Polymath A (mostly) technical weblog for Archivale.com

December 5, 2009

Model Hot-Air Blimps, a cheap intro to LTA

Filed under: Aeronautics,Lighter than Air — piolenc @ 2:43 pm

Model Hot-Air Blimps: How to Build and Fly Them

by Don James

The ABAC gets many inquiries about plans, kits and books for building model hot-air balloons and airships; some even want to build gas free-flight or RC balloon or airship models. On the gas blimp side of things, we don’t hesitate to recommend the excellent Peck Polymers products (nope, we’re not stockholders!), but for our mostly young inquirers on limited budgets we have not had much to offer.

Enter Don James, founding member of ABAC, graphic artist and perennial LTA enthusiast. In 1980 he and ABAC’s then-President George Wright prepared a 20-page booklet for publication by ABAC. Urgent personal business forced the book to be shelved. The master was misfiled in a folder marked “Promo Pamphlets, etc.” and that was that until Yours Truly, trying to put order in the files, stumbled across it.

Don had set out to provide his own children with a cheap and safe pastime that would teach skills and provide instruction, along with hours of fun. The result was an extensive series of free-flight hot-air blimps made of cheap, commonly-available materials and requiring only ordinary tools for construction. The manual that he prepared based on his experiments is extensively illustrated and provides step-by-step instructions not only for building, but also for designing model blimps. For those who don’t want to design their first project, plans for Don’s “Alpha Blimp” are provided in a tabloid-size centerspread. Instructions for building the “firepot” or heat source, which burns old newspaper, are also included. Inflation and flying directions are copiously illustrated, and the final section diagrams modifications for adding a small model-airplane engine for powered flight.

The book has been re-typeset using the desktop publishing technology that was more or less a dream in 1980. Don’s excellent line drawings and well-exposed b&w photos of his own ships have come through in fine shape and have simply been scanned and incorporated as is. Thirty pages, 6″ x 9″ softcover book, dwgs, photos. US $14 postpaid.


  • Order on-line, through Amazon/CreateSpace, using your credit card.

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