Saturday, February 25th, 2012 09:53 am GMT -7 Saturday, February 25th, 2012 09:53 am GMT -7Saturday, February 25th, 2012 09:53 am GMT -7

Book Cover: Scale Aircraft Drawings: World War I

A priceless collection of airplane three-view drawings and photographs. A must have for every World War I scale fan.





This 150 page book covers 35 World War I airplanes through the use of over 40 highly detailed “master” drawings. They are all drawn at a consistent scale of one quarter inch to one foot. As best as I could tell, all of the classic designs are included.

The book was published by Air Age, the same company that publishes Model Airplane News magazine. Although not stated explicitly, my assumption is that these drawings were all originally published in the magazine.

The Good

Wow. These drawings are a dream come true. They are incredibly detailed. Frankly, most of them are plain gorgeous. The drawings were all made with modelers in mind. They contain excellent details about each airplane’s internal structure as well as showing full details about external markings. Outlines of the airfoils used are always included. Many of the drawings even contain detailed information on the layout of the instrument panel. In other words, they are all that one needs to construct a highly detailed scale model airplane.

As a bonus, detailed drawings of some of the engines and armaments (machine guns and bombs) are included in the back of the book. They were drawn to the same high standard as the aircraft drawings.

The Bad

It appears that all of the drawings have been scaled down to fit within the dimensions of the book. There is no indication given as to how much each drawing was scaled down. It would take some detective work to look up a key dimension for the airplane, such as its wingspan, and use that to extrapolate the scale of each drawing. The publisher could have saved us the trouble by including this information.

A preface to the book encourages the reader to order full size drawings from the Air Age store. I only managed to find four master drawings for sale in their store, and none were for World War I aircraft. Buying a set of drawings from them may have been a possibility in the past, but it is clearly no longer a viable option.

On average there are two pictures per airplane included. Most of the pictures are small, and the quality varies a lot. If you are building a scale model, you might have to supplement the included pictures with others discovered through additional research.

The text that accompanies the photos and the drawings is useful, but very short. Only about a third of a page is devoted to each aircraft. That is really just enough to touch the surface of what is known about these airplanes. The good news here is that it is a lot easier to find text that describes these airplanes than it is to find quality drawings.

The interior of the book is all in black and white. This means that the photographs are all in black and white, which should not come as a surprise given the time period of the airplanes. But it also means that the descriptions of colors in the external markings are all textual. It would be a challenge to accurately recreate a color only described as “dulled light green”, for example.

The Ugly

Many of the drawings in the book were created by William Wylam. Mr. Wylam started producing airplane drawings for Model Airplane News in the late 1930s. That was 80 years ago! The amount of research that has gone into documenting these aircraft in more recent years is enormous. We simply know now a lot more about these airplanes than we did at the time Mr. Wylam was creating his drawings.

The end result of all this is that the technical accuracy of many of the drawings included in the book has been called into question in recent years. The magnitude of the reported errors varies a lot. Some of the airplane outlines are said to be off a little bit. Some of the registration numbers shown on the aircraft have been discovered to belong to entirely different airplanes. Other errors in his drawings are reportedly more serious.


I find it very hard to fault Mr. Wylam for the reported errors in his drawings. He had a job to do, and he did his best. I am told that many model airplane kits have been released over the years containing the same errors as found in the book. Hmmm. I wonder which book they used as their primary source!

I don’t think these discrepancies detracted from the enjoyment derived by the kit builders from flying their airplanes. If your goal is to create a highly accurate scale model, you are well advised to supplement your research with additional sources.

Despite the warning above, I cannot imagine a serious fan of World War I scale model airplanes that wouldn’t benefit from consulting this book.

4 / 5 stars      

Click here to purchase Scale Aircraft Drawings: World War I from Amazon.

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