Balsa Wood Gliders

If you prefer your model to take flight rather than be a display piece, then these balsa wood gliders are a great choice. A range of simple and more complex kits that are great fun to fly.

Key Information

  1. You’ll definitely need some open space to fly these, so be sure to avoid buildings, roads and other hazardous areas
  2. These are all kits and come with the parts and glue you need, but you may need additional tools to assemble them
  3. They’re good projects to build with children, but younger children should be supervised

Balsa wood gliders are great for those who prefer to spend less time building the kit and more time in the skies!

Gliders are such simple things at face value, but provide us with hours of enjoyment and make a great activity with friends and family. Who of us hasn’t crafted an entire fleet of paper planes? These balsa wood gliders are the clear next step from there.

The gilders below all require some assembly, but some more than others.

Some of the models are aimed at children, so are low cost (under £10) and tend to be smaller, but much simpler to assemble. Ideal if your little ones are a little bit too impatient to take to the skies!

As the models become more complex, the price increases as does their size. The wingspan of the largest glider is 1600mm for example, compared to 230mm for one of the smaller models! Some of the more advanced gliders will require more time to assemble and can also potentially be converted to remote control with the right components.

1. The Osprey Glider

Model gliders can vary in style – ranging from recreations of existing aircraft, to entire functional designs meant to optimise the performance of the glider (i.e. get the most distance from it). The Osprey sits somewhere in the middle of that range. It’s not based on a real aircraft, but has included some superficial decoration to mimic a real plane – in this case a cockpit.

The kit itself is what you will find from most balsa wood models – you assemble the wooden frame and cover with tissue paper, all of which is provided. While the assembly is more complex than a simpler “plug and play” model, it is still geared at beginners, so with patience could be completed by old children, or any first time model builder.

This is a lovely little introduction to model building and a great joint project for friends or family that can be enjoyed outdoors when the model is complete.

  1. Age: 14+
  2. Wingspan: 505mm
  3. Contains: Everything you need

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Osprey Glider

Osprey Glider

2. The Keil Kraft Invader

The Invader glider is a much larger glider and as such should perhaps be attempted by more experienced model builders, although more enthusiastic beginners could certainly attempt it. It’s a popular glider model as it has a distinctive twin fin tail, so there are plenty of guides and tutorials available online to help you assemble.

Due to the complexity, the kit comes with the parts you need, but you’ll need an assortment of tools and supplies (purchased separately) to assemble it – for example, a sharp knife, sand paper and mounting bands. But, it’s still a relatively low cost kit that makes a wonderful gift for a model enthusiast.

  1. Age: 14+
  2. Wingspan: 1016mm
  3. Contains: Parts to build the model

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Invader Glider


3. The Red Arrows ‘Folland Gnat’ Glider

The Folland Gnat is a fighter aircraft used by the RAF. Designed as a lower cost aircraft, the Gnat is typically used to train pilots and famously flown by the Red Arrows, the RAF’s aerobatic team. I’m anyone who has lived in the UK has seen a Red Arrows fly by at some time, which makes this one of the most recognisable aircraft of all time.

This wonderful little model is simple to construct and launched by an elastic launcher catapult, making it great fun for kids. It comes in at under £10 too, making it a great “party bag” gift and will offer hours of fun. Just be sure to fly it in open spaces (or have very understanding neighbours!).

  1. Age: 10+
  2. Wingspan: 230mm
  3. Contains: Everything but adhesive

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Red Arrows Catapult Glider

Red Arrows ‘Folland Gnat’

4. The Cessna 180 Glider

The Cessna 180 is a conventional gear aircraft which was produced through 1953 to 1981. Although it’s no longer in production, many are still in operation today for personal use and the model gained fame when used by Geraldine Mock in 1964 when she was the first woman to fly around the world.

This is another low cost kit which is great for kids. It uses a rubber band engine to propel it further (you twist the propeller to wind the band, then release as you launch the plane – the band rapidly untwists and propels the craft forward). A really simple introduction to model gliders for children and a lot of fun to play with.

  1. Age: 10+
  2. Wingspan: 450mm
  3. Contains:  Everything but adhesive

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Cessna 180 Glider

Cessna 180

5. The Revell Balsa Birds Glider

Revell are a German model maker and have been producing model kits for over 60 years. The Balsa Birds glider is one of a range of different gliders that are super-simple and great fun to fly.

As the cheapest model in the guide, this is perhaps the best choice for a stocking filer gift for children. The model is simple – no gluing required, and can be quickly assembled by quickly piecing the components together. Then it’s down to you or your budding pilot to have hours of fun flying and chasing the plane!

  1. Age: 8+
  2. Wingspan: 270mm
  3. Contains: Everything you need

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Revell Balsa Birds

Revell Balsa Birds

6. The HPH Shark Glider

The HPH Shark 304 is a family of piloted gliders that are used for recreation and sport purposes. It’s unpowered and allows the pilot to glide for miles on the currents of rising air. This type of glider (sailplane) is distinctive due to it’s impressive wingspan.

This model kit is fantastic value – really high quality but comes in a low price (under £10). It comes with everything you need to assemble the kit and you’ll be sending it skyward in no time. There’s a little bit more work assembling it, but that’s part of the fun!

  1. Age: 10+
  2. Wingspan: 310mm
  3. Contains: Everything you need

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HPH 304 Shark Sailplane

HPH Shark Sailplane

7. The Sunbird Glider

The Sunbird is a much larger and more complex glider kit, so definitely one for model builders with a bit more experience assembling kits.

It has an impressive 1600mm wingspan and can be converted to radio controlled (you’ll have to buy and install the RC components separately). But, if you’re looking for a new challenge or a gift for serious glider enthusiast, this model won’t disappoint. It’s a wonderful little glider that performs well and has aileron / elevator / rudder / motor control. 

  1. Age: 16+
  2. Wingspan: 1600mm
  3. Contains: Components but no coverings or power system

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Sunbird Glider Kit