I’ve been making model aircraft since I was about 7 when my Dad made me a Keil Kraft rubber powered model. In those days, buying a kit of parts – mainly balsa sheet with the parts printed on it for the builder to cut out – was quite a luxury. Most models were build from plans.
As time went on, ready-made models became available. Their quality was generally very poor – models would be too heavy, too fragile and poor flyers. Now, models can be bought built to a standard and with high tech materials way above what a normal home builder can do. Their cost is usually reasonable too, often less than the cost of buying individual parts by a scratch builder.
As with all things modern, the number of rules we have to comply with has increased to what seem like ridiculous levels to people like me who have made models for many decades. However, that’s life now. So if you contemplate trying model aircraft, I strongly recommend that you –
Visit the British Model Flying Association website https://bmfa.org/ and get some background knowledge on legal requirements. These govern where you can fly and what you can fly (rules differ with the model weight). The BMFA offers much advice, and provides 3rd party insurance to members in case things go wrong and someone comes trying to sue you for damage you have caused with your model aircraft. Use that website to find a local model flying club https://bmfa.org/Clubs/Find-a-Club. Most clubs welcome newcomers and will give you some taster sessions, then if you want to go ahead they will help you make good choices in the type of equipment to buy.
So having said that, here are some photographs and comments on models I have had and found particularly interesting. If you are interested in aircraft, models are a fascinating and challenging hobby. I have made many model aircraft over 60 years of continuous modelling, which are now flying (maybe 30 in my “hangar”), sold (maybe another 30 or so), or worn out or crashed and then scrapped (many hundreds!)
If you click any photo in the gallery, an enlarged version will be shown, sometimes with a description and history of the model.
This 2m span model was a kit bought for my Saito 19cc 3-cylinder radial which is now in my Comper Swift. Alas it was quite heavy and the model crashed several times (fortunately with little damage) on take-off from a grass strip as thene gine wasn’t powerful enough. A 25cc 2-stroke petrol was used to increase the power, and it then flew well. Now sold.
Scratch built model, 1.8m wingspan, with Saito 19cc 3-cylinder radial petrol engine. This is modelled on one of the early Swifts, when Nick Comper used the “Salmson” engine. Later Swifts used a Pobjoy engine which had a gearbox and offset crankshaft, so the Saito doesn’t look much like one. Hence I modelled a Salmson-powered “Comp”, with its less recognisable fin and rudder which looks more like a de Havilland shape than the upright rudder of Pobjoy Comps.
The Comp was made for racing – so streamlining was more important than the view forwards!
This is how the wings fold on a full-size Comp.
This is a mid-sized helicopter capable of aerobatics. Personally I think helicopters should stay the normal way up, but “3D” pilots thow them all over the sky in any attitude imaginable. I don’t think this model is capable of that, but it did loop, stall turn and roll nicely. Alas now expired due to a crash (as did all my model helicopters).
An electric “hotliner”, built about 2000, using early brushless motors, for 10-cell (NiCd)
An aerobatic sports model
This was a small model made from a magazine plan. It has twin brushless motors and 3S / 1800 mAhr LiPos. It also had electric retracts, which worked well. It was a good flyer, but suffered one motor seizing in flight, and before I twigged what was wrong, it was into the ground. Too badly damaged to repair.
This is a full size example of a Pobjoy-powered Comp, kept at Shuttleworth.
This is a scale model of my full-size Starlet. It was made from a Dutch kit by RBC Kits. It wasn’t as good a flyer as the full size, but it went well enough. It flew on 4S LiPos, but unfortunately a faulty motor or controller failed on take-off and the model was damaged in the subsequent forced landing, damaging the front. It’s still in my workshop some 5 years later awating a repair.
Fokker D VIII
I scratch built this model for a 12cc glow-fuel 4-stroke engine. I covered it in Solartex and painted the finish by hand using acrylic paint. It was a realistic flyer and attracted several offers to purchase it meets I took it to. Later sold.
This was a model I bought second-hand in a hurry to replace a crashed model. It wasn’t a good flyer, being rather heavy for the Wren 44. Sold.
Formosa at the flying field
This is my 6S powered SBach at an IMAC competition. I thought it was quite big (1.8m wingspan) until I met the 200cc IMAC models. This model is still flying and is one of my all-time favourite models.
Precision Aerobatics Katana mini
Precision Aerobatics made excellen high tech ARTF models. The Katana as a good flyer, and was supplied as a complete package by a prominent UK supplier. The servos were too light, and stripped a gear in flight and it didn’t survive the crash.
