Several days ago, after a flying lesson, Aaron commented he would like to make his own airplane. I went scrounging through my Model Aviation magazines, because they publish at least one plan per issue. Pretty soon, I found what I was looking for. In the July 2007 issue, Benny Lanterman writes about a very simple airplane made out of foam that I thought would serve as something to build and learn from. His design is called The Foamie, but the stuff it’s made from is called Depron, a type of sheet foam insulation material that is hard to find.
So, while Grandpa Paul is visiting us, he and Aaron built the plane out of a large enough piece cardboard and some smaller pieces of foam. Here is Aaron checking out the plane before a test flight:
And Grandpa Paul about to launch it for me, after which he will totally run for cover:
As you can see, the plane is put together with what we had around, because when I order the right find of foam I’d need, we’re gonna make it over again, and try some different things, shapes, colors, etc. This is how Mr. Lanterman developed the design: by making several versions and trying out different configurations. Grandpa did most of the construction, with some help from Aaron. Aaron and I set up the radio, especially how to mix the elevator channel and the aileron channels into a combination control surface called elevons. You see, the plan has no tail, so it’s known as a flying wing design. This type of aircraft design dates back to the 1930s, but wasn’t really successful until the B2 bomber was developed. This particular design has large fins(black things sticking up from the wing), but they are not rudders since there are not any movable control surfaces on them.
We decided not to put any dihedral into the design for our first prototype in order to keep it simple, but I knew that this would make the design less stable, ie, more challenging(and hopefully more fun) to fly. I was not disappointed. We made several flight attempts, including simple glide tests, in order to understand what the plane wanted for its center of gravity(see all the blue clay stuck to the plane above?) and how it would respond. After many rough ‘landings,’ we certainly found out how rugged and durable cardboard is! Anyhow, tonight we made what we thought qualified as a genuine flight, with the plane under my control for almost 12 seconds before I plowed it into the ground and damaged the mechanism that holds the propeller onto the motor(simple O-ring). My goal was to beat the Wright’s first flight time, so we’re not quite there, but we think we can do it tomorrow. Here’s a picture of the last flight, courtesy of Aaron and good timing: