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Horizon Hobby RC Plane Design Process

Evolution of model plane design between Asia and Illinois

Redman Interview page 1 page 2

The computer rendering of the Cessna 210 prototype outline and dimensions was e-mailed overseas to the production support team. Next steps included fabrication of a prototype, as well as creating the innovative, extraordinarily small electronic “brick” unit that contains the Cessna’s two servos, electronic speed control and receiver. In addition, the tiny electric motor and plastic propeller were made to spec for this project.

Initial prototypes

The initial hand-built foam prototype was then shipped back to Horizon for test flights and evaluation. Improvements were identified and coordinated with the overseas production team, and the Cessna 210 design was further refined. No detail is too small in this effort, down to the location of the decorative decal trim scheme that aligns with the fuselage mold assembly lines.

Piper Cub foam RC model plane

Piper Cub RTF micro flyer

The Cessna’s design matured and was eventually completed. Once this goal was met, the manufacturing partners abroad built the precision tools to mass produce the airplane’s foam parts. The little Cessna then needed to be assembled from the component production runs and test flights conducted to verify the final fabrication process.


After all this development work was complete, stateside inspections are still required to ensure the delivered product works as advertised. Horizon’s team selects random C-210s from arrival shipments for a test flight to ensure no changes have occurred in performance specifications.

T-28 Trojan RC plane

Top view of T-28 Trojan

This concept, design, prototype, production cycle is followed for all Ultra Micro airplanes produced by Horizon Hobby. It is a collaborative effort requiring the inputs from a broad range of subject matter experts. Knowledge and experience gained with one airplane design effort are incorporated into follow on projects.

Design of a micro plane

A wide range of sources provide ideas, guidance and inspiration to create these remarkable model airplanes. Design of a production micro plane is not a one man show. If a new aircraft component is required, from lightweight custom designed wheels to ultra-thin music wire for control linkages, a carefully developed global supply chain determines the best way to meet the goal.

Horizon Hobby Mosquito

Mosquito RTF foam micro model airplane

I asked John what it takes to be a professional model airplane designer, and he provided some useful insights. First, enjoy what you do. Explore and develop your skills in every aspect of radio control model aviation available. John was an early ground breaker building and flying ducted fan’s followed by turbine jet RC models, earning a national reputation. He competed at the Scale Masters and the invitational Top Gun contests.

T-28 Trojan RC plane

Front view of the T-28 Trojan

Ensure you obtain a sound technical education and seek continuous learning. John was a USAF crew chief for exotic, difficult to maintain aircraft such as the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. Be a self-starter, jump in and get things done. Take an AutoCAD course at a local community college, as John did after joining Horizon Hobby. You will eventually be noticed, and good things will lead from there.

John Redman started as a Product Developer for Horizon and is now the Air Content Specialist. John’s current job is to maintain contact with the RC pilot community through internet videos, support of club meetings, publications, trade show attendance and any other method he can think of. Maybe this could be you some day!

Horizon Hobby Sukhoi

Sukhoi foam ready to fly aerobatic airplane

Future of RC flight

At the end of our discussion, I asked John what he sees in the future of RC model aviation. John built on the slogan at Horizon Hobby, to “Make every gym and backyard your personal flying field.” This can be achieved by technical developments such as spread spectrum 2.4 GHz radio technology and lightweight, consumer friendly electric powered radio control airplanes. John’s job is to ensure the RC pilot purchasing a ready to fly plane has a positive “out of the box” experience, in that everything works as advertised during the first flight.

John sees greater growth in the RTF Ultra Micro line of model aircraft, and a decrease in traditional balsa and plywood constructed model planes. There could well be an increase in functionality of future micro indoor flyers, adding such features as flaps and retractable gear to even smaller RC models.


Technology is the pacing item for all these advancements. It really is amazing how far the micro ready to fly model airplane market has advanced. Without doubt, more good products will follow from a wide range of manufacturers.

It was a great opportunity to have a chance to discuss these topics with someone at the forefront of RC airplane plans and product development. If you have any further questions in this area, please send John Redman an e-mail at editors@horizonrc.com.

Author: Gordon McKay

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