First Balsa Crash and the Lessons I Have Learnt.

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Building a flying model from balsa and tissue has been a huge learning curve. I’ve learnt how to do a lot of things (and how not to do a lot of things) during it’s build; which you can follow from here: Part 1

Although the covering wasn’t particularly brilliant (I explain what happened in the build thread), after a couple of low altitude test glides across the length of the house I was somewhat confident it was balanced and ready to fly.

It’s been a beautiful couple of days here in the UK so I thought I’d make the most of the weather to take the little plane to a nearby field to fly. For the most part, it’s been incredibly still but with occasional light gusts of wind which really should have deterred me.

I wound the elastic band motor up and launched it. It flew beautifully for the first few meters and then the wind seemed to catch it, twisting the nose of the aircraft skywards. As it began to drop the heavier nose overtook the tail, turning the little aircraft into a nose dive before it slammed into the hard, dry soil.


(Note that wasn’t the surface I was trying to fly over. These pics were taken later.)

The wing break is the most prominent damage. It’s snapped the balsa of the fuselage that was attached to the wing former. It’s twisted the upper section of the fuselage as well which has creased the covering quite badly.

The impact also pulled the side window out of place along with a bit of the frame work and has lifted the windscreen. (The windscreen needed redoing anyway so not that worried about that)


Where the aircraft landed on it’s prop, it’s also pushed the prop’s housing back through the balsa wood former at the front of the aircraft. I think for future builds I might double skin that former as if that happens on another aircraft it will be hard to get that out without having to take off the skin.


Will this be rebuilt? Of course! It’s not unsalvageable! It gives me a good excuse to make some modifications and re-skin it too so I’m happier with the way it looks.

Sadly the nature of learning to build and fly these things, be they free flight or RC is that there will be accidents and mistakes. Exactly the same as learning to drift a car. I’m not going to let a couple of breakages put me off!

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By Richard Francis

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