How to build and fly rubber band-powered model airplanes

Written by paul bragulla
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How to build and fly rubber band-powered model airplanes
Some rubber band-powered models are detailed replicas of real aircraft. (fighter image by Yury Shirokov from

One of the oldest and simplest ways of powering flying model aircraft is with a heavy-duty rubber band. One end of the rubber band is attached to the propeller, while the other is anchored inside the model. The rubber band twists when the hobbyist turns the propeller, which provides thrust and, when released, powers the model aeroplane's propeller into the air. Constructing a rubber band-powered model aeroplane is an activity that requires care, but the results can be enjoyable when you see the model streaking through the air.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Rubber-powered model aeroplane kit
  • Corkboard
  • Hobby knife
  • Waxed paper
  • Pins
  • Model aeroplane glue
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Modelling dope

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  1. 1

    Lay out plans from a model aeroplane kit on corkboard. Place a sheet of waxed paper over the plans and pin them into place.

  2. 2

    Cut out the parts with a hobby knife, taking care not to damage the smaller, more delicate pieces.

  3. 3

    Build the frame of the model by placing the parts over their corresponding spaces on the plans and pinning them around the edges. Glue them where they meet. Allow the frame to dry before continuing.

  4. 4

    Remove the pins and gently break the frame components free from any spots stuck to the waxed paper. Attach one end of the rubber band to the appropriate spot in the fuselage. Attach the propeller head accessory and any other plastic components to the appropriate spots indicated in the plans.

  5. 5

    Attach the skin of the model. Depending on the model aeroplane, the sheeting that makes up the skin might be made of thin wood or tissue paper. If the sheeting is wood, glue it to the frame components as indicated in the plans. If the material is tissue paper, brush the surfaces of the frame components where they will touch the skin with diluted white glue and lay sheets of tissue paper over them. The paper usually is included in the kit. When the glue dries, use the hobby knife to cut around the edges of the covered parts to remove excess paper. The paper can be tightened if it is loose by spraying it with a light mist of water and letting it dry.

  6. 6

    Join the components with modelling glue to finish construction. Decorate the surface with paints or decals indicated in the plans, and then varnish the model with modelling dope to produce a smooth finish.

  1. 1

    Choose a flight location with soft grass and few trees or obstructions.

  2. 2

    Wind the rubber band motor by turning the propeller the opposite way it will turn in flight. Most rubber-band motors can take up to 150 turns to wind.

  3. 3

    Launch the plane by releasing the propeller and gently tossing the plane forward. It shouldn't require much force because the plane only needs a little momentum to go.

Tips and warnings

  • Always carefully follow the instructions provided with the kit.

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