Full Size Electric Plane from a Model

Front view from airborne drone of Peter's test flight

Front view from airborne drone of Peter’s test flight

I added a page to the site today regarding a remarkable young man who designed a twin engine electric powered model biplane and flew it . . . then created via CAD a full size variant . . . built it in his basement with materials from Lowe’s . . . and then flew the aircraft himself.

The article also discusses the rapid advances of electric power in the full scale aviation world and how this parallels our experience with electric powered radio control model aircraft flight.

The video documentation is exceptionally well done, to include air-to-air drone shots of Peter’s initial flight. Folks are doing amazing things these days!

Build a Rough Prototype

ParkZone electronics installed in the Spin prototype

ParkZone electronics installed in the Spin prototype

I added a page today discussing the concept of a “rough prototype” for model aircraft design.

Aviation has always embraced the idea of a prototype with any new aircraft design, power system, construction method, etc. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples of this is the first Boeing 707 jet airliner.

There were so many new techniques and procedures with constructing and flying the world’s first swept-wing jet powered airliner that Boeing elected to not certify the initial B-707 aircraft with the FAA. Boeing kept it as an “Experimental” aircraft with no FAA issued “N” registration number (and of course no ability to carry any passengers), just so Boeing could figure out if this type of design was worthy of a full production variant.

This historic B-707 is on display at the Smithsonian Museum Udvar-Hazy Center aircraft collection outside of Washington Dulles Airport. Worth a visit.

The idea of using a prototype for model aircraft design makes full sense. I advocate the approach of using a “rough prototype” to work out aircraft sizing, incidence settings, surface areas, etc. before taking the time and effort for a fully finished product. See further details here!

Yard Ace Build

Yard Ace electric powered RC model airplane on a fly by

Yard Ace electric powered RC model airplane on a fly by

The Yard Ace is one of my favorite designs. The airplane’s layout is simple and construction employs normal building techniques and materials. The Yard Ace is a great first choice for a plans-built model.

Yard Ace wing under construction, note addition of aileron servos

Yard Ace wing under construction, note addition of aileron servos

Russell recently sent in some photos of his Yard Ace. Russell is working on a third version with students as part of a classroom project. Note the addition of ailerons and wing mounted servos, an indication of just how straight forward “kit/plan bashing” modifications are to this flyer. Russell, many thanks for sharing your Yard Ace building experiences!

Russell has given me a great idea, and that is to make a smaller indoor version of the Yard Ace designed around using the ParkZone microelectronics. It will be easy to produce the reduced size plans printing with TurboCAD, or employing the tile feature contained in the print box of a PDF file.

Yard Ace fuselage under construction

Yard Ace fuselage under construction

Based on experience, I think about a 25 inch wingspan variant of the Yard Ace will be about right for the motor and prop used by the ParkZone equipment, looking towards a finished weight of under three ounces. Note that I used this empirical sizing technique designing the Fokker Spin, which came in at a 28 inch wing span and a three ounce flight weight.

As my December Mesa flying schedule with United Express permits I look forward to sharing progress with you on this construction process!


Yard Ace after a slight landing accident, with motor mount needing a replacement

Yard Ace after a slight landing accident, with motor mount needing a replacement

Front view of Russel's Yard Ace

Front view of Russel’s Yard Ace

Mesa Training Complete!

I am officially complete with training as a First Officer for Mesa Airlines, flying the CRJ-700 aircraft for United Express at Washington Dulles airport. It was a great journey since my start on January 20, 2015.

Gordon in CRJ 700 cockpit

Gordon in CRJ 700 cockpit

The final phase of training called for by the Part 121 (Scheduled Air Carrier) regulations is referred to as Consolidation.

Consolidation requires that pilots fly 100 hours in their new aircraft within 120 days of getting the type rating in the simulator. The idea behind this is to ensure the new aviators (read: most junior pilots) have an initial schedule priority to obtain real-world line flying experience while their training is still fresh.

United Express CRJ 700 on Dulles ramp

United Express CRJ 700 on Dulles ramp

So, I have 102 hours in the jet as of 2 June. I am home for a few days and will be on a Reserve status at Dulles for the remainder of June.

