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Model Airplane Design Software

CAD model airplane design software is easy to learn

People have enjoyed designing, building and flying model airplanes since the early 1900s. All of these early model airplane designs were hand drawn for full size plans. There was not even a thought of model airplane design computer software that could replace the detailed and tedious task of manually drafting these complex plans.


Berely model airplane plan

Early hand drawn model airplane plan

Early plans drawn by hand

These early hand drawn model airplane designs were detailed and very complete. Each airplane was a unique design and often represented a precise flying model replica of a full scale aircraft.

These hand drawn plans included a great amount of specific features regarding internal model aircraft structure, building materials, and model airplane design construction techniques.

Early computers were at their maximum capacity simply performing numeric calculations. There was little awareness of their ability to some day work in a practical visual interface.

In hindsight, it is clear that any implementation of design software would require a robust and simple method to draw a model airplane design on a computer screen. Items that we take for granted to accomplish this, such as a mouse, were not even imagined.

Design software did find its crude beginnings on computers using command lines and the old Microsoft Disc Operating System. It took a lot of practice to produce the most basic model airplane plan.

A good example is the work done with TurboCAD, first used on early home computers in the mid-1980s. As the power of computers increased, the base performance of consumer CAD programs such as TurboCAD offered a smooth transition to these powerful new machines.


Buhl Pup three view

All model plane plans start with a 3 view

Early computers and CAD programs

As computers improved the elusive goal of actually being able to use a computer to create images and illustrations started becoming a reality.

The Macintosh was the first home computer that could in any sense be used to create an illustration. The early Macintoshes had two software programs included with the computer purchase: MacWord and MacPaint. The illustration program MacPaint could be considered the very first model airplane design software. MacPaint was a bitmap program used to draw pictures and images. It had no ability to change the size of the printed drawing or implement scaling of a model airplane plan.

A variety of more powerful illustration programs followed. With skill and practice, these drawing programs could be used as design software. But the various actions needed to actually draft a plan with a computer started to replicate what needed to be done when drawing the same plan by hand. Illustration programs offered no benefit of scaling or precise line positioning, inherent in a true drafting program like TurboCAD.

Modern computers ideal for consumer CAD programs

Model airplane design software is now a completely mature product with an intuitive visual user interface. There are a variety of CAD programs available for home use.

TurboCAD training CD

2+50 hrs of video TurboCAD training here

I feel the best combination of value, ease of use and powerful results can be found in TurboCAD. TurboCAD is my fourth CAD program (after DrawingBoard, AutoCAD LT and QuickCAD) and I could not be any more pleased with the program.

TurboCAD has helpful features like floating toolbars and the Inspector which greatly ease the task of quickly preparing a set of professional looking model airplane plans.

TurboCAD also provides the ability to print out the plans at full size, if you have the appropriate plotter. Even if you do not have access to a full size printer, the TurboCAD model airplane design software allows you to print out individual tiled papers that can be taped together for a full size model airplane plan.


Blackburn fuselage plan

The Electro Aviator fuselage plan was drawn with TurboCAD

It does take an initial commitment to learn how to use any CAD program. But once you “break the code” on how a CAD program performs all the tasks you did with drafting plans manually - measuring, scaling, copying, use of construction lines - there is no going back to the old ways of preparing model airplane plans by hand.

You can create any model airplane design imaginable with today’s CAD programs in a fraction of the time used to prepare the same plan on a drafting table. Give CAD a try for your next set of model airplane plans. It is well worth your time!

Author: Gordon McKay

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