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Written by Andrew Griffith
Relive the Golden Age with this Giant Scale classic
Product review
As seen in the March 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.

Bonus Video


Model type: Semiscale ARF
Skill level: Intermediate
Wingspan: 90.5 inches
Wing area: 2,519 square inches
Wing loading: 26 ounces per square foot
Airfoil: Semisymmetrical
Length: 73.7 inches
Weight: 27 to 30 pounds
Engine: 50-61cc two-stroke gas or 65cc electric
Radio: Seven channels
Construction: Laser-cut balsa and light plywood
Covering/finish: Film covered in white with red trim
Price: $549.99

Test-Model Details

Motor/engine used: DLE-61 two-stroke gas engine
Receiver battery: Trak Power 2,400 mAh 2S LiPo (two for the receiver, one for the smoke pump)
Propeller: Falcon classic 24 x 9
Radio system: Futaba 14SGH; six Futaba S30370HV servos
Ready-to-fly weight: 29 pounds, 4 ounces
Flight duration: 12 minutes


• A piece of aviation history.
• Large hatch for easy access to radio equipment.
• A clever jig is included that makes balancing a one-person job.
• Instrument panels (not a decal) and two pilot figures included.
• Painted fiberglass cowl and wheel pants.


• Plastic parts, such as the landing gear fairings, are brittle and can crack while cutting. See text for solution.

Product Review

Other than perhaps a Piper Cub, nothing says “nostalgic aircraft” like a Weaver Aircraft Co. YMF-5 or, as most of us know it, simply a WACO biplane. Originally built in the 1930s, Weaver went out of business shortly after World War II. In 1983, the Lansing, Michigan-based Classic Aircraft Corporation had a dream of bringing back the timeless full-scale WACO.

The dream was realized in 1986 when the first YMF-5 received FAA certification. In order to bring the 50-year-old design back to life, Classic Aircraft hired industry experts who made more than 300 engineering changes to modernize the WACO with current material and construction techniques, while maintaining the vintage look and flying characteristics of the classic design.

I have a 20cc-size Waco from Phoenix Model that I am quite happy with, but I was holding out hope that the company would release a larger version. It turns out that this was the plan and shortly before the Christmas holidays, I found out that one was headed my way for review. Nice present!

The Waco arrived nicely packaged in a large box that ensured the contents were well protected. Construction is mostly laser-cut balsa and plywood and is covered with what appears to be Oracover in white with red trim. A large decal sheet features the arrows and stripes found on many Waco models.

With a nearly 91-inch wingspan, the Waco takes up a fair amount of space, and the fuselage is quite bulky. Make sure that you have room to store and transport a large model if you’re considering the 60cc Waco.

Despite its size, the equipment required to fly the Waco is fairly modest. Although the Waco has ailerons on both the top and bottom wings, the ailerons are driven by two servos, one in each bottom wing half. This makes for easier field assembly and teardown because there is no wiring to connect in the upper wing. I had some questions about the Waco needing one servo per aileron, but if it is flown in a scalelike manner and at a reasonable speed, one good servo on each side should be plenty.

I will equip the Waco with Futaba S3070 HV S.Bus servos and a DLE-61 engine. Because you can’t barnstorm without smoke, I’ll also add a Holy Smokes smoke pump to the Waco.

Instead of a separate battery for the receiver and ignition, I will use two batteries to power the receiver, a Tech-Aero IBEC to power the ignition from the receiver bus, and add a separate battery for the smoke system.

Those who prefer cleaner and quieter aircraft can outfit the Waco with an electric power system. If you choose this route, you will need a 60cc RimFire motor, a 120-amp ESC, and a 12S LiPo battery system.


I love classic aircraft and was excited to get started on the Waco, but I had the patience to read through the 50-page instruction manual first. The manual has plenty of amplifying information and many clear diagrams. Experience is expected with a project of this scope, but the manual is comprehensive and detailed.

The Waco was well packed and, despite the outside of the box getting slightly beaten up during shipping, the model emerged from the box damage free. Despite its long journey through various temperatures, the covering on the Waco was in excellent shape. Even with four wing panels and a large fuselage, touching up the seams and shrinking out what wrinkles there were only took approximately 15 minutes.

I assembled the Waco with Zap thin and medium CA glue, Pacer Z-Poxy 15- and 30-minute epoxy, Z-42 medium threadlocker, and Formula 560 canopy glue.

Construction begins by building the wings. The ailerons use CA-style hinges. These were installed using thin Zap CA glue. The servos mount to the servo hatch. Although the manual shows the use of the stock servo arms, by the time you’re done, there isn’t much arm sticking out, so longer arms will help.

All four servo-mounting screws and the holes on the servo mounting hatch were drilled and threaded. The screws were removed, and the threads hardened with thin CA glue. A pull string is positioned in the wing to pull the servo extension wire through to the root rib.