This means I can clean up a few items on the website and focus on my next building project.

The first edit is under the “Store” tab. One of the most popular offerings on the site remains the TurboCAD training videos. TurboCAD is the program for home builders to draw model aircraft plans. TurboCAD is affordable and easy to use once you understand a few basics of how a typical CAD program works.

In almost three hours of narrated videos I show you how to draw a model airplane from a clean sheet of paper to a finished plan. Take a look at the page for further details.



As for my next project I plan on a radio control conversion of the Guillow’s Arrow model airplane kit. I’ve purchased the kit, please check in periodically for progress on this build. Should make for a fun indoor flyer!

Enlarge Model Plans for Free!

Prototype of the Yankee Mike, my first model airplane design

Prototype of the Yankee Mike, my first model airplane design

One of the many nice things about radio control modeling and the internet these days is the abundance of model aircraft plans that can be purchased and downloaded on-line.

My site is a great example of this. I designed my first model airplane, the Yankee Mike, in 1998. RC Modeler magazine published the full size plan and construction article. Offering full size blue prints of various model aircraft construction plans was all part of the business model of RC magazines in those days. It was not uncommon to see three construction articles in a single issue.

As a side note I had to draw out, by hand, the full size Yankee Mike plan. Practical home use computer CAD programs just did not exist at that time. I mailed these depictions to RC Modeler magazine. A professional draftsman traced over my drawings to prepare the finished full size plan. Sadly, RC Modeler magazine went out of business several years ago.

On a happier note, you can still purchase many of these classic RC Modeler construction plans today.  A Google search will show several sources. RCM had some wonderful and original designs that would make ideal flyers today.

"Yankee Mike" construction article in 1998 RC Modeler magazine

“Yankee Mike” construction article in 1998 RC Modeler magazine

Since then I have had five additional model aircraft plans published in the modeling press and available for purchase on this site. For further details please see the Plans pull down menu on the home page.

But back to the subject of this post, how to enlarge a smaller aircraft plan drawing to full size. Any plan that you obtain from the internet typically will be a smaller size drawing that will need to be enlarged.

See my detailed page here on the subject of enlarging a model aircraft plan. The good news is that the free Adobe PDF reader has a built in function that easily allows you to set an enlargement ratio and print out 8.5” by 11” paper “tiles” on your home printer.

When all the tiles are printed out you tape them together for the full size construction plan. I’ve included Sheet One of the three Fokker “Spin” plan sheets for the demonstration that you can download and experiment with.

Following this method you can make any size plan you wish from a smaller PDF drawing. Recall that if a plan is downloaded in another format (say, a Word document) most programs have a “Save As” feature that allows you to save the file as a PDF document. Once you have the file in a PDF format you can use the enlarge (“Poster”) feature in the PDF Print dialogue screen to create the full size plan.

For those of you who have TurboCAD or some other CAD (Computer Aided Design) program installed on your computer I always include the full TurboCAD file when you purchase one of my model aircraft plans. TurboCAD has a built in feature that allows an enlargement of any plan with a tiling feature for the finished print out.


Spin Sheet 1 on a single page (left) and 150% enlargement (four tiles) at right

Spin Sheet 1 on a single page (left) and 150% enlargement (four tiles) at right

Finch Build Page and Flight Video

Front view of the Finch covered with silkspan

Front view of the Finch covered with silkspan

I added a full description and build page on my Finch plan, used to build a three channel indoor radio control flyer . Check it out here. The Finch goes together quickly with modeling supplies you likely already have in your work shop. The airplane uses a flat frame for the fuselage and employs a top mounted wing.

The Finch uses the popular ParkZone line of radio control electronics and electric motor, thus there are few concerns over obtaining the correct micro-electronics for successful flight. Full ordering details for the electronics are covered.

Finch showing 1/32" balsa cowling

Finch showing 1/32″ balsa cowling

The Finch’s full size CAD (computer aided design) plans are absolutely free and can be downloaded on the page. And best of all is the fact that I have taken the computer drawn plans created with TurboCAD and pasted them into a Microsoft Word document.

