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PLANS: VTOL - Space - Cars - Boats

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Model Aircraft Plans for
Helicopters, other VTOL Craft,
Spacecraft, Cars and Boats

The advent of reliable and cheap microrocket power inspired designers to experiment with utilising it to model a vast range of vehicles, both actual and imaginary.

We present here a small – but typical – selection from this range.

  What you'll find here:
Other VTOL Craft
Racing Cars


Jetex-powered helicopters held a special fascination for designers of the "Golden Age" of Jetex. Here are models from four of those designers, from both sides of the Atlantic.

Click on any image to view or download the construction plan.

Simple Helicopter by F.G. Boreham
Click image to view or download enlarged dimensioned plan
Simple Helicopter
F.G Boreham described this model for twin 50s as "the very simplest form of model, utilising the "beam power mounting" developed to cure instability – one of the many difficulties so prevalent in earlier designs. This version should climb vertically for the duration of its power run, but will not auto-rotate in the “glide” as those with the hinged-blade system".

Plan from Aeromodeller, Jan. 1951 p.30

JH-3 Jet Helicopter by Parnell Schoenky
Click image to view or download large dimensioned plan and design and flying hints from Parnell Schoenky
JH-3 Jet Helicopter
Parnell Schoenky writes:

"Jet helicopters powered by any of the various Jetex solid fuel engines are quite simple to build and fly, and the JH-3 design is no exception. Use of the skewed hinge mounting for the rotor blades, together with separate boom supports for the engines, results in a rotor system that is exceedingly stable under power."

JH-5 Hiller Hornet by Parnell Schoenky
Click image to view or download enlarged dimensioned plan
JH-5 Hiller Hornet Helicopter Designed by Par Schoenky for the Hiller competition, the JH-5 is powered by twin Jetex 350s – noted on the plan as "obsolete, but specific impulse and performance far exceed Scorpion".

See Schoenky's "Thoughts on the Helicopter" from the Zaic 1955-56 Yearbook.

Plan from Frank Zaic's Model Aeronautic Year Book, 1957-58

Whirligig by Bill Henderson
Click image to view or download enlarged dimensioned plan
and design notes from Bill Henderson
Whirligig 'Whirligig' is a twin-Jetex 50 helicopter design. Its average flight time in evening air on 3 charges is one minute. Bill Henderson says of model helicopters built on the same prnciples as 'Whirligig':

"[They] will ascend fairly quickly and should descend on auto-rotation much more slowly, in fact in good thermal conditions they should be able to soar slightly and thus greatly enhance their performance."

Plan from
Frank Zaic's Model Aeronautic Year Book, 1953, p. 104

Whirley by Bob Tennenbaum
Click the image to view or download the full-size plan
Whirley Another early twin Jetex 50 helicopter design, originally published in Flying Models, May 1956, and later republished in Paul Del Gatto's All about Jetex.

Other VTOL craft

Imaginative Jetex designers, on both sides of the Atlantic, came up with ingenious plans for craft that used the power of Jetex to achieve vertical flight.

Click on any image to view or download the construction plan.

Coccinellida by Ian Geddes
Click image to view or download dimensioned plan and building and flying hints (from Aeromodeller, Nov. 1956)
Coccinellida is a coleopter, based on research by the Bureau Technique Zborowski (BTZ), a French institute engaged in the development of vertical rising annular wing aircraft. The BTZ was largely staffed by technicians with research background in the German jet and guided missile industry during the latter part of the Second World War.

Ian Geddes was inspired by an article on the work of the BTZ in the June 24 1955 issue of Flight to engage in "much envelope and table cloth sketching in a certain Dublin coffee shop", resulting in a number of coleopter designs, among which was Coccinellida, for Jetex 50R/HT power.

Flying Wheel, by Paul Del Gatto

Click the image to view or download the full-size plan.
Flying Wheel "The Flying Saucer Idea Takes a New Turn"
by Paul Del Gatto

This article descibing the model (M.A. 191) and its construction appeared in Model Aircraft magazine, August 1954 p. 316.

Ever since flying saucers became front-page material for newspapers, our interest in them his steadily increased.

