Airplanes and Rockets' history & copyright Google search American Modeler Air Trails American Aircraft Modeler Young Men Hobbies Aviation Flying Aces Saturday Evening Post Boys' Life Hobby Distributors Amateur Astronomy Engines & Motors Balsa Densities Silkspan Covering Comics Electronics My Models Model Aircraft Articles Plans Model Boat Articles Plans Model Car Articles Plans Model Train Articles Plans 1941 Crosley 03CB Radio Model helicopter articles & plans Crosswords Model Rocket Articles Plans Restoration Projects Photos Peanuts Collection Model Aircraft Articles Plans Sitemap Homepage Hints and Kinks Amateur Radio Archives of the homepage R/C Modeler Electronics About Airpleans and Rockest, Disclaimer, Terms of Use Model Topics Please Donate to Airplanes and Rockets Parole Plaza, Annapolis, Maryland Hobby Items for Sale Airplanes and Rockets Hero Graphic

Plastic Scale Model Kits - Airplanes and Rockets

Drones - Airplanes and Rockets
Model Aviation Magazine, AMA - Airplanes and Rockets

Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA Article & Plans
December 1972 American Aircraft Modeler

December 1972 American Aircraft Modeler

December 1972 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

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

Website visitor Garry O. wrote to request that I post this article from the December 1972 issue of American Aircraft Modeler magazine featuring the Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA. With its elliptical wing planform and outward-retracting landing gear, is considered one of the most attractive airplanes ever to come out of England. It, along with the North American Mustang, are probably the two most modeled fighters from World War II. This .61-powered control-line model by Malvin Meador won the 1971 Nationals for control-line scale. It has operating retractable gear, flaps, sliding canopy, navigation lights, and drop tanks.


 - Airplanes and RocketsSpitfire Mk IIA - Plane on the Cover

Model that won the '71 CL Nats and was 6th at the '72 CL Scale World Champs is patient project of a great plane. Has many operating features and flies quite well.

By Malvin Meador

Photos by Bill Boss and the Author

Every Scale builder has a favorite airplane or type of airplane; I've always been inclined toward World War II military aircraft. After moderate success in local scale contests, I decided to build a ship for entry in the 1971 Nationals. To do this, I needed a subject which inspired me to invest the amount of time required to complete a competitive scale model. Retractable landing gear - an operating feature having good spectator appeal and a high scoring flight demonstration option - was a must. Another point relevant to selecting a subject was additional operating features such as flaps, sliding canopy, navigation lights, drop tanks, etc., which could be incorporated. Also, I wanted to stay away from subjects which had been overdone.

Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA - Airplanes and Rockets

One aircraft kept coming to mind, the Supermarine Spitfire. It was one of the most famous World War II fighters, plenty of reference material was available and, despite its fame, it didn't enjoy much popularity with modelers. The Spitfire had enough operating features to insure a respectable scale flight score, and it featured very simple retractable landing gear which could be easily adapted to Bill Johnson's efficient, lightweight Centrak gear retraction unit. Using this system would eliminate the mess of batteries, extra control lines, electrical wiring, and other assorted headaches which go with retractable gear in control line models. Also, the simplicity of the landing gear would make it fairly easy to machine scale shock absorbing gear struts for added realism.

Nice facet of real plane was its plywood covered wings - Airplanes and Rockets

Nice facet of real plane was its plywood covered wings. Detailing is complete without yards of rivet lines.

A Bill Johnson Centrak gear is used - Airplanes and Rockets

A Bill Johnson Centrak gear is used. At speed in flight, centrifugal force working against a spring raises the gear. Very reliable.

With flaps down one sees even more detail - Airplanes and Rockets

With flaps down one sees even more detail, including flap position indicator finger which lifts through a coyer on wing top surface. Oil cooler door also operates.

All smooth areas of the model are fiberglassed - Airplanes and Rockets

All smooth areas of the model are fiberglassed, including some detail items such as simulated exhaust stacks.

Before surface finishing, cockpit interior is completed - Airplanes and Rockets

Before surface finishing, cockpit interior is completed. Door hinges open to reveal many more details, note canopy slides back.

All control surfaces have simulated fabric covering - Airplanes and Rockets

All control surfaces have simulated fabric covering. Note full swiveling tail-wheel.

While considering the positive and negative aspects of the Spitfire as a flying scale project, one nagging thought kept coming to mind: The extremely short nose moment, small empennage areas, and fore and aft placement of the landing gear on the prototype could make the model's flying characteristics less than satisfactory. However, after reading a very scientific conclusion that "anything will fly on control lines," I decided to proceed with construction. The resulting model did fly satisfactorily, but it is definitely not a beginner's ship-the Spitfire demands the flier's undivided attention from takeoff to the end of the last taxi lap.

