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104" Wingspan Airtronics Aquila Sailplane

Supermodel Melanie with 105% Aquila Sailplane - Airplanes and RocketsSupermodel Melanie with 105% Aquila Sailplane (bottom) - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila Sailplane in May 1975 "RC Modeler" - Airplanes and rockets

The Airtronics Aquila sailplane appeared in the May 1975 issue of R/C Modeler magazine.

The Aquila has been converted back to its original pure sailplane configuration (no electric power). I removed the e-power firewall and cowl and glued the pine nose block back in place. You can see in the photos where the division line is from where Monokote was applied across the joint. It still looks good, but you can see the line. There is still a little adhesive residue on the transparent red Monokote that you might be able to remove, but I didn't want to risk it.  Lots of construction photos and video below.

Kirt Blatenberger with 105% Airtronics Aquila Sailplane - Airplanes and RocketsJanuary 10, 2015: Not being able to hold off any longer, I finally began working on a scratch-built version of the Aquila. I had the good folks at Staples enlarge the plans to 105% to push the wingspan just over 100" (~104") so it will be my biggest sailplane ever - yeah, I know, lame. By scaling up so slightly most of the structural components like the spars, balsa and plywood, etc., will be able to stay per the original without risking overstressing. However, since this Aquila will sport a brushless motor in the nose (sacrilegious?), I am beefing up some of the areas and using harder balsa in places I might not have otherwise. Since I do not have easy (pronounced "affordable") access to the large pieces of 1/8" LitePly specified for the fuselage sides, medium density 3/16" balsa is being used instead, and will be judiciously carved and sanded to apportion strength and weight as experience guides. None of the original custom hardware - nylon stabilator control horn, special all-flying rudder hinges, canopy, etc. - is available anymore, so everything had to be made from scratch as well. I will post photos as they become available.

April 9, 2015 Update:

Video tour of the completed 105% Aquila - April 11, 2015  

Aquila sailplane in Cox / Sanwa advertisement - Airplanes and Rockets

The Aquila appeared in a Cox / Sanwa ad in the May 1977 issue of Model aviation magazine.

As of today I declare the 105% Aquila to be officially complete! The final flying weight is 51.2 oz., resulting in a wing loading of 8.6 oz./sq.ft. That is a tiny bit more than I would really like it to be, but she has a very strong frame that should endure. Since the motor was replaced with a tow hook, I now need to find an open field large enough to accommodate the full-size Hi-Start launcher (~800 feet needed). The Up-Start (~300 feet needed) did well for my 2-meter Spirit glider, but it'll never be able to launch the Aquila. Quite a lot of work goes into planning and executing a plans-built model, and is further complicated when you change the size and a few aspects of the implementations. It's no wonder s many people these days have either never built a model or have given up building. Here are a few photos of the radio installation and other details that might be helpful if you decide to build your own some day.

The color scheme, BTW, was suggested by Melanie. She likes my Old Spice aftershave lotion aroma and thought the transparent red and cream colors of Monokote would look nice - and they do. I considered doing the Old Spice logo on the fuselage, but figured the company might try to sue me for infringement. 

Aquila fuselage - Airplanes and Rockets

Completed Aquila fuselage

Aquila fuselage wing attachment - Airplanes and Rockets

Wing joiner rods and spoiler servo leads. The 7/32" main joiner rod will never fail, although it is pretty heavy. Replacing all the music wire (4x 3/23" and 1x 7/32" = 2.2 oz.) with carbon fiber rods would save about 2 oz.

Aquila spoiler servos - Airplanes and Rockets

Spoiler servo & pushrod detail. Pushrod is shaped to relieve lateral force on servo when fully deployed.

Aquila cockpit - Airplanes and Rockets

Cockpit area showing radio installation, canopy hold-down method, and HowHigh altimeter.

Aquila tail surfaces installed - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila empennage overview.

Aquila ballast - Airplanes and Rockets

Casting the 6.8 oz. lead nose weight. 

Aquila canopy frame - Airplanes and Rockets

Canopy frame.

Aquila canopy - Airplanes and Rockets

The Great Planes GPMA2365 canopy, made for the U-Can-Do ARF, is a near perfect fit for the 105% Aquila. At $7 it is quite a deal!

Aquila tail surfaces - Airplanes and Rockets

All-flying rudder and stabilator halves and 3/32" music wire hinge pins.

Aquila spoiler hinges - Airplanes and Rockets

Spoiler full-length hinge pin allows easy servicing and makes covering much simpler.

Aquila empennage - Airplanes and Rockets

Tail surface control components.

Aquila tail hinges - Airplanes and Rockets

Tail control surface close-up.

Aquila nose block - Airplanes and Rockets

Shaped pine nose block.

Aquila wing joiner tubing installed - Airplanes and Rockets   Aquila wing joiner rods & tubes - Airplanes and Rockets

Fuselage wing attachment details.      Wing joiner details.

