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
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.
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 #
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.
Matchbox Flyer Canard
Matchbox Flyer Baby R.O.G. Type
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.
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.
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.
Try my Scale Calculator for Model Airplane Plans.
Posted March 30, 2013