XCP - Experimental Canard Platform

Introduction: XCP - Experimental Canard Platform

About: I'm the Senior Lecturer, Engineering at the Humber University Training College and an Associate Lecturer Design Engineering for the Open University.


Welcome to the XCP - eXperimental Canard Platform - This is a small simple catapult launched balsa wood glider which can be built in around one hour.


  • Cutting Mat or thick cardboard to work on; at least A4 in size.
  • Pen/Pencil + Felt tips for decoration.
  • Steel Rule
  • Sharp Craft Knife
  • Balsa Cement [Caution Irritant and Solvent] or a P.V.A. type wood glue.
  • Some fine grade glass paper [Sand paper]
  • 2 or 3 small square/rectangle blocks of wood or either square edged objects.
  • Old lolly pop stick (optional)


  • A thin piece of balsa measuring 80mm x 100mm x 2mm thick [3 inch x 4 inch x 1/16th of an inch] - make sure the grain is running along in the direction of the 100mm [4inch] measurement
  • A coffee stirrer from McDonalds or other fast food outlet - 5mm x 140mm x 2mm thick.
  • An elastic band, cut this so that it is an elastic strip about 150mm [6 inches].
  • A small pea sized lump of blue tac or plasticine


  • A little patience.

Once you have completed your glider you may wish to experiment with other materials - cardboard, polystyrene foam.

You may want to explore other arrangements of fins or add stabilisers that's ok this is what it is designed for a stable experiemtnal platform to explore flying.


Step 1: Step 1: Marking Out

Take your piece of balsa and lay it in front of you it so that you have the longest edges horizontally and the shorter edges vertically.

  1. Measure and mark 50mm [2 inches] from one short side so that you find the vertical middle of your piece.
  2. Draw a dotted line up your piece of balsa.
  3. Measure and mark 50mm [2 inches] from the bottom edge up each side of your balsa piece.
  4. Draw a dotted line across your balsa pice.
  5. Placing your steel rule on one corner mark a solid line through the centre of these two dotted lines out to the opposite edge of your balsa piece.
  6. Repeat Step 5 for the opposite corner to the opposite side
  7. On the top edge mark two points 25mm out from the centre on either side.
  8. Draw lines from these two points vertically downwards until they touch the lower diagonal lines drawn earlier.
  9. Using the Steel Rule and Craft Knife, carefully cut out the four pieces identified in the last image of this section.
  10. Using high grade/smooth glass paper sand all edges and flying surfaces until they are smooth.

After all surfaces are smooth you may wish to decorate your design at this stage; as it is easier to do so now rather than after the glider is assembled. Decorate the fore-plane first [the smaller of the two wing shaped pieces] you can then move to step 2 and then while the fore-plane is setting/drying you can decorate your other components.

Step 2: Step 2: Assembly

To assemble your XCP start with the fore-plane.

  1. Run a thin line of Balsa Cement or P.V.A glue down the centre of the fore-lane.
  2. Place the coffee stirrer [fuselage] so that 3-5mm sticks out the front and gently press it down onto the fore-plane.
  3. Support the sides of the fuselage to keep it vertical with two small wooden blocks or other square edged objects.
  4. Allow glue to dry/set - Balsa Cement takes approximately 10 minutes - P.V.A. wood glue - 20 minutes.

While the fore-plane is setting in place you may wish to continue with your decoration of the main-wing and tail-fin. Once the fore-plane has set and you have finished decorating your main-plane and tail-fin you can assemble these components.

  1. Run a thin line of Balsa Cement or P.V.A glue down the centre of the main-plane.
  2. Caution: Make sure you have turned the fuselage over so that the fore-plane is now on top of the fuselage.
  3. Place the fuselage so that 3-5mm sticks out the back and gently press it down onto the main-plane, place a small piece of scrap balsa underneath the nose of the fuselage to help keep it level and then use two blocks either side of the fuselage to keep it vertical.
  4. Wait at least 5 minutes.
  5. Run a small amount of Balsa Cement or P.V.A glue along one side and the bottom edge of the tail-fin.
  6. Place the tail fin near the rear of the main-wing in contact with the side of the fuselage.
  7. Allow glue to dry/set.

Once the main-wing and tail-fin are in place and the glue is set/dry you can fit the launch hook. This is a smaller triangle piece of balsa that is glued under the fore-plane in a similar fashion to the tail-fin.

Once the hook has been fitted it is a good idea to allow all glue to set/dry for a further 10/15 minutes.

While you are waiting you can cut your elastic band and tie a loop in one end. You can improve your launcher by attaching the other end to an old lolly pop stick if you wish.

Step 3: Step 3: Flying


Flying the XCP is a little like using a catapult or a bow and arrow.

Remember launching and flying aircraft is dangerous - make sure your flying area is clear of people, animals and anything breakable.


Finding the centre of gravity.

  1. Add a small piece of blue tac/plasticine to the nose of your glider.
  2. Using the edge of a ruler try an balance your glider so that there is between a 5-10 mm gap between the balance point and the main wing. See image.2 and 3.
  3. Either add or remove ballast (blue tac/plasticine) to or from the nose until the glider balances.

Trimming your glider.

  1. Gently holding the fuselage between the fore-plane and main-wing as though it was a dart
  2. With the nose ever so slightly ( 1 or 2 degrees ) high than the tail throw the glider gently using a long arm movement away from the body opening your fingers at the end of the throw to release the glider.
  3. Observe the flight carefully
    1. If the glider flies away from you and glides smoothly for 4 or 5 meters it is trimmed and you can move to catapult launching.
    2. If the glider's nose rises and then dives during the flight - add a little more nose weight and repeat the trimming flight.
    3. If the glider dives within a couple of metres from the launch - remove some nose weight and repeat the trimming flight.

Catapult Launching - Caution Dangerous - make sure the launch and flight path are clear !!!


  1. Hold the very end of the glider by the bit of the fuselage that is sticking out the back.
  2. Hook the loop of the elastic over the launch hook at the front of the glider.
  3. Extend the arm holding the elastic band so that the elastic band is stretched to about half its length.
    1. Aim into wind [ gentle breeze only - strong breezes that ruffle hair or clothes will cause unpredictable flight - do not fly ! ]
    2. With the nose ever so slightly ( 1 or 2 degrees ) high than the tail and the wings level (horizontal) release your glider while moving your front arm slightly down and out of the flight path.
    3. Observe the flight carefully - you may need to trim for the additional power see Trimming your glider.
  4. Once you have practised a few launches you can start to introduce more power by extending the elastic band further.


Once you are happy with how your glider behaves ( it usually flies in the same way each time ) you can alter the launch angles or tilt the wings slightly off horizontal to see what happens - You should go back to half stretch on your elastic band until you are comfortable with what will happen on the flight and then gradually increase power as you go.


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    8 Discussions


    6 years ago

    this is the fighter


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    wow I like that manitxu - a few mods and you could make a flying version no problem.


    6 years ago

    looks a lot like GAF-1 varcolac from Ace Combat Joint Assault


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Not a long time at all, seconds, its more about distance really - flying straight, hand launched 8-10 metres. Catapult launch we have had 15 metres plus. I haven't had a chance to go outside but I imagine in calm weather a high angle launch a few degrees off vertical might prove interersting.


    6 years ago

    How long does it fly?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. And thanks for your instructable - I now know what a breakout board is and if I ever need one I know where to come.