Summer of Free-Flight
My “Summer of Free-Flight” has been a lot of fun! It’s been a learning experience, not always smooth going, but always fun! I’ve built and flown a few really fun balsa wood stick and tissue paper airplanes this summer. The latest plane added to my fleet of planes is Rob Peck’s classic design, the Prairie Bird.
Peck Polymers Prairie Bird Airplane
A friend recommended I build the Prairie Bird because of its reputation as a great flyer. He was correct; more on that later. I searched around on the internet and downloaded the plan. The plan was formatted to print nicely on 11″x17″ paper – so I uploaded the file to Staples and had them print me a few on some quite nice card stock. I believe five copies cost me under $3 total. I pinned the plan to my building board, covered it with Saran Wrap and got to work.
I really took my time on this project making certain everything was as perfect as could be. The straightforward design of the plane made it easy to construct a straight and square fuselage. I practically glued the cross-braces one at a time and waited for the glue to set before I adding the next one.
Adding tissue paper was a snap because there isn’t too many compound angles and curves to the parts. The tissue on everything except the rudder and stabilizer was shrunk with 50/50 water/alcohol mixture. Following the shrinking I added a three coats of 50/50 SIG Lite-Coat/Thinner. The windshield is made with clear plastic from a salad container. I used plastic Peck wheels, a Peck Nylon Bearing and Peck propeller. The propeller was balanced by gently sanding away material until an even balance was achieved (a lot more sanding than I expected).
My test flights were a great success. At first I was flying with approximately 300 turns on the motor, eventually increasing to about 600. Many more turns are possible, but I didn’t have a helper or a stooge to help me stretch wind the motor. I didn’t want to press my luck.
The Prairie Bird performed wonderfully and was a champion at catching thermals. One of the flights concluded in a tree. Lucky for me it was low enough to the ground that I whacked it loose with a six foot long stick.
The thrill that is achieved from flying these little beauties is beyond words. The careful work and attention is forgotten – and happiness consumes me when they take to the air, and when they land where they can be easily retrieved.