The Aquila has been converted back to its original
pure sailplane configuration (no electric power). I removed
the e-power firewall and cowl and glued the pine nose block back in place. You can see
in the photos where the division line is from where Monokote was applied across the joint.
It still looks good, but you can see the line. In preparation for selling the Aquila,
I removed my AMA number from the wing. There is still a little adhesive residue on the
transparent red Monokote that you might be able to remove, but I didn't want to risk
it. Once you apply your own number in the area, it will be difficult to see. Alternately,
you could replace that area of Monokote altogether without much trouble. Lots of construction
photos and video below.
The Airtronics Aquila sailplane appeared in the May 1975 issue of
RC Modeler magazine.
January 10, 2015: Not being able to
hold off any longer, I finally began working on a scratch-built version of the Aquila.
I had the good folks at Staples enlarge the plans to 105% to push the wingspan just over
100" (~104") so it will be my biggest sailplane ever -
yeah, I know, lame. By scaling up so slightly most of the structural components like
the spars, balsa and plywood, etc., will be able to stay per the original without risking
overstressing. However, since this Aquila will sport a brushless motor in the nose
(sacrilegious?), I am beefing up some of the areas and
using harder balsa in places I might not have otherwise. Since I do not have easy
(pronounced "affordable") access to the large pieces of
1/8" LitePly specified for the fuselage sides, medium density 3/16" balsa is being used
instead, and will be judiciously carved and sanded to apportion strength and weight as
experience guides. None of the original custom hardware - nylon stabilator control horn,
special all-flying rudder hinges, canopy, etc. - is available anymore, so everything
had to be made from scratch as well. I will post photos as they become available.
April 9, 2015 Update:
Video tour of the completed 105% Aquila - April 11, 2015
The Aquila appeared in a Cox / Sanwa ad in the May 1977 issue of Model
As of today I declare the 105% Aquila to be officially complete! The final flying
weight is 51.2 oz., resulting in a wing loading of 8.6 oz./sq.ft. That is a tiny
bit more than I would really like it to be, but she has a very strong frame that should
endure. Since the motor was replaced with a tow hook, I now need to find an open field
large enough to accommodate the full-size Hi-Start launcher (~800 feet needed). The Up-Start
(~300 feet needed) did well for my 2-meter Spirit glider, but it'll never be able to
launch the Aquila. Quite a lot of work goes into planning and executing a plans-built
model, and is further complicated when you change the size and a few aspects of the implementations.
It's no wonder s many people these days have either never built a model or have given
up building. Here are a few photos of the radio installation and other details that might
be helpful if you decide to build your own some day.
The color scheme, BTW, was suggested by Melanie. She likes my Old Spice aftershave
lotion aroma and thought the transparent red and cream colors of Monokote would look
nice - and they do. I considered doing the Old Spice logo on the fuselage, but figured
the company might try to sue me for infringement.
Completed Aquila fuselage
Wing joiner rods and spoiler servo leads. The 7/32" main joiner rod
will never fail, although it is pretty heavy. Replacing all the music wire (4x 3/23"
and 1x 7/32" = 2.2 oz.) with carbon fiber rods would save about 2 oz.
Spoiler servo & pushrod detail. Pushrod is shaped to relieve lateral
force on servo when fully deployed.
Cockpit area showing radio installation, canopy hold-down method,
and HowHigh altimeter.
Aquila empennage overview.
Casting the 6.8 oz. lead nose weight.
The Great Planes GPMA2365 canopy, made for the U-Can-Do ARF, is a
near perfect fit for the 105% Aquila. At $7 it is quite a deal!
All-flying rudder and stabilator halves and 3/32" music wire
Spoiler full-length hinge pin allows easy servicing and makes
covering much simpler.
The stabilator control horn is made from 0.062" fiberglass printed circuit board material,
and sections of 1/8" brass tubing were epoxied as shown, being careful to keep the tubing
at right angles wrt the fiberglass control horn. 3/23" music wire passes through the
tubing and into the two stabilator halves.
The original all-flying rudder hinges were heavy duty nylon jobs with a tab to be
inserted into the fuselage and rudder, and had a hole lengthwise to accommodate a 3/32"
music wire hinge pin. The ones shown are fabricated from sections of 1/8" brass tubing
with a piece of fiberglass cloth tightly wrapped and epoxied around them. Clamps pulled
the cloth tight and held it while the epoxy cured. Afterward, the epoxy-impregnated tabs
were trimmed for insertion into the frame members. It worked amazingly well and is very
Tailpost construction is conventional, using custom-built stabilator control horn
as seen here.
Stabilator & fin post assembly parts.
Completed stabilator control horn.
Plywood shims added to prevent wobble in stabilator control horn.
Plugging in the wings for the Aquila's maiden flight.
Electrified Aquila E-flite 450 brushless motor mount &
Pine nose block replaced with 450 brushless motor and cowl with cooling
slots. Nose block can be re-attached using cowl mount screws for a quickly reconfigurable
sailplane. Underside of Aquila showing belly skid & tow hook.
Note: The Aquila has been converted back the to pure unpowered configuration
March 8, 2015 Update:
Back in the late 1970s I built an Aquila from plans that appeared in RC Modeler magazine,
then I built another Aquila in the early 1980s from a kit. Both are long gone. About
6 months ago while waxing nostalgic about the Aquila, I decided to build another, but
this time I had the plans enlarged to 105% to get the wingspan over 100" while not having
to change airframe component sizes. This version has a 450-size electric motor for power.
