Monday, October 5, 2015

Fantastic Foam Flyer

It is amazing how sometimes with the right combinations of factors something that appears so simple can perform so well.  I received a kit for a simple all-balsa rubber powered model airplane known as the Blue Ridge Dart. I assembled it in less than an hour and was testing it outdoors even with snow on the ground. I was amazed at how stable it flew and the duration was good. My thoughts soon went to designing a similar model using foam plates instead of thin sheet balsa as the primary building material, the fuselage is still balsa. As the amount of flat material is limited in a foam plate, I built a 3-piece wing with flat center section instead of a 2-piece wing, the tail surfaces are slightly smaller too.

College for Kids Class

The prototype airplane was assembled using low temperature hot glue as this would not destroy the foam and is a quick method to build.  First flights were very promising; this plane really climbs on 1/8” wide rubber. It has a long fuselage which makes for easy winding by hand if there is no slack in the motor loop yet still gives a pretty long motor run. I wanted a very stable flying foam airplane for kid classes that I teach and previous design ideas didn’t seem stable enough in some cases.

Fantastic Foam Flyer

This past summer for the Engineering Through Models class which is part of College for Kids at WSU I introduced this plane to the kids. I had built the simple balsa fuselages and traced out the parts on foam plates, this way they only needed a scissors and low temp hot glue gun to build the airplanes. Construction went well and they flew the planes indoors because it was rather hot outside. The planes flew well and survived many hits to the walls and floor pretty well, I was impressed. On the last day of class I showed the students how one of these planes could fly outdoors when really wound up. It was a calm day and the plane flew very high over the campus but landed close to where it was launched, they were impressed.

Flying High over WSU Campus

3-Panel Wing

My longest flight outdoors ended up in me losing sight of the model after close to 3 minutes as it became a tiny spot hoisted aloft in a thermal air current. An online friend of mine that built one of these planes had a similar experience and lost his on the first flight after watching it for over two minutes.

Denny Dock and Grandsons built planes for camping trip

Paul L. Built a Gull Wing Version Too
Propeller from Sky Streak Worked Well

The article on my website has very detailed construction steps and the flying surface templates can be downloaded in PDF format. Propeller assemblies can be taken from other all-balsa planes such as the ones sold by the Guillow company.

Construction Article Link   - Fantastic Foam Flyer

FFF at 30 Second Film Festival

Blue Ridge Dart 

Bill Kuhl


Glue Plane Quickly

Flying High Over WSU

30 Seconds Construction Video

Flight Phases Shows Over Minute Flight

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