How to Build George Harris' Magnificent
February 1962 American Modeler
[Table of Contents]
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.
visitor Wells S. just wrote asking for another article to be posted - this
time it is a very nice scale radio controlled Spitfire IX. As was common
in the era (1962), construction is very robust and therefore heavy (10 pounds
with a 64" wingspan). A Super Tigre .56 powered the model in the article,
and an Orbit radio with Bonner servos were used. My favorite line in the
article is, "In flight the Spitfire is very stable but snaps through maneuvers
and will tie knots in itself if you can operate transmitter switches fast
enough." We've come a long way, baby.
How to Build George Harris' Magnificent
Radio Controlled Spitfire
of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, with all-elliptical surfaces,
was the Supermarine Spitfire. Designer was R. J. Mitchell who was also responsible
for a series of racing seaplanes which included every British winner of
the Schneider Trophy races from 1918 to the end of the contests - which
resulted in the outright winning of the trophy for Britain.
prototype Spitfire which first flew on March 5, 1936 was an outstanding
success, but Mitchell died in 1937 before his creation began the job for
which it was designed. During the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire - together
with the Hurricane and greatly outnumbered - smashed the Luftwaffe and ruined
Hitler's invasion plans. While various modifications greatly improved the
Spitfire, the Focke Wulf 190 appearing in late 1941 was a serious threat.
In answer to this menace a much improved Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was fitted
to a strengthened airframe to give the Spitfire IX. The most obvious changes
in the Mark 9 were the lengthened nose, large "flattop" cowling and equal
size radiators under each wing.
This aircraft had a top speed of
408 mph at 25,000 feet and a rate of climb that was most upsetting to the
enemy. The Spitfire was the only Allied aircraft to remain in production
throughout the war. The last one built was an F.24 delivered in February
1948. Final operational flights by Spitfires were in mid-1957.
scale modelers are a demanding bunch, the markings have been kept authentic
and several different aircraft squadron designations have been given as
alternatives. The camouflage scheme and R.A.F. markings are as applied during
the appropriate period.
Originally a 70 inch span Spit built as
a test bed for this type of model flew with a Fox .59, followed by a McCoy
60. This model has made almost 100 flights and, despite its heavy weight
of 10-lbs, is very aerobatic, even in a glide. A second, smaller model to
accurate scale with full war paint proved to be even more aerobatic. So
far the second, shown in the photographs, has made 113 flights. It is momentarily
retired after the right landing gear leg snapped off at the bend while landing
across a deep rut.
Real Spit Mark 9 flies with beer barrel under each wing to landing
strip on Normandy beachhead soon after D-Day.
Full size plans for radio controlled Spitfire are available from
Hobby Helpers as part of group #262 (see ad for data).
Spitfires in flight.
Test pilot for the project was Ed Fitzgibbon of the San Diego Drones R/C
club, who went through all the usual tricks plus a few unusual ones. Most
of the flying was with a Super Tigre .56 - but a .45 will be plenty when
the structure. is lightened as shown in the plans. When modified Hassad
.65 was installed the Spit just spiraled itself up into the clouds.
STRUCTURE. The model is not intended for beginners, so details like
control systems and equipment installations have been skipped. Most experienced
modelers have their own ideas about such things anyhow and their equipment
The fuselage is built upside-down on the crutch
directly on the bottom view, the basic structure completed to a considerable
degree before removal. This ensures a true alignment which is essential
in a large, fast model. The ply sides key into the formers and the separate
side pieces lock the whole assembly together, The rear formers are held
erect by the bottom longeron, the main part of the planking being easily
applied in this position.
This structure is now removed from the
board and the upper section added. Note that the fin fairs smoothly into
the rear fuselage with no definite break. The tailplane installed at this
point rests atop the crutch.
Tail construction is simple, the tailplane
being covered with 1/16" sheet and the elevators silked. On the original
model the tail assembly, separate and held by rubber bands, has never been
removed since the first flight, so the drawings show it all in one lump
with the fuselage. This arrangement is lighter and if a crash is hard enough
to knock the tail loose, your repairs are going to be extensive anyway.
The tailwheel hook-up should be made before completing planking; don't use
anything less than 3/32" wire for the tail wheel strut. Keep the tail light
and beef up the nose to eliminate later ballast. The 1/8" planking on the
fuselage may seem a little heavy, but there is not too much inner structure
and sanding will reduce it some.
A covering of fiberglass on the
nose back to the wing will help a lot in rough landings. Details such as
the reflector gun sight and rear view mirror help a lot toward realism and
don't require much time to make. The instrument panel layout is shown, but
accurate dials are a bit impractical in this size, except to the real fanatic
who will probably have access to photographs of the things anyway. Cockpit
framing is cut from green plastic or cloth tape and seems to stay on very
well in use. The large wing root fillets are no problem if made from narrow
strips; the thin ply platform provides a very firm support for the wing.
If 1/32" ply is not available in the required size, hard 1/16" balsa can
be used with the grain across the fuselage.
Up at the front
end the ply motor plate allows installation of different motors without
carving on the motor mounts. Cut the removable top cowl to fit around your
particular motor, have an ample cutout for exhaust. A large spinner as shown
may be a slight problem but it can be made from fiberglass or compounded
from a small spinner with a built-up back section. The one in the photos
is custom made hand-spun aluminum.
