Introduction: How to Build a Cardboard Cat Aircraft


1. Cardboard boxes- one for body of the plane, one for wings, etc. (at least two, any size, depending on how big of a plane you would like to make. More than two boxes is advised so you have extra cardboard for reinforcing weak parts of the plane)
2. Masking tape

3. Scotch tape (You will need A LOT of tape for this project)

4. String or yarn

5. Sharpie or black permanent marker

Aviation Vocabulary

fuselage:  body of the aircraft

nose cone: nose of aircraft, on propeller

elevators: small wing-like structures at rear of the aircraft, control the pitch (altitude) of aircraft

tail: vertical structure at rear of aircraft,  controls left and right movements of aircraft

flaps: located on rear edge of wings, control the warp of the wind to slow aircraft while maintaining the same altitude.

pylons: control the flaps

GPS antenna: antenna on the top of fuselage, tracks location of aircraft

radio aerial: picks up radio signals and allows aircraft communication

Landing gear: wheels and supports on the underside of aircraft, used during take off and landing

fixed landing gear: landing gears that do not retract into aircraft during flight

tripod: arrangement  of landing gear, two in front and one in back

tricycle: arrangement of landing gear, one in front, two in back

Step 1: Prepare the Fuselage of the Aircraft by Cutting

The fuselage should be a rectangular box. Close the box and tape all openable parts. Use the top of the box as the bottom of the fuselage.

Cut a rectangular hole in the top of the fuselage, as pictured. This will be the cockpit

Cut three sides of a rectangle on both sides of the rear of the fuselage. Fold these rectangular flaps outward. These will be support flaps for the elevators (to be added later). The location and size of the flaps is circled in red in the picture.

Choose an area to be the door of the the aircraft (the front, like in the aircraft pictured, is not the best choice). A better choice would be to cut the door just in front of one the elevator flaps (the recommended area to cut the door is shown as a red rectangle in the picture)

Step 2: Add Wings and Elevators

Add flat rectangular pieces of cardboard to each side of the fuselage to be the wings (make wings roughly proportional to those pictured)

The wings will be attached to the fuselage by taping them to the bottom of the box. Use masking tape as reinforcement by taping and securing both sides of each wing-fuselage connection.

Use masking tape to create a rope that will hold up the wings. Connect the tape-rope to the underside of the tips of one of the wings. Stick the tape to the top of the fuselage, and run it over to the other side of the aircraft to connect to the underside tip of the opposite wing (you will need a very long piece of tape for this, see picture for clarification).

Cut two flat cardboard squares to be the elevators. These squares should be the same width as the wings.

Attach squares to the the rear flaps cut in Step 1. The back edge of the elevators should be in line with the back edge of the fuselage.

Tape the top and bottom of the connections (following the same procedure as when connecting the wings) in order to ensure all attachments are sturdy.

Step 3: Attach the Landing Gears

The aircraft has fixed tripod landing gears (see pictures).  If you would like to make them tricycle landing gears instead, switch the placement of the front and back landing gears.

The landing gears consist of rods connected to the aircraft and wheels. Each wheel consists of two circular pieces of cardboard, with several small square pieces between circular pieces (to ensure they are sturdy and have enough surface area to balance and support the plane while kitty-passengers are on board). Secure each wheel with generous amounts of scotch tape

Tripod landing gears are made by having two landing gears in front, and one landing gear in back. The front landing gears should be in line with the wings, the back landing gear in line with the elevators. The landing gears MUST be extremely sturdy in order to support the weight on the cat. This is what makes this project unique.

In order to ensure the landing gears are sturdy enough to support such weight, they will need several pieces on cardboard and masking tape attached to the main frame. Extra supports need to be added to prevent weak parts of the landing gear frame from bending under the weight of a cat.

See the picture of the the finished landing gears in order to construct pieces that are strong and durable (it can be done!!). Your landing gears may look different upon completion, depending on the level of support they need to provide.

Step 4: Add a Propeller

These instructions are for making a fixed two-blade propeller, however it is easy to make propellers with up to 5 or 6 blades, if desired. It is also possible to make a rotating propeller with simple modifications to the fixed design.

Refer to the picture of the propeller to get an idea of the shape. This part of the aircraft is open to modification based on individual preference.

The cardboard used for the propeller should have a span slightly wider than the fuselage.

Attach the propeller to the center of the front of the fuselage with masking tape.

Using masking tape, attach a small piece of cardboard to the center of the propeller, as pictured. This will be the nose cone.

Step 5: Add the Tail, GPS Antenna, and Radio Aerial

The tail of the aircraft should be a rectangular piece of cardboard, roughly the same size as the tail pictured.

It should be attached to the rear of the top of the fuselage, in line with the back of the aircraft. Securing the tail should be done with the same method used to secure the wings (taping all seams of the connection to ensure it is sturdy enough to stand vertically).

After attaching the tail, connect a long piece of tape from one side of the fuselage, over the top of the tail, then to the opposite side of the fuselage (similar to the long piece of tape used for the wings).

Cut a small, thin, rectangular piece of cardboard to be the GPS antenna. It should attached directly in front of the cockpit, behind the masking tape that is attached to the wings (see picture for specific placement and sizing). Attach the GPS antenna to it's designated location on the top of fuselage by taping the seams of the connection using the same method as for attaching the tail.

Once secured to the fuselage, attach a piece of string from the top-back corner of the GPS antenna to the top-front corner or the tail (as pictured). This will be the radio aerial.

Step 6: Extras and Add-ons

Optional: Cut a hole in the back of the fuselage (or cut off the entire back panel of the fuselage). This will be an easily accessible (and obvious) place for cats to enter the finished aircraft.

Optional: Add two small rectangular pieces of cardboard to the wings. These will be the flaps for the wings. (These flaps should have a high length-to-width ratio, and be about half the length of the wings). The flaps can be attached by sticking two pieces of masking tape near the edges of the flaps, perpendicular to the wing-flap seam (see picture).

Optional: Attach a hood ornament to the front side of the top of the fuselage.

Optional: Make a windshield by attaching a thin strip of cardboard to the front edge of the cockpit.

Optional: Add exhaust pipes to your aircraft by cutting two thin, rectangular pieces of cardboard. Attach the pieces to each side of the fuselage, close to the top-front corners (see picture for specific location). You can attach the exhaust pipes by putting 'tape rings' on the backsides and simply sticking them to the fuselage.

Optional: Make pylons for the wings by cutting 4 very small and thin rectangles out of extra cardboard. Attach two pylons to the bottoms of each wing. Tape rings should be used to attach the pylons, as they will be connected to the wing by a corner, instead of by a flat side.

Optional: Use a marker to add designs to your aircraft

Optional: Make small fold-up ramp for the entrance to your aircraft. A ramp can be made using a piece of cardboard that is slightly small in width than that of the door cut in Step 1.