How to repair foam radio controlled airplanes

Written by larry simmons
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Radio controlled model aeroplanes can be an enjoyable hobby for people of all ages, but it can end in expensive frustration when something goes wrong and the plane falls from the sky in a body breaking crash. This can happen no matter how much experience you have at flying, but to avoid the time and expense of rebuilding a fragile balsa aeroplane, a foam aeroplane can be used instead. Foam aeroplanes are quickly built of a strong material that survives most minor tumbles, but even when the foam is broken, most pieces can be repaired, requiring even less time than the original build, and getting you back into the air as soon as possible.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hobby knife
  • Hand file
  • Polyurethane glue
  • 3mm carbon fibre tubes
  • Epoxy glue
  • Iron-on aeroplane cling film
  • Model sealing iron
  • String
  • Stick-on lead weights

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  1. 1

    Disassemble the broken foam parts of the aeroplane, and gather together any of the pieces which have fallen off.

  2. 2

    Unwrap any covering materials from the broken foam pieces and dispose of the cling film. Remove any carbon supporting tubes if present and dispose of those as well. Clean the grooves that held the tubes using a hobby knife and a hand file, removing any glue remaining in the grooves.

  3. 3

    Glue together those foam pieces which have broken but remain otherwise undamaged. If the pieces have twisted or warped they will require replacement. Glue the pieces together using polyurethane glue, applied in a thin layer to both sides of the broken parts. Press the parts tightly together and hold in place until the glue has set. Remove excess glue from the surface of the foam using a cloth and allow the piece to dry completely overnight.

  4. 4

    Replace the carbon rods into the grooves on the repaired foam pieces. Cut the rods to size using the hobby knife and place into the cleaned grooves. Cover the rods with epoxy glue, filling the grooves and placing a thin layer of the glue into the rods. Clean away excess glue with a cloth and then allow the epoxy to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  5. 5

    Cover the foam part with an iron-on aeroplane cling film such as Ultracote or Monokote. Cut the wrap to size and place the slightly sticky side of the wrap onto the foam part and use the model sealing iron to apply heat to the plastic, activating the adhesive. Move the iron steadily over the wrap, covering the part completely and cutting off any excess plastic.

  6. 6

    Purchase part replacements for pieces which have been damaged beyond repair from a hobby shop specialising in RC models.

  7. 7

    Reassemble the plane, using the repaired or replaced pieces.

  8. 8

    Balance the aeroplane to account for added weight due to glue. Place your index fingers at the aeroplane's centre of gravity, one beneath each wing. The centre of gravity is located about one-third the width of the wing from the wing front. With the plane balanced on your finger the plane should lie level or pointed slightly downward at the nose. If the tilt is greatly forward, or it tilts backwards, shift the RC electronics on the plane in the opposite direction to shift the weight until the plane is level. Balance the roll of the plane by attaching string at the nose of the plane and just before the plane's tail. Hole the plane by the centre of the string and see if it tilts to the side towards either wing. If so, place stick-on lead weights on the opposite wing, until the plane lies level. Remove the string.

Tips and warnings

  • The heavier your plane the harder it is to fly, so use the glue as sparingly as possible when making your repairs.

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