Within the list few years we've built and flown no less than half a dozen saucer configurations, both F/F and C/L.

For the most part these designs were very successful, but even when successful we never got the feeling that we had really achieved something unique in model aircraft.  The reason we felt this way was because we had not simulated what might be envisioned as a true flying saucer.  Our designs were all propeller driven by either an engine or rubber motor with but one exception, which was powered by a Jetex 50 unit externally mounted.

The latter design most closely approached our recent endeavor with but one very important exception.  While our past designs derived their lift through forward routine, our summit eminence or recent endeavor derives its lift through rotary motion.

When the Jetex fuses are ignited the model begins to rotate and in a matter of seconds begins its ascent.  The upward journey continues for approximately eight seconds, continually accelerating until the power is expended and the model is about 150 to 200 ft. in the air.  Approximately five to six seconds are expended in accelerating for takeoff.

Coming down, the model spins in the reverse direction until it finally settles down to earth.

Click image for full-size plan
Flying Wheel
While construction of the model differs from that of conventional models, it is nonetheless very easy.  The most important things to bear in mind are correct alignment of all parts, and a light but strong framework.

To begin construction, start by cutting out all the required parts, taking care that the correct texture of wood is used throughout.

The inner and outer rims are then pinned in place on the plan.  If you experience difficulty in bending it in the circular shape, it is advisable to soak the wood in warm water and pre-bend to the appropriate shape.

Next, construct the four-bladed propeller and cement the 1/32 in. sheet disc to the propeller hub; the remainder of the disc hub is located after it is removed from the plan.

Locating and cementing the vanes in position require the maximum amount of effort and care.  Begin at any position and cement them in place in a clockwise direction with the correct helical twist.

Now that the frame has been removed from the plan, complete the 1/32-in. sheet balsa hub assembly and cover the propeller hubs with tissue as indicated. To the inside edge of the cone rim where the Jetex units are to be mounted, cement a 1/16 in. plywood base through which the mounting bolts can eventually be inserted.

The outer periphery that encloses the Jetex units is constructed entirely of 1/32-in. sheet balsa.  To begin, first bolt the Jetex mount in position and center the retaining wall in position, checking carefully with the Jetex unit itself to see that it is in the correct position. Then cement the upper and lower surfaces in position to the outer rim and the retaining wall. When completed, cement the 1/32 in. sheet balsa edge in place.

An essential precaution is to line the Jetex housing, and four to five inches of the outer periphery, with asbestos, as indicated on the plan.  This will eliminate scorching or burning of the model.

In order to keep the model light, do not use any colored dopes in applying a finish. However, if you would like a little color in your model, it is suggested that you mix dye with a small amount of water and alcohol to your clear dope.

In this manner a good-looking finish can be applied without worrying about excessive weight.  Apply three or four coats of thinned down dope, gently sanding with fine sandpaper between each coat.

Scintillatin' Saucer, by Larry Conover

Click the image to view or download the half-size plan.
Scintillatin' Saucer Larry Conover design for a 13-inch [33 cm] flying disc powered by twin Jetex 50 engines.  This model launches from a pinwheel pedestal. It's described as an "all-weather flyer."  Maybe the answer to windy day flying sport in New Mexico? The article, from Flying Models, has this to say:

Werner von Braun, the NASA, and also the Russkies will take a back seat when you FM fans launch this sizzling satellite.  Back in the fall of '51, reports were going around that had the local milk brewers reaching for their shotguns.  The U.F.O. scare was in full swing.  Eyewitness accounts from the pasture on the south forty indicated that Old Bossy was kicking up her heels at a new kind of flying pest. So ...

I was forced to move saucer testing operations into the hills.  It was just as well. Some of the early models, upon reaching maximum rotational velocity, would disintegrate in mid-air.

Here is a typical test run of saucer No. 2.  Jetex engines loaded and mounted. Starter punk smoking. Wind SW at two mph. Fire one! Fire two! Pull fuse wires. Slow rotation begins. Then a rapid increase as the engines build up pressure. BLAST-OFF in five seconds after firing.

