Learning how to make a model airplane is only a small fraction of truly enjoying this aviation hobby. There are so many aspects of model airplanes that it can be one of the first toys a child plays with and continue to be a passion even into adulthood.
We have all seen the small paper envelopes with a plane on the side. After opening the envelope, three small wooden pieces are revealed to make a very elementary airplane that glides (if you are lucky) through the air. Model airplanes can be so much more than this.
From the thrill of flying an airplane from the safety of the ground to the challenge of building a functioning device with motors and a controller, learning how to make a model airplane is a great hobby for children and adults alike. Especially for someone who has a passion for flying and aviation, building model airplanes can be both fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Modern model airplanes are fairly simple at the basic level, but can also become very complex.
The History Of Model Airplanes
With the invention of the first airplanes, smaller models were soon to follow. The Wright brothers crafted the first airplanes, and models were used as souvenirs and to commemorate their new invention. Throughout World War I and II, models were used by the militaries of various countries to help test newer versions of planes.
Models ranged in size from scales of 1:144 to the larger scale sizes of 1:24. Some were die cast models while others required assembly. They required the imagination of a person to fly them through the sky or the aerodynamics of the wing to allow them to soar. Soon technology enabled people to steer them using remote controls. But the more complex they grew the more it became important to learn how to make a model airplane. New technology allows engineers to use small-scale models to test the functionality of their ideas before they build the full-scale test.
Model Airplane Fun Facts
- Static models are used in wind tunnels to gather data about how a plane will react to further develop a full-scale model.
- Most model airplane kits are made by injection molding parts in Asia.
- Any model that flies is known as an “aeromodel.”
- Models can be made out of a range of materials based on the needs of the product including wood, plastic and Styrofoam.
How To Make A Model Airplane – Getting Started
Learning how to make a model airplane takes a relatively small amount of skill at first but the decision process is the most time consuming part of the hobby. There are hundreds of different models to consider. Size, construction, and flying abilities are just some of the decisions to make.
The scale, or the size, of the plane must be considered. The larger the plane, the more detailed and accurate to its original it will be. The more common sizes are 1:72 and 1:48. The smaller the plane, usually the cheaper they are, unless you are talking about the kits that require every piece to be constructed.
If you plan to fly the plane versus keeping it on a shelf (known as a static model) will determine the construction material used. You will also need to decide if you want ready-to-fly airplanes or if you want to assemble your airplane from scratch. How do you make a model airplane? It depends on the kit. Some require full assembly, requiring hours and days of manual labor, attaching rods and pins together. Others require a few little snaps of wings and landing gear. Companies have realized there is a large population of people who want to learn how to assemble flight models, so look for ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) versus RTF (Ready To Fly).
Models that lend themselves to be good for beginners wanting a flying model are easily found and purchased. The AMA Cub, made of balsa wood, will fly being propelled with a rubber band. A remote control starter model should have the word “trainer” in the title, such as the Kadet LT-40 that flies slower, allowing you time to make changes in course.
How To Make A Model Airplane
Get a kit or template. Simple wooden kits can be purchased for around two dollars and can usually be assembled in under five minutes. If you purchase a more intricate kit or intend to build your own, you should be aware of the supplies needed. If you like antique models, you may even be able to track down a vintage kit at your local antique store.
Gather supplies. Excluding simple models, most models will require glue, a saw, and possibly some small nails. Some custom radio controlled airplanes even require motors, electrical cables and soldering. Having all your supplies gathered will help you complete the project faster with fewer interruptions or costly mistakes.
Assemble your model. Follow the instructions that were supplied with your model. Once you’ve assembled every part of your model airplane, most kits supply you with stickers, paint, or even require sealing or drying time. If you want, you could even hand-paint your plane to reflect your own unique style and tastes. Decals are another fun way to set your plane apart from others.
Choose what to do with your airplane. Although some models are more fun to fly, others require a special setup for display purposes. If you are going to fly your model, be aware that an unexpected crash might render your airplane damaged and not display-worthy. If this is your decision – to fly the model – be sure to take proper precautions and to have storage available that will help preserve the integrity of your airplane.
Tips & Tricks
When learning how to make a model airplane, the following tips and tricks can help you get more out of this exciting hobby…
- If you find model airplanes boring, look to the motorized model airplanes that can be controlled with a remote controller. Flying a remote controlled airplane takes skill but it can be more fun.
- Most hobby shops have regular sales, and if you’re looking to save some money wait till some airplanes go on sale.
- Models are a great way for a child to build on their existing passion for some toys such as Legos, Kinetics, and even Lincoln Logs.
- If you’re just getting started with remote control planes, take it easy! Crashing your plane into a tree or building is an expensive mistake and will quickly turn a fun hobby into disaster. Grow into your flying skills before trying advanced tricks and aerial maneuvers.
Expanding Your Model Airplane Hobby
One you learn you to make a model airplane and want to get more experience with this hobby, here are a few ideas to consider…
- Although modern technology has helped model airplanes increase in popularity with the general public, history is really what will progress model airplanes as a hobby. Every airplane has a story and the related story will help to pique or solidify interest in the potential for model airplanes.
- Fly model airplanes for the public. Go to parks, events, and any other public place to show off the model airplanes you’ve built.
- Tell the stories behind the real planes. If you have a historical model, research and share anything and everything you can about the real plane so other people can appreciate the history.
- Take care of model airplanes and display them appropriately. Although you might not feel like spending a ton of extra money on a glass case, displaying your models is part of what it takes to get people interested in the hobby.
Related Model Airplane Resources
Check out the following online resources for more information about how to make a model airplane…
ModelPlanes.com – one of the online leading sources for model airplanes and model aircraft.
Model Airplane News – a huge website with tons of information for all levels of model airplane hobbyists
Model Aviation – entry level site with information for the beginner and novice model airplane hobbyist.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.