Which variant of the Spitfire to build was the final problem. The solution was dictated by the availability of reference material, and I settled on the Mark IIA depicted in Profile Publication, No. 41. Several variants of the Spitfire shared a basic airframe; it is simple to convert the Mark IIA to a Mark I, III, or V, and substitution of four 20mm cannons for the inboard .303 caliber machine guns converts the model to a Mark IIB.

Before beginning construction, study every available publication on the Spitfire to become familiar with details of the prototype. I found the following references to be particularly helpful: Bruce Robertson's Spitfire: The Story of a Famous Fighter, and Aircraft Camouflage and Markings, 1907-1954 both available from Harleyford Publications; Profile Publications, Nos. 41 and 166; Aero Publisher's Supermarine Spitfire; and Willis Nye's excellent drawings of the Spitfire. These publications contain many drawings and photos invaluable for detailing the model and preparing the proof of scale presentation which must accompany it in competition.

Construction may be greatly simplified with installation of conventional non-retractable gear. However, the satisfaction of seeing the wheels disappear into the wings shortly after takeoff makes the extra effort worthwhile. If you use the Centrak installation, contact Bill Johnson, 2504 Charwood St., Charles, Mo. 63301. Bill is familiar with the model and can supply the retract unit and complete instructions for installation and operation.


At Nats, Malvin won scoring 517 points. He also won Sterling Award for highest static points.


The landing gear is the most complicated component and is a good place to begin. The gear struts are turned from aluminum stock and a 7/32" diameter bore drilled and reamed for the oleos. Drill holes for the oleo retaining pin and the gear support rod, making sure the centerline of each hole is at the proper angle (see plans). This is necessary for correct tracking of the wheels and for maintaining correct gear geometry during retraction.

The oleos are machined from mild steel (I used 5/16" steel bolts). and the axles are 1/8" music wire threaded on both ends and silver soldered into tapped holes in the oleos. Exercise caution when drilling the holes in the oleos to insure correct alignment of each component. File the top of each strut to the shape shown, and assemble the struts and gear support rods, keying in place as illustrated in the plans. Fabricate the spacers, bushings, and mounts from brass tubing and sheet and the gear actuating arms from mild steel; assemble, making certain that the gear mounts rotate freely on the support rods and that the actuating arms are silver soldered in place at the correct angle. Selection of springs for the oleos depends on the final weight of the model and the amount of shock absorbing action desired. The oleos can be removed easily, so experimentation with various springs presents no problem.

One further note on the landing gear: If the Banner wheels shown on the plans are used, the aluminum hubs must be faced off on each side to give a thinner contour and allow the gear to retract fully into the wheel wells.

The wing contains almost all the gear, flap, and other control operating mechanisms and is the next component to build. Cut ribs R-2, R-10, and R-15 to shape and drill 1/8" holes in each one at the location shown on the plans. Stack the correct number of 1/8" balsa rib blanks in sequence with the pattern ribs, using 1/8" dowels to maintain alignment. Shape the stack of ribs in the usual manner, with one exception: The stack should show a curve, top and bottom, from the root to the tip rib. This is because the upper and lower wing surfaces are curved as viewed from the front.

Join the balsa wing spars and plywood doubler, and glue the ribs in place on the spar. Use two 20" lengths of 1/8" doweling in the holes previously drilled in each rib to maintain rib alignment until the glue dries. When dry, notch the ribs and install stringers for the flap wells and aileron cutouts.

The bottom surface of the outer wing panels should be sheeted next. Leave the bottom center section open until the wing is in place on the fuselage and all control linkages are hooked up and operating properly. The flap and aileron wells should not be cut out until the tops of the outer wing panels have been covered and the wing sanded to shape.

Model duplicates a real life plane known as The Borough of Lambeth - Airplanes and Rockets

Cut the openings for the landing gear wells in the bottom of each wing and remove sections of ribs as required. Then line the wells with 1/16" balsa. To install the landing gear, it is necessary to cut a small hole in the wing bottom sheeting between the leading edge and front spar. Before final gluing of the plywood landing gear mounts, check gear alignment carefully both in the extended and retracted position.

Mount the Centrak unit with the Roberts Flight Control, control line leadouts, and control linkages attached. Bend and install the 3/32" music wire gear actuating arms. Be certain that e rods are the correct length to actuate both gear simultaneously-they m s: both be full up and full down at same time. Install the Centrak spri leaving the end which attaches to control unit free. This will allow ' r movement of the landing gear to check for proper fit in the wheel wells as construction progresses.

