Balsa Wood Aircraft Kits

These wonderful little model planes are a great introduction to model building. The balsa wood components are precision cut, leaving you to assemble the model and decorate it.

Key Information

  1. These kits are a combination of static model and working model (which are usually powered by a rubber band engine and can actually fly!)
  2. Both adults and children will enjoy these kits, which are suitable for ages 7-14 upwards (depending on the kit)
  3. Wooden models are assembled with PVA wood glue

Balsa wood model planes are some of the most popular model kits as they are fun to assemble and offer a little bit of aviation history.

There’s something about model aircraft that really inspires the imagination. Who didn’t ‘fly’ a model plane around room as a kid?

We’ve shortlisted some of the best balsa wood aircraft kits below which are a great start to choose from the hundreds, even thousands of different models that are available. Each of these kits comes with all of the components you need to assemble the aircraft, although you will usually need to purchase paint separately if you’d like to decorate your finished model.

The kits are fantastic value for money, with the simpler kits starting under £10 and the more detailed models coming in at well over £100. There’s hours of fun assembling the model and then varnishing it or painting it as you see fit. Some of these model planes are designed to fly when finished and will do so powered by a rubber band motor (and a little help from a willing pilot!). This makes them great solo projects for a spare weekend, or a wonderful joint effort between siblings or parents and children.

1. The RAF S.E.5a 

Military aircraft are often popular choices for models as they tend to have a very distinctive appearance and come with a unique history that appeals to both model builders and aircraft enthusiasts. The RAF S.E.5 were a series of fighter aircraft built for World War One by the Royal Aircraft Factory, and have been described as being the ‘Spitfire of World War One’. They helped Allied forces maintain air superiority along with the arguably more famous ‘Sopwith Camel’ (which found its way into mainstream recognition through the ‘Biggles’ series of adventure books).

Less than a hundred S.E.5 were produced, before the more refined S.E.5a model with a superior engine was commonly adopted. In the end, over 5000 S.E.5a aircraft were produced.

This lovely little model actually flies when assembled, as it comes with a ‘rubber band engine’ (you wind the propeller to twist the band tight, which then rapidly spins the propeller in the other direction when released). A great gift for older children or young-at-heart adults, and makes a fantastic decoration piece displayed in any room, or a fun activity with a bit of space outdoors.

  1. Age: 14+
  2. Size: 53cm x 13cm x 5.5cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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RAF S.E.5a

RAF S.E.5a

2. The Messerschmitt Bf 109

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German World War II fighter aircraft, and was a key unit in the Luftwaffe’s impressive fighter force. It was an interesting model as it was one of the last propeller fighter planes as the jet era ushered in towards the end of the war. Its technical excellence is clear from its impressive history – almost 34,000 units were manufactured from 1936 to 1945, making it the most-produced fighter aircraft of all time. In addition, it was flown by three of the German’s top scoring fighter pilots of all time – you definitely didn’t want to be in a dog fight with one of these!

This model is one of the best value models on our list – coming in at less than £10, it doesn’t require glue to assemble, which means it’s suitable for children (although there are small pieces, so always supervise younger children). The pieces are simply pressed out and slotted together following the instructions – the finished model can be painted or varnished. Great value, not too difficult and you’ll have a lot of fun putting it together.

The trade off for the simplicity is that the final model looks clearly like a ‘wooden model’ and not an identical replica of the aircraft. But that’s part of the charm and it’s part of a range of models of lots of different things, so you can even start a collection if you enjoy this wonderful little introduction to model building.

  1. Age: 7+
  2. Size: 10cm x 29cm x 30cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt Bf 109

3. The North American P-51D Mustang

Another World War II fighter aircraft, the North American P-51D Mustang was a long-range fighter and fighter-bomber used in a number of conflicts. The model was commissioned by the RAF, but rather than build an old design, North American Aviation designed this new, modern fighter. A testament to the Allied Forces war spirit, the first Mustang took flight only 102 days after the contract was signed!

The P-51D variant was used from 1944 and featured a ‘bubble canopy’ which gave pilots much better visibility than the earlier model. In addition, the aircraft was streamlined with improved technologies developed during the war, including a redesigned wing and improvements to the undercarriage.

This model is designed to fly when assembled (again, using a rubber band engine) and is one of the more complex and expensive models featured in this guide. It’s a lovely kit and the final model will take pride of place in your collection. Although the manufacturer recommends ages 7+, it is a more complex model so we’d recommend it’s best for older children with supervision and adults. A great part of American aviation history to add to any collection and will look wonderful when assembled and painted.

  1. Age: 12+
  2. Size: 34.9xm x 3.3xm x 11.4cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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North American P-51D Mustang

North American P-51D Mustang

4. The Sopwith Triplane

The Sopwith Triplane is a wonderful vintage military aircraft. Often overlooked due to the later ‘Sopwith Camel’ biplane model, the Sopwith Triplane was in use by the Royal Navy Air Service in 1917. A consequence of difficulties maintaining the craft (large parts of it would have to be disassembled to reach key components), only a few hundred units were every in operation. Nonetheless, its brief service was successful due to a higher rate of climb and operational ceiling. The Germans were even so impressed by it, their aircraft manufacturers went through a brief phase of trying to create their own triplanes!

