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Aircraft modeling has undergone significant
changes over the decades - both in technology and preferences. Magazines like American Aircraft Modeler, and American
Modeler before that, were the best venues for capturing snapshots of the status quo of the day. Still, many things never
change, so much of the old content is relevant to today's modeler.
Whether you are here to wax nostalgic, or are
just interested in learning history, hopefully you will find what you are seeking. As time permits, I will be glad to
scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
is the article for the Ryan M-1 Mailplane that I electronically scanned
from my purchased copy of the November 1969 American Aircraft Modeler magazine,
beginning on page 25. You might be able to scale up the image below if you
cannot find suitable plans for sale. The article was written and plans drawn
by Mr. Vic Harden. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
Ryan M-1 Mailplane
From this design the Spirit of St. Louis was developed. Rubber-powered model
has details galore for the expert and clear instructions for the beginner.
by VIC HARDEN
BEFORE 1926 few people had seen an airmail
plane up close. But about that time the government began to award contracts
to private firms to carry the mail. This was the real beginning of our present
day airline companies.
Along with designs by Douglas, Boeing and
others, was one built by the Ryan Airlines School of San Diego. The aircraft
performed well even with lower horsepower and a heavier Hispano- Wright
engine, in place of a Wright J4 engine originally specified. Known as the
Ryan M-1, the plane later became the M-2. Some were built with the Risso,
some with the J4, for airline companies in the West.
Model's structure features use of card stock,
bond paper for wing leading edge, and built-up ribs. All curved outlines
are laminated balsa strips. Flies
great indoors or out.
Then Lindbergh picked Ryan to build his airplane. As history records he
was successful in 1927 on a long and lonely trip, from New York to Paris.
His Ryan number 29 was a descendant of the M-1 and M-2. The similarity was
evident between the M-l and the NYP Ryan used by Lindbergh.
rubber-powered model is the Rissopowered version. It provides more nose
length, giving a graceful and smooth appearance. A number of photographs
exist of this version of the M-1 and M-2 as well as the J4 version. The
American Airman Magazine
, Vol. 4, No.7, of July 1961, shows two
M-1/ M-2 Risso versions. General Aviation News
Monday, March 24,
1969, carries a picture of the M-1 now on display in San Diego.
You can build a full-detail-scale type, or a scale-outline type. Both types
require about the same effort and both will perform well. My model was
a scale outline variety used to develop a larger dieselengined job. The
amount of detail will affect the final weight.
Start with the wing
since it is the most difficult part. Using the patterns for the spars, front
and rear, aileron and false spar and centerline splices, each cut from 1/32"
straight-grain sheet, make two of each except the centerline splice pieces.
The rib template is cut from light gauge aluminum or tin. Use the template
to cut 30 upper rib caps from 1/32" straight-grain sheet. Each rib should
be 3/32" wide. In addition, cut 1/32 x 1/8" strips for the lower caps from
the same material. The leading edge is 3/32" sq. and the trailing edge is
1/16 x 1/4".
Trace the shape of the tip on a piece of cardboard
about 1/16" thick. Cut out at the inside line and use it to bend the 1/32
x 3/32" laminations to shape. Soak the wood in hot water a few minutes,
then bend it around the cardboard form, holding the strips in place with
pins pushed into any soft material used as a flat base. Use an oven at
1250 F to speed up the drying time to a half hour.
Two sets are
required. The wing structure can be set up over wax-paper-covered plans.
Trim the forward ends of the lower rib caps to a 45-degree angle and assemble
them in place with the spars, trailing edge pieces and leading edge strip.
The upper rib caps are trimmed to match at the leading edge with a 45-degree
angle cut, and to fair at the trailing edge on the lower rib cap. Build
the wing, including the ailerons, as a single unit. Cut away the ailerons
after the tips are completed. This assures alignment.
Now for the
horizontal and vertical surfaces. Make up the cardboard forms (same as for
the wing tips) and bend the 1/32 x 1/16" laminations into place on the forms
and dry as before. By now your wing tips should have dried and those laminations
can be glued together holding them in place on the form to fix their shape.
When the glue dries on the tips set them up in place to fair with the leading
and trailing edge pieces, blocking up in position. Glue all the contact
positions with spars and other structure while still over the plans.
Cut out the rib and spar strip material for the tail surfaces from
sheet stock; also the fuselage material can be cut to required sizes. The
tail surfaces now can be laminated up on the form with glue and set aside
The wing halves can be taken up and checked for size and
condition. If OK, set them up on a level surface with approximately a 3/4"
block under each tip, adjusted so the center section of the spar stubs lay
flat and each tip is raised the same amount. Adjust so that the splice webs
will fit between the ribs with the leading edge in a straight line tip to
tip. Check everything for alignment and position and then glue the splice
webs into place on the spar stubs.