The heavy-duty plastic control horns bolt in place through the aileron. It was nice to see beefy ball links on either end of the pushrods. I prefer ball links where it is possible, especially on large gas models, but even on smaller models they give you a nice slop-free control system.

Next, it was time to install the landing gear. The main landing gear is composed of two aluminum struts with molded plastic fairings and fiberglass wheel pants. The mounting screws were treated with a drop of Z-42 threadlocker and installed.

The plastic landing gear fairings are the one area of the kit that needs special care and take some time. Cutouts should be made with plenty of material to spare then the pieces carefully sanded and fitted to their final outline. This will minimize the chances of cracking the plastic when using RC car body scissors. Formula 560 glue or clear silicon adhesive can be used to glue the fairings into place.

Care should be taken when dealing with the plastic fairings. Cut a rough outline, leaving plenty of room, and sand and fit to final shape.

The wings get four aluminum L brackets and two G10 fiberglass control horns on each side. The brackets are for mounting the interplane struts, and the additional control horns are for the lower to upper aileron pushrods. The gluing area of the control horns was masked off and they, along with the angle brackets, were painted white to match the covering. The manual directs you to install the control horns with CA, but I scuffed the gluing area and used 30-minute epoxy.

The top wing has a center section and two wing panels. The center section stays attached to the model and I used threadlocker on all of the bolts when I was sure all of the struts were correctly set up. The outer wing panels have a small amount of built-in dihedral, which should assist with stability. The bottom wing is flat.

Most biplanes with high-lift wings have a small amount of negative incidence built into the top wing to keep them from climbing all of the time. I hope that will be built into the struts.

Building the tail is the next step. After aligning and marking the horizontal stabilizer, I used a soldering iron with an old tip to remove the covering. This serves two purposes: It doesn’t cut into the stabilizer wood, and it seals the covering.

I had to use a sanding board on the saddle to achieve a perfect horizontal alignment with the wing, but it was minimal. I used 30-minute Z-Poxy to attach the horizontal stabilizer, and the elevators and rudder were hinged using thin Zap CA and the provided hinges.

I centered and mounted all of the servos in the fuselage. This was done using the same technique previously described: pilot drill, prethread the hole, and harden the threads with thin CA glue.

The Waco uses a double pull-pull cable system from the rudder servo to drive both the rudder and tail wheel steering. The rudder is rigged and the tail wheel cables are rigged when you install the tail wheel. The instructions cover the installation in detail. I will only add that you can find replacement cable (called leader line) and crimps at any store that sells fishing tackle supplies.

I was pleased to see that a shock-absorbing tail wheel appropriate to a 30-pound airplane was included and not something made from music wire. There is a removable hatch for you to easily access the entire mechanism. I removed one setscrew and found no threadlocker, so I removed all of them and treated each with a drop of threadlocker and tightened everything down. I used clear tape on the hatch to keep it from vibrating in flight.

A heavy, shock-absorbing tail wheel is included with the Waco. It is suitable for a 30-pound airplane. A removable hatch makes installation and maintenance easy. Clear tape on the seams helps prevent vibration.

The engine installation step is needed if you’re using one of the recommended power setups. The roomy cowl should accommodate a variety of engines, and installing a radial would make a wonderful sound. There are laser-etched plywood drilling templates included for the DLE-61 and the O.S. GT60 two-cycle gas engines. The DLE-61 template also fits the mount of the RimFire 65cc electric motor.

The standoffs included with the DLE-61 provide the proper propeller spacing. The choke rod, routed into the fuselage, is accessed for starting by removing the hatch cover. Adding a Falcon classic-series propeller to the engine and a Tru-Turn hub completed the look.

A laser-etched mounting template makes lining up the DLE-61 an easy task. Everything in the engine compartment was painted and fuel proofed.

The provided tank will work great, but I chose to install a pair of water bottle tanks obtained from Taildragger RC. One will be used for fuel and the other for smoke fluid. The fuel tank is slightly smaller, but they fit nicely next to each other.

After the tanks were installed and plumbed, I installed the Holy Smokes smoke pump and mounted the cowl. The Waco comes with a dummy radial engine, but it’s nothing more than black plastic. A couple of hours of work detailing and painting the cylinder heads and pushrods, and adding some scrap wire to simulate spark plug wires, was well worth the results.

Like the landing gear strut covers, the dummy engine should be carefully trimmed and sanded to shape. I also added RTL Fasteners bonded washers to the cowl-mounting screws.

Another area that can be cleaned up for scale appearance is the switch mounting. The manual shows them mounted externally but I mounted mine, as well as the fuel and smoke fill lines, inside of the hatch.

The Waco includes two pilot figures and detailed instrument panels. I felt the pilots were on the small side, so I used a junk box pilot figure that was slightly larger and included a flying scarf that flaps in the breeze.

Decals for the classic Waco arrows are on two large sheets made of clear peel-and-stick Mylar. I opted for cut vinyl and made my own set that included a custom N-number, as well as Waco Aircraft logos and, of course, the toll-free number for my favorite modeling organization. I was glad I made my own because if the interest shown during the review flying was any indication, I will be able to distinguish mine from the two or three others that were preordered that day!

