Kits, Plans, Rubber Strip, Wood, Tissue, and Other Necessities
By: Bob Clemens
Thanks to the dedication and hard work by a small but growing number of dedicated entrepreneurs around the country, an amazing array of free flight necessities are available via mail order. Most of these cannot be found in hobby shops. The following is a basic list of some of these sources. There are many more. Check the ads and free flight columns in Flying Models magazine, as well as the Internet, for others. Best first choices for beginners or “returnees” are those sources marked with an asterisk (*). Please feel free to copy and distribute this list. Show it to your hobby shop owner, since many of the listed vendors also sell to dealers. Most shops don’t know these vendors and products even exist. Chances are you didn’t either until you read this list! Note that some vendors have web sites and e-mail. Prices, e-mail addresses, and web site URL’s are subject to change without notice.
Aero Dyne’s very extensive catalog includes kits, plans, covering materials, propellers, motors, and accessories from a wide variety of sources, both domestic and imported. Most are for outdoor flying. Lots of oldtimer rubber and power kits. Catalog $2.00
Campbell’s Custom Kits
P.O. Box 3104
Muncie, IN 47307 (765) 289-7753
Lee Campbell, a veteran free flight flier and competitor, is the proprietor and kit maker. His inventory includes lots of gliders: 14 hand-launched models, three catapult types, and a towline design. All this plus 11 rubber-powered duration models and 18 power models keep Lee busy cutting his top-quality balsa wood. He also sells kits and accessories from other manufacturers such as Peck-Polymers, Micro-X, and R/N Models and is always adding new merchandise. Send him $3.00 for a catalog.
Campbell Model Supply Co.
37742 Carson Street
Farmington Hills, MI 48331 (810) 478-7846
Glenn Campbell’s chief product is Esaki tissue, the finest Japanese tissue available for general model plane use, and is available in 18″ x 24″ sheets of yellow, white, red, blue, orange, black, and green. Glenn Campbell imports Esaki tissue directly from the manufacturer in Japan and sells it at the best price anywhere. He recently added an even lighter, hard-to-find white tissue known as Gampi. He also sells balsa, propellers, and kits for small electric-powered and easy-to-build rubber models. Send him $2.00 for a complete catalog.
Diels Engineering, Inc.
P.O. Box 263
Amherst, Ohio 44001
Dave offers lots of excellent kits, many of pre-WWII and WWII military aircraft with vacuum-formed canopies where needed and great decals. Lots of plans too if you like to pick your own wood and tissue for scratch building. Catalog $2.00.
100+ free flight kits and growing: scale, rubber and power endurance competition types, and three ready-to-fly indoor rubber models. FAI carries a great selection FF supplies, including their splendid Tan II rubber strip that has become the performance standard of the hobby. Catalog is $2.00, a must for all free flight fliers!
Flying Aces Club
3301 Cindy Lane
Erie, Pennsylvania 16506 (814) 833-0314
Join the Flying Aces Club! It’s an informal, nation-wide group of model airplane hobbyists who love to build and fly stick-and-tissue model aircraft of all types, but especially rubber-powered scale. Membership includes a subscription to their bimonthly newsletter, The FAC News. Each issue contains several full-size model plans, modeling news and tips, lots of model photographs, contest results, and club news. The biennial FAC National contest is held on even-numbered years in Geneseo, New York, during July and is the premier free flight scale meet with more than 190 fliers competitng. Annual membership fee is $15.
Golden Age Reproductions
P.O. Box 1685
Andover, MA 01810
GAR has hundreds of Comet, Peerless, Megow, Scientific, Ace Whitman, and other reprinted plans from the 1930’s and 40’s rubber-powered scale kits that those of us over 50 fondly remember. They also have over two dozen excellent rubber scale kits, most based on those same old models, some of later design including the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, and Messerschmitt BF-109E of WWII fame. A recent addition to the GAR line are the excellent kits designed and formerly sold by John Bell. These include a P-51A Mustang, Clipped Wing Taylorcraft, Hughes H-1 Racer, Mk. XIVE Spitfire, Curtiss P-40, Stinson Reliant, and Rearwin Speedster. Molded canopies are included where needed on all GAR kits. The catalog is $3.00, a must for rubber scale fans.