Now the tail surfaces, horizontal
and vertical, can be assembled. Shim up the outline bow shapes so they center
on the rib and spar depth. Cut the spars and glue into place over the plan.
The rib material is trimmed to fit each location and glued in place. Set
the assemblies aside to dry. The wing is now completed with the lower rib
caps at the tip locations cut and glued in place. Install the center rib
caps and two centersection trailing edge ribs with the false spar at center.
Cut and fit the gussets and fairing blocks, gluing them in place as shown.
Now the wing assembly can be sanded smooth, leading and trailing edges and
tips faired and contoured to shape. Refer to the rib sections for contour.
Install the filler blocks at rear spar for lift strut attachment point.
The wing covering starts by attaching light bond paper from the
leading edge back to the front spar top and bottom. I use Titebond glue
to attach the bondpaper; a very light film on the structure does just fine.
The whole wing is covered complete, using your favorite method and tissue.
Watershrink and block down to prevent a warp. Also hold down for final
drying of dope finish. The ailerons now are cut away, then reinstalled,
using thin-aluminum sheet strip for hinges glued in slots. Aluminum pop
cans are a good source of the thin aluminum. The final finish color is silver
or aluminum with black lettering on the underside of the wing as shown on
the plan. (More on color methods later, but remember the degree of finishing
is up to you.)
Take up the tail surfaces and fair in the ribs, spars
and edges to the typical section shown on the plan. Sand the assemblies
smooth, cover with your tissue and watershrink. Hold the parts in position
to prevent warping. Cut the control surfaces away, install the aluminum
strip hinges if you choose, then set aside.
The fuselage is the
usual box-frame-type construction, using 1/16" sq. longerons, forward fuselage
uprights and diagonals. The aft section uprights and diagonals are 1/16
x 1/32'" Build two side frames on the lower plan and let the glue dry thoroughly.
Meanwhile, cut out the required bulkheads, nose formers and webs shown
on the plan from the stock size required. When the side frames glue is dry,
take them up and join together with the formers F -1, F -2 and F -3, cross
members and C-l and C-2.
Locate the sides on the plan top
view to keep the sides aligned. Complete the installation of the diagonals.
When the glue is dry, glue on the 3/32" side panel sheets from the forward
upright to the cowl block former (C-1) and up against the horizontal web
(C-2). The cylinder block formers (C-3) mount on top of the web (C-2). The
cylinder block sides (C-4) glue each end to (C-3) and along their lower
edge to (C-2). After the cowl side panels are in place and the glue is dry,
the lower cowl cover of 1/8" sheet stock can be fitted and formed to match
the cowl block former (C-1) contour. Glue on the 1/16" sq. cowl stringers
between the two (C-3) formers, and add the 5/16" sq. soft balsa cylinder
head blocks to the length shown, then rounded on top.
alignment of the formers and the fuselage. Place a straight-edge or straight
balsa stick about 10" long across the wingmount position at both front
and rear spar positions. The edges of these should be at the same level
both sides of the center line on each end of each stick or straight edge.
Also place one stick across the area where the horizontal will attach to
the fuselage and sight to check their being parallel. Correct any out-of-line
condition; this will affect the model's ability to fly well when completely
To complete detailing add the aft rubber peg support,
and its reinforcement - made from .010 or .015 plastic - glued to the inside
of the support on each fuselage side. The 1/16" sq. longeron corners should
be sanded to a radius along the length of the fuselage. Also the top longerons,
vertical and diagonal members above the fuselage cowl formers F -2 and
F -3 are sanded to a round section as these will be exposed on the completed
Assemble the nose block unit from N-1, N-2, N-3, N-4
and N-5. Check its fit into former C-1 and the alignment with the cowl sides
and cylinder block sides. Carve and sand N-3, N-4 and N-5 to form the contour
blending with the cowling sides and bottom. Also form the profile or side
shape shown on the plan. Note that the N-1 1/32" plywood disc is set at
an angle to give both right- and down-thrust. Hold these angles as correctly
as you can and drill a propeller shaft hole 1/32" dia. in the center of
the disc and square to it. The propeller and thrust bearing will be held
at the angle of the face of N-1 disc when the rubber motor is wound.
When the fuselage wood work is done and sanded glue in place on each
side of the wire the stubs for the forward landing gear struts. Form the
1/32" wire axle and .025 wire rear strut to the pattern shown on the plan.
Solder the 1/6" dia. brass tube cross-bars to the axle. Locate and bind
the axle wire assembly to the fuselage cross member at the centerline.