Large airplanes such as the Waco can be difficult to balance, especially by one person. I’m happy to report that Phoenix Model has included a balancing jig that makes balancing accurate and easy to accomplish without a helper! It took 3.5 pounds of lead mounted up front in the engine compartment to balance the Waco slightly nose down.

The good news is that despite adding the smoke system and the lead, I was still at the low end of the weight range! This is great news if you plan to install a heavier radial engine.

The cavernous fuselage has plenty of space for radio and fuel tank installation.

The control throws were set according to the manual, and I added 25% exponential in my Futaba 14SG radio to all of the control surfaces. Total build time, including detailing the dummy motor and creating the custom vinyl graphics, was approximately 20 hours.

I had a last-minute work trip come up in the middle of this project that had a short deadline, so I can’t thank Adam Strong enough for helping me to complete this on time.


What do I love about Florida? So many things, but the biggest is when test day arrived the weekend before Christmas, it was sunny and 74° at the field, with a 5 mph breeze right down the main runway.

When owning a biplane, there is some necessary extra work—the most obvious being field assembly and breakdown. With that noted, the Waco has no flying wires or servos in the top wing, so it is one of the easier models to fly in that regard. The lower wings slip into place on the aluminum wing tubes, and the servo connections are made at the wing root. The wings are retained by M4 cap screws inside of the fuselage.

The top wing halves slide into place and are retained by an M4 screw on each side. The interplane struts are quickly installed using the provided clevis pins with cotter pin retainers. Tip: mark the struts to indicate side and direction! Install the upper aileron pushrods and you’re done.

I fueled the Waco with ethanol-free pump gas and 40:1 Red Line oil. The smoke tank was filled with Robart smoke oil. The DLE ran like a top with the factory needle settings and idled reliably, so I decided to do the break-in during flight.

Taxi tests on both the paved and grass portions of the field proved easy and, although I hold up-elevator by habit with a tail-dragger, there was no tendency to noseover. Pointing the Waco into the wind, I slowly advanced the power and the tail came up almost immediately. Before I was past half throttle, the Waco was flying in approximately 50 feet.

After some right trim and a couple of clicks of up-elevator, I was doing circuits at half throttle and getting comfortable. My first impression was that even for a 30-pound airplane, it flew like a lighter-weight model. The DLE-61 engine is a great power match for the big Waco. It is not too fast, but it offers plenty of vertical when full power is called upon.

The control response in high rates was perfect for my taste. A little bit of rudder is called for when turning or the Waco will drag its tail. Some people have suggested a mix, but I prefer to do it manually so that the heading doesn’t change when the wings are leveled on final approach to landing.

I tried some aerobatics and the Waco performed flawlessly. Rolls aren’t axial, but look scalelike. Loops are large and round, and the center of gravity I arrived at with the included jig felt perfect. Inverted flight took some down-elevator as I expected with the nearly flat bottom airfoil, but the Waco was comfortable with the wheels skyward.

Spins were nice and tight. Although there’s not enough elevator throw for full-out flat spins, with some crossed aileron, the spins will start to flatten out before it falls out.

I was a little hesitant to throw a 30-pound airplane into a full stall, but it had to be done, and the Waco handled it well. The thick, flat bottom wings resist stalling. It slowed down to a crawl before the nose dropped, but by that time the ailerons were becoming ineffective.

It was time to test the smoke system. Full throttle down the runway 10 feet off the deck with the smoke on had everyone at the field stop what they were doing to watch. The Holy Smokes smoke pump lays the smoke trail on thick, and the Robart smoke fluid has a nice, solid plume that slowly dissipates.

I never thought I would say this about a 30-pound scale airplane, but it lands like a feather. The large frontal area makes the Waco slow down quickly, and it took several passes testing the sink rate to find the proper throttle position with which to land. After I figured out where it was happy, the Waco settled on its main gear and coasted to a stop in less than 100 feet.


This airplane will put a big smile on your face when you fly it! The Waco has a great presence in the air that recalls barnstorming and the Golden Age of flight. The Waco can be built for either electric or gas power. The DLE-61 and Bisson muffler are a great combination, but if you chose electric, the large hatch will give you easy battery access.

Construction is straightforward and the Waco is docile enough to be flown by intermediate pilots who are comfortable flying larger aircraft. Based on the response at my flying field, this will be a popular winter project and would be a great starting point for a detailed scale build.

—Andrew Griffith


Tower Hobbies
(800) 637-4989

Phoenix Model


Futaba RC
(217) 398-8970

DLE Engines
(217) 398-8970

Falcon Propeller
(407) 277-1248

Holy Smokes

Robart Manufacturing
(630) 584-7616

Tech-Aero Designs

Taildragger RC
(270) 749-5814

RTL Fasteners
(800) 239-6010

Zap Glue

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