keep for ages.

The model was airbrushed with enamels and the markings cut from painted waterslide decal film apart from the Redwing logo on the fin which is a home made laser printed decal.

Rigging is fishing nylon and so functional. For the first time I inserted small fuse wire loops into the wings next to the struts to pass the rigging wires through, before looping through short lengths of plastic tubing to represent the turnbuckles. A small drop of thin cyano into the tubing secures the wire. The full size aircraft has red rigging wires, so mine were brush painted with thinned enamel after installation.

Here is the finished model nose to nose with the Fox Moth - both have identical wingspan and very similar wing area. The Redwing uses the same Easy Built 10" plastic prop as the Fox Moth for flying, but I had to cut it down by half an inch to allow take-offs and landings without the prop clattering the ground.

The model was trimmed during the International Indoor Fly In at Nijmegen in 2018. It needed 4 grams of nose weight to stop it stalling, which with two loops of 3/16" rubber on board brought the all-up weight to 97 grams - exactly the same weight as the Fox Moth. Not surprisingly it flies just as slowly. It needed a fair amount of left rudder to get a safe circuit in the sports hall, and then some down left aileron and up right aileron to keep the wings level. As you can see in the video below I think I still need a bit more downthrust to control the slight stall after take-off. Still, I was very happy with the way it went first time out.

Cessna Bird Dog

Having ripped the wings of my Blackburn Shark at the 2018 Oxford Scale meeting, I suddenly had the need for a new kit scale model to enter at Nijmegen in a few weeks time. So I ordered the latest release by the Vintage Model Company, a very nice 21 inch span Cessna Bird Dog. Postage is free, and the kit arrived in a couple of days. Just 17 days later I had an attractive new model ready to fly. The kit was great - everything fitted perfectly - the laser cutting was a real time saver.

I didn't change anything on the design except filling in between stringers with soft balsa in front of the windshield and replacing the paper patterns for the window frames and the panel above the wing centre section with 10 thou plastic card. Two reasons for this Ė firstly with an airbrushed finish, plastic card gives a smoother finish than paper and secondly I wanted to attach the glazing with Formula 560 canopy glue, and this water-based adhesive would have caused local swelling of the paper. The airbrushed finish will lose me a few points in static judging, but I think looks better than coloured tissue. Markings are home-made decals apart from the large U.S. ARMY titles on the wing which are cut from black painted decal sheet and applied in sections.

I couldn't resist adding a few extra details to add more character, so the avionics hump and aerial behind the cabin, some extra struts inside the cabin and the exhausts under the cowl. Weight was 28 grams without rubber, which went up to 35 grams with rubber and after adding noseweight.

The model proved very easy to trim out in the hall at Nijmegen - basically I just added noseweight until the gentle stalling stopped. I added a rudder trim tab bent left and a bit of right thrust, plus a couple of Gurney strips under the left wing to stop it dropping. Even with the low dihedral, the model is rock steady. Proof of flight video is below.

I think this kit would make a good first scale model for a beginner to the hobby - highly recommended!

D.H. Tiger Moth

This is another Vintage Model Company kit, one of their "Magnificent Flying Machines" range and not the old Veron kit. I had started it in 2017 only for construction to grind to a halt due to competition deadlines for other models. However, I'd enjoyed building the VMC Bird Dog so much, I did a speed build to get it finished in time to take to Nijmegen so I could trim it out in a large hall. I thought it would also be a nice to have a reserve kit scale model with me.

Kit structure shown above is fairly sturdy, but not too heavy due to the excellent wood selection in the kit. A modification I made to the kit design was to not use the paper pattern for the top nose decking, but fill between the stringers with soft balsa and then sand smooth. Another minor modification was to add a balsa former just inside the rear edge of the paper side cowls to stop them getting squashed every time I picked it up round the nose. As on the Bird Dog, fit of parts was excellent. The fitting of the wings was also straightforward due to the comprehensive instructions and supplied wing jigs.

Finishing touches were a Dave Banks pilot in the rear seat and wing rigging from fishing nylon. All up weight came out at 37 grams, including nose weight and a loop of 3/16" rubber. This may sound a lot, but the model has plenty of wing area and it flies fairly slowly. It did need quite a lot of noseweight and trimming consisted of adding more and more until it stopped stalling. I was then rewarded with a nice take-off and gentle left hand circuits. To stop it straightening quite so much in the glide I added a rudder trim tab bent left and additional right side thrust.

