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Pondering Peanut Power and Propellers

I’ve been building Rubber-Powered Free Flight Peanuts for just about 40 years.  I imagine that I have built 50 or more Peanuts.  And yet, I still am looking for better performance.  Where can we find those last little bits of performance?

There are a couple of obvious considerations:  subject matter, stability designed in, straight building, and weight are some of the most obvious.  For several years, I’ve been predicting basic performance or a potential subject by measuring the wing area and guessing at what weight I can build the model.  By dividing the weight by the wing area, we can come up with Wing Loading.  Having kept track of all of my models for an extended period, I can compare a potential subject to past models and, knowing how past models flew, I can guess that a new model with similar numbers might fly roughly as well as the old model.

Checking my records, I see that my Peanuts have had wing loadings as low as 0.22 g/sq in (Fike, BD-4) and as high as 0.46 g/ sq in (Stuka).  The average of 13 designs that have been built and flown (and have detailed records) is 0.33 g/sq in – that’s a good target for those of you who are looking to adopt this sort of tool.  But I have come to believe that this is just the start – there are other considerations – such as your power pack; the prop and rubber combo.

Everyone knows that the prop and rubber combo is important.  In fact, you can also add that to your “predictor” tool – just keep track of what all of your old models have used and when you get a new model and calculate the Wing Loading, you can start with a similar prop and rubber combo.  Everyone should do this – and they probably do, even if is inst as formal as keeping a spreadsheet.  But…there’s more…

When I first started building, I used plastic props, as everyone does.  In fact, one of my first Peanut designs that I did in the late 80s shows that I used the Guillows prop (now hated by me).  But my go-to props were the Peck props – 5″ and 6″ grays that were – and still are –  the standard for so many.

As I started to look for better performance and build lighter, I started using wood/carved props.  These were designed from formulae found in such places as Don Ross’ book and elsewhere.

Both the Maule and the Stallion were built very light (for me) and flew away.  But I still used mostly plastic props until maybe 8 years ago.  I started using Superior Props (6″ is the smallest we make) and stacked props.  But the problem was – I would almost always get beat at a larger contest.  I might be able to get 60 seconds or so.  And I had some Peanuts that I just could not get to fly, even given relatively low Wing Loading and lots of rubber.

Last year, as I got beat again in Peanut by Pat Murray, I asked him about his Peanut Fairchild.  It would zoom up and get great long flights while I was still stuck around 45-60 seconds.  He told me he uses a 4″ plastic prop.  I was amazed – that is a tiny prop.  But it got the wheels turning.

In the meantime, I had been working with Archie Adamisin, helping him sort out the 3D printing of propellers, mostly for larger and sport models (Archie sells some great P-30 props, possibly game-changers).  With his help, I printed a 4-blade prop for my Peanut Corsair – and I started getting some really nice flights with it.  But look at the prop … its not very wide.

I had been trying wood props with a 5″ diameter and up to 1″ blade width.  I got decent (sub-60 second) times, but this “skinny” 4-blader really allowed the model to fly better.  By the way, the model weighs about 10 grams (0.27 g/sq in WL) and uses a loop of 3/32″ rubber.

The next adventure was my Peanut Stallion.  Again, I tried to build as light as I could and it came out to be 7 grams (0.32 WL – its got a really narrow wing).  I had imagined and hoped that I could fly it on a loop of 1/16: rubber. I decided I wanted a scale-looking prop and changed the parameters to print out a narrow-bladed, 4″ diameter, 5″ pitch, 3-bladed prop (and spinner).  While I figured it would work, it did much better than I imagined and I get around 70 seconds indoors with regularity.

Things started to click – or gears started to turn – or something.  In my most recent Peanut build, I projected that I could get similar results with the BD-4 if I could keep it light.  My model again weighed 7 grams, but has a fatter wing so it has a 0.22 WL.  I took the Stallion prop, changed it to 2-blade, increased the diameter to 5″ and the pitch to 6.25″ and kept the blades skinny.  Compare this picture to a Peck 5″ prop.

The result – on a loop of 1/16″ rubber – was 84 seconds indoors.  Astounding for me.

