By Ray Ordorica
I've had a strong interest in airplanes
since I was a kid. I had always built
model airplanes, and went to air
shows as often as possible. I loved
the "warbirds," and built many models
of them, and of other more-common
aircraft. Of course, I had always
wanted to fly, to become a pilot,
but for many reasons I couldn't
make that happen. During my college
years my interest in aircraft
waned, but after college I moved to
Alaska, and of course, aircraft are
part of the Alaskan lifestyle. I got
rides in Super Cubs, Cessna 180s
and the like, and naturally my interest
in aircraft returned. However,the general-
aviation world is a costly
one, and as a photographer, I had
precious little cash to spare. So I remained
pretty much on the ground.
Ordorica built this model of the
Me1990Dalotel in the late 1980s. Twenty
years later he is restoring the real thing.
In the late 1980s I discovered radio-
controlled (R/C) aircraft. I became
seriously involved in that
game, and built several models. Yet
each seemed to be missing something.
I decided to build an R/C
model of the Dalotel DM 165, a
French aerobatic aircraft that first
flew in 1969 (also a key year for
Gougeon Brothers, Inc.). The
Dalotel was popular with modelers
in the late 1980s because some guy
won a tournament and made big
money using an R/C model of it.
My model flew exceptionally well. It
had it all, great performance and good
looks. I enjoyed it immensely, but sold
it when I left Alaska.
Twenty years passed, and it was time
for me to build another R/C model of
the Dalotel, which by now had become
my favorite airplane of all time.
This next Dalotel model was going to
have all the details of the real one: retractable
gear, scale cockpit, everything
as close to the original as I
could get. I went looking for plans
and photos on the Internet...and then
my life changed. I found a small ad
offering the real Dalotel for sale, in
England, in damaged condition from
a forced landing.
The fuselage arrived in dismal condition, with torn and rotting fabric.
Ordorica stored it and the engine in his living room.
After some serious soul-searching (I
was not a pilot) I bought the one and
only Dalotel DM 165, imported it
from England, and began its restoration.
My "model" was now full-size.
The Dalotel is the prototype for a series
of aircraft that never happened,
for many reasons. It is fully aerobatic,
has tandem seats, and is powered
by a 165 hp engine. Top speed
is 190 mph with 150 mph cruise.
The landing gear is retractable. Best
of all, it's made largely of wood, and
I happen to have a world-class
woodworking shop called the Old
Cranky Workshop, with sincere
apologies to Norm Abram, grand
master of PBS's New Yankee Workshop.
The wings and tail surfaces
have built-up spruce spars and plywood
ribs, all covered with plywood,
with fabric over that. The fuselage
is steel tube, covered again
When the airplane arrived here in
Idaho in 2006, it was a mass of broken
wood, shattered wings, a fuselage
covered with torn and rotting
fabric, and mildly damaged tail surfaces.
The engine had no prop nor
spinner, but otherwise was all there.
Rather than repair
the old rib, Ordicia
built a new one with
larger glue surfaces
and added braces
inside. Here it is being
glued in a jig.
After nearly three years of digging
through the bits and pieces of this
airplane I have finally begun gluing
it all back together. As I examined
the parts I found many glue joints
had failed from age, humidity, and
the use of non-waterproof glue. My
first job was to determine what to
use to glue the new wood back into
whatever bits of the old structures I
could salvage. I considered resorcinol,
the traditional glue for aircraft.
It requires high clamping pressure,
extremely close fitting, and several
other considerations that must
be met. These didn't mate well with
the repair of old structures, I decided.
A good friend with 36 years of experience
teaching aircraft technology
suggested I use epoxy. My experiences
with epoxy were sparse, but I
had The Gougeon Brothers on Boat
Construction in my library, and liked
what I had read. I decided to use
WEST SYSTEM Epoxy on the
Dalotel. After tentative beginnings
with the clever 5:1 pump system, I
found this epoxy very easy to use. I
used it to re-glue broken parts in the
stabilizer, install new rib sections, install
new braces for the hinge
mounts, and cover the stabilizer with
thin plywood. The more I worked
with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy, the easier
As my experience with WEST
SYSTEM continued, my confidence
increased. When I wanted to stiffen
the front wood edge of the Dalotel's
new stabilizer, it was a fairly simple
matter to lay thin fiberglass cloth
onto the leading edge, wet it out
with two coats of 105 Epoxy Resin
and 206 Slow Hardener, fair it in
with 410 Microlight Filler and give
the job a final very thin coat of neat
epoxy, always using a squeegee to
keep the parts as light as possible. I
will do the same thing to the
wooden leading edges of the wings.
I always make before-and-after gluing
test pieces and break them to
"prove" the bond. These are simply
two or three small pieces of wood
glued together in a manner that lets
me insert them into a vise and load
the joint until something lets go. I
make one test assembly with the
fresh mix of epoxy before applying
it, and then make a second test assembly
when I'm done with the serious
gluing. In every test I've made,
the wood has broken first, and no
epoxy joint has failed. You really
have to do something like this if
you're betting your life on the quality
of the bond.
After my success with the Dalotel's
stabilizer I tackled the fin, one of the
key parts on this aerobatic aircraft.
The original glue joint around the
fin's key bottom rib had failed completely.
The plywood sides were
hanging free. I made a new rib,
thicker and better braced than the
original. My final glue area is nearly
twice that of the original, yet still
light. With WEST SYSTEM Epoxy
holding it together I have no fear of
the glue joint failing.
After checking the rib's
alignment, the author
clamps and staples it in
place before the epoxy
Next up is the rudder, which I redesigned
internally. Then I'll have to
manufacture one wing in its entirety,
including a wood box spar, plywood
ribs, and plywood covering over
that. With the use of WEST SYSTEM
Epoxy, I'm sure it will all go
smoothly, and I'm just as sure it'll
stay together far better than the
The newly covered stabilizer
is temporarily attached
to the elevator to
check the fit of balsa
blocks epoxied to the ends
of the former. Both parts
have been rebuilt using
WEST SYSTEM Epoxy.
Along the way, I tried to redesign
the control panel to modernize it
and replace the dated metric instruments.
I could not do so because I
didn't know what was needed.
Therefore-entirely out of necessity,
mind you - I obtained my private pilot's
license, and then I found it was
extremely easy to lay out the control
panel. Now I knew exactly what was
needed, and where it had to go.
Thanks to Gougeon Brothers and all
the folks at WEST SYSTEM Epoxy for
giving me the opportunity to tell a
small part of this ongoing tale.
Epoxyworks 29 / Fall 2009
Copyright © 2009, Gougeon Brothers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form, in whole or in part, is expressly forbidden without the consent of the publisher. EPOXYWORKS, Gougeon Brothers, WEST SYSTEM, Episize, Scarffer and Microlight as used throughout this publication, are trademarks of Gougeon Brothers, Inc., Bay City, Michigan, USA.