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Jovi’s DC-3 Build Project: Chapter 3, Building the Lower Section of the Fuselage

Now that I have completed the top section it is time to move to building up the lower section of the fuselage.  In this process we will also be making a change to the build.  That is moving the servos back to the original position (behind F5 to F7) which was just over the wing, where I had made the hatch for the access to the battery.  You can see that in the drawing.

Ok, let’s get started in building the bottom section.  The first thing I did was to install the formers into place, making sure all were 90 degrees from the top stringers which were pinned down to the board when building the top section. The wing saddles were also installed at this time too.

At the same time, I installed the push rods guide tube into place.  I installed the servos and worked on the push rods to the correct length.  Once that was completed, I placed the tail wheel support plate in place for a dry fit and made sure that I did have the correct length. As always it was perfect. 

To make sure that it was correct, I connected the servos to my receiver and made sure the control arms were center.  I then completed the rudder and glued in the rudder block to the control rod and again made sure that all was center so I would not have to do it at a later time.   The elevator was done the same way, but I have not glued it yet into position.  If adjustments need to be made, I can do that on the radio.

DC-3 Fact:

The one and only DC-1 served a full career with TWA, then was sold to Howard Hughes.  Hughes sold the airplane to the Spanish government, but the DC-1 met its demise after an engine failure during takeoff in the 1940.   (Guess they didn’t read the “Engine Out” section in the manual)

Next was to put the stringers on the formers and I added the Fuse doubler by the wing saddles.  Just an FYI Frog tape works really well when building the DC-3, great for holding the parts in place.

Forward stringer was then added to the nose section of the DC-3.  A filler block was then glued to the aft section to fill a void in the fuselage.  This was done on both sides, but did one at a time so it was easier to sand it into shape

In the two pictures shown below you’ll see the one filler sanded and the other side being added to the fuselage.

Now it was time to start putting the skin on the fuselage.  I have a pattern for the bottom back section of the DC-3 and I placed it on my sheet of 3” X 3/32” X 36” (it took two sheets to make one skin) and traced it out.  One of my building tips is to always use a new #11 blade, you will notice if you decide to build that the blade gets dull fast and does not cut the balsa wood very cleanly, however the blade is still sharp enough to cut your fingers!  I always buy a pack of 100 blades.  The old blades, I have a jar to discard them.

DC-3 Fact:

In the 1930’s the airline industry was still booming and competition was fierce.  The DC-3 was born out of American Airlines needed to remain competitive with other players in the industry-namely TWA who had the DC-2.

The bottom of the fuselage is now ready to be skinned.

Now that the two sides have been cut and I wet the balsa to form around the back sides of the fuselage and again using my green tape, I placed them both on the fuselage and let them dry. Skinning the aircraft does take its time, waiting for the balsa wood to dry and once that is done, I have to fit the skin into place before I glue it in place.

Now that both have dried, it was time to fit them into position and glue them in

As this was curing, I then worked on the front of the fuselage and created the skins. This process took about 3 to 4 days to complete.

Here is a picture after the skin was formed into the correct shape after it was placed on the front section of the fuselage.

On the next day after the above picture was placed into position I then worked on the back of the fuselage and sanded the skin to form the fuselage of the DC-3.

As the front section was curing I then started to sheet the bottom of the fuselage.

Here is a photo of the completed bottom section of the fuselage, except for the tail section still needing to be covered.

Now it was time to finish up the nose section of the DC-3 and get it skinned.  Wetting down the balsa wood sure made it easier to form the curves of the nose.  I placed a full sheet 3” X 3/32” by 17” and taped it into place to form the curves.  Once that was done I then fitted the part to a more perfect fit.  Did this process for both sides of the nose section.

Here is the part cut to fit the nose section. And here it is mounted to the nose section as a last test fit.

Now the two sides are now curing and once it is done then I just have to finish up the bottom section of the nose and she will be ready for sanding.

The next day I completed the remaining section with skin.  As I did before I wet down the balsa wood to form it.

And here is a picture of the complete nose section.

The last task is to complete the tail section and get it covered as well.  I could have made this as a hatch but I decided that it won’t be necessary  to get to  the clevises for the rudder and elevator.  But with the technology with the radios, I won’t be going into and adjusting them.  That I have already done when I installed the servos.

Here is the completed tail section.

And here is the completed Fuselage.

There are two last tasks to do and that is to Fit the Cabin Top and add the nose block and let not forget to add the dorsal fin LE (Leading Edge)  to the Fin and last thing is do some sanding.

DC-3 Fact:

The first incarnation of the DC-3 was the DST, or Douglas Sleeper Transport which was two-and-a-half feet longer and twenty-six inches wider than the DC-2.  The new wings were strengthened, had more tapered and rounded tips and featured longer ailerons.  The span was also increased by ten feet.  The DC-3 was identical to the DST in most ways except that it was purely a daytime transport aircraft accommodating up to twenty-eight passengers.

Fitting the Cabin Top, I had to cut the molded plastic cabin top along the cutlines and I also allowed about 1/8” more so that I could fit it to the fuselage and get that nice fit.  To make it fit right I had to bevel the plywood cabin base to help support the molded plastic top.  Once that was completed and fitting the cabin top it was time to glue it into place.

Next it was time to add the nose block and that was pretty easy to do.

In the meantime I worked on getting the dorsal LE added to the Fin of the fuselage.  Once that too was completed, I stepped back and realized the Fuselage was complete and just required the nose to shape, and do some filling in where needed. Then she was ready for final sanding.

Here we go to complete the final shaping of the nose block.

And now the completed shaping of the nose block….Now she really looks good.

Here is the final picture of her being completed and sanded.   That’s all I can do on the fuselage until I get the wing done, so… the wing.