Here is a question – have I (and to a greater extent – we) been over-propping our Peanut models?  We all have been using 5″ diameter plastic props with a fat blade (Peck) because that is what has been available. We also know that a higher pitch than is available on the plastic props is better for duration.  These props that I have printed have narrower blades and a higher pitch than the Peck props, especially for the 1/16″ motors.  The 3/32″ motored models have a wider blade.  I am a convert – I’ll be printing props for my Peanuts from now on.  I feel I have two good sets of data – for 1/16″ powered light-weight Peanuts and for 3/32″- powered middle-weight Peanuts.  But of course, I’ll keep experimenting and adding data points.




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POW! Peanut Performance! The Bede BD-4.

I flew my Peanut Bede BD-4 yesterday and was surprised/impressed/shocked by the results.  Photos and video below.

I did something that I do not usually do:  I released this short kit at the very end of December without my “obligatory” 20-second-minimum test flight.  But I knew it would fly.

I drew up this model/kit after being inspired my fellow Cloudbuster, Chris Boehm.  Chris has a habit of building the same model over and over.  Recently, he published a Peanut BD-4 plan in the Cloudbusters’ newsletter and built two of them.  He might have used Bill Hannan’s plan, I don’t recall.  I don’t have any particular love for the BD-4 – it is very plain in design (intentionally), but I thought I would build one just for fun.  I drew up the tail-dragger version and used the simplest color and markings I could find to produce an all-white model with black registration.  Build it quick, cover it simply, get some flights, and move on.

At the Cloudbusters’ January Indoor Contest, I was finally able to put some power on the model and give it a test.  I tried my 10″ test motor – yup, still flies the model – nothing spectacular, but trim is still good (had to add some tail weight).   I made a 20″ motor – a loop of 1/16″.  The model weighs 7 grams, so it should fly on 1/16″ rubber (more on my logic here in a different article).  And the long motor might help with the needed tail weight.  I tried flying right and it wasn’t the best performance. So I dialed in left thrust instead of right and the model perked right up.  I did a flight and it was over 70 seconds!

I added a little bit more tail weight and wound in about 2000 turns (a 20″ motor has room for more) and filmed this spectacular 84-second flight!  I think it is still a bit nose heavy (see the last 10 seconds of the flight) and I think there is still more duration to be had on this little model!  Needless to say, I am feeling a bit better about the BD-4.  I’ll probably be losing this outdoors this year.

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Starting 2023 off the right way!

2022 is over and now we are on to 2023.  I almost forgot my traditional New Years Day flight in my back yard, but I got the flight logged in the late afternoon.

But this is about a new model!  I started this a little after midnight on New Years Eve/Day  before I headed off to bed.  I picked up the original kit last year and was surprised when I received it.  I knew it was an Old Time Fuselage model, but it is SMALL – only a 12″ wingspan!  The fuselage is built-up and the rubber is enclosed (so it should be good for the Flying Aces Club OT Fuse and 2-Bit events), but is only 1/2″ square on the outer dimensions (and only 3/8″ square internally).  The model came out to 5 grams without rubber (on 24 square inches of wing area).

I finished the model yesterday and put rubber in it and tested it today. It literally flew without adjustment.  I did try some right thrust, but it was too much, so I took it back out.  This is no side thrust, no down thrust, no nose weight, no tail weight – nothing but rubber.

Here is where to find the Short Kit.

Here is a test flight video and photos following.



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Ending 2022 with Spartan, Fike, and Bede!

With 2022 coming to an end, I finalized some kits that I’ve been working on and here are the results:

Archie Adamisin’s recreation of the old Comet Kit for the Dime Scale Spartan C-3 Biplane.  Someone on Facebook asked if the original Comet kit was available.  Of course, it is as rare as hen’s teeth, but Archie redrew the plan and built one last winter.  We worked together to create the short kit and here it is.  You will receive the original plan, a new building plan, and two sheets of laser-cut parts (including two optional engine treatments).  Find the short kit HERE.

Next is a kit I have been sitting on for a long time – the Fike E “Dream” (C-GRSM) Peanut.  You might remember that I documented this plane and built the model some time ago.  I used the prototype model in Peanut, Embryo (yes!), and Simplified Power Scale.  I held off on publishing the short kit for personal reasons, but am releasing it now.  You will receive a 2-page detailed plan, two sheets of laser cut light-weight balsa, and a 3D-printed tailwheel.  You can find it HERE.  You can also download FREE printed tissue templates on the Downloads/Tissue page.

