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Written by Stan Alexander
Top Gun
As seen in the August 2017 issue of
Model Aviation.

This year’s Top Gun Invitational Tournament was held May 3-7 at Paradise Field in Lakeland, Florida. It had good weather, fantastic aircraft, great friends, and good times for all.

Jack Diaz from Venezuela was named Mr. Top Gun for the second year—flying his French Fouga CM.170 Magister jet trainer in the Expert class. Always smooth and consistent, Jack flew his model to a final score of 197.5 out of a possible 200 points in the class.

See all the Top Gun scores here.

Mr. Top Gun, Jack Diaz (L), receives his trophy from Frank Tiano during the 2017 Top Gun Invitational.

Frank Tiano and his crew put on another great Top Gun, and we look forward to the 30th anniversary in 2018.

Kit Suppliers

I recently heard someone at a local club field ask, “Who still sells kits?” I sat there and thought about it as different answers slowly came forth. The responses I heard ranged from “nobody,” to “just Tower Hobbies,” to “who builds kits anymore?” This got me to thinking, who does sell scale kits anymore?

Al Kretz’s Fokker D.VII was built from a 1/4-scale Balsa USA kit.

I have composed a totally unscientific list of companies that offer kits. I’m sure this is not all of them, but it was all that I could find. This is just for scale-type models; some also have sport or other types of kits. The following comprehensive list is in no particular order:

• Balsa USA: World War I and other scale model kits, all-wood kits, and kit-building products, parts, covering, etc.
• Tower Hobbies: Top Flite and other kits are available, as well as kit-building products.
• Sig Manufacturing Inc.: Kits, kit-building products, and documentation.
• Manzano Laser Works: A variety of short kits and plans for scale electric power, World War I, Golden Age, etc.
• Bob Holman Plans: Short kits for Jerry Bates Plans and others.
• Precision Cut Kits: Full and short kits for many designers.
• Aircraft Modeler’s Research (AMR): Offers large scale kits and some accessories.
• Meister Scale: Offers kits, fiberglass kits, parts, and plans for large-scale warbirds.
• Nick Ziroli Plans: Plans, parts, fiberglass, and other supplies to build a variety of scale warbirds and civil aircraft from a list of various designers.
• Mountain Models: Small, electric RC scale model kits.
• National Balsa Company: Offers either full wood kits or partial semi kits for different plans services. The company also has an assortment of parts and wood.
• Brodak Manufacturing: Has a great selection of smaller scale kits and .40-size Gee Bee kits.

Mike Barbee’s J-3 Cub was constructed from a 1/3-scale AMR kit.

What Is a Kit?

You might wonder what kits are. There are many answers to that question. Balsa kits, fiberglass kits, carbon-fiber kits, semi kits, short kits … the list goes on.

A kit, such as a semi kit or a short kit, often includes the wood, wire, canopy, small parts, pieces, and plans needed to build an aircraft. Short kits are available in a larger variety of models than semi kits. You generally receive the formed wooden parts of the model and then make a list of items needed and purchase them.

A Fokker E.III built from a Balsa USA kit flies during the Nats.

Semi kits are commonly fiberglass and foam or carbon-fiber-type models. The fuselage in a semi kit comes formed and the wing panels and tail surfaces are usually preshaped. You still need to add all of the other parts and sometimes wood to complete the airframe.

Look for building blogs on the internet. There is one for almost any kit out there—providing hints and tips on what to do and how to do it. You supply the hardware, engine, tank, battery, servos, radio, covering, and finish, and build it.

Why on earth would you do that? It’s fun, relaxing, and sometimes frustrating, but rewarding after your first flight. Plus, when you get to the field and other pilots see your airplane, they will ask, “What ARF is that? I haven’t seen that one.”

Kits are still out there! Here is another 1/4-scale J-3 Cub that was built from a Sig Manufacturing kit.

Balsa Model Aircraft Builders Association

A good Facebook page for model builders and for any type of balsa-built model is the Balsa Model Aircraft Builders Association. The page features all types of aircraft builds, including Scale models. It’s a great place to get ideas, hints, and tips, and learn from others who share the joy of building balsa models.

Upcoming Events

Warbirds Over the Rockies will take place September 14-17 in Golden, Colorado. A wonderful warbird fly-in with noontime air shows, it features full-scale flybys and a great banquet and auction on Saturday night. It’s a fun experience for all. The proceeds from this event go to Mental Health America of Colorado.

Fair skies and tailwinds.

-Stan Alexander


Balsa Model Aircraft Builders Association

National Association of Scale Aeromodelers (NASA)

Warbirds Over the Rockies

Top Gun

Balsa USA
(800) 225-7287

Tower Hobbies
(800) 637-6050

Sig Manufacturing
(800) 247-5008

Manzano Laser Works

Bob Holman Plans
(909) 885-3959
Precision Cut Kits
(609) 538-1388

(855) 747-2444

Meister Scale
(772) 812-2391
Nick Ziroli Plans
(631) 467-4765

Mountain Models
(920) 840-6036

National Balsa
(413) 277-9500

BMJR Models
(321) 537-1159

Brodak Manufacturing
(724) 966-2726

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