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## Model Airplane Design Made Easy

Many years ago I read a series of articles in Radio Control Modeler Magazine by Chuck Cunningham. These inspired my brother and I into a long, very successful life of building and designing model airplanes. Neither of us believed that with just a few simple formulas we could design and build our own models. I have maintained that series of articles for years and still follow those simple principles in model airplane design today.

Let’s talk about the basic design for a model airplane. When first approaching a conceptual design, you need to think about a few questions about how you want your model to fly. Will it be a trainer, sport, medium, or mixed volume model? How big of a model do you want to build and build? Which power will you use? Will the model be gas or electric? I will use very standard assumptions to arrive at a model that, if properly built and balanced, will fly on first flight with almost no layout changes – nothing more than the basic design.

Let’s start with a basic gas-powered model with 60″ wings and a 12″ shaft, powered by a .60 cu. 2-stroke engine. The numbers will be about the same for an electric plane or one with a smaller or larger engine and wingspan. So, get out your calculator and follow along.

Wing Area and Aspect Ratio

The wing area is nothing but the length of the X wing. This would be a continuous runner wing 60″ long by 12″ wide or 60″X12″= 720 square feet. Then, the Aspect Ratio or wing square, divided by the wing area (AR= B2/S) will give a basic idea of the model’s flight characteristics. More or less will determine whether the model is a floater or a herd. It also helps determine the power required to fly the model. Using formulas and values so far:

B2/S=AR or 3600/720=5 or aspect ratio or 5 to 1 (5:1)

Most sports models have an aspect ratio between 4:1 and 7:1. Below 4:1 and you become a NASA test pilot and above 7:1 results in a model of some sort of glider. Using the diagram in figure 1, an aspect ratio of 5:1 results in a model with good overall and sliding ratio. So, based on the above estimates, a wing length of 60″ with a beam of 12″ gives us a total wing area of 720 sq. Friday. and the surface ratio is 5:1. With these in mind we will proceed to the basic fuselage and use estimates to arrive at the basic overall dimensions.

Basic Fuselage Design

With our assumptions from above, we are ready to establish the basic design of the fuselage. To keep this as simple as possible in the design of a simple sports model airplane, we have set up the model’s wings and fuselage. We will assume that the fuselage is 75% of the wingspan of the model and our formula will be 75% of 60″ or .75 X 60=45, so our total length will be 45″. If we look at the side view of our model, we know that the fuselage is basically two separate components, the nose and the tail with a wing in the middle. In our example we’ll use a nose length of 20%, 11″ or the distance from the trailing edge of the flap to the leading edge of the wing. We won’t worry about C/G at this point. Because we’ll get to that later. discuss this in the model design. For the tail moment we will double the nose step or 40%, 18″. This length is the distance from the trailing edge of the wing to the leading edge of the horizontal column. Yes, I know that to be flat in the design the length should be from the back of the flap to the C/G of the wing and the tail span should be from C/G to the Tail C/G. This will involve more Accounts to achieve the desired results. I just try to keep it simple.

Horizontal Stabilizer

For many years I have estimated that the Horizontal Stabilizer is in the range of 20% to 30% of the wing area. I usually use 22 to 23% in my designs. Please note that Deltas and flying wings are different designs and require different requirements. With our estimates from above we will use 22% of the wing area. Therefore, 22% of 720 is about 158 sq. in., and we will assume that it is 3 times the cord or 3C. We’re going to round these numbers and just use a little math, so our square root will be 158/3=52 and the square root of 52 will be our square root of 7.” The stabilization area will be 3C or 7″. XC = 21″. Our stabilizer now has gaps of 21″ X 7″.

The Vertical Fin

Again during the year I estimated that the Vertical screen is in a range of about 1/3 of the horizontal Stab area. I usually assume that this is from the top of the horizontal line to the top of the vertical part. So, again with just a little math we can get to some basic designs. The horizontal tank has an area of 158 sq. Friday. Therefore, 1/3 of 158 equals an area of 52 sq. Using the square root or 52 we get a vertical back height of 7″ and a curve of about 7.25″. The plane looks ugly, so just adjust the height and pitch to get a set of numbers that will cover roughly the same area for the vertical wing. A dorsal fin can be added to increase the area and reduce the height and width of the fin profile.

In the next article we will look at the rest of the design parameters, as there are still other assumptions that need to be considered. So far we have our basic design of a 60″ wing and a 12″ chord. The overall length of the fuselage is 45″ and the nose is 11″ while the tail is 18″. The horizontal stabilizer is 21″ X 7″ and the vertical stabilizer is 7″ high. We still need to account for the area of the elevator, ailerons, and rudder. Also, the throw lines along with the event and of course the Center of Gravity. Later I will discuss how to design in CAD and design a good simple model airplane to fly.

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