1/72 Gallaudet Bullet
KIT #:
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: Scratch-built


In spite of his French sounding surname, Edson Fessenden Gallaudet (April 21, 1871 – July 1, 1945), was in fact an American aviation pioneer, one of whose claims to fame was early experiments with wing warping. In 1898, he built a warping-wing kite to test his a warping-wing mechanism and it survives to this day in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In 1911 he obtained US pilot's license number 32, flying a Wright biplane.  Also in 1911 he earned a pilot's brevet with the Aero Club of France flying a Nieuport monoplane.

In 1908 he founded the Gallaudet Engineering Company in Norwich, where, as President, he did work as a mechanical and consulting engineer and, in 1909, built his first airplane.

In 1923, Gallaudet built the first all-metal aircraft which flew on 20 June, 1923 at Wright Field. In 1924, Edson Gallaudet retired from the company he had founded. The company assets were used them as the core around which the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was founded.

Gallaudet did not patent his system of wing warping for lateral control and so the system was available to subsequent aviators. If he had patented his system it would have presented a serious difficulty to the Wright brother's use of it on their machines. Just as their patenting of the aileron did to others.

He was very active during the pre-WWI period, and designed, built and flew the legendary Gallaudet Bullet, a streamlined tail-dragger monoplane with pusher propeller, of which it was said at the time that it was twice as fast as any other biplane. The radial 100hp Gnôme twin-row rotary engine was in front, hidden behind a pointed streamlined nose, and the pilot straddled the drive shaft, on what was presumable a saddle-like seat. Not a comfortable position in the days before metal fatigue as known about. A snapped drive shaft could result in more than mechanical damage. And not helped by the lack of a windscreen, in spite of a top speed of 110 mph. He was seriously injured when he stalled his Bullet some 100 feet off the ground, severing an artery in his leg among other injuries, although he survived.


I first came across the Bullet while surfing the internet, especially the excellent Russian website Their Flying Machines, see below for ref. 

There is also some good scale plans on Flickr, see below also. 

I downloaded the plans, scaled them to 1/72, using the span and length information given, and ran off several copies for my project. I had scratch built various parts for aircraft before, including wings and fuselages, but had never scratch built a full aircraft before. The Bullet appealed because it had a square fuselage, with no compound curves, simple layout, no windscreen to be moulded, and no markings to rummage around for.


Beginning with the fuselage all four sides can be cut out using the plans as templates. My plastic card sheets have been around a while and the labelling I put on them has long since rubbed off, but I think it would be about 20 mil card. Not the thinnest, but thin enough to be pliable without heat. You can make a few inner frames for support from scrap offcuts, which I keep in a box from vacform projects. It all presents no problems, although it is best to leave off the top decking for the moment, while you cut out the rectangular cockpit opening, and detail the inside of the fuselage with a seat. I could find no pictures of the interior so made do with a joystick and rudimentary dash with a couple of dials. Most WWI aircraft had little more.

Also, cut out a couple of rectangles from the lower decking to accommodate the wheels. Most  of these are inboard and hidden by the fuselage sides, so a couple of sparebox wheels are all that is necessary, painted tire black and left for later. Tires of this period often used rubber which had no soot in it, and so were often shades of grey. They even came in a pink colour, if you can live with that.

At the same time, the tail planes can be cut from the same card. As far as I could see, the tail was all flying and so there is no need to scribe any elevator lines.

I then discovered that it had been built in 1/72 by Gabriel Stern, who is a far better scratch builder than I. And so I shamelessly copied from his website a method he has of making wing ribs show. Mark out the ribs with a pencil and metal rule on the underside of the upper surface, using the plans and keeping them equidistant. And then run a biro over the lines several times using the rule again. This will make a slight raised line on the upper side of the wing, together with a black biro line which will show through slightly, even after painting. It is simpler to do than describe. So thank you Gabriel Stern, and I hope you have not patented your method, just as Mr Gallaudet didn't patent his wings.

I cut the wing under surfaces to size, and laid them flat, using some blue tack to keep them in place. The top surfaces I cut accurately for the leading edge, but then extended the chord by ¼ inch or so at the rear, to allow for overlap when cambering the upper surface. I then glued the leading edges together and allowed them to set, but with a very thin length of plastic rod glued along the leading edge. This can be sanded down to a sharper leading edge profile later, and defines the aerofoil section very well. Then cut a length of larger diameter plastic rod and slide it into place where the main spar would go, roughly one third of the chord width back from the leading edge. Leave a half inch or so of the rod standing proud on the inner edge of the wing, to serve as a locating pin later.

Then bend the upper surface around the spar and glue the trailing edges in place, using clothes pegs as clamps. There is no need of plastic rod for the trailing edge, but once set you will need to trim the overlap from the upper surface and sand it all down to a thin edge.

A word of warning, do not slide the pegs too far inboard while the glue is setting, or you will gets surface kinks in the upper surface. You may safely guess how I know this.

Turning back to the fuselage, spray the nose area with the silver of your choice (Humbrol 11 here, from a rattle can), take a deep breath and mark out all those ventilation holes. There is no getting around this, as it is such a distinctive feature of the aircraft and is one of those defining details. It makes the Bullet look a little like a cheese grater, which has been got at by an interior designer.

I used a flexible plastic rule to pencil out an even spaced grid. Then take a twist drill and use the smallest drill for the first row of holes. Then upgrade to larger and larger drills as you progress toward the back. If you botch it, you will have to go back and redo all the fuselage. So courage mon brave, and have a stiff single malt to hand, either to brace yourself to the task in hand, or as a reward for when you have finished. Or  two glasses, one for each occasion.

And now the bulk of it is over. Carefully align the wings to the fuselage, somewhere at the mid-height level. I splodged the spar ends with some felt tip marker just to get a rough idea of where the location holes should be drilled. Drill them, and fix the wings, noting that both leading and trailing edges stand proud of the fuselage. Then fix the tailplanes, fill the rear of the fuselage with a small square of plastic, scavenge an old propeller from the spares bin, sand it down to size, paint a dark brown, with varnish finish, and glue in place. 


You are now entering the final furlong. Mask off your beautifully drilled nose area, and then cover the rest of the aircraft with the doped linen colour of your choice. I think I used Lifecolor Sand FS33711, just for a change from my usual Vallejo Buff.

The three piece tail skid is cut from plastic rod, making sure they are lengthy enough to keep the prop from churning up the turf.

And note what an unusual arrangement it is, to have a a pusher prop and a tail skid instead of a nose wheel. Note also that the stance of the aircraft on the ground is horizontal, perhaps tending toward slightly nose down. 

Finally a couple of bracing wires from the cockpit area of the fuselage to the wings. You will find some variation in information here. Some plans show them as joining the wing with a small distance between them, some as joining at the same point. I chose the latter, using elastic thread, coloured with a black felt tip pen. 


So there you have a very elegant racer monoplane of revolutionary design from before WWI, which I would recommend to anyone who wanted to dip their toes in the waters of scratch building. Take your time, and measure everything very carefully before you cut it, and this is one that will only take you the same length of time as one of your super detailing projects. And it is your own, your very own, not some kit that someone else has prepared for you.




Chris Peachment

November 2013

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