Radio-Controlled Airplanes

Since I retired several years ago I've taken up an activity that earning a living didn't seem to allow time for: building model airplanes. Flying and aircraft have always fascinated me. Sometimes I've wondered why I didn't go into flying as a young adult, but other things seemed to have higher priority at the time.

I had built model planes as a child and adolescent. There's a pull, to me, to constructing things that work—I've built all kinds of things, from boats and airplanes to bridges to electronic components (I was nearly sixty before I bought a ready-built stereo amplifier) to photographic gear to computers. Building something that actually flies under my control seems the epitome of fantasy. Craftsmanship is vital. If you're impatient with details, don't try it. You'll just get frustrated, and the model you build may not fly well, if at all.

A flying model airplane is not a toy. (There's a famous line in the Jimmy Stewart movie "Flight of the Phoenix" when the man who will succeed in getting the people out of the desert in which they've crash-landed admits that he is a designer of model airplanes, not full-size aircraft as the others had thought: "A toy airplane, Mister Towns, is something that you wind up and it runs around on the floor!") A model has to obey the laws of aerodynamics just as surely as its full-scale cousin. Its wings are designed to lift its weight and its power plant must pull the craft at a speed sufficient to create that lift. Balance, airfoil shape, wing-loading, power-loading, induced and parasitic drag—all these parameters of full-scale flight apply equally to models. It is not stretching things to call a flying model a "real" aircraft.

A few years ago, I visited a radio-controlled model airfield, and I was hooked. You can read about that visit at Landings.

There's a whole industry and subculture devoted to radio-control (R/C) models. I decided right away to concentrate on electric-powered planes, because they're cleaner and much quieter than the more common alcohol-powered internal-combustion engine variety.

A gallery of my models appears at My Models.

I also wrote an editorial for a modeling newsletter that talks about some of my feelings about this craft. Click here to jump to Zen and the Art of Aircraft Modeling.


I edit a little club newsletter for the Ann Arbor Falcons, called The Peregrine's Post. Besides being mailed to club members, it is available on the club Web site:

Click here to jump to the site.

If you're interested in building and/or flying radio-controlled model airplanes, I recommend you also check into another Home Page, published by Ken Myers and Jeff Hauser of ELECTRIC FLYERS ONLY (a club in Southeast Michigan). Ken also publishes a great, informative newsletter on electric-powered airplanes, called The Ampeer, which appears on his site..

Click here to jump to their page.

Another Web site that is actually an on-line magazine is EZONE, published by Jim Bourke. Check this one out, too!

Click here to jump to EZONE


Updated July 29, 2001

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