Monday, May 5, 2014

Zip Wing Electric Free Flight Plane Available Where Toys are Sold

Passing through the toy isle at a department store I decided to see if there any actual flying model airplanes any longer. Not much of a selection but they did have the Air Hogs Zip Wing electric free flight model. I remember people discussing this on a free flight forum.  The performance is not wonderful but it is about perfect for a school yard or park. Like most toy store model airplanes it is not real stable out of the box.  The electric motor is powered by two AAA dry cell batteries which doesn’t give a rocket-like climb but it is adequate.

What I like about this plane is that it makes it so easy to get repeated flights without having to charge, pump, or wind up the plane before flying again.  The airplane has a built-in timer that cuts the power after about 10 seconds, the propeller folds back for the glide.  Not a real good glide however but for school yard flying that is probably a good thing.

Wing Needs More Dihedral

Like any free flight airplane, some adjustments might be needed to get the airplane to fly correctly. On the first launch of my Zip wing it nosed to the ground, it needed some up trim from the elevator surface. The airplane does not have enough dihedral, the instructional video on the Air Hogs website shows how to bend the wing to create some dihedral which is what I tried to do. I want to try find a better solution, the plane tends to fly one direction and then another.

I ran across a video someone posted on Youtube where they could not get the plane to fly, it always turned to the left and crashed.  This is the challenge and the fun of free flight airplanes, you MUST learn how to do the adjustments to correct the problem. Do not keep launching the airplane when the flight path is wrong. When I got my plane adjusted I was able to give it a fairly hard throw and it gained more altitude. What I did do wrong was not use a decal to hold the vertical fin in place and I lost it; a new fin was created from some foam I had.

Watch for more ideas on how to improve this plane as I try more modifications.

5/16/2014 Update

I added extra dihedral by bending the wing tips up and taping with clear tape. This might be more dihedral than needed for stability but I thought if the tape was removed maybe some of the bend would remain. The airplane did seem more stable in flight but I think maybe the wing was not lifting as well. My next idea is to add foam material to the trailing edge of the wing to increase wing area.

Bill Kuhl

Video of Airplane That Needs Adjustment


  1. Hi Bill . . .

    It's been several years since I've even been near a model airplane (life kind of got in the way . . . long story,) but I used to talk with you several years on various chat groups about small Free Flight stuff . . . supercapacitors, microrockets and anything else out of the ordinary.

    Just tonight, I was picking up groceries at Target, swung by the toy isle for some reason, saw a Zip Wing box and decided I have to have one. I've popped it together and looked around the web to see if anyone has kit bashed one of these and, sure enough, you have.

    I will probably have time later this week to test glide and possibly fly it under power at a local park. The stock kit is aerodynamically compromised and heavy (typical Air Hogs,) but I'm intrigued by the folding prop and built in 10 second timer . . . especially that mindlessly simple timer. Ideas are already churning in my noggin about building a dedicated balsa/tissue airframe/wing (or even a balsa wing a la Cloud Tramp) and replacing the double AA battery setup (yuk! there's most of the dead weight!) with a single 3.7V LiPoly. No time frame on any of this but it looks like good cheap fun.

    Take care and I'll check back in when I've got something to show . . .

    Ben Nead
    Tucson, Arizona

  2. Hi Ben, your name sounds familiar, I am thinking it was related to capacitor powered model airplanes. I just add a link to another blog post I had made about adding a larger built-up balsa wing to the Zip Wing. It really didn't help much for me, I think you are correct the batteries are just too heavy for the output. I should try a lipo in my plane.

  3. Hi again Bill . . .

    Yeah, that's me. I used to fly small glider models with the Czech-made Rapier rocket motors and ran the website for almost a decade. Knowing that these little motors would disappear someday (and they did, at least in North America,) I started to investigate electric powered Free Flight. What I liked was that it's environmentally clean (I always felt guilty about putting all that smoke in the air just to fly model planes.) What I found frustrating with electrics was that everything there - at least in the FF contest flying domain - was already thoroughly entrenched in larger models, like the AMA E36 class. Nothing wrong with those planes, mind you, but they're simply too big and expensive. The technology of the models (mostly the batteries that go inside them) is also moving far more quickly than the people on the committees who write the contest rules.

    Supercapacitors? Your blog posts on those little ready-to-fly toy models of a decade ago is actually what got me started down that path. I was hoping others would follow and help innovate small models on that format - like a coterie did with Rapiers - but it proved to be a bit of a dead end in regards to expanding interest. The non-linear discharge of capacitors also made them less than ideal. But who knows? They might improve enough over the next few years to make them viable. I'm old enough to remember conventional batteries (back in the 1970s when I was a kid) as being thought of as totally unsuitable for model flight. But look around us now.

    More later . . .

    Ben in Tucson

  4. I am building my first E36 - Pearl E202, It is getting a little spendy. There is also the E20 class that some people are experimenting with, there have been articles in NFFS magazine.

  5. Wow! I had thought of an E20 class a few years ago, but I guess I didn't think it would ever catch on, at least in the US (the cognoscenti here seem to like their models big.) I guess I really have been out of touch in regards to model stuff and it's time to start catching up. But a house move, more hours at work during "normal" daytime hours and getting my son ready for college (all that and no more tiny rocket motors) these past few years seemed to simultaneously conspire to shelve it for a while.

    Interestingly, the lithium battery and supercapacitor tabletop stuff I was learning about with model airplanes got me interesting in full size electric cars (see the web link on my first message here to get to the web site I authored for the local electric vehicle club.) Easier for me to attend weekend meetings and city bound car events than to travel out to the middle of nowhere just to fly. But I do miss it.

    One thing I got to do regarding electric airplanes these past couple of years was file a radio report on the Solar Impulse cross country flight, when it flew into Phoenix (just up the road from Tucson) back in May 2013 . . .

    The successor to this one - a two seater - is due to start a round-the-world flight very soon and Phoenix is a scheduled destination. I'll be there when it lands.

  6. I have been watching all the Solar Impulse video clips I can find. Related to this are the non-human solar planes that could be used in place of satellites.

    I purchased a hybrid car 3 years ago and have been very happy with it, there is a blog post here about relating it to Newton's Laws.

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