Bill Hannan carries a very comprehensive inventory of wonderful books on model airplanes and aircraft history, many aimed for beginners, many available nowhere else, many with lots of model plans. There’s also a growing list of excellent modeling videos. Hannan’s Runway is a splendid resource for anyone getting started as well as experienced builders/fliers and aviation buffs. The $1.00 catalog charge is refundable on your first order. Visa and Mastercharge accepted. Excellent web site.
P.O. Box 11558
Goldsboro, NC 27532 (919) 778-6653
HiLine sells a variety of very small electric motors for free flight and small RC models, plus chargers, battery packs, and plans for electric as well as rubber-powered models. There’s also an excellent 10:1 rubber winder called the Scale Winder. Proprietor Dave Rees is a nationally known free flight scale designer, flier, and competitor. He sells an informative video on electric-powered free flight. The HiLine catlog is $1.00.
Indoor Model Supply*
Florence, OR 97439 Phone: (541) 902-8508
Web site: http://members.aol.com/~IndoorMS/IMS.htm
IMS caters to both beginner and veteran indoor fliers, and offers kits, wood, rubber, and lots of other items for this unique niche of aeromodeling. Their Slow Poke and Salem 6 kits are excellent beginner indoor models and they fly for several minutes! IMS also has duration and scale model kits plus a 15:1 rubber winder. Proprietor Lew Gitlow takes phone orders. Catalog $2.00.
NOTE: IMS now offers a model kit, the Sci-Oly, specifically designed for the national Science Olympiad Wright Stuff competition. Call for details. Lew is now selling an informative booklet on this event.
P.O. Box 889
Hackettstown, NJ 07840
Ken Bassett sells the smallest of all available electric motors for free flight use, plus batteries, capacitors (used in place of batteries), propellers, and battery/capacitor chargers. Peanut scale or even smaller models can be flown with these motors. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope for his catalog. Ken now sells a novel compressed air-powered model, the “Air Hog,” plus several quick-building electric-powered models.
Al Lidberg offers a most interesting and extensive selection of plans and kits. He has 22 profile (“no-cal”) scale plans, six peanut scale plans, 16 larger size rubber scale plans, plus a growing series of mini-replicas of old timer free flight endurance models and a number of larger scale plans suitable for radio control. Al is a master draftsman and his plans and kits are excellent. Send him $2.00 for an illustrated catalog with all models shown. Good web site.
Mace Model Aircraft Co.*
359 South 119th East Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74128 (918) 437-5490
Don Mace sells two good beginner’s models, the P-18 Hawk and the P-24 Condor (the numbers refer to their wingspans). Both are offered as complete kits or just construction plans, and are good beginner indoor models that can also be flown outdoors under calm conditions. Don also has two rubber winders, a 16:1 and a 6:1. He also has scale plans, wood, rubber, tissue, and three sizes of ready-to-use plastic prop/bearing units that can be used to power a variety of fun models. His catalog is $1.00.
340 Snyder Avenue
Berkley Heights, NJ 07922-1595 (800) 225-1066
Micro Mark, “The Small Tool Specialists,” lives up to their name and then some. Their extensive selection of specialized tools is aimed directly at the hobbyist, model plane builders included. Their catalog is well illustrated, showing the vast array of hardware, paints, brushes, miniature power tools, adhesives, measuring devices, books, and videos. Call their 800 number to get a free copy.
P.O. Box 1063
Lorain, OH 44055
Micro-X is another vendor dealing primarily with indoor-oriented products: kits, select quality indoor wood, specialty covering materials and accessories, rubber strip, and books. Anyone interested in indoor flying should have their $2.00 catalog.
Midwest Products Co., Inc.
