Awesome constructions

For many fans of model building, Markus Frey has been a person of interest for a long time. The exceptional model builder not only regularly astonishes the crowd with his flight models, but is also the world record holder in the largest wingspan of a model airplane with the Kupper Ku4 “Austria Elephant”.  

Ever since he was a child, Markus Frey is fascinated by airplanes and model building. “I inherited the virus from my father”, he states smilingly and explains: “I always wanted to become a glider pilot but my father forbid it while I was in school and during the apprenticeship I simply did not have the money.” Because both gliding and model flying are very time-consuming hobbies, he soon needed to choose one of them. 

The decision was made in favor for model building as we can see on his impressive airplanes. All of them date from the pioneer days of the ­1930ies/ 1940ies which Markus Frey is especially interested in. “Back then they said: ‘Sit down at the board and we will draw you an airplane’”, he rhapsodizes. But it is not only the old way of construction that fascinates the model builder but the historical embedment as well. Thus, the history of the Rhön was, for example, especially important to him when he was working on the Ka4 Rhönlerche and the Kupper Ku4 Austria. Also among his constructions are the Hütter-28, the Wien, the Scud1 and the Kupper Ku7 – each and every one of them in scale 1:2 which Markus Frey embraced since 2003. For him, the main advantage lies in the model being very close to the original. Additionally, a positive side effect becomes visible as soon as a few models have been finished and are set up next to each other: “If you build everything in the same scale, you will suddenly see the proportions”, explains the large model builder.

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Every construction starts with an idea: A picture sticks in his mind that he cannot shake off. Markus Frey begins to evaluate the probabilities of a model and starts collecting documents. Due to the early construction period of the airplanes this can sometimes be a critical endeavor. The Beljajew BP-3, for example, was built only six times and there exists not a single photograph of it. Is the research once completed his friend Rolf Fritschi creates the CAD plan for him including all surfaces and shells. As soon as there are first results both men discuss further details before deciding on the thickness of the material. The following milling process of the different parts was, until recently, entirely realized by Rolf Fritschi who is the owner of a big CNC machine. He is, like Markus Frey, a member of the IG Albatros which is a community of interests with a common passion for vintage gliders and the intention to uphold their history. Although Rolf Fritschi is always a huge help, Markus Frey wanted to produce especially the smaller parts on his own. This way they would be available to him immediately.

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When STEPCRAFT reseller and airplane model builder Daniel Baumberger decided in 2015 to support the IG Albatros with a contribution, he was recruited as a member only a short time later – and Markus Frey was being confronted with the question: “Is this not the guy with the CNC routers?” Soon, his interest was piqued and he decided on a STEPCRAFT-1/600 although he states: “I honestly had no clue of CNC.” Nevertheless, he did not want to buy a ready-to-run system. “I wanted to know what is behind the machine, how it works”, remembers Markus Frey and continues: “Daniel helps me a lot. Whenever I have a problem, I can call him. The service is great.” Thus, he chose the construction kit, assembled it easily and asked a friend to install him a CAD program. “What has formerly been drawn on paper with a pencil is now done on the PC – and the coping saw is the router”, explains the model builder. For the two friends of his owning big CNC machines it is a huge relief that Markus Frey can now produce the smaller parts on his own. According to him, today's allocation of tasks is clearly settled: “You do the rough work and I do the details.” Thus, he not only manufactures servo mounts and fittings for rudder applications but also aluminum panels, root ribs and hinges. “I produce everything on my STEPCRAFT that fits onto it and do not need to press my colleagues with odds and ends anymore”, states Markus Frey and proceeds: “I want the small parts immediately and that is why the STEPCRAFT is my ideal solution.” For him, the main advantage of the CNC technique is the reproducibility of parts: “If I need the same part multiple times, the accuracy is always 100 %. I just need to press a button and have 40 identical parts.”  

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The first project for his ­STEPCRAFT-1/600 was the construction of the Beljajew BP‑3, which has been a training machine of the Russian Navy in 1936. After the construction of the Kupper Ku7 the large model builder had just decided to take a break when Fréderic Fischer, founder of the IG Albatros, referred to his own model in scale 1:25 with the words: “This would be something for you – in big!” Markus Frey already knew the airplane form finishing it in scale 1:6,6 after Fréderic Fischer had constructed the fuselage. “Normally, flying wings are not my thing but this one is the favorite airplane of the founder of the IG Albatros”, states the model builder. Thus, it did not take him long to get enthusiastic about this large-scale project in 1:2. After ­Dr. Helmut Quabeck, for him the “father of model profiles”, had calculated the wing profiles, the BP-3 is now under construction since September 2015 and is already destined to fly in May 2016. “But I am not the standard model builder. I am known as a fast constructor”, explains Markus Frey smilingly. Due to the STEPCRAFT-1/600 he is able to save additional time during the construction of the BP-3 because he can produce smaller parts such as back rests, control stick details as well as instrument panels on his own and can directly use them.

After the wings have been mounted the Beljajew’s wingspan will amount to ten meters. “When there is no space left in the hobby room, you go through the door”, says Markus Frey and continues: “Everything that fits into this room will also be able to leave the flat in one piece.” The Rostov GT-1 will hopefully move next into here because after the Austrian airplanes by Robert Kronfeld, Markus Frey is now drawn to Russian machines. “The fascination of the construction is simply: How do I solve this?”, states the large model builder. This is why these weird constructed airplanes will go on fascinating him – or as Markus Frey puts it: “Flying is great but constructing is awesome.”