While any CAD plan can be easily offered you will need some sort of CAD program on your computer to open, view and print the plan. Not every modeler has one of these programs installed. By making the plan available in Word format, just about anyone with a computer can download and print out the plan.

Do take a look at the Finch. By building one for yourself, you will have a fun indoor flyer as well as something different from the other ready to fly models at your local indoor flying venue. Check out the video below of one builder’s Finch.  Give it a try and good luck!


Build the Finch – Free CAD Plans!

Spektrum transmitter and completed Finch

Spektrum transmitter and completed Finch

The Finch is a three channel indoor micro radio control model that I designed a few years ago. The Finch is easy to build and flies very well . . . and best of all the plans are free!

Finch showing 1/32" balsa cowling

Finch showing 1/32″ balsa cowling

Click here for a set of Finch Full Size Plans.  The Finch plans were created in TurboCAD and then pasted into a Word file. Thus there is no need to have a CAD program to print out a set of full size plans.

Everyone can get access to Microsoft Word. Just print out the nine pages, tape then together per the instructions on Sheet 1 and start your build!

The Finch has a 20 inch wingspan and is a bit over 15 inches long. I used the popular ParkZone line of RC electronics and matched electric motor. This setup weighs next to nothing and provides plenty of power. Any other light weight set of electronic controls and motor will work just fine.

Three channel radio control Finch in a fly by

Three channel radio control Finch in a fly by

The Finch is easy to modify with different cowling arrangements, an increase in wing span or maybe changes in the tail surface outlines, just use your imagination. When working with a small model like this it is easy and affordable to make a few mods here and there, see how they work, and have a chance to experiment a bit. “Plans bashing” is the first step towards designing your own model airplane some day!

Mike recently built his version of the Finch and it came out great. See below!


Nose section of the Finch showing landing gear, motor and RC electronic arrangement

Nose section of the Finch showing landing gear, motor and RC electronic arrangement


Mike's Finch with clear yellow heat shrink covering

Mike’s Finch with clear yellow heat shrink covering

Aircraft Three View to TurboCAD

Top view of the Fokker Spin RC model

Top view of the Fokker Spin RC model

Many folks have purchased my TurboCAD training videos to quickly learn how to use TurboCAD to draw a model airplane plan. Note that the three hours of video training is available via e-mail. I no longer need to send you two CDs via postal mail. I’ll e-mail you a Dropbox link and you can get started immediately with viewing the video files. There is no need to have TurboCAD installed on your computer, as you will view the files on a media player.

Following is a nice note Peter B. sent to me regarding the TurboCAD training:

“Tim: I just finished up the last of your videos. What a wonderful tutorial. I don’t think I’d be able to learn 1/2 of what you go over in months of noodling around. What a great value!

1911 Fokker Spin radio control model airplane in flight

1911 Fokker Spin in flight

One thing that I did want to ask though is about a technique or approach to using a 3-view drawing (in JPG) format of a real aircraft and using that as a basis for CAD based model plans. I’ve tried to pull a JPG into the application and size it up roughly to the size I want my model to be.

I find it tricky however because construction lines and other drawing artifacts seem to always get placed behind the JPEG image. I haven’t figured out how to use a Z order or similar analogy in TC to keep the JPG at the bottom of the stack and the drawing artifacts on top. Any suggestions?”

As I get this question a lot, I plan on making a short YouTube video that will show this process in action. This is the method I used in creating my Fokker Spin plan with TurboCAD.

First, make sure you have a JPEG file of the three view you would like to use. I found the Spin three view via a Google image search and saved the file to my computer.

JPEG image of a Fokker Spin three view

JPEG image of a Fokker Spin three view

Then, in TurboCAD, go to “Insert” on the top menu bar, then “Picture” on the pull-down menu, then “From File.” Choose your JPEG three view as the picture from the file, and click Open.

Now go back to your TurboCAD plan. Nothing will happen until you left-click in TurboCAD, hold the left button down and drag a box. Your JPEG file should then show up on TurboCAD.

You can rotate and resize the JPEG three view as needed until it is the correct size, as TurboCAD “knows” the size of everything it is drawing.

