Sporty Little Plane – Build Thread

Yet another build, this one a little low-wing sports plane with a 25″ wingspan, made from blue Dow fanfold foam. You’ll find the plane’s official page, here.

My first successful scratch build was another Tiger Moth. That was followed by a wonderful Sopwith triplane that simply refuses to fly. They were built from the same blue fanfold foam as the Teal, using basically the same building methodology.

This time, I wanted to make something a little more personal – a little more me. I’ve always loved the look of sports and racing planes from the 30’s and wanted to make something with that look – low wing, single cockpit, big motor. I’d run across two models that I especially liked on the web: the StevensAero SkyBoy and the Very Short Plane. I used images of those models as inspiration.

I built the plane first in a 3D program called modo, where I could play around with shapes and proportions in a failure-free environment that I’m comfortable with. I spent the most time on the wing, and I’m very happy with the final tapered, elliptical form.

I took the plane to my local hobby shop to show it off before its maiden flight (in case there wasn’t anything left to show off after the maiden). One of the guys asked me where I got the wing, thinking I’d salvaged it from another kit. I was proud to tell him I’d designed and built it myself.

When it comes to the actual build, my plans were not very detailed or even precise, especially when it comes to the fuselage. The parts were more like rough sketches. Elements like the turtle deck were cut to match the emergent outline of the sides, glued in place, and then sanded to their final shapes. I left the wing saddle uncut until the wings were finished, then trimmed the fuselage sides to fit the wing. The monoblock which holds the motor and ESC was modded constantly as the plane, and my estimates of CG, evolved. I only glued it in place at the last minute. Everything was very ad hoc.

I didn’t bother hiding the nature of the build. The printing on the underlayment foam I used is still clearly visible on the bottom of the horizontal stabilizer.

The rubber duck pilot was a gift from my daughter, who purchased it for 50 cents from a vending machine somewhere. His name is Luther, and his purple scarf is actually an awareness ribbon for leiomyosarcoma, the cancer that claimed my mother this summer. The pilot and his plane have an entire back story in mind. (He and his father have unresolved issues.)

The plane’s name, The Dabbling Teal, is a play on the color and the duck pilot. The plane is teal blue, and a Teal is a kind of duck. In fact, it’s a ‘dabbling duck.’ I’m a bit of a dabbler myself; my business cards say ‘dilettante.’

I designed the graphics in Photoshop and inkjet printed them on water-slide decal sheets. The small decals on both sides of the vertical stabilizer are a riff on the writing that appeared on old Sopwith planes, reading:

Basement Aviation Company Ltd.
Wichita on Sedgwick

A more-or-less exhaustive list of materials used:

  • Dow Protection Board III Underlayment (extruded polystyrene foam board)
  • Styrofoam packaging foam
  • Surgical tubing
  • Fiber-reinforced tape
  • Blister pack plastic
  • Pop bottle plastic
  • Bamboo barbeque skewers
  • Mint-flavored tooth flossers
  • Blenderm medical tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Sewing pins and t-pins
  • Balsa scrap
  • A metal washer
  • Cancer awareness ribbon
  • Vending machine rubber ducky
  • Thin plywood
  • Piano wire
  • Salvaged wheels (Tower Hobbies P-51 and AirHogs F15)

Estimated AUW: 11.5 – 12 ounces.
Planned setup:

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