'Toys' For The War

by James Montagnes

Future RCAF fighter crews learn maneuverability and aerodynamics from Ottawa schoolboys' models.

Ottawa schoolboys are playing an important part in training the pilots, gunners and observers for Canada. Unable to enter the Royal Canadian Air Force because they are too young, these youngsters are preparing themselves to step into the air force as soon as they become 18 years old. But meanwhile they are hard at work making precision models of every type of plane Canadian airmen are likely to use or meet.

In a large room in Ottawa's ultramodern technical school, a mass-production line has been set up where the boys taking aeronautical engineering make models of 28 different types of British, American, German and Italian types of airplanes. Two partially covered air frames of elementary training planes stand end to end at one side of the room, parts of wings hang from the ceiling, parts of flying models are displayed on boards above the blackboards and a number of solid models of the types now being built by the boys hang from the ceiling. Woodworking machinery lines the walls and long tables make up the assembly line covering most of the floor area.

The making of solid and flying models has been a regular part of the aeronautical engineering course at Ottawa Technical School. So well have the models been made and so many graduates have joined the air force, that the school was asked to undertake the making of models for the training centers of the air force in all parts of Canada. Production was started at the beginning of 1941 and has averaged about 35 fully-completed models weekly since then.

The Royal Canadian Air Force has given the school a standing order for an unspecified number of models. The air force supplies the school with one silhouette drawing of the plane and the school carries on from there. Using the official silhouette, enlarged plans are drawn by the boys on paper and, from these, metal templates are made for the various parts. As many as 500 parts are needed to make some of the detailed solid models.

From the metal templates, the boys cut the various sections of the airplane, using woodworking machinery wherever possible. The bulk of the work, however, must be done by hand. Each boy is assigned some part of the model to make, working on that part only during his stay in the class that day. The classes change every two hours and the new class starts in where the previous class left off, thus developing a regular mass production assembly line. As the parts come off the line they are sandpapered and smoothed down. Other boys start the gluing of the parts to the fuselage, and when these jointed sections are dry others apply putty to give the necessary streamlining and rounded curves at the joints. When completely assembled the planes are painted in the exact colors of the actual plane, with all the realistic camouflage found on warplanes. Even the markings are hand painted.

When finally ready for shipment, the solid model has been fitted with a celluloid painted circle to resemble whirling propellers, windows have been painted in, and radio aerials added. Then the planes are shipped from Ottawa by the air force to the training centers of the British Commonwealth Joint Air Training Plan.

There the planes are used to instruct the future fighter crews in the maneuverability of the different types of airplanes, to teach aerodynamics, range estimation of armament of the different planes and the different aspects which the plane presents to an enemy plane. Armament instructors use the models to teach fighter pilots where to find the "blind spots" of enemy planes and how to protect their own vulnerable spots from enemy fire. Hundreds of the planes are now in use throughout Canada to teach the fighter pilot, gunner and observer to identify the different types of planes now in use overseas.

All models turned out by the Ottawa schoolboys are on a scale of one-twentieth size. Not only do the boys make the better known types of British and German planes as Hurricanes, Spitfires, Heinkels and Messerschmitts, but also the latest types of British planes such as the Whirlwind and Stirling about which little is known as yet. So carefully are the silhouettes of these planes guarded that photographs of the models made by the boys may not be taken. Work on still later models as the Tornado and Typhoon is expected to start later.

In addition to making models, the boys are also taught to know the vulnerable spots of all the types of planes they are building, are shown where the armament on each plane is located and the firing range of each plane's guns and cannons. They are taught to draw silhouette views of the planes from every angle, so that they know each type by sight.

This article was originally published in the August, 1941, issue of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, vol 29, no 2, pp 42, 103.
The original article includes 2 photos.
Photos credited to RCAF.