Introduction: Flat Pack Airplane
This Instructable is on making the Flat Pack Glider Airplanes of my youth.
When I was a child I would get a quarter for my allowance every Saturday. I would take my quarter and walk to the corner store and buy a coke a chocolate bar and a bag of chips. When I finished my treats I would return the pop bottle and buy a flat pack airplane. I would assemble the airplane and play in the park across the road from my home until ether the plane broke or I was called in for dinner.
Flat pack airplanes came in many stiles of paint jobs but they were only two construction types, polystyrene and balsa wood, gliders or they had wind up propellers. The balsa wood airplanes were fragile and broke easily, sometimes the plastic joiners that held the parts together were loose. Often the balsa wood flat pack airplanes did not last to make their first flight. However the polystyrene gliders were much more durable, often not breaking even when they crashed into an object.
Today I don’t see these flat pack airplanes in the corner stores anymore, once in a while I can find one in a hobby shop or a collector’s convention. Most worth more than the nickel I paid when I was a kid. So when I wanted some for my children to play with I had to make them.
Step 1: Materials
Thin polystyrene, (For the plane’s wings and body.)
Paper Clips, (To use as your balance weight.)
Deckles, (Optional, to decorate the glider.)
Now you can buy thin polystyrene from a hobby store or a Buck or Two shop; but I am big on repurposing materials I already have, so I make them out of the polystyrene trays I get when I go shopping. These are the trays that come with meat and fresh produce.
Step 2: Tools
Ruler, (Steel rule is best.)
Magic Markers, (To color your plane.)
A pen or pencil, (To plot your cuts.)
A utility knife, (To make your cuts.)
I have never had a lot of luck trying to paint Styrofoam or polystyrene, the oil based paints I tried in the past melted the Styrofoam, and the water based paints ether ran off the polystyrene when wet or flaked off when dry. Ink on the other hand sticks to the Styrofoam and polystyrene without melting it. Still I test the ink on a spot of the polystyrene I plan not to use in the construction of the glider.
Step 3: Plotting the Glider
Now shape and size is not as important as you might think, just about anything can fly, look at a Box Kite or a helicopter as an example. I just find these ratios east to work with when making a simple toy glider that looks close to a Spitfire or a Zero fighter plane.
Wing span same length as fuselage and tail.
Fuselage height, 1 and ½ wing width.
Horizontal tailfin ½ length and width of wing.
Mount wing about 1/3 of the way from the nose of the fuselage.
Mount horizontal tailfin on tail.
Step 4: Trimming the Trays
I had enough polystyrene in all three colors to make the glider in one color, however using all three colors of the polystyrene makes the glider colorful and saves on painting.
Start by trimming the sides off the trays down to the flat bottoms, this is very important. It is almost impossible to make a strait cut in the polystyrene if it bows under the pressure of the strait edge or the sides restrict the length of the strait edge.
Once the sides are off making the wings and horizontal tailfin is as simple as making two strait parallel cuts and rounding the tips of the wings and tailfin. You don’t need a perfect air foil for these gliders to fly. Then measure and mark the center of the wings for assembly.
Step 5: Making the Fuselage
Sketch the fuselage outline onto the polystyrene using the wing’s width and length as a reference for how long and tall the fuselage should be.
Next using the wing and the horizontal tailfin, sketch the holes for mounting the wing and the horizontal tailfin.
Cut the polystyrene inside the lines of your sketching to remove the lines and try to make your cuts as square as possible. This is most important in the wing mounts, if your cuts are not square for the wing and tailfin mounts the glider will be off kilter.
Step 6: Balance Weight
To select the right balance weight, assemble the glider making sure the wings and horizontal tailfins are square, and try flying it without a balance weight first. If the glider flies well without a weight you are done and ready to decorate the glider.
If the glider doesn’t fly well chances and all the parts are square and strait, chances are the glider is out of balance. Most of the time this can be fixed by adding a small weight to the nose of the glider. You may need to do a couple test flights changing the weight of the balance weight or the location of the balance weight until the glider flies true. Now you can decorate the glider.
Step 7: Swashbuckler Airlines
Swashbuckler Airlines, come fly the unfriendly skies with us if you dare, Arrrrrr.
Have fun and remember, this is not an F.A.A. approved airline so you can be whoever you want to be.
I have never had to rebalance a glider because of added weight from decorating, but if it does go out of balance just repeat step six.