by Phil Niewand
The Voyager is a futuristic canard delta, it could quite well be the replacement for the FA-18 when the powers to be see this article. Having heard a lot about the flying attributes of canards I have been interested in having a go at flying one. After reading Airborne a few months ago I saw a wanted ad for experienced builders to build some untested models from plans drawn up at the Research and Design department. I though I might give Voyager a go.
I spent some time first cutting out all the components for the model. Photocopying the ribs and formers from the plan and then using a clothes iron to transfer them to the sheets of balsa and plywood. A few hours had all the pieces cut ready for the 'FUN' bit.
The wing looked to be the most difficult part, so I thought that if I built it first the rest would be a breeze. As it is a delta the ribs could only be cut in pairs, left and right together. Then separated for the cutting of the three spar slots top and bottom. As these are angled, the slots could only be cut one rib at a time over the plan to achieve the correct angle. This was also made more difficult with the curved leading edge, as the angles change on the 3mm D-box spar as it curves to follow the shape of the leading edge. The wing is built right way up on the plan, which will build in slight anhedral on the top surface.
The wing also has 130mm anhedral tips, which are added on after the main structure is finished and ready to be sheeted. The plan was laid down on a nice flat piece of chipboard that has cainite on the top (pins go much easier into this stuff). I started with the four rib centre section first, fitting the ply doublers, braces and landing gear hardwood mounting blocks in with 15 min epoxy, making sure every thing was square and correctly fitting over the plan, as this will give you a good start for the rest of the wing. After allowing to cure, fit the spruce centre spars with 1.5 mm spacers under them to lift the spar up to the correct height, as well as this I put a piece of 20mm timber under the trailing edge to keep the alignment correct and the trailing edge straight.
I fitted up the rear drag spars next, positioning top and bottom together and using Saturn Hobbies' Gator Bond to wick the joints together in position, as it allows you a few seconds to position things before it grabs. The false leading edge, aileron spar and shear webbing along the main spar were then fitted, making sure of correct alignment over the plan. The ply centre section of the leading edge, which has already been drilled to fit the locating dowels with F4 and F4b is then glued in using epoxy as well as the aileron servo ply plate.
The leading edge was then sanded to the correct profile before it was dampened with water and curved with the aid of a fan heater to the correct convex curve (inward). The fitting of it was left to after the anhedral tips were in position and the wing had been sheeted with 1.6mm balsa, so I could sand the sheeting flush with the false leading edge to get a nice fit up before gluing on the leading edge. The ailerons and 9.5mm trailing edges were then fitted after fitting aileron torque rods and 1.6mm ply wing bolt reinforcement plate to the centre section.
Aileron hinges were fitted but not glued to allow for covering material to be ironed on at a later stage. The wing sheeting was then sanded with 240 grit sand paper on a 300mm T bar. After matching in the leading edge and smoothing out the sheeting the wing was put aside so I could start on the fuselage.
I've always been able to build fuselages without the aid of a jig, but I thought that it would look good in a picture so one was thrown together using 20mm chipboard and 150mm right angle brackets a bit of white paint and a few texta lines every 50mm in a square pattern.
I then epoxied the ply doublers to the fuselage sides (making sure there was a left and right side, not two left or right). I then marked the position of the formers on the inside of the fuselage sides, then formers F1 to F6 and the ply doublers for the wing dowels and nose wheel mount were epoxied in position. Along with the 6.5mm longerons that run full length along the top and only to the start of the wing on the bottom. I used 24 hour Araldite to allow plenty of time to set it up in the jig for alignment and squareness. After this was properly cured it was removed from the jig and the side cheeks were made up and glued in position.
It took a bit of working out how they went together, but the jigsaw finally worked out and it was starting to look like a fuselage. The top was then sheeted with cross grained 3mm balsa, I left the covering of the bottom to last to allow for fitting of the controls and foreplane. As I worked my way through the building I had suspicions that the plane would come out on the nose heavy side. So I Swiss cheesed the foreplane to hopefully help out the problem.
The foreplane was then slid into position and glued, but not before the elevator/control horn coupling wire was fitted in through the slot first. The rear fins were then fitted in place and set with a 105 degree incline. The balsa canopy was then put together and fitted in position with cyano. The jet outlets were made from 50mm PVC pipe. They were cut to length then small Vs were cut out at eight evenly spaced segments. An LPG flame was then used to soften the pipe to curve each piece in to reduce the end diameter. This made them much more realistic that just straight pipes and worth the extra effort!
An OS 46 FX was side mounted onto an aluminium radial mount and fitted to the firewall with a plywood wedge fitted to give it 2 degrees side and down thrust. The throttle was connected using a nylon quick link to eliminate any chance of electrical noise (metal to metal vibration).
This was made up with a ply nose ring with four 10mm balsa stringers going out to the corners, tack glued to the firewall then sanded round and wrapped with water dampened 3mm balsa, cyanoed into position. Sand to shape, then cut from the firewall and 6.5mm square balsa glued to the inside of the rear to strengthen. It was fixed in position by tapping threads into the front of the engine mounting arms and putting two countersunk screws through the nose ring, screwing into the engine mount holes. Very neat and simple!
Position radio gear as far back as possible to get the C of G somewhere near the mark. I used Nyrods for all controls as they had to go the full length of the fuselage. The steerable nose wheel, throttle and elevator controls were then fitted before the bottom was sheeted and the tank and rear access hatches were made and screwed into position.
