Building a FliteTest Sparrow
I need a hobby. I like building things, but I don't like owning
things. Robotics is fun, but it it fairly expensive and of limited
practicality - plus you end up with robots. I went looking for something
I've always been interested in airplanes, and when I stumbled on
FliteTest.com, where they have free plans to make airplanes
out of foamboard you can buy at Dollar Tree. The Sparrow
Glider I made cost about $1 each.
The plans are in PDF format, and for some reason, Adobe's PDF reader
doesn't want to print them correctly (they are either off center
or slightly enlarged.) Sadly, the solution is to - ugh - use Microsoft
Edge. Print, trim, tape together. The Sparrow fits on one 20x30
I wanted to make several of these (to gain experience with the
technique) and decided to make templates of the parts so I could
reproduce them several times without having to reprint the plans.
For this, I needed use scissors to rough cut the parts from the
plans, spray glue to fix the pieces to foamboard, a straight edge,
large razor for straight cuts, and an X-acto for corners and details.
Once the templates were cut, I arranged them on foamboard and traced
It takes practice to get your pencil all the way in there. I used
pins to hold the template in place - and also as markers for sections
where the cuts don't go all the way through - then I removed the
template, I would "connect the dots" between appropriate
Make sure to fill in any gaps in your tracing.
The bendy metal ruler is great for drawing curves.
Trace the pattern, connect the dots and BOOM! You have a design
ready to cut out.
The accepted procedure is to cut all your straight edges first,
then cut your corners. I tried to not remove the part from the foamboard
until all the cuts had been made.
For cuts that don't go all the way through, I'd break the surface
with the razor, then score the cut with a plastic card.
OK, I skipped a lot of steps. Folded things together, glued seams
with hot glue, etc.
Here is a finished Sparrow decorated by a neighbor, Kiana.
While all this was going on, I received a couple shipments. Things
were starting to cost money.
That's about $250 worth of bits and pieces, with $100 going to
the FrSky Taranis Q X7 transmitter. $28 on the battery charger,
then a pair of matched motors - one rotates clockwise, the other
counter-clockwise for when I graduate to multi-engines, Electronic
Speed Controllers (ESCs), CW and CCW blades, and other items. What
I forgot to order was receivers - the thing that talks to the transmitter
and allows you to control you plane. That was another $50 for two.
That's the manual that comes with a 16 channel transmitter. Somehow,
I think I will have a steep learning curve.
Back to the gliders. The kids did a nice job decorating them, so
I thought I'd protect their work by spraying it with varnish. Want
to know what happens when you spray foamboard with varnish? The
paper peels off. I had to make new gliders and get the kids to decorate
Finally, we were ready. That's Trevor and his sister, Tanna with
That's Mike and his son, Ben, trying to fly the plane decorated
by Ben's sister, Kiana. It was a pretty sad day for glider flying.
We learned a couple things: The gliders are . . . OK. Gusty wind
conditions don't make for good glider flying. Also, 6-year-olds
don't throw worth a poop.