The stabilator control horn is made from 0.062" fiberglass printed circuit board material, and sections of 1/8" brass tubing were epoxied as shown, being careful to keep the tubing at right angles wrt the fiberglass control horn. 3/23" music wire passes through the tubing and into the two stabilator halves.

The original all-flying rudder hinges were heavy duty nylon jobs with a tab to be inserted into the fuselage and rudder, and had a hole lengthwise to accommodate a 3/32" music wire hinge pin. The ones shown are fabricated from sections of 1/8" brass tubing with a piece of fiberglass cloth tightly wrapped and epoxied around them. Clamps pulled the cloth tight and held it while the epoxy cured. Afterward, the epoxy-impregnated tabs were trimmed for insertion into the frame members. It worked amazingly well and is very sturdy.

Tailpost construction is conventional, using custom-built stabilator control horn as seen here.

Aquila sailplane tailpost construction - Airplanes and Rockets

Stabilator & fin post assembly parts.

Aquila glider stabilator control horn - Airplanes and Rockets

Completed stabilator control horn.

Stabilator control horn shims - Airplanes and Rockets

Plywood shims added to prevent wobble in stabilator control horn.

Aquila all-flying rudder hinges in clamp while epoxy cures - Airplanes and Rockets

Vertical fin hinge construction.

Aquila all-flying rudder hinges after trimming - Airplanes and Rockets

Completed vertical fin hinges. 

Aquila sailplane inboard wing panel construction - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila inboard wing panel construction.

Aquila sailplane wing rib templates - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila wing rib templates

Aquila sailplane fuselage initial frame-up - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila fuselage initial frame-up.
(December 25, 2014 update)

Aquila sailplane inboard wing ribs shaped - Airplanes and Rockets

Inboard wing ribs sandwiched and shaped.

Aquila sailplane outboard wing panel ribs - Airplanes and Rockets

Outboard wing panel ribs.

Aquila sailplane empennage assembly - Airplanes and Rockets

Empennage assembly.

Maiden flight of the 105% Aquila - March 8, 2015. 

Kirt Blatenberger with 105% Aquila Glider - Airplanes and Rockets

Plugging in the wings for the Aquila's maiden flight.

Electrified Aquila
E-flite 450 brushless motor mount & cowling

Motor & cowl of electrified Aquila sailplane - Airplanes and Rockets  E-flite 450 brushless motor mount & cowling - Airplanes and Rockets

Pine nose block replaced with 450 brushless motor and cowl with cooling slots. Nose block can be re-attached using cowl mount screws for a quickly reconfigurable sailplane.   Underside of Aquila showing belly skid & tow hook.

Note: The Aquila has been converted back the to pure unpowered configuration again.

March 8, 2015 Update:

Back in the late 1970s I built an Aquila from plans that appeared in RC Modeler magazine, then I built another Aquila in the early 1980s from a kit. Both are long gone. About 6 months ago while waxing nostalgic about the Aquila, I decided to build another, but this time I had the plans enlarged to 105% to get the wingspan over 100" while not having to change airframe component sizes. This version has a 450-size electric motor for power. I wanted to determine the amount of down-thrust needed to prevent a nose-high climb prior to final nose shaping and canopy installation. For this maiden flight, there was about 8 degrees, which was not enough. It really needs about 12 degrees at full power. As you can see from the video, the flight went flawlessly. It was very gusty so I only put in one flight. The wing spoilers work like a charm and bring the Aquila down FAST when fully deployed. I do believe that I'll remove the motor and its support equipment and convert the Aquila back to its original tow line format. That'll make it more authentic and reminiscent of old times (and save a few ounces of weight to boot). Thanks for watching.

December 2015 Update:

A month or so after completing my 105% Aquila sailplane, I decided to convert it to electric power. I would have preferred to fly in pure sailplane mode, but there is no field in my area large enough to safely employ the full-size Hi-Start towline. E-power was really the only option without needing to drive long distances to fly. The nose block was carefully cut off so it can be re-attached for reverting to unpowered flight. The motor and cowl bolt on for easy swap-out. Here are the details of the installation.

I finally got around to processing and uploading a video of my 105% Aquila sailplane with a short narration about its unique features. The flight was made on July 26, 2015, in Kernersville, North Carolina, across the street from where we lived at the time (we have since relocated back to Erie, Pennsylvania). It was a typically hot, humid day there, and the sun was shining brightly - up until a couple minutes after I launched, and then it went behind some slow moving clouds for about 20 minutes. After a total of 25 minutes in the air I decided to land and wait for the clouds to clear. Once on final approach and committed to landing, the sun appeared again. If you watch closely, you can see a few seconds before landing where the Aquila makes a sudden drop toward the ground, demonstrating how effective the spoilers are when fully deployed.

Video of electrified 105% Aquila sailplane

See my custom 2-meter Aquila Spirit -- kit-bashed from an Great Planes 2-meter Spirit glider.

