Design of an RC Gladiator

The design process of a 1/5 scale RC Gladiator is explained. The popular modern features are described and how laser cutting of parts has changed RC airplane design.

The full size Gladiator

The Gloster Gladiator was the last biplane fighter, to serve in the Royal Air Force. It entered service in 1937 and was the culmination of biplane interceptor design stretching back over 20 years.  Although the monoplane fighter would render it obsolete from the moment it was introduced, the Gladiator served with distinction throughout the war.

It was also flown by the Fleet Air Arm, as the Sea Gladiator and 3 examples defended the island of Malta, against incredible odds..These Gladiators became Known as "Faith", "Hope" and "Charity"

The canopy on the Gladiator was a sign of things to come. Many pilots flew with the cockpit open, although at 30,000 feet, it was much appreciated!

When war was declared, many, if not all Glads were repainted from the overall silver to a camouflage scheme. For the first year of war, the Gladiator was used by 6 squadrons, to defend the UK. By April 1939 they had all been replaced by Hurricanes and the first Spitfires.

Design of the model

The above photo is by  Tim Felce("Airwolfhound" on Flickr) and shows a restored example flying at Old Warden in the UK. I like the color scheme and I think I will use it on my RC Gladiator

Looking through my copy of " On Silver Wings: RAF Biplane Fighters Between the Wars (Osprey classic aircraft)" I found the 1/72 scale drawings by GAG Cox. These drawings included fuselage cross sections and wing sections and appeared to be accurate.

A photo copy was made and scanned into the computer. This scan was then imported into Autocad, by using the "Image in" command and then the drawing could be traced thus creating the vector graphics from the raster scanned image.

I then made an Autocad drawing of the complete airframe including all the views necessary for the RC Gladiator design. For you CAD designers out there, this drawing is available, enabling you to design your own version, just contact us for further information.

I find it very interesting to get into the original designers head and try to understand the shapes involved in wing tips, tail plan forms and fuselage cross sections. These shapes are invariably a combination of partial or full ellipses and circles. 

One of my pet hates, in building from plans, is the inaccuracies in fuselage cross sections and side and plan views. I always pay particular attention to this and make sure that height and width of cross sections are correct.

My basic design philosophy is to have an accurate scale outline but to make no changes that would make the RC Gladiator dangerous to operate. I always use well  proven hinge methods and will not compromise on control surface hook-ups. I like to use as many standard model airplane accessories as possible, that should be readily available.

Gloster Gladiator 3 views

The "3-views" designed is actually 5 views and I have decided to make these available as PDF files.

There are 2-sheets as shown here and this drawing is as accurate as I can make it. The original CAD drawing was drawn at a scale of 1/5 full size. If you buy the files you should be able to print out on a 8 1/2 x 11in. or even a legal size. The scale in the bottom left hand corner will help with scaling.

Price for the 2 sheets of the Gloster Gladiator, in PDF format, is $10.00USD

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Laser cut parts for the RC Gladiator

To the model airplane designer, the advent of laser cut parts has given us an opportunity to make building from plans that much simpler and more enjoyable.

Now many more parts, besides the normal formers and wing ribs, can be supplied, at little or no extra cost.

There are many suppliers who can offer laser cutting services ( Click her for more info.)  and I checked with some of them as to how the process works so as I could design with these facts in mind.

It became obvious that one thing that would make life simpler for the kit cutters was to make the laser cut parts separate from the assembly drawings. Further it would help if all the parts of the same material were grouped together.

I decided to draw all components similar to how it used to be done in the old die-cutting days. For instance a 4" x 1/8 "x 36" rectangle was drawn. to represent a balsa sheet, and formers and/or ribs were drawn on it.

This idea, used for all parts,(ply, balsa and lite ply)  made things better for the laser cutters and also for the modelers who preferred to cut there own parts.  They could simply cut the plans ( or copy them) and paste the templates direct to the material, then cut them out.

