Scale Models

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Active Member
Sep 11, 2003
How well do scale models work for testing new designs? Obviously they must work somewhat well if nearly all planes are first tested this way, but can they work well for things such as flutter, control sizing, etc? Is there a size limit where the results start to stray from what can be expected from the full size version?


Mar 2, 2003
Western Washington
In short, no, scale models do not work very well in predicting quantatative information. Even if one had the background to do the clacualtions necessary to account for scaling factors and differences in everything from airfoil behavior to mass distribution, the numbers would at best be very rough approximations.

Without the technical and engineering background, all a model can do is provide you with very basic qualatative information such as handling, stall recovery, etc. But even that has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Now, if you have the budget and testing equipment of NASA, then yes, you might get useful information.

As far as all the other issues are concerned (flutter, control sizing) again the answer is no due to the differences encoutered in material behavior, the physics of scaling and in general the differences one has to circumvent when building in scale. This holds true in even larger scale models (half or more).

However, this subject has been discussed in detail elsewhere in this forum so you may wish to do a bit more searching and follow those threads there.

Basically, to get the best data on your airplane design, be that aerodynamic, structural, or whatever, there is no substitute to experienced engineering and design know-how. There are no short-cuts and no easy "cook-book" methods to get real answers. Some of the latter may get you into the ballpark, but then you must decide whether you wish to sit in anything that was just "ballparked".