1:72 Scale Aircraft Carrier that Launches and Lands RC Bi-Planes

My wife and I were in the car driving one day and talking about what things might make flying our Air Hogs Aero Aces (RC slow flight bi-planes) even more fun. We came up with the idea of making a model aircraft carrier. We thought that it would be a fun thing to do precision landings on and guessed the indoor flying group to which we belong would also enjoy it.

Being an engineer, I started of by putting together in my head a list of design criteria for the project:

  1. Large enough to land an Aero Ace.
  2. Able to be easily disassembled into pieces small enough to fit into the trunk or back seat of a car.
  3. Very inexpensive (target cost about $10.00).
  4. Good appearance (at least from a distance).
  5. Quick and easy to build.

I then added to my wish list for the model a list of secondary design criteria (stretch goals):

  1. Able to launch an Aero Ace.
  2. Model of a US navy aircraft carrier that really carried bi-planes.
  3. Able to land and launch other slow flight RC airplanes.

Based on the above criteria, we decided to build a 10 feet long (which works out to 1:72 scale) cardboard model of the Lexington (CV-2) as she was in 1928 (when she carried bi-planes). The first very rough version was built in less than a week and was a total success at our indoor flying group. It met all the primary criteria (although “Good appearance” was definitely only from a distance) and most of the secondary criteria (it lacked the ability to launch an Aero Ace).

The first version of the aircraft carrier did, however, have some problems and limitations:

  1. It took two people to setup.
  2. It was not as “solid” as I would have liked.
  3. The appearance left a great deal to be desired.
  4. It was not very accurate to the Lexington.
  5. It had had no way to launch a plane.

So, I decided to rebuild the model. I was able to reuse the deck and hull but made significant modifications to both. The rest of the original version was scrap.

The first step was to create a more detailed superstructure. I made the sides out of corrugated cardboard and made the gun housings out of file folder cardboard. Gun barrels were made out of straws and coffee stirrers. Railings were made out of hardware cloth. Bamboo skewers served as antenna masts.

I added front and rear sub-deck with associated weapon emplacement which serve the dual purpose of holding the hull together so it can be assembled by one person while also improving the appearance and realism. Also added a front and rear cross piece and a central section that is hidden under the flight deck but does wonders for correcting the rigidly problems the plagued the first version.

I painted the flight deck red-brown to match, as close as I was able, the mahogany deck of the Lexington. I also found a toy at 99˘ Store that I could convert into the catapult. I mounted this on the underside of the flight deck. The catapult works very well and most people who tried it were able to do a successful launch on the first or second try.

The aircraft carrier disassembles and folds. In its folded state it fits easily in the trunk or backseat of a car.

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Lexington (First Version)




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Lexington (CV-2)

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Lexington in Trunk