Educational Products Division
400 S. Indiana Street
P.O. Box 564
Hobart, IN 46342 (800) 348-3497
Midwest, long known for its free flight and radio control models, offers some unique projects through its Educational Products Division. Although primarily aimed at national school programs such as the Science Olympiad, these models are highly suitable for any group modeling activity. Included are some gliders and four rubber-powered models plus teaching texts, wood, tools, and adhesives. The rubber models include a Delta Dart (similar to the AMA Cub); a larger Super Delta Dart; a 12” Shoebox R.O.G. (“Rise Off Ground”); and the Right Flyer, a robust 19” R.O.G. Both the ROG’s are capable of flights of well over one minute in a 20 ft. gym. Call the Midwest 800 number and ask for their catalog. Midwest is now offering the Sorcerer, a model kit for the nationalScience Olympiad competition, along with an excellent 15:1 winder and packets of Tan II rubber in various sizes.
There are no less than 37 no-cal plans in his catalog. All are well engineered and superbly drawn. Lots of pre and post-WWII fighters, racers, sport planes, and some offbeat subjects as well. He also has five peanut plans plus a selection of scale 3-views. A unique offering from Mike are pre-printed pressure-sensitive markings (licenses and race numbers, logos, lettering) for his plans. And he has tissue, packets of Tan II rubber strip, plastic propellers plus a telescoping pole that extends from 45 inches to 19 feet for retrieving models from trees and girders. His latest addition is a complete kit for the Cessna CR-3 1930’s-era racer, great for Flying Aces competition. It’s a beauty! Send $2.00 for his catalog. Good web site too.
Peck has loads of kits, plans, supplies, CO2 & electric motors, wood, and tools of all kinds for both beginners and experienced modelers. Truly a free flight model airplane “wish book,” this catalog is a must! $4.00. They take phone orders and accept Amex, MasterCard, & Visa. NOTE: Peck has a “Slow Flier Designer Kit” suitable forScience Olympiad competition.
Penn Valley offers free flight kits from many of the U.S. vendors shown elsewhere on this list at discount prices. Micro-X, Sig, Golden Age Reproductions, Peck-Polymers, Herr, Dumas, Campbell Custom Kits, and R/N Models are included. They also have their own unique line of rubber scale kits, authentic reproductions of those pre-WWII Comet, Megow, Peerless, Burd, and Scientific kits so fondly remembered by most over-60 modelers (like me). Most of these are based on the 10¢, or “dime scale,” models of that era that typically had wingspans of 16-20 inches. Some are larger, some are non-scale types. Catalog $2.00, which also gets you on their mailing list.
Just getting started? Here are some suggestions:
1. Peck-Polymers for kits and a winder:
– Peck ROG, a12-inch span, easily built stick-and-tissue model for indoor or outdoor flying.
– Sky Bunny, a larger, more robust stick-and-tissue model for outdoor flying.
– Pussycat, an excellent 12” sport model designed by Dick Baxter for beginners. Highly recommended for indoors and out!
– Prairie Bird and Bostonian Pup non-scale endurance models, Nesmith Cougar and Lacey M-10 peanut scale models. All four are stick-and-tissue models with built-up fuselages and wheels w/simple structures. They are excellent fliers, suggested as second or third projects, and will hone building skills needed for more sophisticated subjects, such as scale models.
– 5:1 rubber wider.
2. Indoor Model Supply for gym fliers and a better winder:
– Slow Poke kit. For advanced beginners. Ready-to-use plastic prop unit is provided. Has stick-and-tissue wing and tail.
– Salem 6 kit. For advanced beginners. It will fly for over two minutes in a 20 ft. gym! 16″ span, stick-and-tissue wing and tail.
– Excellent 15:1 rubber winder
3. Hannan’s Runway for books and videos:
Good books on free flight modeling are few, but Bill Hannan stocks them, such as “Rubber Powered Model Planes” by Don Ross, “Indoor Scale Model Flying” by Fred Hall, and “Model Aircraft Aerodynamics” by Martin Simons. Also in stock at the Runway are excellent videos on modeling, such as “Basics of Rubber Power,” “How to Cover Models with Japanese Tissue,” and a number of others with action-packed coverage of various prestigious model airplane contests such as the Flying Aces Nationals.
4. Midwest Products for the Right Flyer kit
A robust, good-flying model that can be flown either indoors or out. Available in single or “class pack” multiple kits.
