Fantastic Flyer Instructions

The Fantastic Flyer is a low cost, easy to build, robust balsa glider that flies well.   The design of the Fantastic Flyer was adapted from a similar design by the Experimental Aircraft Association and is used with their permission.   Minor changes have been made to their design to use materials that are easier to procure and make it easier to adjust when flying.   The cost of this project is minimized by maximizing the number of pieces that can be made from standard sizes of balsa and using templates that are made from “Formica” samples.

To build this glider, one will need the materials shown on the Bill of Materials.


Bill of Materials Dimensions


Potential sources for these materials are:

The following tools and supplies will be needed:

Recommended Build Order (i.e. make the parts that need to be glued together first)

  1. Vertical Fin
    1. Trace the profile of the vertical fin onto the balsa using the Vertical Fin template and a gel pen
    2. Using a scissors, cut just outside of the line that has been traced
    3. Using the sanding block, sand off the excess balsa (i.e. the balsa that remains outside of the contour that was traced)
    Detail of fin construction.
  2. Fuselage
    1. Using a ruler and a gel pen mark on the catapult lug location and wing location reference marks
    2. Attach the Catapult Lug with glue and use modeling pins or similar to hold it in place while the glue dries
    3. Attach the Vertical Fin with glue and use modeling pins or similar to hold it in place while the glue dries.   The back edge of the Vertical Fin is to be flush with the back edge of the fuselage and perpendicular to the fuselage.

  3. Wings
    1. Trace the radius on the ends of the wings using the Wing Tip template and a gel pen.
    2. Using a ruler find the middle of each wing and using the straight end of the Wing Tip template draw a perpendicular line at the middle of each wing.
    3. Using a scissors, cut just outside of the line that has been traced
    4. Using the sanding block, sand off the excess balsa (i.e. the balsa that remains outside of the ontour that was traced).
    5. If desired, decorate the wings with magic markers.   Permanent markers bleed less than washable markers.
    Showing detail of wing construction.

  4. Assembly
    1. If the glue is dry, proceed to the next step
    2. Over the front of the Fuselage install the Rear Wing.   To do this, slide one of the rubber bands over the Fuselage, place the Rear Wing on top of the Fuselage wing middle mark facing upward and gently pull the rubber band over the front of the Fuselage.   Gently slide the Rear Wing rearward until it touches the Vertical Fin and is centered on the Fuselage.
    3. Over the front of the Fuselage install the Front Wing as was previously done for the Rear Wing.   Gently slide the Front Wing rearward until it is in the approximate position as shown and is centered on the Fuselage.
    4. Slide the Nose Tube on to the front of the fuselage while holding the Fuselage at the catapult lug.   If a vinyl tube is used rather than the silicone nose it will may be necessary to chamfer the inside diameter of the Nose Tube and/or slightly compress the front-most corners of the Fuselage.   The molded silicone nose is much easier to install.   Once you have tried it, you will not want to go back to using the vinyl tubing for the Nose Tube.

  5. Adjusting to Fly
    1. Keep the Rear Wing pushed back to the Vertical Fin and centered on the Fuselage.
    2. To launch the glider hold the glider between your thumb and index finger at the middle of the Fuselage.   Gently toss the glider horizontally.
    3. If the glider dives to the ground, then move the Front Wing forward.   If the glider goes high and stalls, slide the Front Wing rearward.  The reference marks on the top of the fuselage are so that one can tell how far forward or rearward the Front Wing is.
    4. To keep the glider from turning, slide the Front Wing out horizontally in the direction that it turns.   The reference mark on the middle of the wing is so that one can tell how far the wing is shifted.
    5. When the glider lands the Front and Rear Wings may move.   If so, it will be necessary to reposition the wings relative to the reference marks again.   Not repositioning the Rear Wing against the Vertical Fin after it has flown will make it difficult to adjust to fly well.
Showing how to 
               hand launch.

An alternative to hand launching this glider is to catapult it.   The catapult can be made from a 6-inch long piece of 3/16 inch dowel and a # 117B (i.e. 7 inch x 1/8 inch) rubber band.   As a word of caution, other than in a gymnasium, catapulting this glider is an outside activity and the glider is not to be catapulted in the direction of any person.   The attached picture shows how to launch the glider with the catapult.
Note: the Front Wing needs to be shifted more rearward than typical when catapulting.   Also, if the molded silicone nose is used rather than the vinyl tube, it will need to be shortened by removing ½ - ¾ inch of its length.   Otherwise, it will tend to dive back to the ground like a “lawn dart” without recovering into a glide.


Showing catapult Launch How to hold the plane 
                for catapult launch