About Me

I’ve had a passion for airplanes and drawing even before I could walk. I was born in the Panama Canal Zone to two ex-Marines (yes, I know – once a Marine, always a Marine) who served during WWII. My dad worked for a Government organization tasked with mapping Central and South America. He was Chief Cartographer (map maker) and charged with seeing that the mapping equipment was set-up and operating correctly in each country. To say the least, we moved around continuously. The organization had many ex-WWII aircraft for transportation and mapping such as the C-46, C-47, DC-4, B-17, B-24, A-26, a couple of “double-bubble P-38’s, numerous light planes, and even a P-47 razor-back painted orange. Flying in those aircraft and many others was my foundation for a love of military aviation. My dad’s early career as a map maker piqued my interest in drawing; what else but airplanes.

When back in the Canal Zone I was either building model airplanes or exploring the jungles with my brother. The Canal Zone was a major point for the return of equipment and supplies used in the Pacific war campaigns. Numerous aircraft were stored and rebuilt there and given to other counties. Those bone-yards became our primary playground.

My parents returned to the States in 1959. Dad continued his Government employment and moving the family around every few years. The car-bug bit me by the time I was in my early teens. Starting with sports car racing, stock cars, and then drag racing and street rods and culminated with motorcycle racing and sales. Though all this I supported my family and my hobbies as a draftsman with several engineering firms. I recently retired from an engineering firm as a senior designer.

Motorsports could not keep me away from the airplanes though as I continued to build and fly models. I concentrated on control-line and worked my way up to precision aerobatic competition. I was also building models for others and that is how I got my introduction to RC models. I attended several RC precision aerobatic competitions but just couldn’t make a comfortable connection with that area of the hobby. My RC friends got me to attend a couple of RC scale competitions. That did it for me. The cars had to go in order to convert my shop and dedicate it to RC scale aircraft models.

It was at one of these visits I was introduced to the late Jack Dorman of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Jack became my mentor teaching me many techniques and introducing me to the “big names” of our hobby/sport. Jack and I collaborated on a 1:5.5 scale P-40E Warhawk. I drew the plans and he built the model. We successfully campaigned the P-40 and that was the start of Jerry Bates Plans.

At first, the plans were hand-drawn. I would build the prototype model, fly it, and made the molds for the various parts to be offered for the model. I did the vacuum forming and fiberglass part lay-ups as well. With a full-time job it became difficult to find time for new plans as so much time was required to make the parts and fill the orders. I guess that meant I was becoming mildly successful. I now have several fabricators that make and ship parts to my clients. There are also several vendors that that supply retractable landing gear to suit the plans.

I then found a couple of builders to make some the prototype models allowing me time to make molds, etc., and thus more time to develop new plans. The introduction of computer-aided drafting (CAD) has been a major change in the way plans are developed. In the past, hand drawing meant working on one plan at a time and staying with it until complete. CAD allows the development of several plans within the same time frame. Not because CAD is faster but because you can save the files on a hard drive and simply access them at a keystroke for the addition of information as the desire arises. CAD also offers the opportunity to develop a plan with more accuracy of parts fit. At any one time, I will have 6-8 plans under development.

My path for the development of a plan may not be unique but may be of interest so I will lay out the process from conception to completion.

First, interest must be sparked. For me that is easy; if it has wings, I’m interested. But normally the spark comes from a suggestion received from the modeling community. My interest in the aircraft is usually from a historic standpoint. Once the subject is selected, I collect all the historical data I can find, any factory drawings or publications available, photographs, 3-4 view drawings, and available plastic kits and model plans of the subject. From that, I select the most accurate 3-view to base the plan on. The 3-view is compared to the information collected and if it proves to be scale it will be used. Most often though the scale drawing is just not scale, so I draw my own scale drawing. If fortune smiles I find a full size subject to measure. With the scale drawing complete, the model plan can be developed. It may take 6-10 months to complete a plan depending on how long it takes to collect the required data.

Once the plan is completed it is sent to several interested parties to critique. That process is used to check plan accuracy, construction technique, and to look for mistakes so the plans can be made ready for construction.

A laser cutting file is then created and sent to a cutter so the prototype model can be built. Plan errors found during construction are fixed and the plans and laser cutting files readied. Cowl and canopy models are made and the plan offered to the modeling community.

My plans are for the traditional type of balsa ply construction. My philosophy for plans is to develop a plan with a scale outline, an airframe that is strong and light and utilizes the minimum amount of parts to accomplish the building task. The advent of laser cutting makes this job easier as it allows for interconnecting parts. An airframe that builds quickly allows the modeler more time to incorporate scale details.

The primary purpose of a construction plan is to impart information to the builder. That makes the way information is displayed on a plan of utmost importance. Careful use of line weights is used to display that information. Ease of construction is another issue of importance. The fuselages of most of my models are built split along the engine thrust-line. The top half is built on the top view of the fuselage plan. The horizontal and vertical stab are added along with the upper fuselage sheeting before removal from the workbench making it easier to ensure the stabs are square with the thrust-line. That assembly can then be removed from the plan and the bottom of the fuselage built directly onto the top half. That method minimizes built-in warps and allows for quick assembly. Wing halves are built directly on the plans utilizing building tabs to provide the correct washout.

Most of my plans utilize the airfoils, incidences, and offsets of the full-sized subject. Both the size of the model and the radio systems offered today has made this combination successful.

You may notice by the plans offered they are primarily for lesser known aircraft or were developed for a specific scale rather than the aircraft normally seen at the flying field such as the P-51D, Corsair, P-47, etc. I enjoy doing plans for unusual aircraft. They may not have a large market but the process sure is fun.

Time is still the constraint. You know the old adage; so many airplanes, so little time. That means I don’t have the time to fly much anymore. I thought I would miss that portion of the hobby more than I do. I have just as much fun drawing plans and it make it that more enjoyable when I see a model built from my plans at the flying field.

Whether you are a first-time plans-builder, or and experienced modeler, I also enjoy helping modelers with their builds and sharing information. So, if you decide to build one on the plans on this site, please feel free to contact me using the “Contact Us” page if I can be of assistance.

Jerry Bates