Model of a record setting plane

Well, I built another model airplane. Like the last one, I built this one up from plans rather than a kit.

It is a scale model of a DH.88 Comet. This handsome plane set a whole bunch of long-distance speed records in back in the 1930s. If you’re an aviation history nerd, the Wikipedia article is a good read. This plane was also a fruitful exercise for the de Havilland Aircraft Company to explore and develop various new technologies and building techniques. Of note is de Havilland’s ability to produce fast and capable airplanes made of wood, like the DH.88 and DH.91. That experience and expertise was put to work just a few years later to create the de Havilland Mosquito, one of the most successful and versatile fighter planes of that era.

But besides all of that impressive history and innovation… it just looks cool! Here’s a video of the actual plane flying around at an airshow:

Form and function together. Those sleek aerodynamic lines…almost art deco?. And there’s something badass about those low-slung engines out in front.

I’ve actually wanted to make a model of this plane for a long time. For at least a couple of years. I learned about it from those wikipedia articles up above, and immediately started searching for suitable plans online. Outerzone.co.uk had a couple of plans… but they were for different materials and construction methods than the stick and tissue style that I like (and that I actually know how to do)

But after a little extra searching and sleuthing, I found another site, hippocketaeronautics.com, that had just the right plans!

Cutting out portions of the plans to transfer to the wood

Trying to fit as much onto the balsa wood sheet as I can.

I use acetone to transfer the print-out to the balsa. This shows a fairly good example of the end result. Incidentally, it is also a good example of careless placement: I failed to take note of the wood grain on some of these pieces, with can lead to warping and/or structural weaknesses.

The fuselage is coming together. (some pieces are not glued in yet – just sitting there – hence the protruding tips.) This is also a good view of the plans underneath.

Applying the tissue paper skin. Of note are the adjustable ailerons, rudder, and elevators on this model. You can see a few of them in this picture. The hinges are made from some thread-wrapped wire I found at a art supply store. The thread made it easy to glue the wire down to the wood. I wouldn’t want to move them too much, since the wire would eventually fatigue. But it’s a neat effect!

I used the same wire to make the outline of the cockpit canopy.

At one point, while I was finishing the addition of the engine nacelles, I damaged the wing. Here is a moment from its repair.

Good as new! 

Displayed on the wall. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but its wingspan is about twice as wide as any other plane I’ve built so far.

You can see a fair number of wrinkles, lumps, and seams in the plane. I am by no means a pro at this. But I’m pretty pleased with the overall result. A lot of people ask if I’ll paint my models… Maybe? But maybe not. I really enjoy the construction process, and the materials. Rather than verisimilitude, I like that you can see the paper and wood for what they are. And the translucency really shows off the structure nicely.