Once the three view is the correct size, I draw a few lines from TurboCAD over the picture until I have what I call a “CAD sketch” of the three view. This CAD sketch is what I want, as I can now fill in all the details that are needed for a complete plan. The key point is the CAD sketch, traced over the three view image, is the correct size of your final aircraft.

See below for the three view I used for the Spin and the resulting CAD sketch. This outline of the aircraft was all that I needed to fill in all the remaining structural details to come up with the final plan.

JPEG three view of the Fokker Spin, with a traced TurboCAD sketch in the middle.

JPEG three view of the Fokker Spin, with a traced TurboCAD top view sketch in the middle.

Construction plan for the Fokker Spin fuselage

Construction plan for the Fokker Spin fuselage


TurboCAD Training Videos via DropBox

I have made many sales over the past few weeks of my TurboCAD training videos. Due to the large file size, I used to send the training via two CDs. I have since discovered the fantastic utility of DropBox and can now send you the video files instantly via e-mail. You download the 12 narrated video lessons to your computer from a link in the e-mail and are off and running!

TurboCAD really is an exceptional Computer Aided Design (CAD) course for the home user. I started with TurboCAD version 8 in 2000. There are now up to Version 21, and the price for the Deluxe version (all you need to draw any sort of radio control model plan) is around $130. You really cannot go wrong.

Following is a very nice note sent to me by Ralph, from the United Kingdom, on his purchase of these TurboCAD training videos:

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for your swift response to my purchase of your product.

There were no problems whatsoever in downloading and extracting the files.

Indeed, I have watched the first two tutorials this evening (UK time).

The explanations for the various different aspects of CAD drawing are certainly thorough enough for me to make sense of it all.

I have had a copy of TurboCAD for quite some time and had absolutely no idea about how to use it – until now.

Again, many thanks.

Best regards,


Drawing RC model plans is really quite easy once you learn the basics of TurboCAD. The Fokker Spin plan below is my most recent effort via TurboCAD.  Give it a try!


Construction plan for the Fokker Spin fuselage

Construction plan for the Fokker Spin fuselage

Clark Y and Moskal Blackburn


My latest page is a discussion of the Clark Y airfoil with instructions on how you can draw this useful wing rib shape for your model plane designs.

Three views of a Clark Y airfoil showing different lengths

Three views of a Clark Y airfoil showing different lengths

The Clark Y was developed in the 1920s for general purpose aviation. The airfoil provided good handling and predictable stall characteristics, design elements sought in those early days of flight.

It turns out that the Clark Y is a great choice for radio control model airplanes. The airfoil is well suited for model airplane construction due to its flat bottom. Wing ribs can be placed directly on a flat building board.

The Clark Y has a good amount of depth to accommodate wing structure, to include components such as aileron servos or retractable landing gear.

Steve Moskal's Blackburn under construction (copyright cometkid.com)

Steve Moskal’s Blackburn under construction (copyright cometkid.com)

As with full scale aircraft the Clark Y provides good handling characteristics and gentle stalls. I use the Clark Y for all of my model aircraft designs.

For antique flyers such as the Blackburn or the Fokker Spin, with their under cambered airfoils, I used the Clark Y outline to prepare the wing rib shape with a variation. I left out the full depth of the ribs per the original wing design. The planes fly fine, yet retain the unique look of aircraft produced during the first decade of flight with their thin wing sections and under camber layout.

You really cannot go wrong with using a Clark Y for a sport radio control model plane.

The page shows detailed information on how to plot out the airfoil. The diagrams show the calculations that are needed. You can draw the airfoil by hand or use a program such as TurboCAD. A CAD program is a big help as you can easily copy and resize the airfoil to fit new designs.

Finally, there is a fascinating series of posts on the RC Groups forum by Steve Moskal on his build of the Blackburn. Check out the post here.

Steve is a talented and meticulous modeler. He goes into great detail on the construction of his rendition of the Blackburn. I am certain his version will turn out to be a top competitor.

Detail of a hand drawn Clark Y airfoil

Detail of a hand drawn Clark Y airfoil