Another rubber band powered model, the Sopwith Triplane will really fly when you’ve assembled it and you can be sure you’ll have the most unique aircraft in the sky when you launch! There are so few triplane models available that it really does make a fantastic addition to any collection.

  1. Age: 14+
  2. Size: 52.8cm x 12.5cm x 5.3cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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Sopwith Triplane

Sopwith Triplane

5. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber

The name says it all, doesn’t it?

Developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Core, the B-17 went on to become the third most-produced bomber of all time. It was one of the main weapons in the Allied’s assault on German forces and would often fly daytime raids on bombing targets. It was fast, capable of long-distance runs and heavily armed at the expense of munitions payload, and gained a reputation for being able to soak up a lot of damage, with many B-17s able to return to base even heavily damaged. The US still has several operational B-17s but none are in active service.

This is the most expensive model in our guide, and is not only a wonderful piece of military history but a fantastic addition to any collection. The model can be upgraded with radio controls (you would have to buy the motor, battery and RC components separately) and flown. But, as a display model it’s impressive nonetheless – it’s the largest model in the guide and makes a wonderful canvas for you to paint when you’ve assembled it. Any model enthusiast will love having this in their collection!

This definitely isn’t one for beginners though. There are lots of delicate parts and it will take time and patience to assemble.

  1. Age: 12+ (it’s a complicated kit – probably better for adults)
  2. Size: 62.4xm x 10.2xm x 25.7cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber

6. The Boeing AH-64 Apache

The Boeing AH-64 Apache is an attack helicopter first flown by the US military in 1984 and as one of the first attack helicopters to use Forward-looking Infrared. It became the first in service to be able to operate beyond the forward line of troops and excelled at running night missions. Despite its own impressive arsenal, it was commonly used in collaboration with other aircraft, painting targets for bombers. This is a classic, but relatively modern military aircraft that has been used in multiple conflicts to dominate the battlefield.

This model is from the same collection as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 featured earlier. Similarly, it’s geared at younger model enthusiasts (or first-timers), is low priced (under £10) and relatively easy to assemble by simply pressing the pieces and slotting them together.

  1. Age: 7+
  2. Size: 14cm x 44cm x 40cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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Boeing AH-64 Apache

Boeing AH-64 Apache

7. The de Havilland Tiger Moth

The ‘Tiger Moth’ is a British biplane operated in the 1930s by the RAF and primarily used as a training aircraft. During the Second World War, the model was used in support roles such as surveillance and anti-invasion preparations. Interestingly, unmanned versions of the Tiger Moth (the ‘Queen Bee’) were used as target practice for anti-aircraft gunners in the 1930s, which led to the first ever use of the word ‘drone’ to describe an unmanned aircraft. 

While this model doesn’t quite have the exciting military record of others covered in this guide, it is a lovely little example of a traditional biplane and it’s that charm that has meant that even today many recreational pilots love to fly them.

This reasonably priced model is another rubber band powered aircraft, so when you’ve assembled the kit it’ll be ready to fly!

  1. Age: 14+
  2. Size: 45xm x 45xm x 12.5cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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de Havilland Tiger Moth

de Havilland Tiger Moth

8. The Hawker Hurricane

When thinking about British aviation during the Second World War, one often leans towards the Spitfire due to its more frequent appearances on television shows and films. But throughout the war, and in every major engagement, the Hurricane was there. Indeed, during the Battle of Britain, it was reported to have inflicted around 60% of the losses suffered by the Luftwaffe. The Hurricane was the workhorse of the RAF and held the skies against the formidable German Messerschmitt Bf 109. However, Hurricanes often flew with the more agile Spitfires, and when taking on an enemy squadron the Spitfires would dogfight the enemy fighters while the Hurricanes took down the bombers.

This is a beautiful model, with a decent wingspan and a rubber band engine allowing to fly when completed. It’s a great gift for military and aviation enthusiasts and will pair nicely with a model Spitfire if there’s already one in the collection. Great price too!

  1. Age: 14+
  2. Size: 53cm x 13cm x 5.5cm
  3. Contents: Everything you need

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Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane

9. The Submarine Spitfire

You came to this page for this, didn’t you?

If you were to ask anyone about military aviation history, there are only a few models that instantly spring to mind – the Spitfire is synonymous with British military history. Designed in 1928 as a short-range interceptor aircraft, the unique, slim design gave it a superior top speed to other fighter craft, including the previously mentioned Hawker Hurricane and German Bf 109.

Although the Hurricane outnumbered the Spitfire and inflicted more losses on the Luftwaffe, the Spitfires became known as the ‘RAF’s main plane’ – it was faster and more agile, which meant it was more likely to return to base.

There are several dozen Spitfires still in airworthy condition today, although you’ll generally only see them in flight museums across the world.

If there was any model aircraft that would be the best choice for someone picking their first model, then it’s the Spitfire. A legendary piece of military history and a great start to any collection.

  1. Age: 12+
  2. Size: 34.8xm x 4.4xm x 11.4cm
  3. Contents: Everything but glue and model tools

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Submarine Spitfire

Submarine Spitfire