Position the rear strut wire at the cross member and bind in place
with thread. Align and insert the rear strut ends into the axle cross-bar
tubes. Check for position of the complete assembly to the fuselage. Solder
the rear strut ends to the cross-bars. Now cement the axle and strut bindings
to the fuselage. Make up the two side-strut frames to fit on the wire stubs
each side of the fuselage. Drill two 1/32" dia. holes in each 1/16" dia.
brass cross-bar spaced as shown on plan, and solder 1/32" dia. wire stubs
in place. Cut 1/16" dia. aluminum-tube struts for each side, and cement
in place to form the side frame. Assemble onto fuselage wire stubs. with
the axle wire between the aluminum tubes of the side frame. Install a piece
of plastic tube for a spacer on axle stub so the wheel will not rub the
crossbar with an elastic shock absorber thread tied in place. Install 1-7/8"
Cover the fuselage with your tissue over all areas
except the forward upper cowl section under the wing mount, aft cockpit,
and the wood covered area of the engine cowling. Water-shrink and give one
coat of thinned clear dope. Spray the assembly with silver acrylic lacquer
(spray can type will cover well). Using silver Christmas paper, not foil,
cover the fuselage cowl, starting at the rear former. Make flat patterns
to follow the former shape and lay flat on the fuselage frame sides. Proceed
making one section between formers at a time, gluing as you go. You can
also cut panel sections to cover the engine cowl section, simulating the
cowling divisions. Attach these directly over the wood nose-section structure
as far back each side as the main gear forward-strut point.
the tail skid, the inverted vee braces shown at wing mount to cowl top,
cockpitdoor outlines, fuselage lettering and door handles. Fold up the
radiator from silver Christmas paper and attach to fuselage. Install rear
landing gear strut fairings on the wire. Make up the exhaust piping from
plastic soda straws and balsa elbows. Now you can choose the amount of detail
you wish. Finish the cylinder blocks and heads jet black and the exhaust
system silver. All lettering is black.
With covering complete on
the wing and tail surfaces, spray finished the same as the fuselage with
silver acrylic lacquer. The wing and rudder can be lettered with black as
shown - the rest of the details are lip to you. Control horns, made from
.015 plastic, are easily made and installed. Gray thread is used for the
rigging and control wire.
Cement the horizontal stabilizer and elevator
unit on the fuselage. Cut and cement the lower struts from fuselage to the
horizontal stabilizer, checking to keep it parallel with the wing mount.
Make a cardboard right angle template to set and glue the vertical stabilizer
and rudder in place, being sure to keep the forward edge of the vertical
on the fuselage centerline. Install the vertical to horizontal brace wires
from silver thread.
Cement the wing onto the upper fuselage longerons
and cross members. Check to be sure. the wing extends the same distance
each side of the fuselage. Check for squareness to the fore and aft centerline
of the fuselage by using a stick to measure the distance from the tail post
to the same position on each side of the wing trailing edge.
model is turned over for the fitting and installing of the lift struts.
Make up four struts as shown on the plan. Shape and trim to fit the wing
and fuselage. Assemble the card stock fittings on the struts and paint silver.
When dry, cement in place in positions shown on the plan. If you choose,
navigation and landing lights can be installed. Make the landing light
tail cone from silver Christmas paper and attach it to a 1/32" bulkhead.
Cement on an aluminum-foil reflector surface and cover with a clear plastic
bubble formed to size. Attach on under side of wing and install the small
side brace between the front spar line and the side of the light assembly,
as shown on the plans. Carve, sand and paint the navigation lights from
balsa and attach as shown.
You are ready to put in the rubber and
start flying. Use a 12" loop of 1/8" flat rubber for a light model up to
1-1/2 oz., or four strands of 3/32" flat for a heavy model 2 oz. or over.
The propeller can be your own thing. carved from the raw block, or one of
the excellent plastic types for sale at your hobby shop. The 7" diameter
seems to work best under most conditions. A plastic spinner 1" in diameter
is fitted on the propeller. Assemble your propeller on a shaft through the
nose block. using a good thrust-washer assembly or bearing for the best
Check the balance point indicated on the plans. Some people
are lucky. Most of us have to put a glob of clay or some other mass to get
the point to work out in the correct location. You try that glide test.
Hopefully all goes well and a few winds are put into the motor for an added
There she goes! Everything looks OK. Now for that real try:
a couple of hundred winder turns and a minor adjustment and away he goes
for a few rounds by herself. The fun is just beginning. Since with normal
care this job won't destroy itself, many happy hours can be had learning
all that the model can do under varied conditions; both indoors and out.
Good luck and may fair weather be your !
<click for larger version>
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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