Atalante GB 10

Sometimes I think you just have to build a model for fun without worrying about references and documentation. I was looking for a peanut to buiild to fly at our monthly indoor meetings in Newbury and found myself looking through Emmanuel Fillon's extensive collection of peanut designs. He did plans for so many quirky, obscure French light aircraft that I was spoiled for choice, but eventually decided on this Atalante GB 10. I love the rear cabin window treatment and the tiny lower wings, plus it's got a nice long nose and a relatively simple colour scheme.

The plan calls for the use of a lot of 1 mm square balsa, but I can't handle sticks that small, so used 1/20" square instead. I hinged the rudder but didn't add separate elevators and elevators.

Finish was gloss red enamel over red Esaki tissue. Wing markings were cut from painted decal sheet and fuselage and fin markings were laser printed decals. Final weight without rubber was 10 grams.

Initial trimming showed that the model was basically stable, but nose heavy, so I had to add tail weight. It was also overpowered with a loop of 3/32" Tan Super Sport rubber and got up into the ceiling structure too quickly. As soon as I got it home I gave the prop a good scraping, removing enough material to hopefully allow the tail weight to be removed.

DHC Dash 8

I can't remember exactly how long ago my Dash 8 suffered a bad wing break after being caught by a gust at Middle Wallop, but it must be 8 years or so? It was my first successful rubber twin when I built the model back in 2005 and I had such a lot of fun with it that I thought it deserved a second chance. So, I stripped the tissue off and decided to repair and re-cover it, then paint in a new airline livery. Sadly it sat in a cupboard partly covered for several years until early 2019. Having wrecked my Cessna 310 getting it down from a tall tree at Old Warden I felt I needed another twin in my life and the quickest way to achieve this was to go back to the Dash 8. One change I made in the rebuild was to incorporate clear cabin windows, as now required in the FAC rules (I used decals previously). Otherwise the model was basically unchanged.

I'd already chosen Qantas Link as the colour scheme for the model - the tail markings are very striking and the rest of the scheme is fairly simple to mask and paint. One benefit of waiting so long to complete the model was that I now had a laser printer to make my decals - the fuselage lettering and door outlines were printed using this. I can highly recommend Sunnyscopa brand laser waterslide decal paper if you are laser printing your own decals (they do clear and white sheets). The adhesion of the toner is excellent and you don't even need a protective coat of varnish over the top. I have also tried painting the decal sheet and cutting out lettering and this also works very well. The decal film is thin, but very tough and flexible.

I airbrushed the tail with Qantas red enamel (available in the Xtracolor paint range) then cut out kangaroos from white Sunnyscopa decal film and applied to the red fin. I'm impressed with the colour density of the film - there is only a slight bleed through of the red. The gold striping was from painted decal film.

Pleasingly the model flew just as well after the rebuild as it had before, requiring just a tweak to the hinged elevators to get the glide looking right. It now seems to prefer to turn right rather than left, but gets nice and high with a loop of 3/16" rubber in each nacelle.

PZL P.24

My old peanut scale PZL P.24, built from Pres Bruning's plan was a good flyer, and it's a type I rather like, so I thought it would make an unusual aircraft for the FAC WW2 mass launch event. For a one-piece model the size was determined by it having to fit in my model box, so I drew it up at 1/24 scale, giving a wingspan of 18 inches.

As you can see, the wing is a cracked rib structure to keep it light and the bones you can see here weighed 9 grams.

The model is finished as a Romanian machine that saw action early in WW2, defending Bucharest against Soviet bombing raids. I used Xtracolour enamels with the markings being laser printed onto Sunnyscopa White Decal film. A final coat of acrylic matt varnish was applied to tone the gloss down and give an even finish (after masking the canopy of course).

A 6" Ikara prop was fitted and two loops of 3/32" rubber provided ample power. Trimming was carried out at the 2019 Nijmegen meeting and eventually I got some decent flights consisting of wide left hand circuits using most of the hall. Some nose weight was needed with a bit of left rudder and Gurney strips under the left wing. Final all-up weight including motor and nose weight came out as 35.5 grams. This is a bit heavier than I'd hoped, but still in the ballpark for a competitive outdoor model.

