Hello All, This is the promised build article for the FT Pietencamper swappable airplane. Since this is my first design and first design article I ask that you forgive any mistakes, however please let me know what they are so I can correct them. First of all let me say Thank you to the Flite Test team for their inspiration, and to the community at large for which this article was created. I would also like to give a special Thank You to NerdNic for allowing me to use his template to make this article easier to read and understand.
I have been working on this plane since January 2015 and since the maiden of the V4 at Flite Fest by Josh Bixler I have been trying to get the plans nailed down so I could release it to you. I have really enjoyed creating and building this plane and I hope you enjoy it too.
4 – 6 with optional flaps
Turnigy Park 450
4 - 6x 9g
Beginner – You’ve never flown a plane before, let alone done a scratch build
Novice – You’ve flown a plane but have no experience with scratch building
Intermediate – You’ve flown and built a few FT style planes before
Advanced – You’ve mastered the standard FT build style and are looking for a new challenge
Expert – You’ve mastered all build techniques and aren’t afraid to improvise or tackle tedious builds
The FT Pietencamper is a Novice to Intermediate build.
3.5 sheets of DTFB
1 sheet of poster board
4 BBQ skewer
4 Popsicle sticks
2 Paint Stirring sticks
4 1/4” Dowel rods (2x 7.25”, 2x 7.5”)
1 30” 2mm dia. Piano wire (for landing gear)
2 2.5” wheels
4 Small hobby magnets (3/16” neodymium work best)
4-6 FT Control horns, push rods, linkage stoppers
1 FT PowerPod
- See more at: FT Pietencamper Project Article
Will this plane work with the standard FT powerpod and electronics?
Yes. The Beef package/park 425 or greater should work great. I am using the Park 450 and it has plenty of power to spare.
Will the plans be available for free so I can build one too?
Yes. Here ya go: Version 4.1
Will there be a build video?
I am not planning to add a build video at this time. I have extensive pictures below of all the tricky parts. The Flite Test Simple Storch build video covers most of the build techniques used in my plane and the Pietencamper wing is based on the storch wing. If you have never built a Flite Test airplane, then I strongly suggest watching the Storch build video (click here) and reading through this article before you start the Pietencamper build. For the rest of you it will be mostly old hat. Enjoy!
Completed FT Pietencamper sitting on the CG machine.
Printing the plans, taping them together then cutting out the template are covered extensively on the web so I’m not going to go into detail about that part. But if you are going to cut a template out of poster board I have some recommendations.
- Only cut around the outside of the pieces at first.
- Transfer all of your color lines and instructions to each piece using corresponding colored pens.
- Cut small notches (about the width of a pen tip) on the colored lines near the edge of the template but not cutting the edge, at the middle and any leg of a corner stopping the notch at the other leg of the corner, and any additional spots along the line to make it easy to transfer the lines to the foam board and connect them with a ruler.
Doing this will allow you to make clean transfers to the foam board like pictured below. Because of the size of some of the components this build takes three and a half sheets for DTFB to complete.
The wing is nearly identical to the Simple Storch so if you watched the build video you will be good. There are only a few things to note:
- There is a corner cut out in the center of the trailing edge of the wing (1/2 on each side) I suggest leaving this in place until the wing is assembled.
- Also do not cut through the ailerons or optional flaps until the wing is assembled.
- If you are adding the optional flaps, decide now if you are doing 2 channel flaps or single channel with a “y” harness. If you are doing 2 channel the control horn slot markings on the plans are in the right position, if using a “Y” wait to cut the control horn slots until you have the servos in position.
- The original Air Camper had a flat wing, this plan has the slight angle cut out in the center to give a slight dihedral. If you want the flat wing use your straight edge and cut the mating edges of the two wing parts square and turn the box spar around so that the square edges meet, optionally you can trim the slanted pieces of the box spar to meet evenly. Also if using the flat wing you can cut the paint stick to cross the wing center for added strength.
Advance build note: I decided to light my pietencamper for night flying, if I installed the LED’s before folding the wing it would have been a lot easier. But it is not impossible as you will see.
This is the dihedral guage that I use, it is not on the plan, it is a simple rectangle 3” tall with the dihedral step cut at 2”. When you glue the center for the dihedral use something heavy to hold down one side of the wing while the glue dries thoroughly.
