Like Josh Bixler, I have an interest in vintage aeroplanes. They're of a certain time, a certain style, and from a certain spirit of adventure. So, what do you know, I built one! Check out the eventful test flight here:
This project started life in my student bedroom between finishing my finals and graduation about five months ago. From the start, I wanted to test a new fuselage shape: I wanted to make it round.
Old monoplanes of the 1920s tended to have this character. I attempted to capture it by using foam board formers and struts. These were later covered with card.
As you can see from the picture below, I also included flaps into the design. I had never done this either. This plane was shaping up to be something special!
A few months later, what with lots of things going on, the plane was slowly taking shape. It wasn't a fast build by any stretch of the imagination. With the cladding of the formers with card came strength and solidity. This was pleasing as I wanted to make sure the plane could take a beating and last a long time.
Here you can see the flaps in their deployed position. Servos glued to the underside of the wings operated them smoothly. However, before the maiden flight, one of the servos was found to be faulty with stripped gears. Whoops! I had no idea how this had happened, but, as I'd already decided not to use flaps on the maiden flight to keep it simple, I decided to simply secure the flaps in place and fix them later. This way I wouldn't waste time and effort if the first crash had been a total write-off.
Nearing completion, the plane was taking on that vintage character!
After the plane was complete, I decided to use it as the test bed for an experiment I was working on - the air-to-ground model rockets.
Test Flight and Crash
A week later, the terrible UK weather had lifted enough to have a crack at a first test flight. The wind was around 10mph with 25mph gusts, but it was the best it was going to get.
Takeoff! The plane suddenly caught a gust from the right and was pushed towards the spectating sheep. A quick save saw it travel nicely up and away. It tracked well and seemed to be very stable, what with it's high up shoulder wing. However, very quickly, something went wrong. It was the elevator. Oh dear.
Impact! With a crash, the plane hit a small tree bordering the flying field. Thankfully it wasn't too high up.
During the crash, the motor had broken away and cleared a fence taking the dummy radial engine with it. For an RC crash, it actually looked very authentic. No dazed pilot though.
With help from my co-pilot, the debris was retrieved. There was a near miss when some new jeans almost snagged on a barbed wire fence. That would have been the second disaster of the day.
Throughout the whole ordeal, we had a dedicated fan club chasing us around.
Closing Thoughts and Future Plans
At this point, I'm unsure of the extent of the damage to this airframe. As it was designed quite a while ago, I've since improved many of the features of newer planes such as the landing gear and control linkages (like the one that failed on the elevator).
Ideally, I would like to build a new vintage style fighter/racer with my new techniques that is capable of taking off and landing on bumpy long grass. This will probably mean it ends up being quite large. Watch this space.
Thank you for reading!
Article written by James Whomsley