I wanted to determine the amount of down-thrust needed to prevent a nose-high climb prior
to final nose shaping and canopy installation. For this maiden flight, there was about
8 degrees, which was not enough. It really needs about 12 degrees at full power. As you
can see from the video, the flight went flawlessly. It was very gusty so I only put in
one flight. The wing spoilers work like a charm and bring the Aquila down FAST when fully
deployed. I do believe that I'll remove the motor and its support equipment and convert
the Aquila back to its original tow line format. That'll make it more authentic and reminiscent
of old times (and save a few ounces of weight to boot). Thanks for watching.
December 2015 Update:
A month or so after completing my 105% Aquila sailplane, I decided to convert it to
electric power. I would have preferred to fly in pure sailplane mode, but there is no
field in my area large enough to safely employ the full-size Hi-Start towline. E-power
was really the only option without needing to drive long distances to fly. The nose block
was carefully cut off so it can be re-attached for reverting to unpowered flight. The
motor and cowl bolt on for easy swap-out. Here are the details of the installation.
I finally got around to processing and uploading a video of my 105% Aquila sailplane
with a short narration about its unique features. The flight was made on July 26, 2015,
in Kernersville, North Carolina, across the street from where we lived at the time
(we have since relocated back to Erie, Pennsylvania). It
was a typically hot, humid day there, and the sun was shining brightly - up until a couple
minutes after I launched, and then it went behind some slow moving clouds for about 20
minutes. After a total of 25 minutes in the air I decided to land and wait for the clouds
to clear. Once on final approach and committed to landing, the sun appeared again. If
you watch closely, you can see a few seconds before landing where the Aquila makes a
sudden drop toward the ground, demonstrating how effective the spoilers are when fully
Back around 1975 or so, RC Modeler
magazine ran a feature on a design by Lee Renaud called the "Aquila." It had incredibly
graceful lines and I knew I just had to build one. Airtronics had not yet produced a
kit for it, so I ordered plans and built one from scratch. There was a hardware and canopy
package available, though, so I purchased it. The picture to the right is of the Aquila
I built off the plans. It was way back in 1976, the year I graduated from Southern Senior
High School (in the background). A radio failure (still that same old 3-channel job)
ended its life prematurely.
Prior to the Aquila, I had built and flown the Marks Model Windward glider (72" wingspan) and the
Marks Models Windfree glider (99" wingspan).
The Aquila construction was a real step up from the Windfree (which also has a 99" wingspan),
which was extremely flimsy.
To the right, below, are a couple pics sent to me by Dick E., of his Aquila. It was
built in the 1980s, but never flown until very recently. I don't recall my Aquila coming
with a vintage Corvette to sit it on!
Fortunately, by then the kit was available from Airtronics, and my parents gave me
one for Christmas that same year (1976?). It was very well done and the parts all fit
very well. The Aquila was not a beginner's project by any means. What I liked best about
the design was the removable, all-flying stabilizer (stabilator), and the lift spoilers.
I bought a Cirrus 4-channel radio to use in it and built the optional wing spoilers.
That brought a whole new dimension into RC sailplane flying.
Dick E.'s Airtronics Aquila from an original 1970s kit - sitting atop
a very nice vintage Corvette!
I put so many flights on it that the fuselage got worn out (OK, so partially due to
some hard landings). Some company began offering an ABS molded fuselage for the Aquila,
so I bought one and breathed new life into the plane. The picture to the left shows the
the ABS Aquila fuselage hanging in my barracks room at Robins AFB, Georgia. Also pictured
in the photo is a DuBro
Tri-Star helicopter and a Dumas Pride
of Pay'n Pak hydroplane.
There were quite a few flights put on the Aquila while I was at Robins AFB. My AFSC
(Air Force Specialty Code) was 303x1, which is an Air Traffic Control Radar Repairman.
My radar shop was part of the 5th Combat Communications Group. Our MPN-14 radar was a mobile unit
composed of two towable trailers. I tell you this only because my trainer, Sgt. Chuck
Powell, went with me on a couple of the flying sessions and towed the Aquila aloft a
few times for me before I bought a Hi Start (money was pretty tight in those days). Warner
Robins, Georgia, was not exactly a place you would expect to find a cliff to try slope
flying from, but I actually found a place where it was possible to toss it from the top,
and work the air a little before having to land about 50 feet below. The Aquila saw its
final flight in a field on the edge of town. I let it drift too far downwind and did
not have enough altitude to get it back to where I could see the ground for landing.
I just let go of the sticks and hoped for the best. It wasn't a pretty sight. The ABS
fuselage did survive, but both wings were destroyed; I'm guessing it cart wheeled based
on the spread of the carnage.
Notice: There is a website, Aerosphere, that claims to be manufacturing most of Airtronics' original
kits - including the
Aquila. Kits are promised by the end of 2008 (I write this in January
of 2009), but plans are available now for both the
Aquila XL, and the
In the summer of 2007, I bid for and won an Aquila kit from a gentleman on eBay. They
are now selling for $200 or more. It was part of an effort to reacquire copies of many
of the kits I had in my younger years. All the parts appear to be present, and everything
is in absolutely excellent shape. Wingspan = 99".