Lastly is my most recent build – the Bede BD-4 in Peanut Scale.  This is a common and popular Peanut, as it is all straight lines and is a simple build.  I was inspired by Cloudbuster Chris Boehm as he has built several of these.  Not only is it simple, but it has a generous 32+ square inch wing area.  This is the tail-dragger version, but the tri-gear is shown on the plan, too.  You will receive a plan, two sheets of laser cut light-weight balsa, and a 3D-printed tailwheel.  You can find it HERE.  You can also download FREE printed tissue templates on the Downloads/Tissue page.  Once I get the model fully trimmed, I should have 3D-printed prop and spinner combos available – in 2-blade, 3-blade, AND 4-blade setups – all to match your documentation for the build you want.

These will certainly be the last short kits from me in 2022.  But don’t worry!  The drawing board is always full of what’s next!  I’ll probably start on an Old Timer as a tribute model, and I just received the plans from Tom Hallman for next year’s Outdoor Champ One-Design – a 36″ span Schweizer 2-22 Glider for towline.  (Note: the short kit will be part of the registration package for the 2023 FAC Outdoor Champs in September, to be flown in 2024.  The short kit will be available after that contest.)  I am also working on various Race Planes, JetCats, NoCals, and more!  See you on the flying field in 2023!


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Three New Short Kits!

Coming out of the Cloudbusters’ Indoor contest last Thursday (08 Dec), I had three successful new models!  My Floyd Bean NoCal had proven itself before, but it won the NoCal races, beating three Folkerts SK-2 and a Hosler Fury (all 5 models were my designs!)

I struggled with my Occipinti’s Wittman Tailwind again for an unexpected amount of time – until I upped the rubber from a loop of 3/32″ to a loop of 0.108″ rubber.  It settled right in to a nice climb and cruise, logging several seconds over 2 minutes. There was much rejoicing (well, internally, at least).

Also, my Sky Box Indoor Embryo was returned to me (stuck on the roof last month) and I tweaked it a little and had an ROG flight of almost 2 minutes in length.  More success (and more tweaking in the future)!

Find them here:

Floyd Bean NoCal

Tailwind NoCal

Sky Box Embryo


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Peanut Canopies and “Scale” Props – Now AVAILABLE!!!

Now available: Peanut “Scale” Propellers and Canopies!

Canopies:  I’ve decided to no longer “limit” my production of canopies.  When I started, I was afraid of inconsistent results due to base materials.  I have now worked a process that produces good results.  I am starting with the canopies for my Peanut Short Kits:  Fairey Barracuda, Vought Corsair, Polikarpov I-16, Yakevlov Yak-3, and the Messerschmitt BF-109e.  These are the same items that already come in the short kits, but maybe you want extras or replacements – now you can get them.

Canopies available on THIS PAGE.

“Scale” Props:  Similarly, I am now able to produce good quality 3D-printed “scale” props for some of my Peanut Short Kits:  Vought Corsair, Aircraft Designs Stallion, Fairey Barracuda, Yakevlov Yak-3, and the Messerschmitt BF-109e.  All but the Corsair props come with a 3d-Printed spinner with index marks for the blade locations.  The propellers are printed from heat-resistant ABS plastic and are available in your choice of Black or Gray (sometimes, spinner color choice is also available).

I have had great success flying these props on my Corsair and Stallion, so I decided to expand and sell them.  The files were created in conjunction with Archie Adamisin and his “3D PROPS” venture.  I am calling them “scale” props because they have the same number of blades are the full-scale propellers, but the quotation marks refer to the fact that they are larger than the scale ratio.  The do give a more realistic appearance to the model.

Currently, all the 4-bladed props are the same, as are the 3-bladed props, with the exception of the Stallion 3-blade prop.  It is smaller, due to the lighter model and motor used.

Another comment is that these have worked for me.  I identify the target model weight and rubber usage.  Given that every model is different, your mileage may vary.  The 4-blade and 3-blade props have the same blade area, so switching for a 4-blade to a 3-blade (like on the Corsair) should make no appreciable difference.

