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Written by Stan Alexander
Selecting your first plan-built model
Contributed column
As seen in the October 2016 issue of
Model Aviation.

It’s that time of the year when many of us start looking for our next airplane project. Whether it is an ARF, kit, or plan-built model depends on the amount of time, tools, and skills you have to invest in an aircraft.

The quickest project is an ARF. I’ve assembled my share. Kits give you a sense of accomplishment that ARFs just don’t, plus you can choose your own color scheme and markings.

Either of these choices limits you to what I call the standard group of models: warbirds such as P-51s, P-40s, and the ever-popular P-47s, and civil aircraft such as J-3 Cubs, various Cessna aircraft, and, if you’re lucky, a few others.

When you start looking at plan-built models, your choices increase in both size and subjects. Know this—not all plans are created equal. Some are excellent, others are good, and like some three-view drawings, a few are downright poorly done.

I recently built a J-3 Cub for my grandson. I selected a 76-inch Goldberg J-3 Cub kit with an O.S. .48FS engine. A model of this size can be flown at local airfields—not just at national or regional events. It’s intended to be a fun airplane and a tool to teach skills such as using the rudder in turns, etc.

The biggest scale error in the outline of the kit is the ailerons, which are strip ailerons. Because of past experience, I added solid balsa sheet to the bottom of the wingtips for small landing errors.
It built into a nice model and we finished it with MonoKote Cub Yellow. The markings that came with the kit were tossed out because, at approximately 1/5.5 scale, there were no markings that really fit. I contacted Callie Graphics for new markings, which made the model stand out. The markings were $28 postpaid.

I used the stock cowl and other items that came with the kit. The only modification that I made was to add two servos to the ailerons instead of one. Beyond that, the cowl is pretty much stock.

Guy Forshey’s P-51D Mustang

Guy Forshey has been busy with his latest labor of love, a Dave Platt P-51D Mustang kit. He bought the kit from a local aircraft mechanic for $100, including the Platt retracts.

Guy Forshey built this Dave Platt P-51D Mustang from a 1980s kit.

The newspaper that was wrapped around the canopy was dated 1982 and the plans crumbled like the Dead Sea Scrolls when he tried to unfurl them. Guy ordered new plans sheets.

Guy said, “I like to detail to the max, so I spent all of last winter scratch-building the cockpit features. I also applied thousands of flush rivets in the primer surface using a 1/16-inch brass tube as a cutting tool. Kudos to [my] machinist friend, Keith Hall, for fabricating the offset forks for the landing gear struts.”

Some of the cockpit detail that Guy added to his Mustang.

Guy also detailed and weathered the model in other areas, including the retract gear and surfaces.

Guy covered the model with 1/2-ounce fiberglass cloth and resin, and primed and painted it with Klass Kote epoxy paints. He selected a DLE-55RA engine for power and a scale Biela four-blade propeller. A Futaba 2.4 GHz radio system was installed as well. Great job, Guy!

Cessna Airmaster Lighting System

Meanwhile, I have had other projects going on in the shop, including my Cessna Airmaster.

The G-26 engine fits snugly inside of the Airmaster’s cowling with the firewall and mounts for it. If I built another Cessna Airmaster, I might make the main landing gear one piece instead of two pieces. I also like three-piece wing construction with a wing tube.

The lighting system is pretty cool and I met the owner/operator of Dave’s R/C Electronics at The Toledo Show: R/C Model Expo, in April 2016. I placed my order there and when I returned home, I sent him all of the specifics for the 6-volt system.

The Cessna has seven lights—two navigation lights, two strobes on the top and bottom of the fuselage, and two landing lights mounted in the bottom of the wing. It also has a clear marker light on the rudder. All of this is included in the lighting kit. I merely have to place them in the model and build the brackets for the landing lights. The lights will come on when the model is turned on, and servos will activate the landing lights.

A Dave’s R/C Electronics custom lighting system for the author’s Cessna Airmaster includes everything except the lens and servos for the landing lights.

The main reason why I selected this Airmaster is because of its black, international orange, and white pinstripe scheme. I have seen an Airmaster in solid white, one in red, and a yellow one, but I had never seen this scheme until I searched the internet.

Finding the owner of a full-scale Cessna Airmaster and being able to communicate with him has also been a big help. I plan to visit the owner and take some detail shots and close-ups for the interior. I’m looking forward to going back to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to attend EAA AirVenture and going to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Go Packers!

National Naval Aviation Museum

Pensacola, Florida, has been the cradle of naval aviation since the early 1900s. This is the home of the famed Blue Angels air show team, as well as the air training center for all branches of the service.

This F-14 Tomcat guards the front gate as you arrive at the museum.

You can feel the history before you arrive on base as you drive west on I-10 and see the bridges that are adorned with Blue Angel aircraft pointed upward. When you arrive on Blue Angels Boulevard on your way to the base, the U.S. Navy’s presence is all around. To say Pensacola has a long history with the U.S. Navy would be nothing short of an understatement—and the city is proud of it!

The National Naval Aviation Museum has many facets. You can’t see it all in a day—or two days for that matter. There is the research center, the restoration facility, the aircraft outside on ramps, the movies inside, and models of aircraft, ships, and virtually every aircraft carrier that the Navy has in its vast inventory.

Some of the cockpit mockups that allow people to experience sitting in a jet fighter.

I’ll concentrate on a brief visit to the museum because there are many aircraft there that you will see nowhere else in the world.

If you are a Scale modeler and are interested in naval aircraft, there couldn’t be a better place to obtain documentation for your next project. As with many museums, if you know which aircraft you would like to take photos of, the staff will try to help you in any way possible.

Remember to ask ahead of time and send an email or letter to the superintendent to set up a time for you. I shot the Vought Vindicator on one visit and the staff unfolded the wings, opened all of the side panels, and actually let me sit in the cockpit. Wow! This is the only one that still exists in the world. That was truly a treat.

The museum is well-lit for photos and it is very clean. If you’ve been to aviation museums, you know this isn’t the norm. You won’t find a layer of dust covering the aircraft, which changes the colors on the airframes. Be respectful of the history of the aircraft—look, but don’t touch, unless you are told otherwise. You can go right up to the aircraft—no ropes or fences to hold you back 20 feet.

One of several F6F Hellcats on display.

An F-4 Phantom is located in the newest addition to the museum.

I usually start with an eight-point walk-around of an aircraft that I’m interested in. Then I start at the nose and shoot detailed photos until I’m satisfied. Always take more than what you need and check out the history on the airframes. One example is a Douglas SBD Dauntless that took part in the Battle of Midway in 1942. It’s the only survivor, and was recovered from Lake Michigan several years ago.

My wife doesn’t mind going to the museum, either. She usually takes in some of the many videos around the museum’s perimeter or reads books and visits the gift shop. But the treat for us both on any visit is the Cubi Bar and Café. You don’t have to leave the building or the base for a good meal at lunchtime. This is a sit-down café and on the café walls is more history from different units of the Navy and Marines.

An overview of the main hangar.

This is merely an overview about the first half of the day. I could write volumes about this museum, but you really need to see it for yourself—at least a few times!

Fair skies and tailwinds.

Bonus photos

Model Aviation Magazine - October 2016 RC Scale Bonus Photos


(800) 637-7660

Dave’s R/C Electronics
(423) 544-1657

National Naval Aviation Museum
(800) 327-5002

Callie Graphics

National Association of Scale Aeromodelers (NASA)

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