Comet 54" span Taylorcraft

This kit had been in my stash for several years but in 2019 moved to the top of my to-build list because of discussions with a couple of other modellers about whether it would be possible to fly these monsters in the indoor kit scale class. The biggest potential stumbling block is the 200 gram maximum weight limit, but we reckoned with very careful wood selection and a rear rubber peg moved well fowards it should be possible.

As you can see this is a very large model in a relatively small box. As a result there are quite a few spliced joints necessary if you used the kit wood.

The plan shows a 3/8" x 3/16" main spar on the bottom of the wing which I changed to two 3/16" spars, one on the top and one of the bottom, which will better resist eliptical dihedral. The rear lower spar is 1/8" x 1/4" and this I left unchanged. All spars are from the lightest wood I could find with the 3/16" square spars being laminated from two pieces of 3/16" x 3/32". The trailing edge is also light wood and the ribs are from contest "C" grain balsa. The only hard pieces of balsa are the 3/16" square leading edges, where I used the kit wood (and had to splice them in the middle). I thought this might help if the model decided to taxi into a chair!

The separate ailerons are exactly as shown on the plan - I would rather not have had to make these as they add weight, but they proved useful for trimming. Each wing panel came out at just under 16 grams.

This bare bones shot shows the simple structure of these large Comet models.

Covering the beast made quite a dent in my white Esaki tissue stocks! One deviation from the plan can be seen in this photo - I filled in the upper cowl decking with soft balsa. Initially I tried a paper cowling, as shown on the plan, but it looked horrid.

It was at this stage that I began to get seriously worried about my chances of getting the model out under the maximum limit of 200 grams - or at least getting it under 200 grams with a usable rubber motor on board. The possible need for nose weight was also a concern. I swapped several emails with Richard Crossley, who I knew was building a Comet Aeronca Chief for Nijmegen, and discovered that he had put his rear peg close to the wing trailing edge. Mine was one bay further back (see light grey arrow on photo). Only one thing to do - strip my newly painted tissue off the fuselage sides, cut out the old rubber anchorage and install a new one further forwards.

Here you can see the new rear peg position. I actually used less sheet than before to make the new one, but braced it with extra 1/8" square strips as you can see. The big advantage is that the rubber motor will now contribute to the nose weight, hopefully avoiding some clay in the nose. Also, I can use a shorter motor if necessary without it being less than than the peg to hook distance.

The fuselage sides were then re-covered and re-sprayed. With a fairly short 17 gram rubber motor (5 loops of 1/8") I was able to just just sneak in under 200 grams limit, (helped by saving 3 grams by cutting my laminated balsa wheels in half, hollowing them out with a Dremel, and gluing them back together!) The prop is the Easy Built 12" diameter plastic one.

The wings plug into the fuselage and are held by rubber bands attached to hooks on the root ribs. The struts have wires at the top which locate into aluminium tubes attached to the wing undersurface. The bottoms of the struts plug into the fuselage and again these are held in place by rubber bands running from hooks on the struts across the fuselage. The original design was for a one piece model, but it's far too unweildy to transport like that. Besides, where on earth would I keep it at home!

You can read elsewhere on this site about how the model flew at the 2019 Nijmegen meeting. I love the photo above taken by David Brohede. I was very happy with how it performed but a bit frustrated that I couldn't put a longer motor in it without going over the 200 g weight limit. The good news is that the BMFA Scale Technical Committee has increased the weight limit to 250 grams for the next Scale Indoor Nationals (though at the time of writing, who knows when that will be?) So next time out I will double the motor length to get a longer and slightly more gentle power run.

North American 0-47

I havenít built a Diels kit for a few years so thought it was about time I did another one. My last one was the Curtiss Shrike back in 2011 Ė I still fly this regularly outdoors and am happy to chuck it about even in windy conditions as itís very stable.