The test vehicle has risen from the launching tower, and ascends at a steadily increasing rate. Blue exhaust smoke funnels down from the center. Slight drifting off course.  Altitude, seventy-five feet.  One hundred. One hun -- WHAM!  Oh oh, somebody pushed the panic button.

Launch tower for Scintillatin' SaucerLaunching Scintillatin' Saucer

Launch is from a low tower

What was once a carefully engineered maze . . . Now is shattered sticks and paper tumbling down to earth. Back to the drawing board.

All that's cleared up now. Installation of a "panic wire" holds the two engine mounts together. It takes loads imposed by centrifugal force at high rotational speeds.

Click image for half-size plan
Scintillatin' Saucer

Ready to start your space-saucer? Ok, find a gallon jug.  And, after cutting several strips of 1/16 x 3/8 medium balsa (long grain A stock), soak them in water for ten minutes. Then wrap them carefully around the jug and let dry overnight. If you are in a hurry, bake it in oven at 250 degrees.

While you're waiting, cut out thirty-two lift vanes from 1/32 light C grain balsa. Take note: the lighter the craft, the higher it goes.  Draw the two circles, using compass shown on plans. When laying down the rims, place pins on either side of the balsa, not through it.  Outer rim is longer than three feet, so use two pieces and join them at engine mount positions.  Tailor the distance between rims by placing lift vanes at intervals around the circle during pin-down operation.

Install the vanes, and go easy on the glue.  Best to thin it out with acetone.  Measure positions for the first two vanes, but after that just "eyeball" them in.  Next comes the center fan. It's just a plain four-bladed built-up indoor prop. Follow the plans.  Make sure all your blades are right hand, and match the direction of the outer vanes.  A large pinhole in the center is reinforced with bead bearings, well cemented. This must be strong.

The engine clips are glued and screwed into place, being careful to point each one in the proper direction. He sure to bend the tops over (check plan) to prevent engines flying loose in mid air.  Install the "panic wire" by drilling a small hole in the center of the engine clip. Bring the wire through and wrap a turn around the mounting screws. The wire should stretch tightly between the two mounts and pass on the under side of the prop blades.

A small piece of aluminum foil should be glued to the rim in the exhaust area.

Cover the top only of the prop blades with light tissue.  Two coats of thin clear dope, with none on outer blades.  Last operation, balance saucer with engines out.  Use wire for axis. Hold ship vertical and give it a spin. Place a bit of clay opposite the heavy side.

No need to construct a launching tower for first test.  Place a 0.032 wire axis in the end of a stick. Hold overhead after lighting fuses.  Do not release until you are in orbit.

To insure successful launchings: Load engines carefully.  Make one fuse longer, so both engines fire about the same time.  Always use a punk, or piece of DT fuse for lighting.  Pull fuses on the dot.  When flying in the wind, give your saucer a booster spin to help get it going.  Stand back.  It skims low downwind for the first fifty feet.

On a quiet evening your snappy satellite will ascend to 300 feet directly overhead, pause lazily at the top, reverse direction, and spin gliding down like an aerial elevator.  If saucer fails re-entry as programmed, notify Bob and Ray, Lost and Found Space Vehicles, Interstellar City, Earth.

From Flying Models publication "A Decade of Designs II, 1956-1966".

Rob McConaghy, who, as a 13-year-old, built and flew a Scintillatin' Saucer, recounts his experiences:

I built the flying saucer from plans bought from Flying Models of December 1959. The saucer used two Jetex 50s mounted diametrally on an approximately 12" O.D saucer made of balsa. Principal lift was from a number of (24? 32?) 1/32" thick balsa blades about 2" long X 1/2" wide between two concentric laminated bands of 1/32" balsa, laminated to 1/16, I think. The engines were kept from flying apart with a diametral .016 or .032" dia length of music wire. One was asked to build a 3 foot high launch tower of balsa sticks with a central music wire pin at the top, from which to launch the thing, but I cheated.

As you might expect, lighting and pulling the copper wires out of the two engines simultaneously was the big challenge. I had several thrilling flights – and several failures – all in one day – before all was busted, but I was thrilled, and happy (having the free flighter mentality).

