Which model airplane kits are best?
Model airplane kits are popular with kids and adults of all ages. They depict iconic aircraft from different eras with an extremely high level of detail. If you are looking for a model of the most famous fighter plane of World War II, take a look at Guillo’s P51 Mustang Model Kit. It is made of balsa and plastic and its 27 inch wingspan is perfect for free flight, rubber power, U-Control and static display.
What to know before you buy a model airplane kit
Static or flying?
Most model airplanes are built for display and come with stands for placing on flat surfaces. Static models take on a more dynamic aspect when they are hung suspended from the ceiling in poses of actual flight.
There are many ways to fly a model airplane.
- Rubber bands are wound up to spin propellers for lightweight model airplanes that are made for short free flights.
- Once you add the power of a motor, you can control your airplane on a tether, often referred to as U-control. Tethered airplanes fly circles around a center where you stand with the controller, turning as your airplane flies around you.
- The ultimate in flying your model airplane kit is with a remote controller where your model airplane flies as far and high as your controller will take it.
Most model airplane kits state the scale ratio they are made to, like 1:18 or 1:72. A 1:18 model airplane is built on a scale where one foot on the model airplane equals 18 feet on the real airplane. Remember that the smaller the second number, the bigger the model.
Some airplane models list their actual dimensions. The defining measurement is usually the wingspan, expressed in inches.
- Plastic models are the cheapest and may snap together or require gluing.
- Wooden models are almost always made of balsa because it is the lightest wood. Some wooden models cover a balsa skeleton with lightweight tissue, plastic film or fabrics. Look for coverings that are light, strong and easy to apply.
What to look for in a quality model airplane kit
There are six main eras of powered flight.
- The early days: For fans of Orville and Wilbur Wright and other pioneers of aviation, choose model airplane kits from the days when airplanes were little more than sticks, wires and fabric.
- World War I: These are airplanes from the first days of aerial combat. Most were biplanes or triplanes. This is the era of the famous Red Baron’s Fokker Triplane.
- World War II: This is the era of faster and more deadly fighter planes like the P51 Mustang, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Japanese Zero and German Messerschmidt. It is also the era of bigger bombers able to deliver large payloads over long distances, like the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and B-26 Marauder.
- Modern era: B-52 bombers, Russian MIGs and a host of American fighter planes and stealth aircraft like the U2 and the SR-71 Blackbird.
- Space vehicles: Rocketry came to prominence in powered flight during the Space Race of the 1960s. In addition to NASA rockets like the Apollo, Atlas and Saturn, there are also models of the space shuttles.
- Experimental: These are the planes flown by test pilots. The most famous, the Bell X-1, was the first to break the sound barrier.
How much you can expect to spend on model airplane kit
Simple, inexpensive model kits cost less than $10 and are made of die-cut metal parts that snap or screw together. From $20-$60 you will find balsa models and detailed plastic kits. From $60 upwards, you find many powered model airplane kits, some costing hundreds of dollars.
Model airplane kit FAQ
What are some good tips for first-time modelers?
A. Check to see all the parts are there. Sort your parts into small plastic containers with lids so they don’t get lost. Determine what tools you will need and read the instructions all the way through before beginning to avoid surprises.
What is the best paint to use on my model airplane kit?
A. Look for paint that is made for balsa or plastic models. Some airplanes are made of both materials, so make sure you read the paint labels. You may want to use spray paint for the large surface areas and brush paint for details.
What’s the best model airplane kit to buy?
Top model airplane kit
What you need to know: This precision-cut, 27-inch wingspan WWII fighter plane is perfect for free flight, rubber power, U-Control tethered flight and static display.
What you’ll love: The fuselage, wings and tail sections are made of laser cut balsa and the ribbing, wheels, propeller and cockpit canopy are made of injection molded plastic. The full set of authentic decals makes this a faithful replica of one of WWII’s fastest and fiercest fighters.
What you should consider: This is a more complex model to build and may prove challenging for beginners.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top model airplane kit for the money
What you need to know: This F6F Hellcat is a great choice for those who want a detailed model airplane kit at an affordable price.
What you’ll love: You have a choice of finishing this 1:72 plastic model airplane as an F6F-3 or an F6F-5. Authentic markings are included for both versions. The cockpit interior is highly detailed and the working landing gear extends for landing and stows inside the wings for flight.
What you should consider: Glue and paint are not included.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is a great kit for learning the basics of assembling balsa wood models.
What you’ll love: When you’re done, you can fly this model airplane with the included rubber powered motor. The pieces are precision laser cut for a very close fit. This 1:18 scale Piper Cub has a 24-inch wingspan and is a faithful replica of one of the most popular personal planes ever made. With the motor installed, it only weighs 2 pounds.
What you should consider: Balsa wood is very lightweight and delicate, requiring care and attention when assembling, handling and flying.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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