NOTE:  NONE of the props come with ramp.  This is to allow the builder to install his favorite clutch mechanism.  Also, the shaft hole is a generic 1/16″ nominal diameter, again, allowing the builder to properly bush the hole with their favorite tubing solution.

Finally, I have tested these on each of my models – they do fly the models!

“Scale” Props available on THIS PAGE.

Currently, I am only offering Peanut Props and Canopies.  I will work to expand these as time goes by.


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New Products and Estate Items!

What happens when you drag your feet for a few years?  Well, you find that you have quite a collection of Tools from various estates that you have neglected to offer to your customers.  Today I took some time and photographed all of them and logged them into my website.  NOTE:  there are TWENTY-EIGHT HARD-TO-FIND ITEMS – a large number of Rubber Strippers, Indoor Winders, Outdoor Winders, Balsa Strippers – a LOT of stuff!  (Maybe you should tell Santa!)  Check them all out HERE.


Well, a reintroduction of an old product:  the Boehm Clutches, now in ALUMINUM!  I got a batch of these made, in both the 0.047″ and 0.032″ shaft sizes.  These are much more durable than the printed plastic – but they are about twice as heavy, too!  Now you have a choice – Plastic or Metal.  Find them HERE.


I’ve decided to sell replacement vacu-formed canopies for my short kits.  These normally come WITH the short kit, but maybe you want an extra or you damaged yours.  I don’t have them online yet; I’m still building the catalog entries – but soon!

Similarly, I am developing Scale (appearing) 3D-Printed Prop and Spinners for my Peanut short kits.  Scale appearing because they represent the original number of blades that the real plane had.  You’ve seen my 4-bladed Corsair – that’s an example.  I will have sets for the Corsair (4-blade and 3-blade, no spinner), Yak-3 (3-blade with spinner), BF-109e (3-blade with spinner), Barracuda (4-blade with spinner), and the Stallion (3-blade with spinner) – and probably more.  The spinners will have blade location identified, but not cut out.  The props will be printed from heat-resistant ABS and will NOT have a ramp or clutch (so you can install your favorite clutch).  Please note:  these will have rubber power and model weight recommendations provided (based on what has worked for me).

Lastly, I’ve been getting a lot of queries about my mini adjustable nose buttons.  So I am pressing forward and will likely be producing these soon.  They will be in KIT FORM – that is, YOU get to assemble the final product.  They are just too time consuming for me to build them.  I’ve already got an instruction sheet written up.


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Indoor Fun – 10 November 2022

The Cloudbusters held their November Indoor contest yesterday so I drove the 135 miles (2+ hours) one way to go have four hours of fun. (For those of you that complain about no where local to fly, I think this is the norm – you have to go where the flying IS, even if it is far away.)

The day presented a good amount of frustration.  I couldn’t get my NoCal Tailwind to fly (I think I over-propped it) and I broke both struts on it.  I got my breand-new Sky Box II Embryo out and promptly got it stuck.  I called the building management to help get it down – “we normally do that once a week – and not while the room is scheduled/occupied”.  See you later, Sky Box.

My Phantom Flash needs a replacement.  It is old and cantankerous.  Torque takes it left on takeoff, but it figure-eights to the right.  It got stuck on the side of the building.  Fortunately, I could reach it with my 35-foot pole.  It only got stuck THREE MORE TIMES on the way down from that retrieval.

I did win a couple events, and I put a 16″ loop of rubber in my Peanut Stallion and had a good flight.  It will be a great flight when I get the zoomies tamed.  Here’s a video:




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“Woohoo!” or “Ugh”??? Indoor NoCal Testing

Oh, the travails or Indoor FAC Free Flight.  Last Thursday (13 Oct 2022), I headed northeast to Pontiac, Michigan to our (the Cloudbusters) first Indoor contest of the year.  We had a light turnout, so most of the day was spent testing – and that was fine because new models need testing.

We are going to discuss my brand new model for the Combined Greve/Thompson NoCal Mass Launch event.  For the past couple of years, I have been flying my Folkerts SK-2 and it has been great, if not dominant.  But it has suffered many breaks from crashing into the rafters 60 feet above the floor.  As a result, the wings are warped and times are down – it’s time for a new model.

