1920s Fighter Plane! (Build + Testing)

by JamesWhomsley | February 8, 2018 | (7) Posted in Projects

Like Josh Bixler, I have an interest in vintage aeroplanes. They're of a certain time, a certain style, and from a certain spirit of adventure. So, what do you know, I built one! Check out the eventful test flight here: 


This project started life in my student bedroom between finishing my finals and graduation about five months ago. From the start, I wanted to test a new fuselage shape: I wanted to make it round.

Old monoplanes of the 1920s tended to have this character. I attempted to capture it by using foam board formers and struts. These were later covered with card. 

As you can see from the picture below, I also included flaps into the design. I had never done this either. This plane was shaping up to be something special!  

A few months later, what with lots of things going on, the plane was slowly taking shape. It wasn't a fast build by any stretch of the imagination. With the cladding of the formers with card came strength and solidity. This was pleasing as I wanted to make sure the plane could take a beating and last a long time. 

Here you can see the flaps in their deployed position. Servos glued to the underside of the wings operated them smoothly. However, before the maiden flight, one of the servos was found to be faulty with stripped gears. Whoops! I had no idea how this had happened, but, as I'd already decided not to use flaps on the maiden flight to keep it simple, I decided to simply secure the flaps in place and fix them later. This way I wouldn't waste time and effort if the first crash had been a total write-off. 

Nearing completion, the plane was taking on that vintage character! 

After the plane was complete, I decided to use it as the test bed for an experiment I was working on - the air-to-ground model rockets.

Test Flight and Crash

A week later, the terrible UK weather had lifted enough to have a crack at a first test flight. The wind was around 10mph with 25mph gusts, but it was the best it was going to get.  

Takeoff! The plane suddenly caught a gust from the right and was pushed towards the spectating sheep. A quick save saw it travel nicely up and away. It tracked well and seemed to be very stable, what with it's high up shoulder wing. However, very quickly, something went wrong. It was the elevator. Oh dear. 

Impact! With a crash, the plane hit a small tree bordering the flying field. Thankfully it wasn't too high up. 

During the crash, the motor had broken away and cleared a fence taking the dummy radial engine with it. For an RC crash, it actually looked very authentic. No dazed pilot though. 

With help from my co-pilot, the debris was retrieved. There was a near miss when some new jeans almost snagged on a barbed wire fence. That would have been the second disaster of the day. 

Throughout the whole ordeal, we had a dedicated fan club chasing us around. 

Closing Thoughts and Future Plans

At this point, I'm unsure of the extent of the damage to this airframe. As it was designed quite a while ago, I've since improved many of the features of newer planes such as the landing gear and control linkages (like the one that failed on the elevator). 

Ideally, I would like to build a new vintage style fighter/racer with my new techniques that is capable of taking off and landing on bumpy long grass. This will probably mean it ends up being quite large. Watch this space.

Thank you for reading! 


Article written by James Whomsley



Instagram @jameswhomsley


tomh on February 11, 2018
I love the sheep fan club lol! looks like a nice place to fly..and very nice build, hope you get it straightened out again.
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Flying Penguin RC on February 9, 2018
Very nice article and nice build. A couple tweaks and you will get there.
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JamesWhomsley on February 9, 2018
Many thanks!
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matjey on February 23, 2018
This video reminds me of my early stage of building an airplane. Have quiet a number of great models that I want to build. Pass all the obstacles during the process and up to the day where it need to be maiden. That feeling of blood and sweat before the first flight always there up still now. And when maiden crash, it broke my heart tremendously. But then, when got home, the eager to start a new project were always there.

Keep on building!
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ewlie on February 8, 2018
A very entertaining video, great editing. Gave me a good giggle this morning. :-)
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JamesWhomsley on February 9, 2018
Thank you! That's good to hear :)
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SpoopyTurtle44 on August 5, 2019
Did you make this off of the p-26?
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electronicsafrica on April 15, 2023
that plane is so very cute. i am interested in the DH2 pusher type planes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vELURYJBP_s so here's my first attempt:
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electronicsafrica on April 15, 2023
here's a DH2 model:

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1920s Fighter Plane! (Build + Testing)