Rebuilding a Crashed Model Airplane Step-By-Step

by FliteTest | May 7, 2018 | (4) Posted in Projects

I consider myself a bit of a mad scratch builder. Inspired by the wacky projects of people like David Windestål and Peter Shripol, I like to build cool things. It's great I get to share the stories of my builds with you through these Flite Test articles. Here is one of the latest. Hopefully, it inspires you to pick up and old airframe and to rebuild it!


It all started as a project to replace an old FT Simple Storch I'd had for around three years. I liked the idea of a large high-wing plane with landing gear. 

Inspired by those classic looking 1920/30s designs from the golden era of aviation, I set to work building a basic airframe. It was sort of off the cuff without any plans as such. I tended to make it up as I went along based on what felt right. A couple of simple sketches had previously gathered my ideas so I set to work on the model straight away. 

I wanted to try a new technique with the fuselage. Instead of the usual Flite Test boxy style we're all used to, I wanted to see if I could create a rounded look by adding formers to an internal box structure. Later this was covered with thin cardboard. 

A foam board radial engine was added along with a landing gear. With these additions, the plane progressed quickly to looking like it was almost done which helped spur me on to complete it. 

Before its first flight, I used the aircraft as the testbed for a little experiment I did here in the UK. It held up remarkably well. Don't try this at home! I made sure to check with my local authorities and the British Model Flyers Association first to see if I was able to do this project. 

After this distraction, I took the plane out on a rather terrible day for a maiden flight. 

The plane lost elevator control and smashed into a tree. You can see that whole video here

Suffice to say, the aircraft was recovered so I got it back - albeit slightly battered around the edges. The tail was bent out of shape, the wing dented and the fuselage bashed up. The motor had also been ripped out. Before another flight, I decided that a little bit of a rebuild was in order. 

Rebuilding the Plane

I started the process by breaking the airplane down into multiple smaller sections to work on. This made the whole task seem more manageable. The card covering that wrapped around the fuselage was removed leaving a bare frame to work on.  

New tail surfaces were made as the old ones were ripped up by the unscheduled tree landing. 

The new landing gear was designed to be removed with elastic bands that ping off in a crash without damaging the airframe itself. 

A tail skid was added before covering the rear of the fuselage with a new card skin. 

Sometimes it takes a little patience and extra effort to get it just right. 

Flight Testing Experience

With it all complete and gleaming white, it was time to take the stout monoplane for a test flight. As it had flown just once before for barely ten seconds, this was pretty much a maiden flight. I knew from those ten seconds that the high wing provided a great deal of stability, so I wasn't too nervous about it. However, you never know what's going to happen!

The location for the maiden was at the local Cricket Club here in England. They have a perfectly flat manicured grass pitch perfect for wheeled takeoffs and landings. 

The only potential problems I could foresee was that there are quite a few large oak trees bordering the field that could have been a problem. I didn't want a repeat of the last flight!

After a couple of successful flights, I started to get more comfortable with the aircraft. 

The thing has plenty of power. You can idle it through the trees, swoop by and power up whilst flying past yourself. 

Landings on the other hand... they're somthing that needs to be worked on. 

The landing gear setup is far too weak. Made out of an old coat hanger I had lying around, the current structure needs to be replaced with stiffer wire. 

Luckily, the wheels are sometimes repairable at the field meaning you can get back flying within a couple of minutes.

Unfortunately, on one occasion, a wheel fell off on takeoff resulting in a rather spectacular crash landing later on.

'Sketchy plane coming in hot!'

Flipped upside down, but no damage. Remember to check out the video for the footage of these flights. 

Hopefully this article has inspired you to keep building and keep repairing. It's super gratifying to see an old airframe come back to life. Although you may have to put in a little extra work over the years to keep your foam board models flying, it is sometimes worth it. 

Article by James Whomsley

Editor of

Instagram @jameswhomsley


Jackson T on May 23, 2018
I had a wheel fall off my hobbyzone
super cub once. It is actually quite fun to try and bring it in safely, as long as you don't end up destroying it!
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TrentChristnerUSMC on May 28, 2018
Me too, but with a Slow Stick. I didn’t find it as much of a problem... Until the LVC cut in that is... Crash landing in the middle of a cornfield, deadstick, on one wheel. Talk about sketchy!!! Managed to land it, and turned out to be one of my better landings, with a great rollout. Not even a noseover!!!
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Jackson T on May 28, 2018
Not even a nose over? I nose over even when I have two wheels!
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Rebuilding a Crashed Model Airplane Step-By-Step