I always used to say “The best value for money in model aircraft is chuck gliders”. However lot of fun can be had with radio controlled chuck gliders. This one is a discus launch glider, thrown by holding the wing tip and swinging it round like a discuss. Great fun! Sold.
This model was built from a kit made by Cloud Models. They sold it “for 2 off 400 motors” but it was way to heavy for those and could barely fly. Brushless motors and LiPos came to the rescue, and after conversion to 3S,2200 mAhr cells, it flew well. Made without undercarraige for better air appearance, it had to belly land on the grass, but its plastic nascelles were up to the job, and it had many good flights. Painted in acrylic over the wood. Another model I wish I hadn’t sold.
Showing how the fuselage separates to get in the electronics and batteries.
I bought this model in flying condition, complete with Wren 44 turbine,as an introduction to turbines. It was an excellent model. Crashed after many hours of flying, pilot error.
Showing the Wren turbine exhaust. A very neat dessign, but be ready with a CO2 extinguisher as “wet starts ” (too much paraffin in the chamber) are good at setting fire to the tailplane.
This is another model made by Sebart, and shares the characteristics I describe for the Pilatus – excellent flyer, but fragile. It is well set up for aerobatics, and that was my downfall as I flicked it too close to the ground, and that was the end of the fus. A spare fus would have cost 75% of the price of the whole airframe, which isn’t cheap, so I kept the undamaged wings for a possible future project. Howwever I decided to sell them for spares.
When indoor R/C was just becoming possible due to lighter radio and better motors becoming available, I built this small model, about 400mm wingspan. It flew well. Sold.
This small model, about 600mm wingspan, was an early example (about 1995) of ready-made foam models. Powered by a brushed motor and NiCd cells, it flew qite well, but as all models was transformed when brushless motors and LiPo battereis became available. This model has small mechanical retracts. It won a “most meritorious flight” award at a scale fly-in because I flew it in a wind strong enough to keep the (rather more valuable) big models on the ground. Still flying.
Showing its retracts.
This model is one of the E-Flite range of tiny scale models, about 300mm wingspan. Sometimes these are great flyers, but this one wasn’t one of them. It flew OK, it looked great – wish I hadn’t sold it!
I scratch built this Jet Provost by scaling up a commercial plan. Retired.
Saito 4-stroke twin
I bought this Saito 28cc opposed twin 4-stroke glow engine in a swap meet. I ran it and it was a lovely engine, but never made a model for it.
As an aerobatic aircraft, the SBach has it all for me. I bought this one secondhand from someone in Sheffield wose flying club had imposed a maximum model weight of 18 lbs, and this 50cc powered 2.2m wingspan model weighted 20 lbs. It was a really good flyer, and the DLE engine a pleasure to operate. Ibought it for my venture into IMAC competitions, but alas suffered a radio failure in a competition, and the model went home in the proverbial black bin bag. Big models are great flyers, but the cost and inconvenience in moving it around meant I didn’t try again.
Sbach (6S version) ready for take-off
This was a foam model that I designed and made around 1900. It was the first model I’d made that was capable of continuous loops. It used a geared 400 motor and 7 AA NiCd batteries. I was so pleased with it I made 4 or 5, some with mechanically-coupled flaps (connected to the elevator like control line stunt models).
This was a rubber-powered, “Peanut” scale model for indoor flying. Build from my plan from photographs. It flew well. Probably expired.
I trio of models – Edge 540, Mosquito, and DH Moth
Sebart Pilatus PC-21
Sebart make models that fly extremely well. Unfortunately this is partly due to their light weight, which comes at the expense of fragility. This model comes with Sebart retracts which are OK on gentle surfaces, but are not rubust. I had to make new struts to withstand our bumpy runway. Sold
This model was an ARTFmade by Seagull. It was absolutely dreadful. The build quality was poor, and it suffered many failures, especially the u/c. In flight it was uncontrollable in roll, the ailerons being completely ineffective. I added clear plastic extenders which made it at least flyable, but it was a big disappointment. Sold to another Stuka owner for spares.
DH Tiger Moth
This was an ARTF kit, in less common air training colours. It flew well on 3S.
A second hand T-Rex helicopter.
Made from a DB Sport and Scale kit, fitted with a Wren 44 turbine, this was my first scale turbine model. It flew very well. Sold.
Air retracts- not very reliable
Showing the turbine, tank and radio
Designed by David Boddington and sold as a kit, the Wot-4 is a model that all aeromodellers should own at some time. They fly very well – too well insome ways. I had to fit flaps / airbrakes to take part in fun fly competitions in the 1990s.
AnARTF model for 6S LiPos, about 1.6m wingspan. Flew quite well, but not as well as the SBach.