Personalizing your ARF with a Movable Pilot Head

Personalizing your ARF with a Movable Pilot Head

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

Updated: July 16, 2015 — 4:39 PM
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