Matchbox Fliers Article & Plans
April 1962 American Modeler Article

April 1962 American Modeler

April 1962 American Modeler Cover - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like American Aircraft Modeler, American Modeler, Air Trails, Flying Aces, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, & Young Men captured the era. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

It seems most every old time rubber-powered free flight model has been converted by someone to electric-powered radio control. The availability of motors and R/C airborne systems weighing in the grams - or fraction thereof - is making R/C flight for even the tiniest models possible. It would be interesting to see somebody convert these Matchbox Fliers to at least single-channel R/C. Heck, there's probably a way to even mount a camera to a model this small these days.

Matchbox Fliers More Fun Than a Barrel of "Sick" Comedians!

By Dick Everett 

Matchbox Fliers More Fun Than a Barrel of "Sick" Comedians!, April 1962, American Modeler - Airplanes and Rockets

Tiny airplanes that fit in a matchbox? Yes, and how they fly!

Rod Miller, a science teacher in Fresno, Calif., first heard about mini-models from Don Martin. When Don was in military service in Germany, balsa was mighty scarce. To conserve wood and still have contests, matchbox airplanes were devised.

In developing a series of miniature craft Rod started from scratch, employing much initiative. Bamboo was one of his first materials, knowing he could split it up very small. Tests on tissues for covering led to condenser paper. The need for 1/64" sheet balsa led to Swaney's hobby emporium in Long Beach and Micro-Dyne wood. Rubber for power started with golf ball rubber, ended with Bungee cord from a boat shop. Winding went from hand to hand-drill to a gear train from a broken toy.

Science teacher Rod Miller demonstrates how Matchbox Fliers fit inside box tray - Airplanes and RocketsScience teacher Rod Miller demonstrates (right) how Matchbox Fliers fit inside box tray. Baby R.O.G. (rise-off-ground) design is shown actual size - below right.

These matchbox-size models really fly! - upper left. Squadron of contest jobs are shown around the ever-present box; winder is from wind-up toy. Rubber-powered planes look larger (above) when held by a small Miller. Design proposals sketched are half-size here (nose plug at left is actual size). All appear full size on Hobby Helpers' Group Plan # 462.

Rod Miller's son holding Matchbox Fliers - Airplanes and RocketsWith conventional thrust bearings and shaft housings, Rod figured a lot of power was being absorbed in metal washers, besides metal was a little hard to work. Having been a chem major in college, he knew of an excellent material with a very low co-efficient of friction - Teflon. He found some used as a piston ring in an air compressor. With a cross section 1/16" x 1/8" here, was enough for thousands of washers. They are cut 1/16" x 1/16" then pierced with a pin. When cementing in place, it is necessary to completely cover the washer since the adhesive will not stick to the Teflon. A word of caution - do not heat this material! It gives off toxic gasses when very hot.

Matchbox Flyer Baby R.O.G. - Airplanes and Rockets
Matchbox Flyer Baby R.O.G.



Matchbox Flyer Canard - Airplanes and Rockets
Matchbox Flyer Canard



Matchbox Flyer Baby R.O.G. Type - Airplanes and Rockets
Matchbox Flyer Baby R.O.G. Type



Matchbox Flyer Twin Pusher - Airplanes and Rockets
Matchbox Flyer Twin Pusher

Rules for this event are simple. The matchbox limits plane size. Ready-to-fly model must fit within the box. The wing can't fold, the fuselage can't fold. Each entry in its ready-to-fly state is put in the tray section of the box which is passed thru the cover. To keep everything reasonably sane no hollow motor sticks or tail booms are allowed. Micro-film would be okay and with this size model might be easier to use than tissue.

 - Airplanes and RocketsJust how big can a model be built? Inside of tray measures 1 3/8" x 2 9/16" x 4 1/2". Take advantage of the diagonal and your model can have a projected wingspan of 2 7/8". If you utilize the diagonal for length, a model can be as much as 4 5/8" long.

Design-wise, imaginations can run wild. To provide sufficient wing area, aspect ratios are fairly low, 1" chords are common. Is a lifting section desirable? Does it do any good? So build both types! Horizontal tail area is quite large, usually 40 to 90% for a tractor. For a canard, we figure 100% would be practical. The fuselage can be small "sticks," or built-up triangles with 1/32-sq or smaller longerons at each corner, made long so plenty of rubber can be used. Propellers are 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter, almost equal to the wingspan. Two blades work better and are lighter than a single blade with counterbalance.

No limitations on types! You should try twin pushers, canards, ROG's, tractors and even helicopters. (Some sharp designer will probably clean up with a matchbox helicopter.)

Contests can be held almost any place, even outdoors during calm weather. Auditoriums too small for regular indoor models are perfect for matchbox miniatures. Club attendance is stimulated by conducting "M.B." contests after meetings. It's an interesting new phase in building. Have some fun...let yourself go...try Miller's matchbox miniatures.


Matchbox Flyers - Airplanes and Rockets



The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always best to buy printed plans because my scanner versions often have distortions that can cause parts to fit poorly. Purchasing plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.

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Posted March 30, 2013