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Superlight/Superstrong model airfoil contruction


Q. I'd like to build my own model airplane. From scratch. For fun.

Good design characteristics of course imply that an airplane be stiff and light. And also preferably durable ('cuz it's gonna crash, oh yes). I want something more substantial than mylar and balsa. I want something that might withstand the force of a mini-jet engine. I probably won't start with jet propulsion, but I'd like to go there.

A thin shell, or maybe better, a double shell, deposited/painted/cast onto/into a mold of my making would be ideal.

I would be doing this at home, so solutions requiring extreme vacuum (i.e., extreme expense), extreme toxicity, etc., are out of the running. This is home hobbyist territory. I do, however, more or less have access to whatever machine tools, etc. that you might find at a university.

Yes, I could probably find a kit, but that's just not as interesting.

Graphite? Fiberglass? Ion deposition + crucible? I dunno. I'm out of my element. I know what I want, but I have no clue what the appropriate approach might entail. Thanks for any suggestions.

Ron Peterson
- Granby, Massachusetts


A. Start by attending a few meetings of a local model airplane club. Virtually no one can afford what you are talking about. Also, buy a few model airplane magazines or find some one that has a collection of old ones. Take a look at what is commercially available and what has been done by non-commercial individuals. Then learn to fly on something expendable. After you are good, then look at getting into the expensive or high construction time models.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


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A. Ron,

What James Watt said is true ... you are barking up an expensive tree.

I did give this some thought ... the best way, very expensive, is to make male moulds of the wings etc, then wax them, then make female moulds. This is very time consuming and expensive. Having done that, you can achieve the nice and necessary smooth aerodynamic surfaces you need.... but VERY time consuming to make the wings, especially the wings !

Anyhow, without wasting any more time, may I suggest that you STICK to your Balsa and mylar constructions but add more Balsa supports where the wings join the body, i.e., a MAJOR STRESS POINT, ensure you only have Balsa only as fibreglass (FRP) won't like sticking to mylar. Use some FRP resin, a THIN (not a standard thickness) coating so that it will sink into the wood. Then get some very thin matte and thin cloth and very carefully apply this to those weak points ... and finish off with some veil to give a smoother finish. You could get the resin and a few square feet of those materials from a FRP fabricator who would also give you a (very) small qty of styrene for the initial soaking into the wood. I wish you success ... my first 'plane' was a Balsa Spitfire followed by a Hurricane, albeit all 1:72 scale solid models during WW2.

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [dec]
(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).

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