At the time, I was terribly disappointed that the aluminum housings melted at the gasket joint (shades of the space shuttle). The housing rims melted through locally (along about a .10 " perimeter length, max), not all around the perimeter. This was my first in-your-face, no doubt about it, example of design flaws (I am a mechanical engineer, and have contributed a few over the years) but I did not even begin to think of complaining to the manufacturer (a universe away, in imagination and worldview at age 13, and untouchable), and set it on the shelf with all the other disappointments of the day – pathetically weak magnets, glues that didn't work (remember "Iron Glue"?), crummy batteries, bicycle generators that would sap all your strength to light a 3W bulb, etc.

Flying Wheels, by Claude R. de Vries

Click image for full-size plan for Jetex 100s

Click image for full-size plan for Jetex 50s

The 1953 Aeromodeller Annual carried this pair of Jetex powered flying wheels by Dutch modeler Claude R. de Vries. One is for the Jetex 100, the other for 50 series motors – the plan shows the original ribbed-case Jetex 50.

Giving advice on building, the designer says… "A strip of 1/16" x 3/8" medium balsa is soaked and wound around a suitable former (an oil can or dustbin, etc.), the ends being bevelled and cemented. A second similar strip is then laminated over the first. Rotor blades are of 1/16" sheet sanded to a thin airfoil airfoil section. The hub of the rotor is fashioned from a disc of medium balsa, blade positions being carefully marked off and their receiving slots cut. Accuracy is essential here. The Jetex clips are cemented to the outline and bound in place ensuring that a little upthrust is incorporated. The construction of a handgrip completes the model. The "100" model differs in using 3/32" sheet rotor blades and a reinforcing strip of celluloid cemented around the outline."


Earth Satellite by Ray Malmström

Earth Satellite by Ray Malmström
- diagram ex Eagle Book of Spacecraft Models, 1961

Our model of an earth satellite is particularly interesting, in that, unlike the other models in this book, it can be flown around a pole indoors (provided there is ample ventilation). You will not need to wait for the winter storms to finish before getting this little job into orbit. Fitted with a Jetex 50C motor, this model will circle a central pole in much the same way as the man-made satellite circles the earth.

That's how Ray Malmström introduced his simple sheet balsa 'Earth Satellite'. "This book", which he refers to, was The Eagle Book of Spacecraft Models, published in the U K by Hulton Publications in 1961 as a follow-up to Bill Dean's successful Eagle Book of Balsa Models.

We have a copy of the complete article, including a dimensioned plan, available for download.


Space Scout by Bill Dean

Space Scout by Bill Dean
- photograph ex Bill Dean's Book of Balsa Models, 1970

In view of the ever-increasing interest in the adventures of Dan Dare—Eagle's ‘pilot of the future’—it was felt that this book simply must include a working model of a typical ‘space ship’.

That's how Bill Dean introduced his simple sheet balsa 'Space Scout'. "This book", which he refers to, was Bill Dean's Book of Balsa Models, a revised and updated 1970 U S edition of The Eagle Book of Balsa Models, originally published in the U K in 1956.

Bill claimed that the 'Space Scout' was "capable of speeds in excess of 35 m.p.h., along a 400-ft. line, stretched between two trees".
We have a copy of the complete article,
including the full-size plan available for download.


Daylight Skyrocket from Popular Science

Daylight Skyrocket
- Popular Science, July 1954

For the youngster who wants a really simple spacecraft, what better than this Jetex 50-powered skyrocket? Though it’s shown here in a left-handed version, it would be an easy matter for a resourceful lad to adapt it for right-handed igniting. The Popular Science editors had no doubt of its appeal:

THIS real fireworks piece will be safe in the hands of any youngster who can be trusted with matches, and who can handle the cartridge and fuse needed.

It makes use of a harmless model-airplane jet motor, which can he refueled and shot again and again. Since it trails no sparks, the rocket affords no fire hazard, but it should be made in bright colors and fired in daylight. Keep the weight down and trim the stick so that it balances on a line with the orifice of the jet engine.

The fully detailed plan is available for download.


Racing Cars

XP-21 Firebird (version 1)

Click the image to view or download the full-size plan
- photograph ex Model Maker, April 1955

Read more about the original XP-21 Firebird at the definitive Firebird site.