Wings are best built with
the bottom main spars flat on the plans, the other members packed up with
scrap to proper height. Laminated leading edges simplify curvature and are
very strong. Covering the wings completely with sheet balsa adds very little
to the weight and increases strength tremendously, in addition to giving
an appearance of metal covering. The only fabric covered surfaces on the
Spit are the rudder and elevators, so that's the way our model is built.
Both wings are joined and the landing gear and aileron controls installed
before sheeting. Ailerons and associated shroud inner surfaces are best
painted before assembly for neat appearance. Aileron hinges in scale position
are very strong and smooth in operation. Use good strong brackets or many
J-bolts to hold the landing gear on the 1/4" ply spar joiner.
Wing radiators are realistic with insect screen inserts to simulate cores,
the insides between the screen pieces being painted black. The screen material
offers little drag and, for a gimmick, a toy whistle can be concealed in
one to give a Merlin whine in flight. The tubes through the wing fillets
provide a neat solution for the rubber retaining bands without any strain
on the fillets.
Cannons built around aluminum tubes are held
on by short dowel plugs which are easily replaced if knocked off in a crash.
The Spitfire IX had a "universal" wing which could carry four 20mm cannons
or two cannons and four .303 machine guns - most had the latter with two
cannon ports blanked off.
FINISHING. Considering the stresses
involved in violent aerobatics it is advisable to hold everything together
with silk covering all over, filled and doped to a smooth consistency. The
basic color of the Spitfire is gray and the true color is closely matched
by Fuller's Butyrate Dope, Aircraft Gray for the under surfaces. Dark gray
for the top surface is obtained by mixing about one part black to five parts
of the gray. Incidentally, AeroGloss mixes very well with Fuller's dope
which comes in quart cans, one being ample for the Spit. AeroGloss Stinson
Green is the camouflage green, the red, white, blue and yellow being standard
insignia colors. The light gray letters on the fuselage are of the basic
gray with a little white added and the spinner and rear fuselage band are
a very light blue made by adding just a touch of blue to white dope.
CONTROLS AND FLYING. My original model used Bonner servos and Orbit radio,
but the space available is ample for all the popular equipment. If you use
Space Control an opening should be cut in F3 and the servo rails extended
from F2 to F5 to carry the mounting platform. The receiver can then be adjusted
fore and aft for balance. Control movements need not be excessive - the
surface areas are large and the plane is very responsive.
In flight the Spitfire is very stable but snaps through maneuvers and will
tie knots in itself if you can operate transmitter switches fast enough.
There is no tendency to fall off in tight banks; inverted flight is a cinch.
Glide characteristics are good and stalling speed low, although the Spit
should be flown into a landing rather than just dropped and flopped. Even
with that narrow track landing gear ground looping is not a problem.
Watching the Spitfire in the air brings back nostalgic memories to those
of us who saw the real thing in action... the war paint and little details
being very convincing. About the only requirement for complete realism would
be a retracting landing gear - this is planned for a near future project.
Spitfire IX Fuselage & Empennage Plans
Spitfire IX Wing Plans Sheet
Spitfire IX List of Materials
SHEET BALSA: 4 sheets, 3/32 x 4 x 36 for Wing & tail ribs, trailing
edges; (14) 1/16 x 4 x 36 for Wing & tail sheeting; (6) 1/8 x 4 x 36
for Fuselage formers & planking, wing L.E.; 3/16 x 3 x 36 for Elevator
T.E., wing ribs; 1/4 x 4 x 36 for Wing rear spars, fin spars, rudder outline;
3/8 x 3 x 36 for Wing radiators, cannon blisters; 1/2 x 3 x 36 for Wing
radiators; 3/4 x 4 x 24 for Top cowl sides, nose sides, wing tips, rudder
STRIP BALSA: 2 pieces 1/2 sq. for Tailplane spars; (7)
1/2 x 1/4 for Crutch, wing spars; (4) 1/4 sq. for Wing rear spars, fuselage
BLOCK BALSA: 1 piece, 2 x 5 x 9 for Lower nose block;
1·1-3/4 x 1 x 5 for Carb. air intake.
HARDWOOD: 1 piece, 10 x 15
x 1/32 ply for Wing platform; 4 x 12 x 1/16 ply for T.E. fairing, canopy
arch; 12 x 30 x 3/32 ply for Fuselage box frames, windshield frame; 12 x
16 x 1/8 ply for Formers, rear spar joiners; 4 x 16 x 1/4 ply for Main spar
joiners, motor plate; 3/4 x 3/8 x 24 maple for Motor mounts; 3/8 x 1/4 x
12 spruce for Servo rails; 1/4 dowel x 15 for Wing & top cowl retaining
PIANO WIRE: 2 pieces, 1/16 dia. x 36 for Aileron & rudder
linkage; 3/32 dia. x 18 for Aileron hinges, tail wheel strut; 5/32 dia.
x 36 for Landing gear.
MISC.: 1 pair 3-1/2 dia. wheels; 1-1/4 dia.
wheel; 3/32 I.D. x 12 brass tube for aileron & tail wheel hinges; 3/16
I.D. x 20 alum. tube for cannons. Elevator horn, hinges, push rods, pilot
head, canopy, plastic for windows, green plastic tape, spruce for antenna &
pitot head, landing gear brackets, nuts & bolts.
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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May 29, 2013
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