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TurboCAD Deluxe Anniversary Edition 


Use TurboCAD to Design Model Planes

Today's modern CAD programs made quick work of drafting tasks


Yannkee Mike RC plane plan model

The Yankee Mike was my first RC plane design

Design your own RC model airplane

As you progress as an RC model airplane builder and pilot, one challenge you should consider is preparing a design for a model plane of your own. Setting a goal to design model planes will entail a series of steps. As with anything new, a good idea is to “crawl, walk and run” as you develop your model plane design skills.

The first step for a model plane design is to settle on a computer aided design (CAD) program to draft the model airplane plans. It is possible to design and draw model airplane plans with paper and pencil.

The state of development and ease of use of today’s consumer CAD computer programs just about mandates that you take the time to learn the basics of these remarkable products. I have been using TurboCAD since 2000 and recommend this intuitive CAD program for anyone aspiring to design model planes. To get a jump start on using TurboCAD to prepare a set of model airplane plans, check out the TurboCAD training CD videos here.

Eelctro Aviator RC model plane

The Electro Aviator plan was drawn in TurboCAD

Be sure you can build from a kit

It is absolutely paramount that the new model airplane designer has a sound ability to build an RC model airplane from either plans or a kit. As you prepare your model airplane plans, you will take an outline of the aircraft, and mentally fill in the aircraft structure as you draw and develop the plans. Essentially, you will be building the model in your head as you complete the model plane design and plans, to include the type of glue employed.

This cannot be done unless you have a basic idea of how a model airplane’s fuselage and wing structure need to be assembled. It is perfectly acceptable as you design model planes to take notes of the success of others. These model plane design insights can come from other kits; model airplane plans you have collected; even observation of model airplane structures at trade shows and various model airplane build logs on the internet.


The get comfortable with the basic drafting actions with TurboCAD draw a complete plan for an “imaginary” airplane, one that you do not plan to build or fly. Don’t worry about precise wood sizes, areas or moments as you prepare this first set of CAD plans. Rather, get used to using TurboCAD’s line and circle tools; gain insight to the application of construction lines; master the snap, trim and mirror commands; and see the power of using the parallel line command. This is all covered in the TurboCAD training CDs.

Trainer RC model airplane

Copy an existing design for your first plan

Copy success!!

Once you gain a level of comfort with using TurboCAD to design model planes, it is now time to draw a plan for your first flying model. For this initial effort, let us simply “copy success.” Take an existing model airplane trainer, perhaps one you have flown yourself.

Look for a trainer model plane design that has straight lines, without a lot of complex curves or shapes. Measure the complete model, and take notes of the key dimensions for your model plane design: wing span, chord and length; fuselage length and width; nose and tail moments; and tail surface areas.

Now, in TurboCAD, redraw this design. Once the model plan outline is complete on your computer, make a few minor changes - changes that will have no impact on the model’s flying characteristics. Make the nose, say, an inch longer. Make the tail an inch or two longer. Add one half inch width to the fuselage, and add an inch or two to the wingspan. Keeping the same surface areas, alter the horizontal and vertical tail outlines a bit.


Snapper RC plane fuselage

TurboCAD makes it easy to go from the Snapper frame to the finished fuselage

With this “new design,” go ahead and use TurboCAD to fill in the aircraft structure just as on the original model airplane. This would include items like the wing spars, wood sizes for ribs and formers, and construction of the tail surfaces. The idea here is to develop your CAD drafting skills to prepare the final set of model plans, without worrying too much with figuring out new details on the aircraft structure.

When done with this new “design bash” of the original trainer airplane, you will have your first design done. Go ahead and build a finished version of your new design, to gain more insight as to how your final set of CAD plans actually work with hands-on model building actions.

Open balsa frame of the Electro Aviator


Draw and modify

Once you have this sample model airplane outline complete, go ahead and use the dimensions for a more modified design. You can try changes such as moving the wing from a high or shoulder location to a low wing design. Another easy change for any model is going from a tricycle landing gear arrangement to a tail dragger, or vice versa. You can also experiment with substituting building materials, such as foam for balsa on this version of the Finch (a free CAD plan).

With the magic of TurboCAD you will find these to be very easy tasks as you design model planes. After you get a few additional model plane designs complete, you will see just how easy and rewarding these projects can be. Go ahead and give it a try!

Author: Gordon McKay

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