Matthew Butchard is a designer and tinkerer who hails from Oxfordshire, England. We were blown away when we saw his flying 3Doodled plane and he was gracious enough to give us an inside look at all the work that went into it. This is part one of a two part story, so stay tuned for more!
I’ve always wanted to build a plane that could actually fly. Even though people around the world make and fly model airplanes all the time, it always seemed like something out of my reach. Perhaps it’s the fastidious precision required. Perhaps it is the cost. Perhaps I just didn’t know how.
Then along came the 3Doodler, a device that made my imagination soar and gave me a reason to learn new things. All of a sudden it didn’t seem so difficult to make a model plane, but why stop there? I could then make a bigger plane, and then see if it flew, and then -- why not? -- build some controls into it! Thanks to the internet, I learnt as I went along, and the 3Doodler allowed me to build, chop and change the design as I needed to.
The Idea and the Build
The idea to build a plane came from the amazing 3Doodled Triplane and my own fond childhood memories of building a balsa wood model plane my dad bought me. After honing my 3Doodler skills with a few smaller projects, I started off with a simple plane just to see how everything went together… and to figure out the best way to build a larger plane.
One of the easiest and most effective build methods when using the 3Doodler is to start with a printed template which you can then trace over and build up. I used this same technique to build my plane, starting with a layout of a plane I downloaded from the Outerzone.
Once I finished the model, I wanted to see if the plane flew at all; if it did then there was a chance I might be able to go that extra step by adding a motor and maybe remote control.
Let’s add Power! RC Conversion
I was fortunate enough to have some workmates that knew a bit about remote control planes, and they leapt to my aid by lending some bits of kit. It wasn’t long before I found myself with a 3Doodled plane, a donated electric motor and a radio control transmitter and receiver. All I needed now was a set of micro servos and a lightweight battery, which I easily found online.
Once I had the kit working, mounting the servos in place was fairly straightforward. The 3Doodler is perfect for this type of work, since I could just hold the servos in the position and then doodle around them to fix them in place.
The downloaded stencils were long gone at that point -- from thereon in I was just free-handing (or free-doodling) all the remaining bits and pieces.
Covering The Wings
Wanting to keep the plane as light and aerodynamic as possible, I found the lightest wing covering I could - a material called Litespan from Elite Models Online. Litespan stretches tight when you heat it with hot air. Great in theory, but this turned out to be a bit tricky because of the complex wing shape I had chosen. The curve made it harder to get tight wing coverage. The next time I doodle a plane, it’ll have simple square-end wings!
Time to Find a Pilot
As much as I wanted to take my plane down the park and fly it myself, I knew I’d have the best chance to see it take to the skies if I let an experienced pilot take the controls. I contacted my local model aircraft club, RDMAC, and one of their members kindly offered to try and fly the plane for me.
It was time to head to the field and get this project off the ground.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and Matt’s first Powered Flight