Kirt Blattenberger with Airtronics Aquila at Southern Senior High School, 1976 - Airplanes and RocketsBack around 1975 or so, RC Modeler magazine ran a feature on a design by Lee Renaud called the "Aquila." It had incredibly graceful lines and I knew I just had to build one. Airtronics had not yet produced a kit for it, so I ordered plans and built one from scratch. There was a hardware and canopy package available, though, so I purchased it. The picture to the right is of the Aquila I built off the plans. It was way back in 1976, the year I graduated from Southern Senior High School (in the background). A radio failure (still that same old 3-channel job) ended its life prematurely.

Prior to the Aquila, I had built and flown the Marks Model Windward glider (72" wingspan) and the Marks Models Windfree glider (99" wingspan). The Aquila construction was a real step up from the Windfree (which also has a 99" wingspan), which was extremely flimsy.

Original Lee Renaud Aquila sailplane from R/C Modeler magazine - Airplanes and Rockets

To the right, below, are a couple pics sent to me by Dick E., of his Aquila. It was built in the 1980s, but never flown until very recently. I don't recall my Aquila coming with a vintage Corvette to sit it on!

Dick E.'s Airtronics Aquila from an original 1970s kit - sitting atop a very nice vintage Corvette! - Airplanes and Rockets

Dick E.'s Airtronics Aquila from an original 1970s kit - Airplanes and Rockets

Dick E.'s Airtronics Aquila from an original 1970s kit - sitting atop a very nice vintage Corvette! 

Fortunately, by then the kit was available from Airtronics, and my parents gave me one for Christmas that same year (1976?). It was very well done and the parts all fit very well. The Aquila was not a beginner's project by any means. What I liked best about the design was the removable, all-flying stabilizer (stabilator), and the lift spoilers. I bought a Cirrus 4-channel radio to use in it and built the optional wing spoilers. That brought a whole new dimension into RC sailplane flying.

I put so many flights on it that the fuselage got worn out (OK, so partially due to some hard landings). Some company began offering an ABS molded fuselage for the Aquila, so I bought one and breathed new life into the plane. The picture to the left shows the the ABS Aquila fuselage hanging in my barracks room at Robins AFB, Georgia. Also pictured in the photo is a DuBro Tri-Star helicopter and a Dumas Pride of Pay'n Pak hydroplane.

DuBro Tri-Star Helicopter, Pride of Pay'n Pak Unlimited Hydroplane, Aquila RC glider with ABS plastic fuselage, hanging in my barracks room at Robins AFB, GA (c.1980) - Airplanes and RocketsThere were quite a few flights put on the Aquila while I was at Robins AFB. My AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) was 303x1, which is an Air Traffic Control Radar Repairman. My radar shop was part of the 5th Combat Communications Group. Our MPN-14 radar was a mobile unit composed of two towable trailers. I tell you this only because my trainer, Sgt. Chuck Powell, went with me on a couple of the flying sessions and towed the Aquila aloft a few times for me before I bought a Hi Start (money was pretty tight in those days). Warner Robins, Georgia, was not exactly a place you would expect to find a cliff to try slope flying from, but I actually found a place where it was possible to toss it from the top, and work the air a little before having to land about 50 feet below. The Aquila saw its final flight in a field on the edge of town. I let it drift too far downwind and did not have enough altitude to get it back to where I could see the ground for landing. I just let go of the sticks and hoped for the best. It wasn't a pretty sight. The ABS fuselage did survive, but both wings were destroyed; I'm guessing it cart wheeled based on the spread of the carnage.

Notice: There is a website, Aerosphere, that claims to be manufacturing most of Airtronics' original kits - including the Aquila. Kits are promised by the end of 2008 (I write this in January of 2009), but plans are available now for both the Aquila, Aquila XL, and the Aquila Grande.

In the summer of 2007, I bid for and won an Aquila kit from a gentleman on eBay. They are now selling for $200 or more. It was part of an effort to reacquire copies of many of the kits I had in my younger years. All the parts appear to be present, and everything is in absolutely excellent shape. Wingspan = 99.9".

Airtronics Aquila fuselage plans and kit - Airplanes and Rockets

Airtronics Aquila Plans - Fuselage & Empennage

Airtronics Aquila kit contents - Airplanes and Rockets

Airtronics Aquila Kit Contents

Aquila Article from RC Modeler magazine (p1) - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila Article from RC Modeler magazine (p1)

Airtronics Aquila wings plans and kit - Airplanes and Rockets

Airtronics Aquila Plans - Wings

Airtronics Aquila kit box top - Airplanes and Rockets

Airtronics Aquila Kit Box Cover

Aquila Article from RC Modeler magazine (p2) - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila Article from RC Modeler magazine (p2)

Aquila Article from RC Modeler magazine (p3) - Airplanes and Rockets

Aquila Article from RC Modeler magazine (p3)

Airplanes & Rockets

Kirt Blattenberger, Webmaster - Airplanes and Rockets
Kirt Blattenberger
Carpe Diem!
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Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain some form of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which all began in Mayo, MD ...

1996 - 2026

Kirt Blattenberger
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