The Folkerts is a big NoCal 22″ from nose to tail, with 62.5 square inches of wing area.  And mine came out to 7 grams – just a little above the 6.2 minimum weight for the event.  The result was consistent time over 3 minutes and a high time of 3:47.

So – a new plane – what to create?  Well, bigger is better, right?  I searched for long-bodied, short-winged planes of the era.  That combination make for lots of wing area and lots of rubber capacity – theoretical “good things” for Scale Free Flight subjects, especially in the NoCal event (well, it’s MY theory, anyway).

One of the smaller, if not smallest airplanes designed for the pre-war National Air Races was the Floyd Bean Special. Designed in collaboration with the Chambermaid, it is very similar; more round in the fuselage and a longer nose.  It had a span of just over 13 feet and that long nose was due to the Menasco 6-cylinder engine (the Folkerts SK-2 only used a 4-cylinder Menasco engine).  The real plane was too late for the 1938 Races, and landing gear problems prevented entry into the 1939 Races.

I used the Kerka 3-view and scaled everything for the maximum 16″ wing span.  This makes a monster NoCal:  just over 26″ nose to tail, with almost 78 square inches of wing area and about 19.5″ hook-to-peg for the motor – it’s huge!

that is a 16 inch ruler!

the Floyd Bean NoCal compared to a Fairey Barracuda NoCal – same wingspan.

I made up a formed prop for it – a 7″ diameter formed on a 12″ pitch block with a 1.5″ wide Larabee profile.  I also used one of my mini-Gizmo Geezer adjustable NoCal nose bearings (this would be the first test of them).  After fitting all of the required nose parts, the total weight was just at 10 grams.  Oh, that hurts.  The target was 7 grams.  I used 5-pound wood throughout, except the motor stick which is made from 1/4″ balsa – 4-pound balsa.  Of course, it took a whole sheet of yellow tissue to get all the pieces.  I calculate there is about 1 gram in tissue alone.  Anyway, on to the actual flying of the model!

I did balance and glide testing with a full motor (25″ loop of 1/8″ – the Folkerts, lighter and smaller, used 24″ of 0.102″ rubber, so a bigger plane requires a bigger motor) and found I had to add a small amount of clay to the tail to get a decent glide.  “Gliding” is important in NoCal – most of your flight is on cruise, so you need to have a flat glide to allow for the lowest power flight.  I did a low-powered test flight of about 1000 turns and made a couple thrust adjustments and put in 2000 turns for a real test.  I was pleased as I hit over 2 minutes on it’s first real flight.  Of course, it wasn’t perfect.  The “cruise” had lots of minor porpoising, but no really bad characteristics.  After 5 or 6 additional test flights, tweaking thrust, but mostly taking off tail weight, I managed a really good flight as shown here:

A 2:29 on the first day sounds like a “woohoo!” moment – so whats the “ugh”?  To put it bluntly, it is going to take more than 2.5 minutes to win the races – a lot more.  As I said above, my Folkerts was dominant at 3-3.5 minutes – but it raised the bar locally – other were catching me and I was losing contests with the old broken-winged bird.

“Just keep tweaking and get more time.”  That’s the general process, but I don’t know if that will work here.  Here’s why:

  1.  at 10 grams, I need a lot of motor to haul the model around.  1/8″ seems to work well.  I had good climb-out, and good cruise (see the video) – but, I was landing with turns.  That means either my motor is too long or not fat enough.
  2.  I could cut about an inch or two off the motor (about 300 turns remained) to right-size the 1/8″ rubber.  That would lighten the carried weight, but shorten the duration of the motor.  However, that probably would result in about the same times, maybe a few seconds longer, if I got lucky.
  3.  I could strip some rubber to go fatter.  But a fatter motor means more torque – and more carried weight.  More carried weight could mean less flight time, but that might be offset by better cruise (not petering out right at the end).  But high torque at launch brings additional problems.
  4.  I would to about 2200 turns; this was about 1 in-oz on my digital torque meter.  On a 25″ loop of 1/8″, rubber theory suggests that should be able to increase both – up to about 2 in-oz and 2400 turns.  But I am not sure my model can handle this.
  5.  I used light-weight 1/4″ square balsa for the motor stick.  I have tapered this and smoothed it where appropriate.  This is what I always do and it is a “good practice”, a proven technique.  When I did this, even before I glued it to the fuselage, I was worried that I went “too light” – there was a good deal of flex in this stick.  I think it is just too long.  I reinforced it with strips of carbon fiber and that helped, but I noticed that the fuselage was flexing under the 2200 turns/1-in-oz load.  My plane flies left and this force causes the flex to the right.  The plane flies straight and up for the first 30 feet or so an then assumes a normal flight path.  More torque could be disastrous.

