Personalizing your ARF with a Movable Pilot Head

Nov 09, 2011 5 Comments by

Every flightline has many ARFs sometimes several of the same plane.  Many aviation modelers like their aircraft to stand out, be a little different than all the other ARF clones.   In the ‘olden days’ of the 80′s & 90′s when aircraft were built from kits or scratch, models were unique and personalized.  This will be the first in a small series of “how-to” articles to help you personalize you ARF (or any model).

Great Planes Super Stearman biplane is a classic aircraft; it’s well built and an excellent flying model.  It’s a high quality ARF that includes pilot figures.  To add a little realism to the pilot let’s make his head turn left & right.  Follow along with the photos.

  1. Begin by making a cut line around the neck of the pilot just above the collar.  Using a razor saw or x-acto knife cut the head off the pilot; it’ll make you feel like Dexter ;-)
  2. Cut a hole in the bottom of pilot bust approximately 1.5” square.
  3. Place the pilot body upside down on a 1”x2” piece of 1/8 lite-ply.  Trace the inside of neck onto the 1/8 lite-ply, do it twice.
  4. Following the traced outline from the neck cut out the two formers from lite ply.  Check that the formers fit snuggly into the head & neck, sand as needed to get a good fit.
  5. Drill a 1/16” hole in the middle of the two formers. Harden the edges of the holes by adding a drop of thin CA.
  6. Using a 12” 2-56 rod bend 3/8” at one end 90 deg.  Slide rod through the hole in former, using 5 minute epoxy glue the bent end to former.   Let it fully harden before proceeding to next step.
  7. Glue the former attached to 2-56 rod flush with the neck edge of the pilot head with 5 minute epoxy.
  8. Using 5 minute epoxy, glue the other former flush with the neck edge on the pilot body.  Let the epoxy fully cure before proceeding to next step.
  9. Drill a 1/16” hole in the bottom of pilot body at center approximately ¼” from edge.   Slide rod attached to head through former and the 1/16” hole at bottom of body.
  10. Drill a 1/8 hole in cockpit floor that will allow proper placement of pilot figure with rod attached.  Hold pilot in position in cockpit; mark the rod from inside the fuse at a location that will allow it to move freely.  On the Stearman it’s 4” below the pilot, the length will need to be adjusted for different aircraft types.   Remove pilot & cut rod at mark.
  11. Bend 1/2” of rod end 90 deg to side (Pilot head facing forward).  Join another 6” section of 2-56 rod to the 90 deg bend using 1/8” heat shrink tubing the tubing will act as a hinge/pivot once shrunk around the rods.
  12. Slide the rods through the 1/8” hole in cockpit floor, glue pilot into place.  Once the glue is dry tie 12” white ribbon around pilots neck (hides scar).  Connect 2-56 rod to a servo (mini is sufficient) plug into a spare channel or Y-cable to rudder.  The pilot head can now turn left & right when using the rudder or the spare channel.

Materials list:
1”x2” 1/8” Lite-ply
2-56 rods (one 12” one 6”)
 12” ½” white ribbon
2” 1/8” heat shrink tubing
Thin CA
5 minute epoxy

Stearman Pilot Video

Carl Layden, Featured News

About the author

Carl provides coverage of Atlantic Canadian events and people. In more than 30 years of RC flight, his interest has ranged from micro to giant scale, including a few of his own designs. He has served on the MAAC board of directors and was president from 2004-2006.

5 Responses to “Personalizing your ARF with a Movable Pilot Head”

  1. Gerry Yarrish says:

    Awesome Carl. Neat little technique worth sharing! Keep ‘em coming!

  2. Michel Normandin says:

    Great Idea , we will try it in our next project

  3. Dr. F.W.Knox says:

    I used this idea in my Hawker Hurricane which article was published in England in 1995.The head turned left with right rudder and vice versa. This replicated the taxiing pattern of Hurricanes and Spitfires, whose long nose precluded seeing straight ahead when on the ground. The pilot thus ‘peered’ round the nose.

  4. Dr. F.W.Knox says:

    I used this in my 78″ Hawker Hurricane which was published in the UK in 1995. The head turned left on application of right rudder, and vice versa. This replicated the taxiing method of Hurricanes and Spifires, whose long noses precluded straight ahead vision when on the ground. With the nose to the right, the pilot could see left etc..

  5. Romi Lucas says:

    Love this, I going to give it a go.

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