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Airplane Plans Open a New World of RC Flight

Download a free copy of the Finch model airplane plan

Knowing how to build RC models from airplane plans can open exciting new possibilities. Almost and ready to fly to fly indoor RC model aircraft are an important part of any pilot’s fleet. Today’s affordable micro RTF airplanes add a great dimension to flying fun. But building an RC model from plans, with the goal of drafting your own aircraft design some day, adds a worthy goal that every modeler can meet.


Blackburn CAD RC model airplane plan

1912 Blackburn Type D monoplane CAD plans available here

Know how to read a model airplane plan

The first step in learning to build a model from plans is getting comfortable reading and understanding a typical aircraft building plan. Some plans, such as for the Robin, are very easy to read. Other, such as for the Pietenpol Air Camper are detailed guides for assembling the laser cut parts.

There is no set formula for what should be included in a model airplane plan. The initial item to understand is that a model airplane’s plan is drawn full size. The reason for this is that your model aircraft is constructed directly over the airplane plan. The various diagrams on the plan tell a story of how the airplane will eventually be put together. A lot of the fun in reading and drawing model plane plans is learning how to include all the required items of information, such that a new modeler can successfully understand how to apply the designer’s intent. This is certainly a large improvement from the early days of antique model airplane plans, as shown in 1908 building instructions.

Front view of Finch micro RC airplane

Detailed view of the Finch with ParkZone ESC brick - download free full size Finch plans here

Model airplane plans must of course include details of all the main structural elements of the finished model. The builder must be certain of the wing spar and rib arrangement, as well as the fuselage formers and arrangement of the tail surfaces. Depending on the complexity of the model, the plans draftsman may include front views, details of the landing gear, or insights on how the wing is attached to the fuselage. The measure of merit with any finished model airplane plan is simple. The prospective builder should not have any questions on the model’s construction methods, materials or dimensions.


Yard Ace fuselage airplane plan front view

Yard Ace fuselage forward section

Building RC micro planes

Typically, it is difficult to build an indoor RC airplane from plans. The tolerances on weights and model alignment are exacting. The good news is that there is a new breed of lightweight micro radio control gear and powerful geared electric motors that make building your own indoor model from plans practical.

The ParkZone line of electronics in particular has made this evolution possible. The ParkZone electronics are incredibly small. A battery, receiver with electronic speed control and two servos weigh just half an ounce. In addition, this remarkable RC micro gear is very affordable. A single transmitter, such as the Spektrum radio DX6i, can be bound to ten separate receivers for further cost savings.

The advantage of using today’s micro RC gear is that the builder has some additional margin for any extra weight on a model built from plans. Low weight is still a critical factor for the successful flight of any mode plane. Today’s powerful electric motors, lightweight lipo batteries and tiny electronic bricks make practical indoor RC models made from plans a reality.

Finch RC micro plane nose section

Finch nose with electric motor in place

The Finch is a great first micro RC model

A good starter project for an plans built indoor RC model is the three channel Finch. You can download a free set of Finch full size CAD plans here. The Finch is a great initial building project as the airplane is made from balsa and plywood. No carbon rods or other unusual building materials. The Finch uses a standard ParkZone power and RC equipment.

The Finch’s wing uses a simple three spar arrangement, and the remainder of the model is made primarily from 3/32” square balsa. You should be able to construct your Finch in a weekend. The Finch is a smooth flyer, and can be used as trainer for the tyro pilot.

In summary, being able to build an RC model from airplane plans is a fun and useful skill to acquire. You will open a new world of unique aircraft that you can add to your fleet. The new lightweight electronics make indoor models built from airplane plans a practical reality.

Author: Gordon McKay

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