Model type: Laser-cut micro RC kit
Skill level: Beginner builder; beginner pilot
Wingspan: 18.25 inches
Wing area: 56 square inches
Length: 13.5 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Construction: Built-up wood
Street price: $39; decal set $7.99; finishing package $16.99
Power system: ParkZone PKZ3624 brushed motor system; E-flite EFL9051 propeller
Battery: Thunder Power Pro Lite 125 mAh 3.7-volt LiPo battery
Radio system: Spektrum DX8 2.4 GHz transmitter; Spektrum AR6410 receiver with integrated ESC and servos
Ready-to-fly weight: 1.51 ounces
Flight duration: 6 to 8 minutes
• Easy to build.
• Thorough manual.
• Easygoing flight performance.
• Awkward battery-mounting position.
Take baby steps. This is common and sage advice for anyone starting something new or just getting back into the game. When it comes to building balsa kits, I fall into the latter category. I’ve only built one kit during the last several years and I was beginning to feel out of practice. Because of its small size and simple design, the Stevens AeroModel 1911 Caudron Racer seemed like a good first step toward regaining my balsa mojo.
The model is a semiscale rendition of a little-known design from aviation’s pioneering days. Unlike other designs from that era, the Caudron does not have mazes of wires and struts to complicate the build.
The kit includes a handful of small balsa and plywood sheets full of laser-cut parts. There is also a basic hardware package that includes pushrods, carbon-fiber rod, and more. I was impressed by the tail skid and receiver clip made from laser-cut Delrin plastic—high-tech material for a low-tech subject.
Stevens AeroModel offers a finishing package for the Caudron that includes precut vinyl numerals and two packages of AeroLITE iron-on covering material. With that in hand, I only needed to add a three-channel (minimum) radio and motor system. Assembly required nothing more than basic hobby tools and CA glue (thin and medium).
As with the other kits in the Stevens AeroModel line of micro airplanes, the Caudron is designed to use ParkZone micro components. This includes the tiny geared motor setup, as well as the “brick,” which blends a 2.4 GHz receiver, brushed ESC, and two linear servos on one postage stamp-size board.
As suggested by the manufacturer, I read the entire manual before touching any wood. This document is 37 pages long, which belies the model’s simplicity. The reason for its bulk appears to be twofold.
First is the fact that there are tons of supporting photographs. Nearly half of the manual is made up of clean and nicely labeled photos. The other reason for the manual’s girth is its thoroughness. Each step is clearly written as a full sentence. If you’ve learned to adapt to manuals written overseas, you can put away your ARF-to-English dictionary for this build. You won’t need it.
The Caudron’s assembly begins with the fuselage. Most of this structure’s parts are keyed to interlock with the mating pieces. Because of the model’s size, I didn’t expect a precise fit on all of the parts. What I found, however, was that many joints had a solid friction fit and would hold together nicely while I fumbled to locate my continually misplaced glue bottle.
I found it interesting that all of the fuselage parts are laser cut. Even the stringers that make up the rear turtledeck are custom pieces. If the thought of cutting balsa sticks intimidates you, there is no need to worry.
The wing design is less conventional than the fuselage. It features an undercambered airfoil and only the top surface is finished. A peek at the bottom of a completed wing panel reveals exposed ribs and the spar. Don’t think of it as a shortcut. It’s a common design approach for indoor aircraft such as the Caudron.
Despite the wing’s unique structure, I had no assembly problems. It is different, but not difficult. Follow the manual and you’ll be fine.
Several of my prolific balsa-building pals have been telling me about AeroLITE (also called Solite) for years. They all love it, so I was anxious to try it out on the Caudron. Now I see what they have been talking about. This lightweight material is easy to work with. A standard-weight covering would be difficult to apply on such a small, light structure. My covering job is not perfect, but it is better than my average.
I used the recommended ParkZone brick-and-motor system. Both components fit perfectly in place. The brick is secured with a Delrin clip. I was slightly worried about managing the tiny, .015-inch diameter pushrods, but they were easy to use. I had to be careful when heating the heat-shrink tubing to avoid damaging the nearby covering.
The cabane and landing gear struts appear to be complex structures, but they are really laser-cut plywood parts with a few glue joints.
On the subject of optical illusions, check out the pilot and six-cylinder Anzani engine. Both are simple profile parts that add to the airplane’s scale appeal with little weight penalty. I used a Sharpie marker to color the struts, pilot, and engine.
Hollow plastic wheels are included, as are balsa wheel covers for those who want to use the optional Du-Bro wheels. I liked the look of the stock wheels and installed them. I glued small plywood discs to the axles to keep the wheels in place. I used a standard hole punch to cut the discs from leftover plywood parts.
I spent three evenings building the Caudron. Not until the end did I face my first hiccup. The included drawings show where the battery should be mounted, but the manual doesn’t indicate a method for retaining it. I placed a small patch of hook-and-loop tape on the battery tray’s rear lip, and the mating piece on my Thunder Power 125 mAh one-cell LiPo. The radio brick somewhat obstructs battery bay access, but battery swaps are manageable with a little patience.
I added optional flying wires to the top of the wing using standard sewing thread. Installation only took a few minutes and I like the result. My completed model balanced without needing any ballast and weighs 1.51 ounces. I linked the brick to my Spektrum DX8 transmitter and set low-rate throws to the manual’s recommended values.
All of my Caudron’s flights have been outdoors in calm conditions. Takeoffs can be quick. I’ve frequently used a pickup truck bed cover as my runway. Even with the bed’s short length, the airplane always lifts off with runway to spare. Hand launching is also a viable and stress-free method.
The Caudron is intended to be docile in the air and that is where it excels. Graceful, low-speed flybys are relaxing and fun to watch. I have no trouble keeping the airplane contained in a small area, so I look forward to trying it indoors. It has enough power and control authority to coax a few basic aerobatics, but don’t expect these tricks to be easy.
I spend most flights cruising around at chin height using half to three-quarters throttle. The Caudron is not much of a glider. When you cut the power, it will come down quickly. Keep this in mind during your flights and reserve some power for a graceful landing.
The Stevens AeroModel 1911 Caudron Racer served as a smooth stepping stone on my path back to balsa building. I think it would provide a similar function for anyone who has never built a wood kit. This kit’s simplicity and precision remove many of the variables that often frustrate inexperienced builders. As a bonus, you get a nice-flying and nostalgic-looking indoor and outdoor airplane when you are done.