- These models all come in kit form so require assembly
- Some kits only supply the body of the aircraft, so the battery, propeller and remote controls will need to be bought separately.
- These are reasonably priced kits and make great gifts for people of all ages.
Balsa wood aircraft kits are light, durable and fun for all the family!
Radio control models are a lot of fun to build and can help teach the young and old a thing or two about mechanics and engineering. What I love about balsa wood model aircraft is that they open up the skies for us. They’re relatively low cost and great fun to fly!
Balsa wood model aircraft are lightweight which means they are generally simpler and cheaper than more complex models, which makes them much more accessible to many more people.
All of these models come in kit form, so you’ll need to assemble them before flying them. Importantly they don’t come with radio control components, so you need to buy them separately. Most have recommendations for components to buy or you can select your own.
1. The Dancing Wings Piper J-3 Cub
The Piper J-3 Cub aircraft was produced in the USA from 1938 to 1947 by Piper Aircraft. Its simplicity and affordability meant that it became a popular choice of light aircraft and is often compared to the Ford Model T due to its popular adoption. When the Second World War broke out, it became a common model to train pilots and was even used for military reconnaissance missions during the war. Even today, the aircraft and modern variants are popular.
The balsa wood model kit from Dancing Wings is reasonably priced and has the largest wing span of all the model aircraft in this guide, coming in at 118cm. As with all aircraft kits, the assembly can be complicated if you’ve not done it before, but there are plenty of online tutorials available for first timers.
The kit doesn’t come with battery or remote control so that would need to be bought separately.
- Wing Span: 118cm
- Recommended Motor: Electric Motor: 2212 1100KV
- Recommended Propellor: 8-9 inch
2. Hand Launch Piper Cub
Another entry for the Piper Cub – a reflection of its prominence in aviation history and popularity with radio control aircraft enthusiasts.
This model is a little bit different as it’s designed as a rubber powered scaled model glider, rather than an electric radio controlled aircraft. However, it has been designed to allow for possible upgrade to radio control with the addition of the necessary components.
As with all self assembly kits, the parts you received are all precision crafted and require your care and attention to assemble. Unlike others, this model comes with coloured tissue for coverings and also propeller and rubber motor so you can use it as soon as you build it.
This is a good gift choice for someone who’s interested in aircraft kits but maybe not ready to working with the other more advanced components.
- Wing Span: 89cm
- Motor: Rubber
- Notable features: Can be upgraded to full radio control
3. The Etrich Taube Monoplane
Another piece of military history, the Etrich Taube was designed and manufactured in Germany in 1909. ‘Taube’ means ‘dove’ which would lead one to believe that was the inspiration for the unique design – the single wingspan with curved tips is certainly reminiscent of a bird. However, the Etrich Taube was in fact inspired by the design of a unique seed that can be carried miles on the wind with its unique shape.
The design of the aircraft meant it was very light and made it great for reconnaissance missions (while some flew combat missions they were relatively low key with the pilot firing pistols or dropping bombs from the cockpit by hand!).
It’s one of the smaller balsa wood aircraft kits in our guide – with a wing span of only 43cm, and you’ll note from the image that the frame is intentionally barren (as was the original). This however, means it comes in at the lowest cost of all the kits we’ve covered here.
A combination of unique history and design gives this model a unique appeal. It would make a great gift for a model aircraft enthusiast or be a cost-effective starter kit for someone buying their first kit.
- Wing Span: 43cm
- Includes: Wooden Kit, Motor, Propeller
- Doesn’t include: Battery, RC equipment
4. The Extra 330
Moving away from military aircraft, we now have the Extra 330, designed in 1987 as a aerobatic monoplane which was able to complete in ‘Unlimited’ in competition aerobatics. Extra continue to make performance aircraft today – only a few years go the Extra 330 became the fastest-climbing electric powered aircraft in the world.
The Extra 330 model is a lovely little aircraft. The wing span is 102cm and the parts are beautifully crafted. This does however mean it’s the most expensive of the kits we’ve covered here, but that comes with more control over different aspects of the aircraft when in flight (aileron, elevator, vertical fin, throttle). As with the other models you’ll have to provide your own RC components.
Definitely one for people who are serious about radio control aircraft!
- Wing Span: 102cm
- Includes: Model, landing gear wire, wheels
- Notable features: RC components
5. The Mitsubishi A6M Zero
Back with more military history (which, to be fair, is the source of much of the interesting aspects of aviation history), a model of the Mitsubushi A6M ‘Zero’. It was used by the Japanese Navy from 1940 and 1945 as a long-range fighter craft. It was technically superior to similar craft early on in the war and gained a reputation for excelling in dog fights with a kill ratio of almost 12 to 1. However, as the war progressed and Allied technology caught up, the odds were evened and ultimately the older A6Ms began to fail.
Film fans will recall replicas of the ‘Zero’ used in the film ‘Pearl Harbour’ as it was one of the main aircraft used in the attack. There are very few original aircraft left these days, with replicas often used for appearances on the big screen.
A great choice for film buffs and any enthusiasts looking to get into their own dog fight (although it’s worth noting that the balsa wood models are significantly less sturdy than their wartime ancestors, so perhaps it’s best you avoid any major battles).
- Wing Span: 43cm
- Notes: This model is available for purchase as a kit or as a kit with the motor.