The whole fuselage was then sanded with 240 grit on a T bar, radiusing the corners to the profile on the plan and generally smoothing of all surfaces ready covering. Having just read about this new Oz Cover I gave Tony at Saturn Hobbies a ring to find out more about it and the all important cost of it. As the covering is clear I also needed to work out a paint to use and a suitable colour scheme for it. I had just seen a special on the idiot box about the Blue Angels aerobatic team, the blue with yellow trim looked quite snazzy. So the decision was made to go with that colour scheme, Tony has in stock the Western Flying School's Flow Gloss enamel and he had a very rich royal blue that suited my needs.
The covering was fitted using a sealing iron and heat gun, with the iron being used to tack down the edges before the heat gun and a soft rag were used to smooth out the wrinkles. This left a very smooth surface ready to be painted over.
The Flow-Gloss requires to be thinned for spraying with White-Spirits, anything else will lead to an inferior job. I was amazed at how little paint was required to cover the airframe, two light coats were all that were required to produce a very rich and glossy finish. Tony suggested a few drops of super petrol in the paint mix to improve the gloss of the paint, and as you can see from the photos it worked a treat.
The stars and pinstripes came from Saturn Hobbies as well, coming as a pre-stamped contact type white sheet ready for painting in the colour of your choice. I used my airbrush to make the canopy more realistic, fading light blue into dark towards the centre of each side panel. The final touch being the making of two voyager logos by using my computer to find and print out a nice lettering style. This was then cut out and glued onto some Protrim and then carefully cut out and ironed into position on the sides of the fuselage. The plane was then put aside to allow the paint to cure properly.
The paint instructions say to allow ten days for complete curing, but I was advised to wait longer to be nitro proof. This was very hard to do when you are itching to get out and fly that shiny new sucker!
After fuel proofing the tank and engine bays, an 8oz tank was fitted in place, an extra line was fitted in the tank to allow for filling of the system without disconnecting the fuel lines as they were all enclosed inside the cowl. The line was run out through the firewall just behind the cylinder and plugged off with a piece of brass tube with a washer soldered on as a handle, to allow for easy removal for filling. The pipe is made about 20mm longer to allow for the tube to be pulled out to insert the filler pipe. This works great and is much cheaper than those trick fillers that always seem to leak and give trouble.
To achieve the C of G 220 grams of lead was fitted into the jet thrusters. Servos were refitted, a Hitech and JR mixture.
Control throws were set on the plane as follows;
A fine and sunny Western Districts Sunday afternoon was chosen to test out the beast. With only a few of the local guys there just after lunch a range check was carried out on the JR 388S and Hitech supreme receiver combination. All was OK, so the time had come!
Fueled up and tuned, it was off into the wild blue yonder. The plane taxied away nicely with the nose wheel steering guiding it along the centre of the runway, holding in just a tad of right stick to counteract the torque of the prop. The plane used all of the runway to get up enough speed to rotate and take to the sky. Just a few clicks of down trim were all that was needed to have her flying straight and level.
After a few circuits to get the feel of it, it was time to see what it could do. Rolls were very axial, but it did need to be put in a dive to get up enough speed to complete a loop. All seemed to be OK, so it was time to put on the finishing touches.
I didn't like the thought of carrying that extra weight of the lead ballast, so I needed to fit a lighter motor as this was the only way to lighten the front of the plane. My local hobby shop (DJ's Hobbies in Casterton) was able to get a great deal on an LA46 from Model Engines. As the LA is about 200 grams lighter than the FX, I could remove the lead and bring the weight back from 3.3Kg to 2.9Kg or 6lb 6oz in the old scale.
After running the Bluey in it was time to test out the changes. The voyager performed no better, as the motor just didn't have enough power to pull this large airframe around at enough speed to perform the maneouvers that I like to do. It would probably be OK for just flying around, but aerobatics are not recommended. After talking to the crew at Airborne, I talked them into letting me put a 60 into her. The plane must have a fair amount of drag as I thought the 46's would have done the job.
I had a MDS 60 sitting around, so I fitted a larger mount to accommodate it into the cowl and then had to fit 280grams of lead in the dummy jet outlets again. With each of these modification the cowl had to be changed and repainted, the Flow Gloss paint covered these up without a trace of the modifications.
The bigger motor really made a big difference to the way the plane flew, being able to now pull its way around through a loop with ease. The Voyager is very easy to fly, almost as easy as a trainer. It can be slowed right down without fear of tipstalling and because of the canard foreplane doesn't stall in the true sense.
The plane will perform any combination of loops and rolls and flies very well inverted, the anhedral tips must help with its stability here. Because the prototype was built without rudders, spins are not possible.
Overall it is an impressive plane and really stands out on the flight line at the local field. If you want something different that's a breeze to fly the Voyager would be well worth considering as your next project.
PEOPLE TO THANK
The crew at Airborne for letting me have a go at a prototype plane. Saturn Hobbies for the Oz cover, Flow gloss paint and helpful advise. Peter McNaughton at Hamilton Hobbies for the control hardware. Dave Peters at D J Hobbies in Casterton for the OS motor.
Voyager plans are available from:
To order a plan via e-mail
E-mail is for Subscription , Advertising & Plan Orders only.
General correspondance will NOT be answered by e-mail.
Airborne Plans Service
P.O. Box 30 Tullamarine Vic., 3043
Cost: $49.50 plus $3.00 postage
Plan No. 680
Credit Card Orders: Phone: (03) 9333 5100
Fax: (03) 9333 5099