A brief glossary of frequently used free flight modeling terms
Electric Model: A model powered by one of the every-growing number of tiny electric motors now available. Power is supplied by small rechargeable batteries carried in the model. These motors can power free flight models ranging from 12 inches to several feet in wingspan. There are some good almost-ready-to-fly (“ARF”) model kits that use electric motors
Endurance model: A model that is designed and built solely to stay aloft for as long as possible. There are many competition
categories of indoor and outdoor endurance models. These models may or may not have a realistic appearance, and are a good starting projects for beginners rather than more difficult to build and fly scale models.
Free flight model: A model that flies “free” of any outside control while airborne. It uses settings of balance, flying surfaces, and thrust line put into the model prior to launch for in-flight guidance and stability.
Indoor model: A model built specifically for flying in an indoor site, such as a school gym, athletic arena, fieldhouse, aircraft hangar, or other interior location with suitable floor space and ceiling height. Gliders, rubber, and electric-powered models are flown indoors. They are comparatively lighter and more fragile than those intended to be flown outdoors.
Laser Cut: A term referring to the relatively new technique of precisely pre-cutting model parts, such as ribs and formers, from balsa sheets using a very thin laser beam. This eliminates the traditional and time-consuming use of a hand-held blade to cut out parts printed on balsa sheets. A growing number of kit manufacturers are using laser cutting.
No-cal scale: A class of comparatively simple, easily-built semi-scale rubber models having a two-dimensional profile fuselage in place of the traditional built-up, three dimensional, hollow fuselage. Typically they are of stick-and-tissue construction are covered on only one side of their framework, but can also be built using a light all-sheet balsa structure. They can be flown indoors or out. “No-cal” is short for “no calories,” meaning a lean, minimal structure.
Outdoor model: A model built for outdoor flying, using relatively robust design and construction compared to indoor models. Various types of gliders, rubber-powered, and engine-powered models are flown outdoors, often using thermals (rising warm air currents) to achieve long flight duration.
Peanut scale: A popular class of small rubber-powered scale models with a maximum wingspan limit of 13 inches. There are many kits and plans available for peanut scale models. They can be flown both indoors and out.
Rubber lubricant: A slippery substance, usually a liquid, applied to a rubber motor to reduce friction between the strands when they are tightly wound for flight. Use of a proper lubricant is vital as it enables many more turns to be wound into a rubber motor than would be possible without it. Rubber lubricants are sold by some of the listed vendors. Automotive protectants such as Armor All, Formula 2001, and Son of a Gun make very good rubber lubricants and are readily available.
Rubber motor: The loop, or loops of rubber strip that is the “motor” for rubber-powered model aircraft. Tan II rubber strip (see below) is formulated especially for powering model aircraft and is sold by a number of the above vendors, most notably F.A.I. Model Supply. When used with a mechanical winder (see winder, below) and a proper lubricant, rubber motors can be wound several thousand turns.
Scale model: A model plane designed, built, and decorated to closely resemble a particular full-size, man-carrying aircraft. In competition, scale models are scored on their depiction of the subject aircraft, overall craftsmanship, and flight duration.
Stick-and-tissue: Model airplane jargon referring to the classic method of free flight model construction which uses balsa wood sticks for the model’s framework and tissue paper to cover it. This tissue is most often a fine, lightweight grade imported from Japan. Many of the vendors on the above list sell Japanese tissue.
Stooge: A fixture designed to securely hold a rubber-powered model while it is being wound for flight. This omits the need for another person to hold the model during winding, thus allowing solo flying. Once wound, the the rubber motor is hooked to the model, which is then removed from the stooge and is ready for flight. Stooge designs vary somewhat, but often use a piece of stiff wire that runs through the aluminum tube commonly used as the rear rubber support in models. This wire also runs through two vertical supports that straddle the rear of the fuselage where the rubber tube is located. These are attached firmly to the base of the stooge, which is clamped or otherwise firmly fastened to a table, bleacher seat, or other solid support. With winding completed and propeller attached, the wire is withdrawn, freeing the model from the stooge. Some vendors, such as FAI, sell stooges.
