Blackburn Type D



Top view of the Blackburn Type D

The Blackburn Type D Monoplane was one of the earliest successful British aircraft designs. The Type D first flew in 1912. Two years later the airplane suffered a crash and was put into storage. In 1938 the aircraft was rediscovered in a barn and restored to airworthy condition. The 1912 Blackburn Type D Monoplane flies today as part of the historic Shuttleworth collection and has earned the distinction of being the world’s oldest airworthy British aircraft.

The Blackburn makes for an ideal radio control modeling project. The Blackburn has a surprisingly modern layout with a tractor motor, shoulder mounted wing and normal aft tail control surfaces. Due to the low powered engines of the day the Blackburn has generous wing and tail surface areas that provide sufficient lift and control under slow flight conditions.

Full scale Blackburn Monoplane touching down

Full scale Blackburn Monoplane touching down

The Blackburn has another characteristic that I always look for with any scale modeling project, and that is character. The Type D is a good looking aircraft with a distinctive flared metal covered cowl for the rotary engine that is easy to recreate with balsa wood and either metal plating or metallic iron on covering. The Blackburn’s sturdy landing gear provides a wide, stable stance and the triangular fuselage adds a distinctive visual feature.

CAD plans

A full set of CAD plans and building instructions for your radio control model of the Blackburn can be purchased here. The plans will need to be enlarged to full size at a local copy center such as FedEx Office.

The Blackburn is an easy model to construct with no special building materials or techniques required. The feature that provides a robust fuselage structure is the 1/16 inch plywood top frame, glued on top of the forward third of the fuselage.

The Blackburn’s wings, motor, battery tray, landing gear and two servos are all attached or mounted on this frame. The rest of the fuselage structure is essentially built onto the frame. This design approach allows for a simple method to build a lightweight fuselage structure with the minimum amount of materials.

The wings of the Blackburn Type D employ a simplified construction method of two ¼ inch balsa dowels (I used ¼ inch square balsa sanded to a round shape) that function as the fore and aft spars. The wing ribs are glued directly to the balsa dowels using a jig to keep the aft spar at the correct elevation to maintain the wing’s airfoil shape.

This creative approach was adapted from Sig’s Demoiselle aircraft kit and works fine with the Blackburn.

Blackburn fuselage with landing gear attached

Fuselage with landing gear attached to ply plate

A second advantage of the spar dowels is that I use them to plug the wings into metal mounting tubes on the fuselage plywood frame. The one inch metal tubes are epoxied precisely to wood mounts glued to the plywood fuselage plywood frame. This method ensures the proper wing incidence and dihedral, yet offers a quick and easy method to assemble the plane at your flying location.

Tail surfaces

The tail surfaces are made from balsa and are built directly on the plans. The model used three channels of control for throttle, elevator and rudder. Both the rudder and the elevator have plenty of area and throw to offer positive control response.

1912 Blackburn Type D Monoplane front view

Blackburn Type D front view

One of the advantages of constructing a radio control model from plans is the ability to easily incorporate changes, whether they be major or minor. Many folks have built their own Blackburn Type D radio control planes, and I have learned a lot from lessons passed on.

Werner, for example, enlarged his plans to 125% of the original size. Enlarging plans is a common practice that allows a modeler to “right size” the aircraft to the meet a personal desire. Werner added a detailed pilot figure to his Blackburn that truly is a finishing touch. Based on the YouTube video, Werner’s version flies just as well as the original.

Steve applied considerable building skills to his construction of the Blackburn. Steve did a remarkable job of strengthening the wing structure with top and bottom spars reinforced by shear webbing. This resulted in a spar box scheme that provides a great deal of strength and allowed the use of metal tubes for the wing attachment. Steve plans to fly his Blackburn outdoors with a slightly more powerful electric motor, so beefing up the wing structure makes a lot of sense.

Blackburn Plan

Due to the popularity of the full scale Blackburn flights at Shuttleworth there are a wide range of videos and photos that you can use to detail your RC model. Including a pilot figure, a simulated rotary engine and rigging wires are some initial steps towards adding scale features to make your version stand out. These outwardly minor additions add a great deal to the airplane’s appeal.


Blackburn nose section detail RC model plane

Blackburn nose section detail

The Blackburn Type D is a responsive and relaxing flyer. The model takes off in a few feet and is comfortable flying around the pattern at slower airspeeds. The large rudder provides plenty of turn control for all maneuvers. Landings are essentially a non-event. Simply reduce power when on final to glide in for a smooth touchdown.

In summary, the Blackburn makes for an easy to build and pleasing scale RC model airplane project. The Blackburn is an attractive aircraft that is not overdone in the modeling world, and will provide a nice diversion from the myriad of ready to fly RC aircraft. Good luck with your build. Please share any pictures or videos and I will add to the website!

Front view of Werner's Blackburn RC model plane - 125% of plan size

Front view of Werner’s Blackburn – 125% of plan size

Author: Gordon McKay