I use a small gauge 30” push rod with a small hook on the end to pull the servo wires through the wing and elsewhere on this build. It is a valuable tool for any scratch build. Please make sure you install the aileron servos first because once you glue in the flap servos it is very difficult to pull servo wires past them.
The next two pictures show the flap servo positions for single channel and dual channel respectively.
The fuselage is very similar to other FT builds, it uses “B” folds top and bottom and a doubled nose for added strength and to give that ever important down thrust angle.
When cutting out the slots I find it easier to just cut through the paper on one side, turn the piece over and put the template back on top also upside down and re-trace the slots so I can cut through the paper on the other side. It makes for very clean removal. The same procedure works especially well for the round holes since it is very difficult to cut them out. After I remove the paper I use the trusty BBQ skewers to poke through the foam and get my starter hole for the dowel.
Leave this one slot to cut out just before you assemble the fuse and tail piece.
Use the second paint stick to make 2 landing gear supports, just like in the storch. The front one needs to line up exactly with the rearward line on the plans as this also provides support for the dowels.
I use a small piece of foamboard to mark the bottom edge location of the dowel like this. When you glue the dowel down you will stop at this mark or the bottom of your fuse will not fit.
Before doing the first ”B” fold, fold over the pod support and glue it down well. I covered mine with clear tape before folding it over for added strength.
Make sure the fuse is nice and square. You will do both sides before adding the dowels.
I use ¼” dowels like these 2 x 7 ½” and 2 x 7 1/4” the longer ones go in the holes closest to the tail. I found packs of dowels in the craft section at Walmart, there are 2 of each size in the package for 1.99 so you will need 2 to get 4 ¼” dowels. Or you can get a 36” piece at homedepot or other hardware stores.
When you insert the dowels the hole will be a little snug but that is a good thing, line them up with the marks and then tilt them to the outside to put glue in-between the lines. Then place the dowel in the glue and squeege with a piece of foam at a 45deg angle to leave glue bridging the gap between the foamboard and the dowel. It doesn’t need to fill the gap, you just don’t want it bubbled up over the top. Repeat for all four dowels, make sure the right lengths are in the right holes.
This tail is a standard Flite Test assembly so cut your bevels accordingly. The Horizontal stabilizer is large to make it as scale as possible. The real air camper had cable supports to keep the horizontal and vertical stab’s aligned. I added these marks on the plans, but I did not use them in an attempt to cut down the weight. But I did find after the fact that since I have to store my planes in my garage, and this is Texas the heat warped my horizontal stab and I have to add a piece of 3mm flat carbon rod to the leading edge. I should have added a slot and carbon rod to the center instead, but since I have already assembled it this is the best I can do without removing the tail. So take that into consideration.
After assembling the tail glue it to the fuse and do your best to get it perpendicular to the fuse sides using your trusty 90 deg triangle. Look down the fuse to make sure it is straight as well. At this point cut the last slot in the bottom plate that goes on either side of the vertical stab. Glue the bottom plate starting at the center front of the fuse and work your way back, making sure everything is square.
After everything is dry finish the cut for the rear hatch. I added a magnet from the top of an extra piece of foamboard and placed it across the end on the inside. Then I removed a bit of foam from the end of the hatch and slid the magnet in with glue and covered the hatch with tape leaving a tape “handle” to allow easy opening. This hatch allows you to easily align the pod and move any servo wires out of your way when inserting the pod.
The front hatch is just for looks, if you want you can cut it off at the hinge point. I added magnets in the side and created small triangle magnet latches for this door. Totally unnecessary but I like the way it looks.
TURTLE DECK & SERVOS
The plans include a standard rounded turtle deck support and the faceted one I show here. I found that the faceted one goes on much easier since it is pre-folded, and it is not as prone to buckling with handling. Plus it has the added benefit of looking more scale. When I trace my pieces on the poster board I make sure I add the fold lines since it makes it mate right up to the support when I install it.
You will need 1 nose support (the shorter one), 1 tail support (this is the one with the holes for the push-rods), you will need to duplicate the main support (no holes) three times. Install all your supports at this time and make sure they are straight.
I also bevel the tail support to make the turtledeck mate up with the front edge for a clean install. Also if you have coffee stirrers install short pieces in the tail turtle deck to allow free movement of the push-rods, but as you can see this is optional.
The plans include the hole locations for the dowels, if you cut them exact there may be a little bulge on one side or the other so just carefully trim with a sharp razor after it is installed, or make the holes a little bigger for easy install.
