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Fitting Your Model Plane For Sea Legs

Dec 27, 2007
Virtually all model aircraft can be fitted with floats for flying from water sites, or with skis for operation over snow-covered areas. This type of flying presents a refreshing departure from take-offs and landings on dry ground and affords a thrilling new experience for the model-airplane enthusiast.

Water-based aircraft can be divided into three classifications: "flying boats", the fuselage of which is shaped like a ship's hull; "single-float seaplanes", with one main float supporting the fuselage and utilizing small floats at the wing tips to obtain stability on the water; and the most popular of all, "twin floats."

All three types can be successfully operated in model form; however, in view of the fact that most models are built as land planes and are later converted into seaplanes, we recommend and shall describe "twin floats." This type can be readily installed on any land plane, although some full-scale aircraft are not easily fitted with seaplane gear. We will describe the installation for the "Aeronca Sedan", "Northrop Gamma", and "Curtiss Goshawk" only because it is known that these full-size craft can be fitted with floats.

Our floats are patterned along the lines of standard commercial types and are carved from solid balsa blocks. The floats are, however, divided along the vertical centerline in lieu of the horizontal. Once separated, these can be hollowed; the interior should receive several coats of dope in order to insure watertightness. Thick coats are recommended.

Saw the plywood bulkheads to shape and carefully fit into the float sides, cutting here and there to insure a good fit. Drill holes into the plywood and then cut the aluminum sheet straps. These are bent around the brass tubing. Now, bend the 1/16" music-wire crossbraces; these are inserted into the straps and the straps are then bolted to the plywood, holding both the tubing and crossbraces in place. Cut away part of the float to make room for the tubing.

This tubing must protrude above the float upper surface. Securely cement the two bulkheads into the inboard float upper surface. Securely cement the two bulkheads into the inboard float halves, then apply plenty of cement to the remaining outboard float halves and join under pressure. Do not disturb for at least four hours, preferably overnight. The balsa cross-brace fairing is optional.

These floats are replicas of standard commercial designs and will be in good taste on any scale model. They are permanently attached to each other via the two wire cross braces. The forward brace is faired by a sheet balsa streamline as is customary on most fuel scale floats. The permanent attachment of these floats aids considerably in installation and alignment. Distance between floats should be equal to one-half the length of the float.

The importance of the external finish cannot be overemphasized. Apply at least six coats of sanding sealer and follow with five coats of fuel proof silver dope.

Now you may land your craft on any body of water. Have fun!
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