Airfield Models - How To

Build a Model Airplane Fuselage

January 21, 2009



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Airfield Models (http://www.airfieldmodels.com/)How to Build a Model Aircraft Fuselage Introduction

This article shows one way to build a fuselage.  The construction is a typical slab-sided fuselage for a Stik type model (Rustik).  My intention is to demonstrate solid construction techniques that ensure a fuselage is built straight, strong but light and incorporates easily accessed and maintained systems.

A good friend of mine, Mike Phillips, is one of the best, if not the best, pilot I have ever known.  All of his models fly extremely well.  There are several reasons for this.  Mike's father builds all his aircraft and is as good a builder as you will ever meet.  He will do whatever it takes to get a model in balance without adding weight.  His aircraft are extremely light and straight.

Mike has a gift for picking out excellent flying aircraft.  He can choose between one hundred Stik clones and know which one has the potential for being the best flyer simply by looking at the moments and airfoils.  There is a reason why I mention this.

In laying out this fuselage I was having difficulty deciding how long I wanted the pitch moment to be.  I played around with the numbers and cut a set of fuselage sides.  The tail moment just looked too short even though the numbers indicated that it was actually longer than most sport models. 

Mike has been following along with this design and has a good idea of what flight qualities I am looking for.  I asked Mike to look over the model before going any further with the construction.  The first thing Mike said when he saw the wing and stabilizer assembled to the fuselage blanks was that he would like to see the tail moment a few inches longer.

His thoughts confirmed mine so the original sides were scrapped and new sides were cut out.  Some of the images are from the original set, but do not let that confuse you.

If you are building from a kit then parts fabrication is generally something you will not need to do.  If building from a kit or from plans, then design and layout is taken care of as well.

 
 

Fuselage Description

Phil Kraft designed the original Das Ugly Stik.  It is an excellent model aircraft for several reasons not the least of which is ease of accurate assembly.  He accomplished this by making the bottom of the fuselage a straight line. If you look at some of the older free flight designs you will notice the fuselage is a series of complex curves.

While this makes a very pretty aircraft, it also makes fuselage construction much more difficult.  The fuselage is usually built on a crutch assembly and is likely to end up being a flying banana unless the builder is very skilled.

This fuselage will be constructed using a layout similar to the original Ugly Stik.  As you follow along with assembly you will see the things that make this design so simple to build.  The fuselage is a basic box with a flat bottom that can be built easily on a board with no complex jigging necessary.  The radio compartment is not any different than most sport aircraft designed from the late 60's to the present.

Unlike the Ugly Stik, this model has a built-up stabilizer that is raised from the bottom of the fuselage.  There is also a streamlined cowl which noticeably improves the flight qualities of the model.  I have flown enough Stik clones to know that a blunt firewall does not do anything to improve aerodynamics.  I wrestled with the idea of breaking from tradition and decided that the flight qualities of this model had to take precedence.  I hope Mr. Kraft sees fit to forgive my trespass. Do you forgive me, Phil?

 
 

In this series

  1. Introduction

  2. Laying out the Fuselage Sides

  3. Building the Inner Fuselage Side Structure

  4. Preparing the Formers

  5. Jigging and Dry-Fitting

  6. Building it Straight

  7. Adding the Upper and Lower Decking

  8. The Front End

  9. Installing the Onboard Radio Gear (Flight Pack)

 
 

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How to Build Warren Truss Fuselage Sides
Make Perfect Fitting Model Aircraft Wing Saddles

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Copyright 2003 Paul K. Johnson