So…the model is too heavy, requires too much rubber, and is too flexible.  I have been thinking these past few days on how to cure these problems.

I could probably buildup a rolled motor stick.  This would likely be stiffer, but probably not much lighter, and it would be difficult to retrofit.  That would make the plane stiffer, but wouldn’t make it lighter.

I could wind the current motor up and back off a few turns.  This help because you nave nearly the same turns, but less torque.  I can probably get a little bit more performance this way, especially on that shorter motor.

I could build a second model, using thinner wood in selected places, a rolled tube, maybe some Gampi tissue, a lighter selection on nose/prop pieces and – MAYBE – drop 2 grams.  That is very optimistic for me – I’m no Indoor modeler.

But in the end, this model might just prove that I have reached the limits of “bigger is better”.  If I am building a newer, lighter model, I should probably spend that effort on another Folkerts.  But I am not giving up on this one just yet.  It will see action in November.

Oh, yes, this will be a Short Kit soon.  I even have printed tissue templates made up for it already.


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New Short Kit – the Peanut Aircraft Designs Stallion

If you can’t wait, you can find the Short Kit HERE.  Download printed tissue template for this color scheme HEREScroll down for the rest of the story (and a test flight video!)…

The Aircraft Designs “Stallion” has been a favorite of mine since I saw the February 1995 issue of Private Pilot on the newsstand in my local supermarket.  I bought the magazine immediately.  There wasn’t such a thing as “searching the internet” back then, so this was a great source of scale documentation.  I was (and still am) always on the lookout for high-wing airplanes with retract gear and without struts.  I took it home and quickly started to lay out a Peanut plan.  I built two Peanuts – if I remember, #1 was smashed and #2 flew away.  This is the long-awaited third Peanut, built as a prototype for a laser-cut short kit.

Feb 1995 Private Pilot magazine and the Aircraft Designs Stallion

the inside of the magazine with an early CAD Peanut plan.

The build is “typical” – no surprises or complications.  It is a box fuselage with a few formers and stringers.  I designed it to be light, so I used light wood and many of the formers and stringers are from 1/32″ sheet.  My target weight was the unobtainable 5 grams.  I hit 7 grams, due to a 3D printed prop and spinner.

I wanted to keep it light because my goal was to fly it on a loop of 1/16″ rubber.  I am pretty sure I lost #2 flying in the McCook Squadron’s “Watson Challenge” – where you can fly any plane with a 24″ strand of 1/8″ (I stripped it down to 2 strands of 1/16″).  My records also show that the old one weighed 5.5 grams – but it may have been more, as I only had a homemade balance beam back then.

I also tried a bunch of “new” things on this model.  I installed one of my light-weight mini Gizmo Geezer Nose Buttons (read about them HERE).  Also (as noted in the linked article), I’ve been working with Archie Adamisin on 3D printed propellers.  I put one of his on my Peanut Corsair and had great luck.  This time, I wanted to replicate the 3-bladed propeller on the full scale aircraft, so I took one of his 3D files and modified it what I imagined would be a good prop for the model.  This one is a 3-Blade of 4″ diameter, 5″ pitch, and a 0.4″ blade width.  it looks quite scale!

The prop is driven by a Garami-style clutch bound to one of the blades and one of my tiny 3D-printed Clutch Drivers.  This is all hidden under a 3D printed Spinner.  The prop and necessary equipment added just about 1.5 grams to the build.  So, between all that plastic and the sheeted nose (1/64″ balsa), I probably could have saved between 1/2 and 1 gram of weight.

As the beautiful fall day warmed up and started to burn off the dew this afternoon, I loaded up a 10″ loop of 1/16″ rubber and headed out to the back yard.  After a little bit of added tail weight and a few twists on the adjustable nose button screws, I got some pretty decent test flights.  Here is the one I filmed.

It is a simple plane, but simple things can bring simple pleasures.






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