Now is the time to install linkage for moveable ailerons, navigation lights and wiring, flaps, etc., if you wish. The wing tip lights on the original were left hanging from the end of the wing until the tips and top covering were in place and the wing shaped. They were then epoxied in place, covering the bulb completely with epoxy. When dry, the epoxy was filed and sanded to form the lens and housing, and the entire area was painted the color of the lens. (Red on the left wing and green on the right wing. Mask the lens area, and paint the surrounding area silver. The silver dope is covered by the finish coat later and allows light to shine through the lens but not the surrounding area.

The fuselage is constructed of balsa blocks glued to a built up crutch. The various blocks are tack glued in place and the entire fuselage is carved a sanded to shape, using cross section templates. After shaping the fuselage, remove the blocks and hollow as much as possible without sacrificing strength, particularly in the aft sections of the fuselage. Shape and glue 1/16" formers inside the blocks in the positions shown on the plans. This provides stiffness without adding excessive weight.

Epoxy the fuselage crutch to the wing, lining the wing up carefully to insure correct incidence and planform alignment.

The horizontal and vertical stabilizers can be built up, or made by laminating two 1/8" balsa sheets with a hollow 1/4" balsa core. I tried both methods, and the weight difference using the latter method is negligible if you choose your wood carefully (Sig contest balsa was used on the original). The elevators and rudder are solid contest balsa, hinged as shown on the plans. This type of hinge is slightly difficult to construct, but it closely approximates the hinges used on full scale aircraft.

Glue the empennage in place, complete all linkage hookups, and install all lower fuselage blocks and wing center section sheeting. Note that the bottom center wing covering is flat at the front and blends to an inverted gull section at the flaps.

Most of the cockpit details on the original were finished prior to installation of the upper fuselage blocks. When the cockpit area is finished to your satisfaction, glue these blocks in place, add the wing fillets, and the model is ready for finishing. I used Sig polyester resin and fiberglass cloth on the original. I have tried many finishing methods, and found that the use. of fiberglass results in an extremely tough model, requires less time than dope and silk, and makes detailing (such as scribing panel outlines) much easier. The finished model, ready to fly, weighed in at six lb. 12 oz. which compares favorably with other models of this type. The use of fiberglass doesn't present a weight problem if it is applied sensibly.

To finish the model using fiberglass, give the airplane a final sanding, making certain that all contours and shapes are correct. Cut a piece of glass cloth slightly larger than the area to be covered, lay it in place, and coat liberally with polyester resin. The cloth to cover the adjoining section should overlap with that already applied. Sand the resin in the overlap area to insure good adhesion.

After completing the first coat, sand the entire coating with coarse paper (80 grit aluminum oxide paper works well) to remove gloss and rough edges. Use a sanding block where possible to maintain the basic contours of the model. Apply a coat of resin only, and wet sand with 220 and then 320 wet or dry paper. The model is now ready for a coat or two of clear dope followed by color. I used Pactra military flats with excellent result.

One final note on finishing. Component parts such as ailerons, flaps, elevators, rudder, etc., should be as nearly finished as possible before installation. I try to have them ready for the final color coat before attaching them to the model. This requires the builder to apply the finishing steps outlined above to certain parts of the model such as aileron wells, flap wells, and horizontal and vertical stabilizer trailing edges before finishing the adjacent area. Care must be exercised when fiberglassing and painting to prevent spoiling an already finished area.

Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA Article & Plans, sheet 1 - Airplanes and Rockets

<click for larger version>

Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA Article & Plans, sheet 2 - Airplanes and Rockets

<click for larger version>


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 January 21, 2012

About Airplanes & Rockets 

Kirt Blattenberger, Webmaster - Airplanes and RocketsKirt Blattenberger

Carpe Diem! (Seize the Day!)

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 ...

Copyright  1996 - 2026
All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images and text used on the Airplanes and Rockets website are hereby acknowledged.

Homepage Archives  |  Modeling News Archives


Kirt Blattenberger


Family Websites:

RF Cafe

Equine Kingdom

Model Aircraft Museum, AMA - Airplanes and Rockets

Rocket Kits + Accessories - Airplanes and Rockets

Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) - Airplanes and Rockets

Academy of Model Aeronautics

Tower Hobbies logo - Airplanes and Rockets

Tower Hobbies

Horizon Hobby logo - Airplanes and Rockets

Horizon Hobby

Sig Manufacturing - Airplanes and Rockets

Sig Mfg

Brodak Manufacturing - Airplanes and Rockets

Brodak Mfg