RC Gladiator features

  • Complete Bill Of Material (BOM) available, that shows all the items required to build the airplane.
  • Plug-in wings with the majority of the rigging, allowing quick assembly/disassembly and smaller storage/transport space required.
  •  Bolt on tail plane and rudder. (This allows easier replacement if required)
  •  Simple availability of components such as the canopy.
  • Sliding canopy
  • Full cockpit space available
  • Easily built radial cowl
  • Eventually a full manual will be available.
  • Standard size wheels and spinner.
  • Drawings to show full electrical installation as well as gas and glow power options.


Software used

The original design was done with Autocad. Recently I changed my computer operating system from Windows XP to Windows 7. This meant that I needed a new program for design. This was when I found Draftsight. This is a FREE system that is produced by Dassault Systemes and I have found it to be very similar to Autocad. I have been using this program for a while now and I can really recommend it!

I purchased a copy of Compufoil 3D and this I use for all wing and tail design. It has the ability of exporting to Draftsight via a DXF file and the 3D feature is very useful and really cool! One problem I found was that elliptical and semi elliptical wing shapes cannot be combined with straight or tapered panels, but when imported into Draftsight this can be accomplished. Using this program to design the RC Gladiator certainly saved a lot of time.


Project status

As of today(June 17 2014) the plans have been completed and laser cut parts have been supplied by Bob Holman Plans

The quality of laser cutting and the material selected by Bob is first class and to date the build of this RC Gladiator has been a pleasure, but a few improvements have been noted and the plans will be changed.


Here we see the fuselage side being built over the plans (With a layer of wax paper for plan protection).

Note that the forward fuselage sides and tail piece are part of the laser cut package and 1/4" square balsa completes the structure.


Now we can see the basic fuselage box of the RC Gladiator assembled over the plans.

If you are interested in this RC Gladiator, please contact us and let us know. The more response we get, the more we will be encouraged to complete this project and offer the plans and parts for sale!

Plans-PDF Format

The plans are now available in PDF format. You can buy using PayPal and print the plans locally.

Note that a set is 9 pages, each one 36"(914.4mm) wide X 75"(1905mm)long. All parts are shown full size and on separate sheets that can be cut-out and pasted to balsa and or ply for cutting out.(Or you can buy the set of laser cut parts-I did this and found they are of excellent quality and certainly saved a LOT of time!)

There is a comprehensive bill of material that lists all parts required and makes shopping for the bits and pieces a breeze!

Price for the 9 sheets of the 1/5 scale RC Gladiator, in PDF format is $25.00USD e-mailed to you.

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Plans-Hard Paper Copy

For those who prefer it we can also offer the plans as a hard copy.

There are 9-sheets, each 36"x 75" and all the features of the PDF plans are included (see above)

Price of the 1/5 scale Gloster Gladiator Plans (9 sheets 36"x75") is $65.00USD plus Shipping Cost.

Shipping Options
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Laser Cut Parts

I have been using Bob Holman for laser cutting for a while now and the quality is always first class and the choice of material is always perfect for the application. The material supplied is as follows-

  • Balsa 1/4"x6"x36" (2-required)
  • Balsa 1/4"x4"x36" (7 required)
  • Balsa 1/8"x4"x36" (11 required)
  • Balsa 1/16"x4"x36" (6 required)
  • Balsa 3/32"x4"x36" (2 required)
  • Lite Ply 1/8"x12"x24" (4 required)
  • Birch ply 1/8"x12"x24" (2 required)
  • Birch ply 1/4"x12"x24" (1 required)
  • Birch ply 1/16"x12"x24"(1-required)
  • Birch ply 1.16"x3"x24" (1-required)

There are a total of 676 parts cut from this material. They should all remain in the sheets by virtue of small "hang-ons" that can be easily snapped out. This feature helps to protect the parts during shipping and handling.

Price of the Laser Cut Parts for the 1/5 Scale RC Gloster Gladiator=$350.00USD plus Shipping & Handling Costs

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Extra Balsa and Ply Materials Needed As Well as Laser Cut Parts

Please note that the plans include a comprehensive Bill of Material (B.O.M.) that includes the extra materials required plus all the hardware ( Including nuts and bolts!) In all a total of 346 items are listed.

For more details of the 1/5 scale RC Gloster Gladiator click here

Click here to see 70 construction phots of the original.

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