Introduction: Full Size Airplane From Scrap Plastic, Hot Glue, and Washing Line.

Picture of Full Size Airplane From Scrap Plastic, Hot Glue, and Washing Line.

We have a factory that makes those small plastic signs that you see in people's front yard at election time. We have a pyramid sized mountain of leftovers that we wanted something to use it for. What better than to build a full size airplane with leftovers, a hit glue gun, washing line, and some wheelbarrow wheels?

We designed it with 5 napkins and a 12 pack of beer.

Our only rule was that it had to be plastic. We build the entire airplane out of leftover plastic, used PVC plumbing for the controls, plastic washing line for the rigging, and covered it with clear vinyl.

We got a local racing car company to sponsor pay for the engine, and went to fly it at the local airport with me as the guinea pig.

Step 1: Step 1. Design

Picture of Step 1.  Design

I'm a pilot so I know basic aeronautical engineering (classy speak for what shape airplanes should be). Using that knowledge we designed the parts on some napkins over a few beers.

The hardest part to envision was the control systems to make it a full 3 axis airplane, with roll, pitch, and yaw, for which we needed aerilons, elevators and a rudder.

I came up with how to do it while I was actually in the shower not thinking about it. I built a full gimball system for the control stick out of 1 inch PVC pipe, using standard fittings from Home Depot to create a universal joint.

The joints that were solid were glued, and the joints that were meant to rotate were not glued.

Step 2: Wings

Picture of Wings

Once we had figured out the basic idea we just had to design an airfoil for the wings. I searched around on the internet to find a good slow speed airfoil. We scaled it up to 4 feet long (to use up the leftover pieces of plastic) and used the router table to cut out about 50 of them. We slid these onto box spars also made out of leftover plastic and hot glued them in place.

One we have wing shapes we covered the leading edge and training edges in more plastic to strengthen it up.

The airfoil sections had to be leaned over slightly to create dihedral when we stood the whole thing up.

Then we made 4 main attachment spars by laminating multiple sheets of the plastic together. These just plugged into the spars on the wings.


guido.retrosteel (author)2014-10-17

Very amazing buildt - i hope you will make it fly straight one day - must be incredible fun to sit in your selfbuildt plane. i wish it will be an inspiration for others to make such diy planes.

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-26

We purchase it from our sign supplier. As we buy it 1,000 sheets at a time I beleive we pay about $6 a sheet for the 4mm and $22 a sheet for for the 10mm.

Starsword7 (author)2014-09-23

Where Can you get coroplast?

Amazing Instructible by the way!

clazman (author)2014-09-23

A lot of discussion about using corrugated construction material for the leading edge.

I'm wondering if it is really necessary. The curvature of the surface instills a certain amount of section modulus for bending as well as torsion without utilizing the "stressed skin panel" (honeycomb).


AzzysDesignWorks (author)2014-09-23

Bravo sir, that's the kind of spirit missing from so many of these projects.

Job well done.

DGW (author)2014-09-21

Dear Goinpostalmarcus, Could you please reply with a quick sentence or two about how you curved the Coroplast on the leading edge to get such a nice smooth curve? I am building a wing for an iceboat and finding that this material will not bend nicely without buckling due to compression on top and tension on the inside of the curve.


macrumpton (author)DGW2014-09-22

You can also create a smooth curve by creasing in the flutes with a pizza cutter, and putting the creased-in side on the inside. The nice thing about doing it this way is you get more spring and strength in the part. I have made several kayaks and dinghys using this method.

DGW (author)macrumpton2014-09-23

Excellent idea. Thanks for sharing your Coroplast working secrets!

goinpostalmarcus (author)DGW2014-09-22

That's how we did it except we sliced it on the outside. Take a razor knife (or we actually have a special corruplast slicer) and slit the plastic between each of the flutes on one side. Then when you bend it those slices open up and it makes a nice curve. Depending on the radius of the curve they will open up more but on our full size wings it was barely noticable.

DGW (author)goinpostalmarcus2014-09-22

Thanks! If I slice it on the outside I will cover it with some white duct tape or similar material to keep the air flow smooth. This sounds like it will work. Hot glue will be difficult to apply to large sheets at one time as it will cool too quickly. What other adhesives will work well on this material?

goinpostalmarcus (author)DGW2014-09-22

The slicer we use is called the Plasti-Kut. It's dirt cheap and works great and available from most sign suppliers.

seekerdave (author)DGW2014-09-21

DGW -- Folks have used corrugated plastic for RC planes for years. For smooth curves, slice the plastic skin on one side to eliminate buckling. Cut several parallel flutes (maybe 6 or 7) on the inside surface of the curve. The plastic will then curve nicely (albeit with some loss of strength).

mickkell (author)2014-09-22

Where are you and are you giving that stuff away?I need a bunch for a Halloween project.

If you're near Zephyrhills FL you're welcome to some.

alzie (author)2014-09-23

Woah, way cool, massive project!

Ive built a tail box out of the stuff for the back of my recumbent bike.

