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Nov 20, 2008, 10:33 AM
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Build Log

Ivan Pettigrew Twin Otter 480 Build

Welcome to my first RCGroups build thread, and my first scratch-built airplane. Please enjoy my many mistakes to come and laugh as I puzzle about the simplest details!

I've decided to tackle the Ivan Pettigrew Twin Otter 480 as the first part of my series of "real planes I've actually flown in".

After doing some searches, it also seems like this might be the first Pettigrew Twin Otter build thread. Aside from some pics of the finished model and one fellow's few teaser shots of a build in the Pettigrew sticky thread, I hope too see some other people's Twotter build pics.

This is the real Twin Otter I've gone for a flight in during an internship. I will be covering and detailing my model to look like this one. It is owned and operated by Canada's National Research Council. From their website:

By participating with government agencies and other collaborators in important field experiments such as airborne investigations of the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, the Twin Otter contributes important scientific information to Canadian and international studies.

Research equipment installations on the Twin Otter include real-time digital computing and displays, modern navigation and guidance systems, state-of-the-art air data sensing, a control surface position measurement system, incident and reflected solar radiation systems, weather radar, video recording suite, laser particle spectrometers and a satellite simulator.

Note the prominent nose boom for collecting accurate angle of attack and sideslip data.
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Nov 20, 2008, 10:39 AM
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The plans are so detailed, they hurt the eyes...

After receiving the plans from Ivan, I spent a couple hours studying them and decided that I would scan in the formers and bulkheads and make some laser cut plans. I used TurboCAD to trace over the scans and make laser-cutting templates.

Skipping ahead a couple summer months and many hours in front of Turbo CAD, I sent out my files to and got this snazzy short-kit. I love the smell!

Oh, and I cleared this with Ivan, anyone who buys his plans is welcome to my laser-cut files. The short-kit is useless without the plans, so don't get any ideas.

Edit: I'll post the files when I've confirmed all my parts fit and do not need modification.
Last edited by JeffElecRC; Nov 20, 2008 at 11:12 AM.
Nov 20, 2008, 10:54 AM
micro scale builder
tmtbiker's Avatar
so, no chance of short kits for the rest of us without a laser cutter?
Nov 20, 2008, 10:56 AM
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Starting with the fuselage, I set up my workbench with a big piece of cork-board. Secured the plans to the cork, then covered with plastic. Time to start stabbing balsa!

The majority of the fuselage is built from 3/16" square sticks. I have elected to use carpenters glue instead of CA for this build because I am mildly allergic to CA and the carpenters glue is more forgiving to mistake and easier to sand.

Starting with the fuselage sides.
Nov 20, 2008, 11:02 AM
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Thread OP
Originally Posted by tmtbiker
so, no chance of short kits for the rest of us without a laser cutter?
If theres enough demand for me to make a bunch of kits and sell/ship them sure I could do that. But to clarify I don't have a laser-cutter in my basement. I just sent the files to a cutter and he cut and shipped the parts to me. I used The cost was about $35 plus shipping for the wood and laser time.

I just figure there are lots of laser-cutters out there. It would be cheaper to order from your preferred cutter than from someone like me who has to ship from Canada.
Nov 20, 2008, 11:06 AM
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tmtbiker's Avatar
thanks for the clarification, the price isn't as crazy as I thought it would be. I'll be watching this with interest...
Nov 20, 2008, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by tmtbiker
thanks for the clarification, the price isn't as crazy as I thought it would be. I'll be watching this with interest...
Yeah it's not expensive, what you see in my post #2 is the whole kit. Theres not much to be cut. Mostly wing formers and top and bottom bulkeads.

That price doesnt include all the sticks and sheeting though required to build the rest of the plane.
Nov 20, 2008, 11:23 AM
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My first mistake

So my first mistake was not building the fuselage side as one complete piece. First my 3/16" sticks were not long enough, second the fuselage has a couple bends aft of the wing mounting so the tail tapers upward and inward. I figured this would be too much bending for one lowly stick of balsa, so I made joints at each bend point on the horizontal.

I added gussets to each joint where the 3/16" butted to 3/16" for added strength. As I assembled the rest of the fuse, I think it will still be strong enough.
Nov 20, 2008, 01:04 PM
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vonJaerschky's Avatar
You'll love the way the airplane flys. By the way, the first brand spanking new Twin Otter just flew for the first time They're building them just down the road in Victoria. They have quite a few orders for more, including 3 for the US Army parachute team.
Nov 20, 2008, 04:32 PM
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paulbw's Avatar
Hi Jeff,
Looking forward to your Twin Otter build - an IP a/c that I haven't seen a build-thread on. My Sealand fuselage looked exactly like that until a few days ago!
Paul W.
Nov 20, 2008, 06:50 PM
MattZC's Avatar
Hey Jeff,

I am following as I have been wanting to build one of Ivan's Twin Otters for a long time. Do you know if the 480 and the 600 are the same design and if so is it possible to scale up the CAD files?

Nov 20, 2008, 10:55 PM
Registered User
Hi Jeff
I am in Winnipeg and i would be interested in a short kit
Nov 21, 2008, 02:15 AM
Registered User
LukeZ's Avatar
Jeff, thanks for starting a thread on this. There have been lots of Twin Otters built but you're right, no build thread until now! And to have some laser cut parts thrown into the mix will make it all that more interesting. It's a good idea you've had to simply make up a CAD file that a person could then shop around to the most convenient cutter. There are lots of places that do laser cutting nowadays, it's all the CAD work that's a pain.

I've added a link to this thread in the Ivan sticky - and I'll look forward to adding a photo of your unique choice of Twin Otter when it's completed!

Nov 21, 2008, 04:28 AM
Student of Ivan
mountainman2442's Avatar

I'm looking forward to your build! The mistakes are especially welcome as they make me feel more at home!

The Twin Otter is next in line for me after the Aiglet is finished (next week?). I'll happily take advantage of your offer of the CAD files. Quite nice of you to share them by the way. Your generousity seems to fit right in with most of the Canucks I've met here on RCG and especially followers of the teachings of Ivan.

Nov 21, 2008, 10:28 AM
Registered User
I have a short kit from RT Models and wonder if there's much difference between the two planes. The plans for mine were drawn by a different designer if I remember, anyway I was surprised at the price for you short kit. I would like to do a Sealand 480 but don't have the time to cut all the parts.
How well does Ivan's plan convert to a CAD file? Is there much correction to be made?
Well now, I've subscribed to this thread anyway so I'll be following along.

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