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Guillow Model Airplanes for your Flying Fleet

Convert Guillow model aircraft to RC using new micro gear

Nieuport balsa model airplane frame

Nieuport balsa frame - typical Guillow construction, ideal for Silkspan covering

Guillow model airplane kits are popular with modelers everywhere. Guillow aircraft kits have been in existence since 1933. The balsa and tissue kits produce model planes from World War I fighters to light civil aircraft to World War II bombers.

Before the prevalence of ready to fly RC model airplanes available today, Guillow kits were a standby for new modelers everywhere. The kits provided a wide variety of easy to build and interesting models at an affordable price.

Aeronca Guillow model airplane kit

Contents of a typical Guillow kit - see more RC flyers at the E-Fest indoor show

Guillow kits had the added attraction of a building system that was easy to learn and incorporated in all their models. If you could construct one Guillow kit, you could make any model airplane they produced.

Guillow construction technique

The typical Guillow model airplane fuselage was built one half at a time. Top and bottom balsa crutches were pinned to the building board, and half formers glued to the crutch. Balsa stringers were then glued to the formers. The completed fuselage half was removed from the building board and formers for the other half glued in place. Plastic vacuum formed parts completed complex curved objects such as a cowl.


The wings were made from a balsa frame for the leading and trailing edge. The wing ribs all used a basic Clark Y airfoil with a flat bottom that allowed the wing to be constructed directly on the plan. Balsa stringers completed the wing structure. Tail surfaces were shaped 1/16” balsa outlines with inner balsa stringers. The aircraft frame was covered with tissue.

Guillow Corsair covered with tissue

Guillow Corsair - great candidate for electric RC flight

Keep flying weight light

The challenge with just about all the Guillow kits was that the balsa tended to be denser than required, resulting in a heavy model. This added strength was fine when the Guillow kit was converted to gas powered control line flight.

The excess wood weight produced a free flight version of a Guillow model airplane that was difficult to trim and fly. Due to the small size of a typical Guillow kit, a conversion to electric radio control flight was not contemplated by the majority of modelers.

Guillow model airplane kit

Light civil aircraft make ideal RC conversions

Today, all this has changed regarding using a Guillow kit as the basis for an RC conversion. The Guillow plans are complete with outlines and details on aircraft structure. Micro radio control equipment such as that used for the ultra micro 4-Site biplane is an ideal fit for a Guillow model.

Guillow fuselage construction

Photo shows typical crutch and former construction technique employed for Guillow models

You have to plan ahead as with any conversion of a free flight model to RC guidance. Take measurements of the electronic speed control and aileron servo dimensions to ensure they will fit inside the model you have chosen. Some aircraft, such as the Grumman F6F Hellcat, have large fuselage interiors that facilitate an RC conversion. Even with a smaller aircraft fuselage interior, the formers can be trimmed to add additional volume. A plane such as the Fokker Eindecker should have adequate fuselage volume.

Corsair top view

Corsair model airplane balsa framework

As you work an RC update to a Guillow kit, keep a close watch on the aircraft weight. The key here is to replace any heavy balsa parts with a lighter grade of balsa. Be especially vigilant for weight build up in the tail area, as this can contribute to an aft center of gravity location. Think also of reducing aircraft structure where possible to contribute towards a lighter final flight weight, such as by using the smallest micro RC servos.

Model airplane flight characteristics

As a general rule, a model airplane will emulate the fight characteristics of its full scale counterpart. The majority of Guillow kits are scale models of their full size airplane. A model of a Me-109 will fly fast, and could have tricky handling characteristics. A replica of an airplane with more gentle flight parameters will typically fly in a more predictable manner.

For your initial conversion of a Guillow kit to RC flight, consider a simple modeling subject like a Piper or Aeronca light aircraft. These airplanes employ high wings with adequate surface area, combined with generous fuselage volume for RC equipment.

As you tackle more advanced aircraft such as World War II fighters, take a close look at things that can be done to aid model flight characteristics. As always, keep weight to an absolute minimum.

DC-3 balsa framework

DC-3 balsa framework makes an interesting model

Add some additional dihedral for lateral stability, especially if you will be using three channels of control. Wing area can be increased via a slight extension of the wing length and width, to provide a lower wing loading.

The tail surfaces of a typical World War II fighter are small. It is always a good idea to increase the surface area of the stabilizer and vertical fin for a model of these high performance aircraft. Keep the same outline and it will be just about impossible to discern the slight increase in surface area.

Build a Guillow kit for RC

Guillow model airplanes are wonderful kits that lend themselves well for a conversion to electric powered RC flight. The main objective is to keep the flying weight as low as possible, with adequate wing and tail surface area for stable micro RC model flight.

Author: Gordon McKay

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