2 problems that i have are:

1. You have to rough up the coro plast to help the hot glue to stick.

2. Ive had probs with hot glue cracking with age, stress, and cold temps.

Next time, I ll just tack the pieces with hot glue, then

use silicone for the major gluing.

goinpostalmarcus (author)alzie2014-09-23

Enough hot glue between the surfaces seems to do the trick. It never had the chance to age as it was never meant to last very long. However it, did pop off ina few places, the rudder pedal, going down the runway, for one.

+ 1 million for having the balls to attempt to fly this thing!!!!

it should be made into a RC plane with some flyer/poster hanging at the tail to troll people

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-22

My plan was only to get it a few feet off the ground just to say it flew. Now we're working on a flying go kart frame.

adesmarais (author)2014-09-22

THATS INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I probably would have tried to fly it too though

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-22

I had to look that up....

denbecr (author)2014-09-22

S.P.A.D. to the Nth

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-22

To be honest, I can't remmber the make of the engine but its at the factory so I'll go and dig it out. It was a souped up 80cc racing bike engine intented for a paramotor.

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-22

I actually did try to fly it, that's why it was sized for me. Unfortunately the rudder wasn't big enough and I just veered off the runway and crashed into a ditch.

phv (author)2014-09-22

I hope you plan to use RC control to fly it, and do not intend to actually fly in this !?

oilitright (author)2014-09-21

Will there be complementary in flight snack and drink service?

Will I need to remove my shoes and get groped by the TSA?

agis68 (author)2014-09-21

Epic job! Good flights!!!

ianheavy (author)2014-09-21

Brilliant use of scrap material, I hope to hear more of your project sir, but for now, I doff my cap to you!

PS118 (author)2014-09-17

Heineken? Is this an example of German engineering? ;)

J/K This is awesome!

I wish I had some sign board now.

ole.willumsen (author)PS1182014-09-21

Actually, Heineken is a Dutch company :-)

bd5 (author)2014-09-21

Wait, wait, did YOU FLY *IN* IT? Or did you make it radio controlled?

gadjetramjet (author)2014-09-21

If the FAA had been around ... the Wright Brothers would have never flown!

this reminds me of the line ..."those crazy young men and their flying machines"!

I think if you got the C of G correct and the tail surface farther back, it would have worked, ...for how long would be the question! I think you need the cockpit behind the wings or in the middle of them, you had the weight of the engine and the pilot ahead of center. With the proper engineering, I think it could be made to work. ... Really well! The plastic you used has many similarities to aircraft plywood, creating a 90 degree sandwich of two layers would be the same as many of the thin plywoods available.

flyerminer (author)2014-09-21

Thats incredible.

batmat (author)2014-09-21

This plane was very well done. Just missed a small detail, it fly tested or flying?
The idea of using these comoponentes, was revolutionary, but fly??

gjohnson8 (author)2014-09-21

Nice workmanship. Can you give some info on the

power plant? Size manf. mounting......

flyingpuppy (author)2014-09-21

Nuh-uh! This is crazy. Love it!

cw87 (author)2014-09-21

You, Sir, Have Waaaay to much time on your hands. By the way, your wife is very attractive.

kmpres (author)2014-09-21

You didn't really think that thing would fly did you? Your ground-loop suggests that the fuselage was too short (nose to CG or the CG to tail), or the tail surfaces too small, or both. Some airplanes like the Sopwith Camel were designed that way to aid maneuverability, but were difficult to fly. You need to be sure there's adequate airflow around the tail surfaces if they are going to be effective at low air speeds. Gradually applying throttle helps as well. I strongly suggest you try radio control first. You obviously have the skills for this. The life you save could be your own.

guruji1 (author)2014-09-21

Regards very nice build. I think it would be a great idea to try to use it with remote first. Thanks

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-20

I've flown a million things, a lot of them that should never have lifted off the ground. The ONLY reason I didin't get this off the ground was I couldn't keep it going in a straight line.

mr.incredible (author)2014-09-19

I smell a little BS here. That is an awful lot of work for something you never intended to fly. What would you have done if it actually lifted off? (totally kidding, no offense)

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-18

Unfortunately no. Everyone was so surprised that I actually got in and blasted off the down the runway like a lunatic that no-one remembered to film it. It never actually took off as it turned out the tail and rudder was too small to overcome the torque of the engine and so it veered off to the right and I crashed into a ditch off the side off the runway.

gmessenger (author)2014-09-18

Do you have video of it flying?

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-18

To be an ultralight it has to weight less than 254lbs. As it was 'slightly' over that when it was ready to fly, immediately after the first crash we cut it up with a chainsaw so there would be nothing for the Feds to weigh.

mmhnc (author)2014-09-17

That's amazing, I mean amazing like "no way I'm getting in that thing" amazing

Stan1y (author)2014-09-17

I think here in the UK the CAA and the PFA would have a fit

mrandle (author)Stan1y2014-09-17

I think any governing body would have a fit lol. Maybe it's going to be a giant drone!

B_Free (author)2014-09-17

You Sir, are inspiring! Thank you for sharing this!

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-17

Here's a taxi video.

I'll start fleshing out the steps. I'll have to do some remembering as a lot of it I made up as I went along...

goinpostalmarcus (author)2014-09-17

Here is one from another one of our FB pages. I'm not sure what the rules are yet on videos from other places so if its not allowed let me know and I'll take it down.

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