Radio controlled models of birds have been popular for a long time.
You might recall the R/C version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull
that was made for the movie back in the 1970s (it showed up in an
edition of RC Modeler), and then various others have appeared in
modeling magazines throughout the decades. The Best of Show winner
at the Toledo show in 2011 was a giant size, twin turbine powered,
fire breathing dragon! This "Peter O'Dactyl" pterodactyl model was
published in American Modeler back in 1962 by Roy Clough, Jr. He
even included a little background information on pterodons. Its
36" wingspan and simple stick and tissue construction makes it a
great novelty project for stirring up interest in young modelers.
With today's micro miniature electric power packages and radios,
your pterodactyl could easily be fitted for R/C flight.
Peter O'Dactyl F/F is "Toeliner," Too!
has Roy Clough Jr come up with this time! A free-flight reptile?
It can also fly without power as a towline glider? Well, it should
wake up the scale model judges. Hobby Helpers has the full size
Peter O'Dactyl on their Plan #1262.
This free flying dragon is right out of the Jurassic period.
As a towline glider, or powered with a tiny glow engine, it wheels
across the sky with all the awesome grandeur of its remote reptilian
Once the most numerous flying species on earth, the pterodactyls
(ter-o-dak-til) came in a dozen varieties. They ranged in size from
tiny winged lizards one foot long to majestic soaring monsters whose
wing span approached 30 feet.
With a wing structure bearing a superficial resemblance to modem
bats these flying reptiles were probably the smartest members of
the dinosaur family which included the 80-ton Brontosaurus, the
terrible Tyrannosaurus Rex and that fighting tank of the dawn age,
Triceratops. Fossilized skulls indicate the pterodactyl brain was
far advanced over the walnut-sized think-tanks of the ground-bound
Despite a certain resemblance to bats, pterodactyls were skeletally
different from anything before or since. Unlike bats, whose wings
are an extended hand or claw, the pterodactyl's "main wing spar"
was an extended and enormously developed little finger. Hence the
name, which means winged finger, or feather-toe, depending upon
how you slice your Greek. The wing itself was a membrane that stretched
from the tip of the little finger to the ankle of the creature's
hind leg. It is rather doubtful that these airborne lizards were
the fearsome things depicted by some imaginative writers. They were
very lightly built. Nothing on earth today approaches their extremely
light wing-loading - even the largest, the toothless, fish eating
pteranodon with a wing spread of over 25 feet, probably weighed
not more than 30-lbs as an adult.
Like many flying creatures their bones were hollow, but with
an interesting difference-the wing bones were open to the circulation
of air. They were probably not very rugged ... flying creatures
must exchange skeletal strength for lightness. The wing (finger
and arm) bones of pteranodon were about 2" in diameter, but had
a wall thickness of less than 1/16 inch. Unlike most reptiles they
had a bird-like keel bone, or breast plate for the attachment of
their powerful flight muscles. A peculiar crest-like skull formation
was found in some orders.
The structure of these creatures suggests they were exceptional
gliders and soarers but not very strong flappers. They were probably
pretty clumsy on land, although able via three claw-like fingers
to grasp and hold prey with that part of their hand not used as
model is something of a compromise between strict biological accuracy
and engineering considerations necessary to secure good flying characteristics.
Instead of extensively changing the shape of one beast, we combined
the best features of several to obtain a configuration which would
fly well and put up a convincing appearance in the air. Thus, "Peter
O'Dactyl" is a hybrid creature with the basic skeletal arrangement
of pteranodon, but the diamond shaped tail of the smaller Rhamphorhynchus.
Teeth found in some pterodactyls are absent in others. We used 'em
to produce an engaging toothy grin. The crest which we needed as
.an engine attachment has ample precedent. Two wing ribs (which
the original beastie did not have) were larded on to prevent the
trailing edge of the wing from bellying upward and changing the
angle of incidence in flight. When you add to this a small vertical
fin Pete still emerges a rather accurate representation of the type
of creature that once ruled the air.
Construction is simple enough with only a couple of variations
from gas model practice to be noted. The solid balsa body is carved
from a bandsawed block of medium weight wood - or the rough outlines
can be built up from scraps before whittling to shape. We find the,
white glues - polyvinyls-best suited to this Purpose.
Wing and leg structure is 3/8" hard balsa strip. Joints are keyed
with a strip of 1/16" hardwood at each break. Inboard wing joints
(elbows) are additionally reinforced by aluminum strips, cemented
with Ambroid or equivalent and lashed in place with thread. Assemble
wing and leg "bones" to body using pins and plenty of cement. The
tail is simply a 3/8" balsa boom to which 1/16" sheet surfaces are
cemented. Note that an incidence block is used here. When everything
is thoroughly dry round off the edges of all the "bones" with sandpaper.
I don't know for certain what color pterodactyls sported but green
seems reasonable. Wing covering is heavy weight gas model Silkspan
dyed with Baker's green food coloring which also takes the shrink
out of the paper. Pull it up moderately tight but do not dope. Paint
body dark green, inside of mouth red. The toothpick teeth are put
in after doping. Use the flat variety and cut them off at a fearsomely
jagged angle. The claws, bits of round toothpicks, may be painted
yellow or the same color as the rest of the model. The eyes are
sliced from table tennis balls and have rhinestone buttons (available
at the dime store) for pupils ... the way the light reflects from
them gives the impression that Peter's eyes follow you wherever
With the angles shown Peter O'Dactyl should glide nearly right
although a touch of ballast fore or aft may be needed depending
upon the density of the wood used. We used a Tee Dee .010 to produce
a slow sweeping flight for maximum spectator effect. We suggest
the model be flown with the powerplant mounted pusher fashion (with
a cut-down Wen Mac plastic pusher prop) in an aluminum clip fastened
to the crest. This way the motor can be removed easily for display
or towline flying.
Peter O'Dactyl Free Flight
The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size
version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always
best to buy printed plans because my scanner versions often have distortions that can cause parts to fit poorly. Purchasing
plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model
Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I
will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.
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Posted April 12, 2014