Model Therapy ?

Scratch Building A 1/4 Scale Hawker Harrier
By Mike Lee
Part One

In The Beginning
A 'Quack' doctor has recently forced me into retirement! He informed me that my plans to return to work where unrealistic due to the effects of a stroke. I was faced with the question 'What now?' It was not possible to return to my old passion of cycling as I only have good use of one leg and arm, my right side being almost useless. My hand not being able to grip anything not even a Fiver if it was shoved into it. A desperate situation I think, for a one time "Bread Winner".

Sitting at home watching wide screen Cricket, seeing fielders run for the ball, while not quite being able to walk without a stick was definitely "doing my head in" as they say in all the best movies. Reaching for the remote I hoped for some comfort by selecting "Discovery Wings". Some chap ex test pilot was giving a description of the Sea Harrier and its Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) capability. He was describing the Harrier as being jammed full with computer equipment to aid the pilot in the hover.

Just What Is Going On?
Now……. I have come from the computing side of a west London University. Hearing this chap, complete with handlebar moustache, create a mystique with his very impressive b**s**t. The Public School accent got me thinking just what goes on here with the jump jet.

Surfing the net for "flying bedstead" only produced a poor quality b/w picture and no text so I went on thinking what could be involved.

Eventually I found a set of lecture papers, "The Harrier Development Story" - by John Farley OBE AFC CE. at: These few pages where a triumph in Internet surfing for me! Actually getting precisely what I was looking for and getting more than I needed, including some useful detail concerning static pitch and yaw control.

These aircraft designers and their gangs of test pilots must-half get loads of job satisfaction and paid for it into the bargain! I think it was about here that it occurred to me that I wanted to build a working model Harrier. Radio control (R/C) of course! The comparative high one off cost - £120.00, paid, I did the whole deal on line at An excellent fast mail order web shop. Just flashed the plastic Visa Card. Never mind the expense, essentials are hard to budget out. Know what I mean? Ha. She who is regularly worshiped (Girl friend) never gets difficult about where the money gets spent. (You lucky man! Ed)

Radio transmitter (Tx) and receiver (Rx) Futaba Skysport 6YG Tx, four servos and a 6 channel Rx, all mine. The last time I had contemplated buying all this gear was as a 15-year-old schoolboy it had seemed so prohibitively expensive a purchase at the time.

Patient & Careful Planning
This would make a good start to a brill hobby and good post stroke therapy. Clearly attempting a project such as this bearing in mind my handicap was going to call for some patients and careful planning and would also bring keenly needed food for the grey matter (Brain) and feel dead chuffed about it if and when successfully finished and flown. "Victory rolls "and all.

A timely shopping trip found me hobbling towards the monthly mags (not the top shelf) but the model flying stuff. Flicking through a few pages, quite difficult if you have trouble standing for long without a stick and then having to find some way of freeing your only usable hand from holding the stick, usually by hanging the stick from my neck a la Charlie Chaplin, then at last freeing my useful hand to use as a browsing tool. Sorry to go on about this but you simply have to know it's no fun being suddenly handicapped at the age of fifty-two. I'm not looking for sympathy you understand. Understanding is all I need.

Reading the mags I had purchased I found some articles about scale competitions, where points are awarded for correctness to scale and in relation to complexity/difficulty of construction. Judged against documentation provided by the competing model designer and builder. The competitions where spread over 3 stages. One stage static and a further two involved flying the model before the eyes of the judges, performing a set of compulsory manoeuvres. Basically flying and landing the plane as realistically as one would expect to see from the full-size aircraft. I would pursue the necessary activities to become at least a worthy participant in such an event with a 1:4 scale vertical take off and landing (VTOL) Harrier.

Entering a competition without ever having seen a set of the rules, was not really sticking with my decision to carefully plan and be patient in the pursuit of this adventure. I got no reply from an E-mail sent to the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) asking for a copy of the SCALE competition rules. I think they would prefer me to join an affiliated club which I would like to do but do not have transport. I have sold my car as it is currently illegal for me to drive thanks to the stroke. I have to pass a ministry driving assessment.

Sourcing Information
However, I studied articles in mags and on the "Flying Sites" web site and purchasing a set of 5 videos called 'The Black Art of Building Scale Models from Scratch' by Dave Plate, a past winner of scale competitions but not a flyer. He uses an experienced model aircraft flyer, who he describes as his test pilot.

From this source of information, I had gleaned that a part of the documentation I had to submit with my entry had to be photographs and colour information. I could submit whole books it seemed. Also required was a complete 3 view SCALE drawing of the actual aircraft type I had chosen to design, build and fly. I would need a 3 view for sure, regardless of the rules if I were to build the Harrier from scratch, i.e. entirely my own design drawn from bonified documents such as 3vs and photograph.

Sourcing a good 3 view drawing was not all that easy. As every drawing I obtained had no fuselage cross-section drawings. Bob Banker is widely recommended but does not have any with fuselage cross sections of the Harrier.

One of the mags I had bought had reviews of electric powered, all most ready to fly models (ARTF).

Electric Power
Electric power was something I recall was just emerging, as I was about to pack up my evolvement in aero modelling, around about 1963/4. Being able to return to my boyhood hobby without the problem of smelling like a diesel pump and having the reliability of an electric motor was more incentive to push on in the aero-model direction. What I wanted was a good powerful Electric ducted fan unit (EDF). I had seen internal combustion (IC) model ducted fan units in a Ripmax sales catalogue and hoped I would find someone selling electrically powered units.

Surfing the web again I found Kress jets in the states I ordered their most powerful (EDF) unit with a thrust of 31.2 oz rated using 14 cells. Its external dimensions where small enough to enable me to fit two power units side by side to my proposed Harrier.

More developments next month.
Mike Lee