How To/Trans­form a Vin­tage Kit to Elec­tric RC

Get­ting from eBay to the fly­ing field

Model Airplane News - - CONTENTS - By Mark Wilkins

Iob­tained a Ster­ling Nieu­port 28 kit from eBay. It looked like an in­ter­est­ing model, as I had seen the plans for this air­craft on Hip Pocket Aero­nau­tics as a free down­load. It was de­signed to cater to the ni­tro-pow­ered U-con­trol trend of the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s. Like many of its con­tem­po­raries, it was de­signed to be sturdy to with­stand the abuse of neo­phyte pi­lots and the vi­bra­tion of small engines. As a stunt plane, it fea­tured a sym­met­ri­cal air­foil on both 32-inch wings to make per­form­ing stunts eas­ier. This kit is one of a se­ries of World War I bipes pro­duced by Ster­ling that also in­cludes the S.E.5a and Fokker D.VII— both of which I’ve since ob­tained.


Start by as­sem­bling the bot­tom half of the fuse­lage us­ing the thick side keels. Once com­plete, you can be­gin to hog out ar­eas to lighten the struc­ture. A cop­ing saw, Dremel tool, or other tools may be used to do this. Once fin­ished, in­stall the re­main­ing for­m­ers. Once these have been in­stalled, they can be hogged out in a sim­i­lar fash­ion. The for­ward for­m­ers can be left alone; it’s the tail aft of the cock­pit that is of ma­jor con­cern, as pushrods need to be routed and you don’t want a heavy tail. The kit as built uses only a few stringers aft of the cock­pit, which will yield an OK struc­ture but not very scale. I chose to in­stall a scale num­ber of stringers (more or less), which re­quires care­ful spac­ing and fit­ting to make them con­tact the ex­ist­ing for­m­ers. Shim or cut away for­m­ers so that you get a nice straight run of stringers head­ing aft. Be­fore sheet­ing the for­ward area of the fuse­lage, in­stall the rud­der and el­e­va­tor ser­vos and run the pushrods to the ap­prox­i­mate lo­ca­tion of the el­e­va­tor and rud­der horns. Also it is a good time to de­cide where to put the re­ceiver. I chose to at­tach it to the un­der­side of one of the side keels in the bat­tery com­part­ment; that way, it’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. To mount the mo­tor, you’ll need to build a mo­tor stand­off box. I made mine out of 1/8-inch light ply. I in­stalled a RimFire GPMG4560 950Kv brush­less mo­tor (400 size) with an Elec­triFly 25-amp Sil­ver Se­ries speed con­trol. One of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of this speed con­trol is its arm­ing sys­tem, which re­quires the throt­tle stick to be ad­vanced then re­versed to arm the speed con­trol—a nice safety fea­ture for novice pi­lots.

If you’d like to slow the Nieu­port down a bit and have slow, easy land­ings, a semi-sym­met­ri­cal air­foil is bet­ter, and this is what I chose.


The wings in this kit fea­ture a sym­met­ri­cal air­foil that is fine for U-con­trol— and even for RC, if you are con­sis­tent in keep­ing the speed up dur­ing fly­ing. If, how­ever, you’d like to slow the Nieu­port down a bit and have slow, easy land­ings, a semi-sym­met­ri­cal air­foil is bet­ter, and this is what I chose. To mod­ify the ribs, sim­ply sand the bot­tom side flat; stack­ing them and in­sert­ing a short sec­tion of spar stock (made out of scrap) is most ef­fi­cient. Next, cut and sand the bot­tom flat. You’ll end up with a U-shaped chan­nel for your spars, mak­ing as­sem­bly of the wings a snap. I planed/sanded the bot­tom side of the lead­ing and trail­ing edge (LE/TE) stock to con­form to the new shape of the air­foil. Next, align the forms in the notched LE and TE stock, and fit over the spars. I dry-fit first, then when the fit is good, I wick in some thin CA. I added about 3/16 inch of di­he­dral to the top wings (as in the orig­i­nal N.28). Build the bot­tom wings as the top ex­cept with no di­he­dral. When dry, care­fully cut out pock­ets for the ailerons—I made mine slightly longer than scale be­cause I wanted good roll rate, es­pe­cially since the N.28 has ailerons on the bot­tom wing only. Once the pock­ets have been cut, add aft TE strips to de­fine and fin­ish the pock­ets; do the same for the ailerons. Next, in­stall plates and bear­ers for the ser­vos. I used Hitec HS-40s as they have a good amount of torque and are slim. Run the servo wires in­board and then feed them through holes cut in the top of the sheath­ing at the mid­point. Check-fit the bot­tom wings on the fuse­lage.

