Model Airplanes


Aircraft modeling or aeromodelling is a hobby that has been popular since the 1930s. It is constructing small airplanes using materials such as balsa wood, etc. A vast array of designs are possible, from ultra-simple gliders such as that pictured, to highly accurate scale models, some of which can be very large - maybe 1/8th scale or more. Models may be built either as static non-flying models, or as flying models (also known as aeromodelling).

Construction techniques for the two are usually very different. Non-flying models are often made from plastic kits, sometimes by children, but wooden kits are also available. Models that fly used to be constructed out of light-weight wood, sometimes covered with paper. Nowadays there may be carbon fibre in the model to strengthen its structure, or expanded polystyrene or expanded polypropylene may be used for the whole airframe. Some modellers like to build replicas of historic planes, in which case historical accuracy would dictate construction techniques. Anyone building either type of model plane should do some research on the real aircraft first.

It is possible to buy ready-to-fly models “out of the box”, which can be good for beginners learning to fly radio controlled models for the first time. These are ready to go planes with engines and electronic control systems already installed. Sometimes you have to buy the electronic control transmitter separately, which is a good thing if you intend to go on to fly several different planes with the same control system.

Of course Ready to Go models are expensive, and you don’t have the satisfaction of having built your plane yourself, but as a way of getting started on this hobby it can work well. Alternatives are to buy a kit with all the parts cut out and ready to be fixed together, or to build the plane yourself from scratch using bought plans. Engines of different types are available: glow engines, gas engines and electric motors can be used. Then you need to buy a radio system with enough channels for the controls you need, depending on the sophistication of the model: the minimum would be four controls for throttle, elevator, rudder and aileron. Model war planes might also have bomb bay doors, lights, cameras and GPS.

A word of warning: model aircraft can be dangerous, and you need to abide by local laws and regulations. In the UK, for example, airplanes over 7kg (15.4 pounds) require air traffic control permission to fly in regulated airspace, and even outside regulated airspace they cannot fly above 400 feet (122 metres).
Then there is the issue of danger to the public. In July 2014 in the south of England, a teenage girl was killed when a model plane with a 7 foot wingspan hit her on the head as she walked home from school. The owner and maker of the plane had let an inexperienced friend fly the plane. Some local councils have designated areas where model airplane flying is allowed, and pilots should stick to these and be covered by insurance, often by joining a club which has group insurance for its members.

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