Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16

Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16

I often enjoy attending the annual Warbirds and Classics over the Midwest RC event held in Fond du Lac, WI as there’s always a bunch of great looking scale airplanes to photograph. One airplane that just looked so interesting I could not help but be drawn toward it. Looking like a cross between a WW II fighter and a Gee Bee racer, this unusual Soviet aircraft is a Polikarpov I-16 and it is the work of Wolfram Donalies. Here’s his back story.–Text and photos by Palmer Johnson

Why did you choose this plane as a project?
I love WW II fighters and because of my German heritage, I have built a Messerschmitt Bf-109 and two Vailly Aviation FW-190s. I was looking for an unusual project other than a German plane and the Polikarpov I-16 seemed to fit that roll. I really liked the looks of it.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16

(Above)  The writing translates into “Death to Fascism”

Tell us more.

The model took just under 2 years to complete. The model 30% scale giving it a 107-inch wingspan and is 72 inches long. It weighs 47lbs., and has a wing-loading of 65oz./sq. ft. The engine is a ZDZ 80cc single-cylinder swinging a 26×10 Xoar prop. It provided quite a challenge since this was my first totally scratch build project. It is completely built from balsa, lite-ply and aircraft plywood. The wing separates in the center for ease of transportation and is joined using two carbon fiber tubes. For control I use a 2.4 GHz Futaba transmitter and both Futaba and JR servos. The retracts were made by Lenny at

Inside, the airborne gear is a mix of Futaba S9152 and JR 8411 digital/metal gear servos on the control surfaces. I use two Futaba 8-chanel receivers for redundant control circuits, each running one aileron, one elevator-half and so on. There are no exposed control linkages, servo arms or switches on the plane other then the scale aileron control hookup on top of the wing. The radio gear switches, choke, fuel and air-filler fittings are all hidden under a door on the right side of the cowl. I’m using three 2600mAh lithium-ion Fromeco batteries with voltage regulators, one for each receiver and one for the ignition system.

What about the finish?

It is covered with 0.7oz. fiberglass cloth and West Systems epoxy resin. The tail feathers and outer wing panels are covered with fabric just like the full scale and I used 21st Century iron-on fabric. I tried to duplicate the structure of the full scale under the fabric. The panel lines were made using 1/16-inch chart tape that was then removed after priming. The rivets are drops of wood-glue applied with a syringe before priming. I painted it with latex house paint that I had matched to color chips at the hardware store. I made frisket film masks to paint on the slogan on the sides.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16

So you made the cowling and other formed parts?

Yes, I formed the clear windshield from sheet plastic that I heated and pushed through a shaped hole with a wood plug shaped like the windshield. The windshield frame is constructed of 1/64-inch aircraft plywood as are some of the scale panels. I molded the engine cowl and tail cone using the lost foam method with epoxy resin and several layers of fiberglass cloth. For the simulated exhaust-pipes I used copper plumbing fittings that received a light coat of black.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16

How does the model perform?

I was somewhat worried before the first flight since the plane has my own airfoil, is very short-coupled and came out a little heavier than my target weight, (it needed 7 lbs. in the nose to balance.) I first did a takeoff run that I aborted to see how it would behave. On the second run it lifted off ever so gently and most of my worries were gone. It is a very solid flier, does all the warbird maneuvers and is not affected much by the wind, as long as I have enough run-out distance for landing.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Soviet Fighter: Wolfram Donalies’ Polikarpov I-16


Updated: July 16, 2015 — 4:24 PM


  1. “First scratch built model,” are you kidding me? Fantastic job.

  2. With a nose moment like that nobody is going to blame you for using seven pounds of lead to make it balance. Is the spinner custom made? If you made it yourself, how? If someone made it for you, who? I have a project that requires a non-standard shaped spinner and need some help.

    1. Hey Dan,
      The spinner is 6.25″ and I found it at ‘Spruce Aircraft’. It is suppost to be for a Lycoming 200 and comes without a backplate, which a friend made for me.

      1. Hi ..where i can download this plan?..please help me

  3. Great job! It is nice to see something different than most of the other warbirds that are being modeled.

  4. Being an old Gee Bee Lover how could I not like this aircraft. I’d love to see this baby take to the sky. Maybe I will at Fond du Lac next Summer. Congrats on a super fine build…

    Capt. Ed

  5. Plane looks fantastic Wolfie! I like the attention to the small details; It looks as good in the air as it does on the ground.

  6. Plane looks awesome. Sorry I missed the flight. Great job.
    Hopefully see it at the field next year. This plane is unbelievable close up.

  7. This is one of the favorite fighters to fly on my computer using a Logitec Extreme 3D Pro joystick. The I-16 is one of many Russian airplanes included in the simulator “game” called ‘IL2 Sturmovik – Forgotten Battles’ by Ubi Soft.

    If my Clearview RC flight simulator only flew as good as this IL2 Sturmovik simulator… I’d be a better pilot while flying my foamie ultra micro fleet of RC airplanes!

    That sir, is one beautiful airplane that you’ve built. Cudos.

  8. Where can I get a set of plans for this bueatiful plan?

  9. What a great plane!!
    Like Jim I would like to know wehre I can get the plans?

    1. Ben and Jim
      I ordered plans from Modellsport Verlag GmbH in Germany. The plans were not very good and I ended up drawing my own, just using some of the out-line. There are also plans avalible from Mossino Zuffi in Italy and, but after talking to people who ordered them I don’t think they are any better. If you post a contact I’ll be happy to talk to you about this.

  10. Dear Wolfram,
    thank´s for your reply. Indeed the plans from Modellsport Verlag are poor. So I´m still looking for some useful plans. I know that I will have to redesign some things because I want to operate the plane on electric power, but I don´t want to and can´t draw a whole new plan. So if you have some more Informations for me I would be pleased to here from you. (

  11. Hi Wolfram,
    I came across this while looking for plans to build a polikarpov I-16. Do you offer any plans or any information about the plans for the aircraft?

    1. Wolfram Donalies

      Hello Nick
      If you’re still interested and have some Questions you can e-mail me at:


  12. That is a good looking ship.
    I never really liked the rata/mosca until I began reading about it.
    Fact is; the Russians called it the little donkey, and pilots who did fly in it, thought well of the airplane, and even into ww11 when Russians were flying the 1-16 against German me 109 airplanes.
    Nobody in ww11 tried to out turn the 1-16.
    China also used the 1-16 in ww11, and if you research deeply into you- tube, there is a really good short (computer generated) movie showing Chinese pilots in air combat using the 1-16, against Japan.

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