Tail Feath­ers

The stab and rud­der in this kit were made out of solid stock. I wanted lighter tail feath­ers, so I used these shapes as bend­ing jigs for 1/32-inch lam­i­na­tions of bass­wood (you could also use balsa). Soak the lam­i­na­tions in boil­ing wa­ter and then quickly bend them around the jig. When dry, you can glue them up. Once the curved shapes are glued and dry, you can build them over waxed pa­per as you would any stick-built tail feath­ers.

As­sem­bly and Cov­er­ing

Due to the na­ture of how the wings are joined to each other and the fuse­lage, it is nec­es­sary to cover all the com­po­nents (I used cream Mi­cro­lite, but Polyspan works equally well)—ex­cept the bot­tom of the lower wings and the top of the up­per wing in or­der to prop­erly ce­ment the in­ter­plane and ca­bane struts. To cover the fuse­lage work from the tail for­ward, over­lap pieces as you would shin­gles on a house. The air­flow mainly moves from front to back as the plane flies, so your over­laps should be such that air­flow will not pick up edges. I cov­ered the pushrod exit ar­eas first, then the stringer por­tion of the aft fuse­lage, fin­ish­ing up with the sheathed ar­eas around the nose of the plane. Cov­er­ing sheet­ing is far quicker and eas­ier than prim­ing and sand­ing the sheet­ing. Cover the tail feath­ers nor­mally, then cover the top of the lower wing and bot­tom of the up­per wing. It is a good idea to ap­ply the de­cals or paint the roundels on the bot­tom of the up­per wings at this time (I used Cal­lie Graph­ics dry trans­fers). Care­fully open the slots for the in­ter­plane and ca­bane struts on the wings. At­tach the lower wing to the fuse­lage. I tacked it in place spar­ingly with a lit­tle CA and then used four screws to se­cure it; that way, if the bot­tom wing needs to come off, the glue joint can be cracked, thus free­ing it. Next, fit the up­per wing over the ca­bane ends. This may re­quire a lit­tle trim­ming to get a good fit. Be sure to check the align­ment of the top wing rel­a­tive to the bot­tom wing. Also make sure the dis­tance be­tween the wings is equal. Fi­nally, check the an­gle of in­ci­dence rel­a­tive to the top of the fuse­lage (taken from plans). Pre­pare four in­ter­plane struts out of bass­wood, hard balsa, or spruce. Next, shape, sand, and stain, ap­ply­ing the band­ing at this time (which is far eas­ier than do­ing it af­ter the struts are in­stalled). Care­fully in­sert the in­ter­plane struts into their slots, check­ing the align­ment fac­ing the plane and from the side. When sat­is­fied, ap­ply epoxy to the in­side of the wing where the struts meet the plates. When cured, com­plete the cov­er­ing the wings. In­stall tail feath­ers rel­a­tive to the wing struc­ture, tak­ing care to align from the top and stern on (make sure the sta­bi­lizer is par­al­lel to the wings and the rud­der is plumb or square to the sta­bi­lizer).


Use acrylic craft paints, avail­able from Michaels or A. C. Moore. Three thin coats are rec­om­mended for good cov­er­age; be sure to al­low each coat to dry com­pletely. Af­ter paint­ing, I used one clear coat of Min­wax Poly­crylic, then when it was dry, I ap­plied the dry trans­fers and a fi­nal coat of Poly­crylic. The cowl of Meiss­ner’s Nieu­port was pretty jazzy, so care­ful lay­out was re­quired. Use a com­pass on pa­per or foam­core and then trans­fer mea­sure­ments to the cowl. Care­fully tape it off. I did this in two sec­tions: The cylin­der por­tion was one step, and the face of the cowl an­other. These two sec­tions were con­nected with a tri­an­gu­lar “zigzag” that I eye­balled. I made the scale de­tails out of card­stock and balsa and then painted them. The guns were made out of balsa and bits of wire. I used light­weight 3­inch sport wheels, then cov­ered them with shal­low cones and discs made out of manila­folder stock. The cock­pit coam­ing was made out of a strip of thin and sup­ple leather. I ap­pro­pri­ated the pi­lot from an E­flite PT­17 foamie.


