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Draw Your Own RC Plane Design!

Design, draw and build your own model airplane plan


SE-5a RC model airplane

World War I SE-5A scale model airplane built from plans


Expand your modeling horizons with plans

One of the most satisfying aspects of the radio control model airplane hobby is designing, building and flying your own RC model plane.

Part of this is selecting your model subject. An airplane like the Antoinette would be a good candidate for a scale plan. There are literally thousands of RC model airplanes flying.

Almost ready to fly, ready to fly, kit built or made from construction plans. Yet someone had to draft the plan for that aircraft. Why not yourself - and get your design published in a model airplane magazine?


Chickadee RC plane plan

Chickadee plan uses basic construction techniques


Basic skills

The most fundamental skill required to be a designer is to have knowledge of how to build a model airplane. One has to have the ability to read a set of construction plans, understand how the various parts of the aircraft go together and be able to construct a flying model.

Like anything in life start with an easy project and work your way up to a more complex model airplane. Find an airplane kit that is a trainer of some sort with an illustrated construction manual. For the aspiring plane designer there are numerous on-line model airplane forums with very useful photographs detailing the building of a wide range of model planes.


Fokker Spin model plane

Fokker Spin is made from plans


Copy success

Once you get an idea of how one designer created a homemade plane go ahead and copy the general layout for your first model airplane design.

I have designed and flown six model aircraft. For my initial design I simply took the measurements of a trainer that flew well and kept the same proportions for my design. This included key dimensions like the wingspan, wing flaps, nose moment, tail moment and surface areas.

Fill in a frame for your plans project

For this initial project, the Electro Aviator, I “filled in” the aircraft’s outline framework on the plan with structure.

For the wing I added a leading and trailing edge, as well as ribs and spars. For the fuselage, I added formers, stringers and bulkheads as necessary. My tail surfaces were sheet balsa. I used experience to determine wood types and sizes, with the focus of any RC plane designer to keep the structure light yet strong.

This is an empirical process. After a series of models, with either your own design or notes on other aircraft layouts, you will develop a sense of just what type and amount of structure is needed.

The main task is to guard against an overweight aircraft. With today’s powerful electric motors, a heavy design may well take off but will be too fast and no fun to fly as it rockets around the flying field.


Snapper RC model airplane frame

Snapper frame drawn with TurboCAD - fill in outline with structure for your model


Blackburn RC plane fuselage

Blackburn fuselage frame

Learn proper wood size

Once you complete your first aircraft design you will likely find some areas that can be improved upon. A selected wood size may be too small; the wood grain set the wrong way; or too much plywood was used in the fuselage or wing dihedral brace, adding weight.

Take note of these discrepancies, and make necessary adjustments in your follow on plane designs.

As you start drafting your next project begin to make incremental changes. You might want to widen the fuselage a bit to accommodate the radio equipment. This will have little to no effect on flight characteristics.

For aesthetic reasons you might want the nose or tail to be a bit longer. Again, there is generally no impact on flight performance with a slight increase in tail or nose moments assuming you keep the same center of gravity.

Yard Ace RC plane

Prototype Yard Ace - the wingspan is too short!


Yard Ace lessons learned

On the original design of my Yard Ace I made the wings too short. The wing outline looked OK on the TurboCAD plan. But once I built the first Yard Ace the wings simply looked too short.

This was validated on the test flights. I was happy the Yard Ace got airborne but it was a wild ride with the small wing area.


Yard Ace front view

4 inch longer wingspan on second Yard Ace

This was a problem that could be easily fixed. With the magic of TurboCAD training I drew a wing with a greater span. The wing ribs remained the same and the Yard Ace flew much better with the new wing and larger wing area.

For the Snapper, which is a low wing evolution of the Yard Ace, I added four inches to the Yard Ace’s wingspan for better slow flight characteristics. Download a free PDF plan of the Snapper here.

British biplane RC model

British biplane from the 1930s


Plans for great models

In summary, there is no “black magic” with being a model plane designer. For your first effort copy the success of someone else’s design. Use this basis to sharpen your initial design software drafting skills and the actual preparation of your first plan.

Once you get the model’s framework set work to add incremental changes and improvements in subsequent designs.

You will soon have a stable of model airplane outlines that can be readily adapted to your next design.

Author: Gordon McKay

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