Getting into Scratch Building - 20+ Planes

by panther3001 | July 14, 2013 | (11) Posted in Projects

By:  Gabriel Staples

Written: 1 March 2013

Last Updated: 14 July 2013

This article was originally posted on my blog, and hence, in case of future changes, the most up-to-date version of this article will be available at its original posting location here:

If you have any questions or comments while reading this, or any other article, please post it in the comments section below the article.  Thanks!


Related Articles:


So, over a year ago now I discovered the Flite Test NutBall and Delta Wing (both wings, separated from the power pod, are shown in the picture above and to the right).  These planes are unique in that FliteTest came up with the ingenious idea to use a single motor, speed controller, and receiver combination in order to power multiple airplanes!  This is a fantastic solution, as it allows someone to get into this hobby VERY economically, and all of the planes are built using Dollar Tree foamboard (ADAMS Readi-board), shish kabob (bamboo) skewers, hot glue, popsicle sticks, and packing tape!

As of today, I have built and flown both the NutBall and the Delta Wing, and love them both.  I have even prototyped and tested, for my local Boy Scout troop working on the Aviation merit badge, a $5 free-flight glider based on the NutBall, which is capable of being bungee-launched (via a home-made $25~$35 launcher) to altitudes up to 250 feet, and flying several hundred yards distance in a single flight!  My wife named it the Stingray (see photo of a stingray above), since the glider resembles a stingray flying backwards.  I would like to post the plans and video of the Stingray glider and bungee launcher when I get the chance, so other Boy Scout troops and do-it-yourselfers can make one too (update: to see my Stingray glider, click here).  As for the FliteTest airplanes I've built, the NutBall is especially a blast to fly for an advanced pilot, yet can be gentle enough (with limited control surface throws [movement]) to be a great beginner airplane--though the Bixler and Hawk Sky are still much better!  I have also designed and tested what I call a "training fin" for the NutBall, which can easily be velcroed onto the top of the plane in order to make it self-right (roll level automatically) whenever it is banked.  This is really useful for a beginner as well.  (More to come on this; I need to write a post on it still too).

Well, after knowing about only a couple FliteTest "swappable" series airplanes, on 1 March 2013, I discovered sooooooo much more! I can't believe I've been so out of the loop on what FliteTest has been up to!  For those of you unaware, they are now making absolutely fantastic-flying airplanes, using the SAME NutBall swappable power pod design, with full airfoils and very good looks.  Here's the list I've just compiled from them.  If you haven't seen all of these already, it's definitely worth your time to check them out!


    • First off, the swappable FT (Flite Test) Power Pod (pictured above), which is the core of all of these designs:
      • Here is the parts list that FliteTest recommends.  It is a relatively low-power setup, optimized for the beginner, with good low-speed thrust and not too high top speed.  
      • Here is the parts list that I recommend. It is a relatively high-power setup, optimized for the beginner to advanced pilot and everything in between, with the option of higher thrust and higher speed if you want it (by using a 3S LiPo vs. 2S LiPo).  For a more gentle, beginner type feel, use the slow fly (SF) 8x3.8 props and the 2S LiPo batteries.  You might even try the 7x5E prop with the 2S batteries, for more gentle flight.  For higher-speed flight with the 2S batteries use an SF 9x6 prop.  For a much more powerful system with a good mix of thrust and speed, use the power system in my recommended parts list above, with the 3S 1300mAh LiPo battery and APC-style 7x5E* prop.  With this setup, the 24" NutBall version I prefer is capable of accelerating vertically, even using a battery as large as a 3S 2200mAh LiPo (though it can just barely accelerate vertically with the extra weight of this battery).  *Caution: do NOT use props larger than the APC-style 7x5E, with a 3S battery, on the recommended motor in my list, as it will pull too much current and burn up the motor.  Also, do not run full throttle for long periods of time (longer than ~30 seconds) with a 3S LiPo and 7x5E prop, for the same reason.
      • ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    • Here are the Master Links for all of FliteTest's amazing work in their swappable series airplanes (these links were obtained from the Power Pod link above)!
    • Some of their "Swappable"-series planes, which use the power pod design above, which REALLY IMPRESS ME, include the following:

So, now that I have discovered a whole host of other airplanes by Flite Test which can use my one, single, economical, swappable power pod, and that have fully-formed 3D airfoils and are very nice looking airplanes, I certainly am going to begin building these things and expanding my collection of RC airplanes to fly, and I highly recommend you do too!