Tan II: The brand of rubber strip specifically formulated for powering model airplanes, named for its tan color. Tan II is sold as long continuous strips of various widths, usually 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 3/16, and º inch. Its thickness is approximately .045 inch. Rubber-powered models fly using one or more loops made from one of these widths. F.A.I. Model Supply of Sayre, Pennsylvania markets Tan II directly to both modelers and vendors and works directly with the U.S. manufacturer to constantly monitor and upgrade its quality. Indoor Model Supply and Micro-X strip it into an even wider range of custom widths required for flying various classes of ultralight indoor models. Yes, there once was a just plain “Tan.”
Winder: A hand-held mechanical device used to wind the motors of rubber-powered free flight models, and a must-have piece of equipment for successful rubber model flying. Winders have a hand crank which turns a simple gear train connected to a hooked output shaft. The hook holds one end of the rubber motor; the other end remains attached to either the rear rubber hook or propeller shaft of the firmly held or anchored model (see stooge, above). The lubricated motor is then stretched to three or four times its slack length and winding is begun. With each single turn of the hand crank, the output shaft turns anywhere from 5 to 20 times, depending on the gear ratio of the winder. The person winding slowly shortens the length of the stretch as he winds, starting to come in at about 50% of desired turns and finishing with the motor at its flying length. The motor is then carefully transferred to the model. This classic technique allows many more turns to be put into a rubber motor than would be possible using manual winding of the propeller. The slack length of rubber motors is often two or more times the distance between the model’s front and rear rubber hooks, making hand winding all but impossible. Stretch winding permits 1,500 to 2,000 or even more turns to be quickly put into a rubber motor. More turns = longer flights. Thayer Syme’s web site (see below) has pictures of winders.
There are a surprising number of web sites on the World Wide Web devoted to free flight modeling. Many have links to still other related sites, including vendors, so take some time to check them all out. These sites are valuable resources for current information on the hobby, and many have photographs of models, drawings, and plans. Here are nine good ones for starters:
Academy of Model Aeronautics: http://modelaircraft.org / The AMA is the official governing body of all phases of model aviation in the United States.
DC Maxecuters club site: www.his.com/~tschmitt/index.html The D.C. Maxecuters are one of the best known free flight clubs in the country, particularly where Flying Aces competition is concerned. Lots of great scale information, photos, and links.
Dumas Products, Inc.: www.dumasproducts.com/ Dumas makes an impressive line of laser-cut rubber scale kits ranging from 17 &Mac189;” to 30” in span. You can see them all on this site.
Herr Engineering Corp.: www.iflyherr.com/about.html Herr pioneered the use of laser-cut parts in free flight kits and has many models in a variety of sizes, mostly scale. They’re all shown on this web site.
Sig Manufacturing Co., Inc.: www.sigmfg.com Sig is the largest mail order business in the modeling field and has lots of items of interest to free flight fliers including scale and non-scale kits, tissue, wood, adhesives, and other supplies.
National Free Flight Society: http://www.freeflight.org A special interest group dedicated to the practice and promotion of free flight model flying. They publish an excellent bi-monthly newsletter for members. Lots of good links found here.
Don Slusarczyk’s Indoor Web Page: www.indoorfreeflight.com Don is a first-class indoor flier and maintains this very informative site devoted to indoor flying. Lots of tips, plans, and information, including a new Science Olympiad CD-ROM.
Thayer Syme’s free flight site: www.sirius.com/~thayer/modelhp.html Thayer’s very active site is full of ever-growing amounts of information, tips, plans, and model photos. Science Olympiad information too. Highly recommended!
Volare Products site: www.flyingacesclub.net/volare/ Excellent variety of model plans plus complete Flying Aces Club information and rules.
Recommended reading: Flying Models magazine has two excellent free-flight columns every month, plus periodic FF model construction articles and many ads from the vendors listed above and more. Sometimes hard to find on newsstands, it’s worth the search. Better yet, get a subscription. Don Ross (below) writes an interesting column that appears monthly in Flying Models.
Rubber Powered Model Airplanes by Don Ross covers the basics well. Your library may have it, or it can be purchased from Don himself for $14.95 post paid: Don Ross, 38 Churchill Road, Cresskill, NJ 07626. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org