Two balsa blocks, four wheels, scrap balsa and wire, a Jetex 50 and augmenter tube – result, this fast, exciting and accurate scale car.

That's the way Model Maker of April 1955 introduced this 1/20 scale model, by an unnamed designer, of the General Motors gas turbine-powered XP-21 Firebird.

We have a copy of the original plan available for download.

We also have another photo of the model and the text of the Model Maker article, with a guide to construction, for viewing or download.


XP-21 Firebird (version 2)

Click the image to view or download four-page article with full-size plan
Bill Dean's Firebird
- photograph ex Bill Dean's Book of Balsa Models, 1970

The model is powered by a Jetex 50 motor—which provides speeds of 15–20 m.p.h.— and may be run either tethered to a central ‘pylon’ or in a straight line.

That's how Bill Dean described his profile model of the 'Firebird'.

We have a copy of the complete article, including the full-size plan available for download.


Jet-Joe racing car by Frank Ehling

Click the image to view or download dimensioned plan
Jet Joe
- American Modeler Annual, 1961
Here's "Jet-Joe" for those younger
car-minded brothers

Designed especially for the young racing fans in your family, the body and chassis of this simple speedster consist of just two pieces of balsa. Since the wheels and axles flex quite a bit in operation, and also may be bent by hand to make the model "track" correctly, it is wise to use hardwood nose buttons to secure the axle ends, as the plans show.

Put plenty of cement on the axle fastenings so that you can bend the wire to suit without having things come "unstuck". The asbestos paper shown comes with the Jetex motor; it was moistened and molded to the curvature of the engine section, and when dry was fastened with rubber cement. The Jetex 50 motor was used in the model shown but it will handle anything from the smallest such unit up to the potent Jetmaster; for the latter you will need a deeper hollow in the fuselage, though, to accommodate the unit and clear the ground.


Topsy by Ray Malmström

Click the image to view or download dimensioned plan
and building and running instructions from Ray Malmström

- Eagle Book of Model Cars, 1961


These comfortable, economical little cars certainly can get a move on. Our model, described here, is probably the simplest one to build in [the Eagle Book of Model Cars], so you are only a very few hour’s work away from owning a bubble car of your own.



Swordfish by Bill Dean

Swordfish by Bill Dean
- photograph ex Bill Dean's Book of Balsa Models, 1970

This sleek jet-boat is virtually unsinkable and will go faster than any conventional propeller-driven design of comparable size.

[It] weighs only one ounce and is easy to make.

That's how Bill Dean introduced his balsa sheet-covered 'Swordfish' model boat. Dudley Wigley says, "I've made one of these and it's ace for worrying ducks on damp Sunday afternoons!".

We have a copy of the complete article, including the full-size plan available for download.


Hydrojet by M. C. Cowell

- photographs ex Model Boat Book, 1949
This was one of the very first models designed for Jetex power. M.C. Cowell was commissioned by Wilmot Mansour to produce a model boat that would demonstrate the versatility of their new motors.

It was later published as a plan by the Model Boat Book, which introduced it thus:

It has become quite feasible to build quite small models for "jet" propulsion. Provided that the craft are properly designed and constructed, excellent speeds may be obtained, quite out of proportion to the size of the hull, for durations of well over half a minute. [...]

The trim little Hydrojet is a novel and fascinating model with an excellent turn of speed.

We have a copy of the complete article, including a reduced plan available for download.



Illustration, plan and information sources:
- All about Jetex: Doug Foster
- A Decade of Designs II: Fred Rash
- Aeromodeller Annual, 1953 (excerpt): Ben Nead
- Model Aircraft, August 1954 (plan): Carlo Godel
- Model Aircraft, August 1954 (article): Bill Henderson
- Model Maker (Apr. 1955) (excerpt): Grif Ingram
- Bill Dean's Book of Balsa Models (excerpts): Brian Benson
- Popular Science, July 1954 (article): John Gericke
- American Modeler Annual, 1961: Carlo Godel (plan), Bill Henderson (photo, text)
- Eagle Book of Model Cars, 1961: Roger Chapman
- Model Boat Book (excerpt): Rocky Simmonds

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