Other Scratch Builds to look at or do:

So, clearly I favor the FliteTest scratch built airplanes above with the swappable power pod, but hundreds of other scratch built airplanes and plans are available online as well.  With a little imagination, and some building ingenuity, you could easily make many, if not all, of these other scratch-build airplanes use your Flite Test swappable Power Pod too!

  • EA (Experimental Airlines) SYNAPSE Foamboard Flying Wing - this is another airplane built from Dollar Tree foamboard.  This plane looks like an incredible FPV ("First Person View" -- using a camera and video screen to fly your plane as if you were inside of it) flying platform.  With the right setup, I think this plane could be made to fly over 1 hr. at a cruising speed of 35mph or so.  With the right equipment, I think you could easily do flights 10 miles there and back using high quality FPV gear and amateur UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) fail-safes such as "Return to Home."  Anyway, even as a standard RC airplane, this plane really looks like a LOT of fun!
  • RCPowers (
    • FREE RCPowers F-35 EasyBuild V2 (he normally charges ~$13 for plans like this).  Using 6 HXT900 9g servos (from USA warehouse/from International warehouse) on this plane and a nice computer radio could make this plane VERY interesting and fun to set up and fly!  You would use 1 servo for each aileron, 1 servo for each rudder, and 1 servo for each side of the elevator, then special computer radio mixes would make the plane very versatile and maneuverable.
    • FREE RCPowers Extra 300S --> click File --> Download to save the files.  Search on YouTube for "rcpowers extra 300" to find dozens of videos, including 3rd-party build videos.
  • Flying Sidewinder Missile, from -- download the PDF plans in the 1st post
  • - click "Free Plans" at the top of the screen in order to search through their 100's of user-provided, FREE PDF plans! - again, after building a couple of the Flite Test "swappable" airplanes above, using your ingenuity you could easily adapt many of these planes to use your same swappable power pod!




Questions and Answers:

Q: Does a swappable with only elevon control (FT Delta) require a special transmitter that mixes the elevator & aileron inputs?

A: Yes, a special mixing capability is required that mixes the elevator and aileron inputs, but no it does not always have to be a special transmitter. Let me explain: usually a special transmitter is used, with built-in mixing capabilities, such as a computerized one like this or this, or a non-computerized one that has a built-in mixing function switch like this one. However, the cool thing about today's fancy electronics is that even with a standard radio with NO built-in mixing functions, you can use an *external* mixer like this or this. The built-in mixers will always be a little bit smoother, but the external mixers are super economical and work just fine for someone with a basic radio.


nunieboy on July 14, 2013
are you filipino? the ft-delta looks like it has the Philippines' sun on it
Log In to reply
panther3001 on July 14, 2013
no. :) I simply bought a stencil set from a local craft shop (Hobby Lobby), and spray painted the sun on it because I thought it looked neat.
Log In to reply
jack111 on July 14, 2013
Wow thx for writing so much. I didint know you had to go up in series I just went to whatever I pleased
Log In to reply
nunieboy on July 14, 2013
haha same here, i started ft3d... learned the hard way
Log In to reply
panther3001 on July 14, 2013
Yeah, I'm for sure ready for the FT3D now, but have too many projects to be able to get to it so far. At any given time I'm working on a half a dozen different things. I'm glad I at least came across the complete swappable lists, as they are super useful to sort things out. The Scouts are really going to like this Stingray free-flight glider I think though, so I'm glad I built a simple model like the NutBall first.
Log In to reply
LordVader on July 16, 2013
Really nice consolidation of info. It's not overboard or boring, love it.
Log In to reply
alvin.browning on March 23, 2015
Great article and Great Info, Thank You So Much.
Log In to reply
panther3001 on March 23, 2015
Hey glad to help! Be sure to see if any other articles on my website are useful to you as well. Happy flying!
Log In to reply

You need to log-in to comment on articles.

Getting into Scratch Building - 20+ Planes