Functional Scale Cockpit Hatch

Dec 26, 2013 6 Comments by

When it comes to RC Golden Age racers, no one does  flying models better than the world recognized  guru of scale Gee Bees - Henry Haffke. When I teamed up with Henry to build the 1/3-scale version of his Howard DGA-5 “Ike” Golden Age racer, I added several  details that a racer this size needed to look right. One of them being a functional cockpit hatch. This simple working detail can add life to any airplane so here’s how I did it. Enjoy!

Start with small screws and hinge material from Nelson Hobby Specialties Jerry Nelson specializes in all sorts of giant scale hardware. You’ll also need a small screw driver and instead of a small drill but, use a sharpened piece of music wire to pierce the surface of the model. This is quicker and easier than using a drill bit.

First you have to build the cockpit section and make sure it fits properly in place. I build the hatch in place on the fuselage so I know it will fit and match the model’s outline.

Tape the roughed out hatch cover in place.

Without taking the tape off, position the hinge as shown centered on the hinge line. Stick the sharpened wire into the screw hole and install the screws, working from one end to the other skipping holes as you go. The fill in the rest of the holes with screws.

Here the hatch cover is in place with the hinge screwed in place.

Now remove the cockpit hatch cover and start working on it to smooth its surface and fill in any seams or other defects.

Once it’s sanded smooth, finish it with a layer of fiberglass cloth and Pacer Z-Poxy Finishing resin. Use two coats and sand between each. Sand smooth again and prime with your favorite spray on primer. I like cheap Krylon primer from the hardware store.

Go over the primed hatch cover and fill in any imperfections and pin holes with glazing putty. Let dry and sand smooth with fine sandpaper.

Repeat the process as much as necessary until you have a perfectly smooth surface. Now spray a coat of white primer on, let dry, lightly sand and then spray on your final paint job, in this case Insignia White. I use F&M Enterprise’s Scale Stits Poly Tone paint applied with a Nelson HVLP spray gun.

To keep the hatch in place, I use strong ¼-inch diameter magnest (from instead of a complicated latching pin installation. Simply drill a hole in the bottom rail of the hatch cover and the top rail of the fuselage opening and glue the magnets into place. They hold very securely but allow easy access to the cockpit interior.


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6 Responses to “Functional Scale Cockpit Hatch”

  1. Alan Littlewood says:

    Great article. What I would like you to explain is what was used and how the windshield was fixed to the hatch. It looks good in the pictures, but how was it done?

  2. Gerry Yarrish says:

    Hi Alan, what exactly do you want to know? The hatch is made of balsa and lite ply. The magnet latch and piano hinge are available at most crafts shops. If you are talking about the winshield and details, check out this link.

  3. Matt says:

    Great article, I enjoy seeing the detail that you put into this plane. I bought the 1/4 scale DGA-5 plans from, its going to be my next project build. Will be happy if it comes out 1/2 as good as this one.

  4. Marc Simmons says:

    Where did you get the long “piano hinge”? I’ve searched high and low with no luck.

  5. Marc says:

    Sorry Gerry……… the article and found the hinges!

  6. David Thielman says:

    Is there a way to get a copy of your 1/3 Ike plans?

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