At this point add your servos in the second pilot seat and run your push-rods accordingly. Adding the control horns to the push rod and running it back to the servo then gluing the horns in place makes it a lot easier.
At the point where the push-rods cross I add a scrap of foamboard with a hole cut in the middle and a small slit in the top to allow the push-rods to slide through. Be careful when gluing this piece in so you don’t get glue on your push rods. Since everyone’s placement of their push-rods can be different I did not make this piece hard-fast in the plan but used a scrap to make it work with my placement of the rods.
Installing the turtle deck is similar to the way most flite test planes are done, but you cannot use a tape hinge on the sections with the dowel rods. This is the reason that the faceted supports work so well. Once they are pre-folded they sit right down on the support. I start with the tail section and use a standard tape hinge since it works well on the back section. Put glue on the support and pull the piece over then tape it on the other side.
When you get to the center section put glue on the supports and slide the posterboard down to make a tight fit then tape the sides.
Since the wing is removable and you have 2 – 4 servos in it you will need a way to wire them to your receiver. I cut a small slot in the top of the fuse between the powerpod slots to allow my servo extensions to drop into the pod for hook-up.
Then I preinstall the wires through the dowel holes…
And drop them through the slot before I glue it down. An 10” – 12” extension is perfect.
Put glue on the supports and install just like the center piece but make sure the extension wires move freely and leave about 2-3” extending above the deck. Your fuselage is almost complete.
On the plans I include the angles you will need to bend to make the landing gear supports showing them from different angles. It’s hard to put a 3D shape onto 2D plans so I hope these images help you understand how the bend works. To start you need 2 - 8.75” lengths of 2mm piano wire ( you need a pretty stiff wire here if you go lighter the gear will fold on you). Note: You will need to make 2 of these, but they will be mirror images of each other ( see the second picture). I start by bending 1.5” pieces 45 deg on each end of the wire pointing the same direction. Then 4.75” from one end you bend the angle shown on the plan it should be about 20 deg, but follow the plan to make sure. After you have them bent correctly, cut through the sides of the foamboard on the landing gear slot on the bottom plate so that they slide in with a little resistance. Then put glue in the slot and insert both into the fuse and squeegee off the excess.
Next you take a piece of straight 2mm piano wire and run on the inside of the “V” in the gear. You will attach this axel with zip-ties crossed on each side as below.
Then cover the zip-ties with hot glue and add wheel collets or a bead of hot glue on the axel to keep the wheel from running into the zip-ties. I put 2.5” wheels and didn’t really like the way it looked so I went up to 3” and I think it looks great now. I didn’t include the Flitetest wheels in the plans but you can get them from just about any plan.
I cut the original support from light hobby plywood, but I have determined that I don’t need that level of support and the foamboard support works just fine. I’m sure it won’t withstand a cartwheel like the plywood, but it is easier to replace. Glue it on, then add the skewers to the inside of the dowels and glue in solidly since this is where the rubber-bands will attach the wing during flight.
After I built my wing I noticed that the pieces left near the center are a little weak since I have the flaps cut out, so I cut a notch in the rear support and slid a Popsicle stick with glue on it to add support. Technically these pieces are not needed except for the scale look, if you don’t put in the optional flaps you won’t have this issue at all.
I added skewers to the top outside edges of the wing support to allow a little space for the dihedral and added them to the underside of the wing to allow indexing the wing in the right position. None of this is necessary, but I like the feel of it when the wing just settles down into the slot and doesn’t twist at all in flight as can happen on some flat wing installations. I use short “Y” cables in the wing and they pass through the hole in the center of the wing support and hook up to the extensions we placed earlier. I also use small zip-ties to hold the ext to the dowels. With the 2 extensions you can either have flaps or dual channel ailerons. If you need dual channel flaps you will have to add one more extension.
I left out the powerpod because if you are like me you have several lieing around:
But one note I think that is valid is that I cut a slot in the bottom of my pod for the pietencamper since the battery needs to be nearly all the way to the front to get CG right. It helped me with positioning.
I hope you enjoy building/flying this plane as much as I have. This plane is a blast to fly and you can modify the plans to fit your style as well. Please let me know what changes you make and if they improve the flight aspects or the scale aspects, I would love to see what you all come up with. As I mentioned earlier I decided to light my pietencamper for night flying the following pictures show my light scheme. I hope to have a flight video to add soon, but until then, happy building – happy flying!!!