Building and Flying Planes

Making balsa wood flying planes is an extremely wonderful hobby to follow. The best way to start is to buy a Gillows kit, which contains all the balsa parts and instructions required to build the plane. It requires patience, waiting for the glue to dry, and some craft skills, but it is something that improves over time.

I started building planes when I was 17 and was given my first Gillows balsa wood kit for building the Piper Cub. My mother bought it for me because she felt sorry for me as I had contracted pneumonia due to poor heating, diet, and clothing, as we were extremely poor, and I had just spent 4 weeks in hospital recovering. She had once seen me looking at the box, and must have remembered that I might like it, as I do not remember ever asking for anything.

I really enjoyed building and flying it that summer. It was a rubber band powered craft with a 24-inch wingspan. I had it trimmed just right so it would do a right turn. It flew 20 meters in the park.

When my friend Gordon saw it, he decided to buy it from me for four times its worth. Gordon was from a very rich background, and I sold it to him, as it would mean money to buy more models. Back then, building was even more fun than flying, because building allows one to express artistic and engineering abilities.

I had to make a bigger model powered by a petrol engine because the principle was the same. All I had to do was to enlarge the plans, but unfortunately, back then it was very expensive to make Xerox enlargements. However, I happened to have a leftover roll of plain white wallpaper onto which I decided to draw the plan by hand. I doubled some of the dimensions to make a 48" wing span model. This skill provided the inspiration to study Technical Drawing at O' level, and much later, when I had some money, I bought student versions of AutoCAD, and CATIA.

These were great hobbies and interests to have where you learnt something useful. Back then, we had a great shop in the Croydon Whitgift Centre called Model Sports, and they had a wide assortment of balsa. I used to spend every single penny I had buying struts and dowels.

Sadly, these days it is more common to see youngsters waste their time playing handheld electronic games. There seems to be an endless production of silly violent games such as “Assassin 4” or “Thug 5”.

Classic Flying Models

These are some of the models I built in the 1980s. Back then, the plans were easy to obtain, and I managed to sell many of my models to my richer friends, which was good, as I then had more money to make improved models and buy my first glow engine.

Model Building Plans Designers
War Baby warbaby.pdf FRANK V. B. EHLING
Aeronca Tandem aeronca.pdf RONNIE ALBERT
Could Be couldbe.pdf TED LANHAM
Piper Cub pipercub.pdf ROGER HAMMER
Voyager voyager.pdf JAMES NOONAN

All the credits go to the people who designed these planes and flew them, most were before my time, and I have only been able to get in touch with one of them. If you recognize your name here, please feel free to write an email.

Price / Cost

Plane prints and model kits are usually available from online hobby and craft shops. There are places such as eBay and Amazon that also sell Gillows kits. A small kit would cost around £15.00 including postage.

My Designs

The PJV X-01 Secret Experimental Spy Plane