Be­fore fly­ing you must bal­ance your model. The in­struc­tions say the bal­ance point is the fore­most wire of the U­con­trol sys­tem, which worked out to be about 1 3/4 inches aft of the LE of the top wing. Once your plane is bal­anced, it’s time to fly. Nieu­port 28s fly eas­ily and will break ground af­ter a fairly short roll­out. This model climbs steadily and in a scale fash­ion. Even a small Nieu­port will han­dle a bit of breeze (6 to 8mph) just fine. The 28s are sen­si­tive to their large rud­der so will turn with just a lit­tle rud­der in­put, cross­con­trolled with aileron to achieve your de­sired an­gle of bank. It will also turn just fine us­ing only ailerons. Due to its large aileron throws, it will roll eas­ily and ex­e­cute nice Im­mel­mann turns. That big rud­der will make ham­mer­heads easy, and com­bined with the ailerons, you can make fairly swift snap rolls. Keep a bit of power along and this plane will set­tle in for a land­ing nicely, due to the long tail mo­ment.

James Meiss­ner’s Nieu­port 28 as de­picted inThe Nieu­port 28 by Ted Ha­mady. (Illustration by Juanita Franzi, Aero Il­lus­tra­tions)

A classic Ster­ling kit from the early days of kit-built U-con­trol model air­planes. You can find these pe­ri­od­i­cally on eBay and at swap meets.

Adding aft stringers gives the fuse­lage a more scale ap­pear­ance. This is a good time to place your pushrods. Small-di­am­e­ter alu­minum tub­ing makes great sleeves.

When the for­m­ers are in place, you can add the top keel and be­gin to open up the for­m­ers.

Now is a good time to in­stall the el­e­va­tor and rud­der ser­vos. I like them in the cock­pit area for this scale as it’s easy to re­place/ser­vice them.

Keel and gear have been in­stalled. The for­m­ers on the top can now be in­stalled.

Hog­ging out ex­cess wood be­gins the light­en­ing process, as these kits were over­built.

I left this area open as it forms the bat­tery com­part­ment and re­ceiver at­tach­ment area. Once the re­ceiver and wiring are in place, the re­main­ing piece of sheet­ing can be fit­ted near­est to the lower wing lead­ing edge.The mo­tor stand­off box, RimFire brush­less mo­tor, and speed con­trol. I bevel the back of the mo­tor box one or two de­grees down and to the right, then epoxy to the fire­wall once the mo­tor has been cen­tered in the open­ing in the cowl.

Sheet­ing the for­ward por­tion of the fuse­lage. There are tem­plates for each piece, which is handy.

Set­ting di­he­dral for the top wings. Us­ing a 4-foot level is a great way to align the lead­ing edges of a wing to en­sure they are dead straight.

Build­ing the top wing us­ing spars, slot­ted lead­ing and trail­ing edge, and ribs. Some of this ma­te­rial will need to be hogged out once the wings are com­pleted.

Fit­ting the par­tially cov­ered bot­tom wing to the fuse­lage and mak­ing servo con­nec­tions.

Use the sup­plied hor­i­zon­tal sta­bi­lizer, el­e­va­tors, and rud­der as a bend­ing jig. Be sure to deduct the thick­ness of your lam­i­nated frame.

The roundels have been ap­plied. This set is avail­able from Cal­lie Graph­ics.

Rud­der and el­e­va­tors lam­i­nated around forms.

Aileron servo bays. The max height of your wing rib will de­ter­mine the thick­ness of the servo. Re­mem­ber that cov­er­ing sags a bit (be­tween ribs) on the top of a wing, so be sure to con­sider this.

Three thin coats of paint and graph­ics have been ap­plied. It’s start­ing to look like a Nieu­port 28!

Care­fully mask off the “zigzag” of the cowl, then ap­ply red paint us­ing ei­ther a brush or a spray.

Lay out for the cowl. Di­vide a cir­cle (same di­am­e­ter as the cowl) into eight equal seg­ments, then trans­fer to the cowl.

Us­ing light­weight 3-inch sport wheels and pa­per cones makes great scale wheels, which are in­ex­pen­sive and light.

The guns were made out of balsa and bits of wire.

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