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Control Line Airplanes - Sport
Birds on a wire... well, at least two wires


White Lightning - The Design and Build

The Design 
I wanted an airplane design for the Norvel 1/2A class of motors to build from scratch, like from nothing, from a bare piece of paper and some math, so I put some trace on the drafting board and then sat there... thinking. I had read a number of articles in numerous model airplane magazines which helped me establish a wing area that was the right size for the plane I wanted so I started with a straight line on the page that connected the center of the spinner with the stab at the back end of the airplane.

The drawing shows that the engine thrust line is even with the stabilizer. The centerline of the wing is drawn below the thrust line but not too far, about mid way. I did not want to get the wing and control lines too low on the fuselage.

In this drawing I show a symmetrical airfoil but, later for simplicity it was changed to a flat airfoil.

White Lightning Build 01

The fuselage profile was drawn around the thrust line and the wing centerline and stab was added last.

Next I added more detail to the overall design including the flat wing and landing gear. The drawing is now beginning to be inked on the drafting film from the trace paper. I also included the engine mounting section and plywood sides for the area ahead of the wing.

White Lightning Build 02

From this stage I finish the wing detail and final building details.

The wing and stabilizer are drawn on the page, and the final construction details for those are added. I added details on the engine mount section, and I have details drawn for a fuselage top view.  For an .049 sized airplane it has a fairly large wing.

The plan was finalized and then we photocopy our original plan so that we have a plan to build the prototypes from.

The drawing was later converted to vector graphics.

White Lightning Build 03

The lightening fast way to build a White Lightning.

Materials you will need to build this plane:
Wing leading edge     1 off 36" x 4" x 1/8" balsa sheet - Medium
Wing trailing edge & tail plane     2 off 36" x 3" x 1/8" balsa sheet - Medium
Fuselage     1 off 36" x 3" x 1/4" balsa sheet - Medium/Hard
Doublers, bellcrank mount, leadout guide     1 off scrap 1/32" Plywood
Fin & rudder     1 off scrap 3" x 1/16" balsa sheet - Medium
Bearers     1 off 1/4" x 1/4" Hardwood
Other     Wax paper, tracing paper, glues and, of course....

the White Lightning Plan
(Download it now if you haven't already done so)

Most hobby shops will have good wood for this model; it uses nothing unusual in wood sizes. The maple hardwood bearers may need to be cut from some larger maple. I cut mine from a 1/2 x 1/2 piece of maple. The bearers for this airplane are not that long so the hardwood bearers can be cut from some scrap maple that you could find at the local do-it-yourself home improvement store (Home Depot).

The plywood sides I cut from a larger sheet of plywood that I got from the model shop. Many builders use this plywood for the insides of RC airplane fuselages. You can get 1/32-inch plywood sheet or 1 mm plywood sheet as well.

The wing is made up of two pieces of 1/8“ sheet. The leading edge sheet is a 4-inch wide section and the trailing edge sheet is a 3-inch sheet. Some of the trailing edge sheet is used to make the fin and rudder. A second 3-inch sheet is used for the stabilizer.

The Fuselage is made up from a single Medium/Hard sheet of 1/4 inch balsa. The Hardness is balanced against the weight; don't go overboard on hardness, as this would get a bit heavy. One sheet of 1/4 x 3 x 36 inch will do fine.

Some scrap 1/8th plywood for small details are required for the leadout guides and the belcrank mount.

The Build

The plan is laid out flat, with building materials required for a good start. Also included is a piece of wax paper to lay over your plan so that the wood and glue lifts from the plan easily as you build.

Sharkies Build 04

Next is to find a way to transfer the details on the plan to the wood. One popular way is to make plastic templates for most parts and use them to trace the lines to the wood. Another way is to use tracing paper or wax paper to trace the parts from the plan, then cut out these shapes from the wax or trace paper to transfer to wood.

Sharkies Build 05

Here the parts have been traced onto the wood.

Now that the parts can be cut out and prepared for assembly.

Sharkies Build 06

Here we see the use of a scroll saw to cut the fuselage to shape after it had been traced onto the wood.

Sharkies Build 07

This is a picture of all the parts that have been cut out and ready for construction.

Sharkies Build 08

Here we see how the engine bearers fit into their locations in the fuselage and present are two plywood sheet sides that will be glued on once the engine bearers have been glued in with epoxy.

Sharkies Build 09

In this picture, the plywood sides are clamped and allowed to dry overnight.

Sharkies Build 10

After drying, the sides and edges can be sanded, smoothed and shaped to match the profile on the drawing.

Sharkies Build 11

Cut out the wing and glue it together and then shape it to size to match the plan.

Do the same with the stabilizer and rudder and sand them to shape indicated on the plan.

Sharkies Build 12

Included in this picture are two different engines that are suitable for flying this airplane. The one on the left is a Norvel .061 and the one on the right is a Cox Medallion .049
Both of these engines will make this airplane fly well. The blue package is a Carl Goldberg 1/2A bellcrank kit that you can buy off the shelf of most hobby stores. The little plywood square piece is the bellcrank mount that is glued to the bottom of the wing in the location indicated on the plan.

Sharkies Build 13

Here is an installation of a Norvel engine and the attachment of a fuel tank.

Sharkies Build 14

The traditional finish is tissue on wood with a coating of Sig Litekote dope. In this picture the wings were finished in purple jap tissue and the fuselage was covered and then painted in a silver.

Sharkies Build 15

In this picture a combination of blue tissue and yellow tissue with a white tissue stripe in the middle.

Sharkies Build 16

Here is a head on picture of a completed White Lightning with all the associated hardware installed.

Sharkies Build 17

Once the airplane has its finish, it gets completed with the proper hardware that sets up the controls. In this picture we see the installation of leadouts, bellcrank and the attachment of the pushrod to the stabilizer.

Sharkies Build 18

Other important parts are the pushrod support and the elevator control horn. This is a bottom view of a completed airplane.

Sharkies Build 19

Another picture of the airplane being prepared for it's first flight, attached are the control lines, engine and hardware.

Sharkies Build 20

This is the White Lightning in a wing-over on its second flight. Warren Leadbeatter is the pilot flying this airplane in Australia.

Sharkies Build 21

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Plan Printing by Dave at The Final Image



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