Quite how I chose the North American O-47 out of my stash Iím not at all sure! I quite like its portly shape and the viewing windows under the wing looked fun to model, but thatís not much of a reason really! I have a good collection of Diels kits, for many of which I bought reference books for documentation purposes and for which I have colourful schemes planned. Instead of these I chose to build an old kit I got cheap on Ebay because many of the parts had already been cut out. I also intend to finish it in a rather boring scheme of overall silver, which will highlight every imperfection in my airframe. On the plus side, silver is the lightest colour to airbrush, as you donít need much of it to get an opaque finish.

I've not changed too much from the kit design and kept the fat sectioned wing, as it is part of the charactor of the aircraft. I have sneaked in a bit more dihedral though to get the wingtips up to the base of the canopy. The kit wood was pretty heavy - not as good as the stuff Dave supplies in his newer kits. I used the kit strip wood for the wing spars but used lighter stuff for the fuselage stringers. I also sanded the wing ribs thinner (to about 1/24" inch) to save weight. The trailing edge gussets are purely for wrinkle prevention.

You can see I added some soft 1/8" in-fill either side of the lower observation windows to properly capture the curvy shape. I also filled the cockpit opening with very light 1/32" sheet after cutting away the tops of the cockpit formers and removing the centre keel in this area. I think the sheeting weighs less than the wood I removed and gives me something to stick the crew to. The weight of the bones in the phot above was 20.5 grams.

The model was covered in white Esaki tissue.

For this model, rather than having a removable nose block fitting between the relief cylinders, I glued the centre boss and all the cylinders onto a 1/16" ply disc which is removable from the cowling opening. I think this will make reliable thrust adjustments easier to make and also look neater - no packing will be visible because it will all be sitting behind the ply disc.

After assembling the covered wings to the fuselage, the fairings and framework for the observer's windows were added. It's all rather complicated! The white triangles are 5 thou plastic card.

I restricted cockpit detail to a pilot and the structure surrounding his head (presumably roll-over crash protection?) The exposed white card at the top will be covered later by the canopy framing.

The balsa wing stiffeners had to be cracked at the spar positions to follow the upper surface of the wing without leaving gaps.

Paint finish was Xtracolour RAF High Speed Silver enamel and all decals were home made and printed onto Sunnyscopa clear laser decal paper. The weight ended up at a touch under 55 grams including a loop of 1/4" rubber and a couple of grams of nose weight.

The model trimmed out fairly easily outdoors. I offset the hinged rudder to get a left hand turn and added Gurney strips under the left wingtip trailing edge to stop the wing from dropping.

Two Walt Mooney peanuts - a Morane Saulnier MS 50C and a Nakajima Ki 27 "Nate"

During the first Coronavirus lockdown, social media proved to be a real boon, enabling modellers to keep in touch with each other to share new projects. Peter Fardell really caught the mood with his idea for a Walt Mooney Cook Up on the "Smallflyingarts" forum. He suggested that members pick one of Walt Mooneyís designs and post their progress. Close to 100 models were started with many people, including me, building more than one model. It is a testament to the sheer quantity of designs that Walt churned out that there was surprisingly little duplication of subjects.

The first model I chose to build was this Morane Saulnier MS 50C trainer. I liked the clean lines and simple colour scheme, plus there seemed to be plenty of struts to hold the wing on! As reference I found some nice photos of an example on a Finnish museum. The model was airbrushed with Xtracolor RLM Silver enamel and markings are home made laser printed decals.

This turned out as one of my lighter peanuts at close to 10 grams. I was worried about the apparent lack of wing incidence shown on the plan so left some wriggle room in the tailplane slot for later adjustment. This proved useful as initial test glides showed a nosedive, so the rear of the tailplane was shimmed up until low powered flights looked good. With this modification, the model flew really well outdoors with a loop of 3/32" rubber, climbing to a considerable height. For indoor flying I had to back off considerably on the rubber cross section to a loop of 80 thou.

This peanut scale Ki 27 had been on my list of potential builds for many years and as I had enjoyed the Morane build so much I thought I could squeeze in another Mooney before the end of the cook up. It's not the most accurate rendition of the prototype, but makes up into a charming little model. I presume Walt stretched out the landing gear to allow the model to ROG? Finish is airbrushed enamels with all markings apart from the red nose cut out of painted decal sheet.

This one came out much heavier than the Morane at around 15 grams, but was just as easy to trim once I has added some noseweight. A loop of 3/32" rubber proved just right and the model is happy circling left.

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