How to make an elastic-launched airplane

Time for another fun kid-friendly tutorial! This time, we are going to make a pull-back airplane! Pull-back all the things!

Consumables needed include:

  • 1 popsicle stick
  • 1 elastic
  • 1 paperclip
  • 1 straw
  • 1 small ball of Plasticine, clay, play dough, whatever
  • duct tape
  • 1 styrofoam tray (15 cm x 21 cm pictured here)


Tools needed include:

  • wire cutters
  • scissors
  • glue gun with glue


First off, cut the tray in half:

Next, cut off the two long sides first, and throw them away (or save them for another activity). Next, cut off the short ends, on one side only, of each of the long middle pieces left. Keep them for later.


With the curved short ends on the outside, match up the two long pieces, and use a piece of duct tape to join them together.


Next, you need the wire cutters and the paperclip.


With the wire cutters, cut off a “U” shape from the paperclip, so it looks like the bottom-most piece, below:


Next, you need a straw, and your newly cut metal U-shape.


Take one end of the U-shape, and punch it through the straw, about 1-2 cm from an end, like so:


Next, use a little glue from the glue gun to hold the U-shape in place so I can not get pulled out, and so it stays still.


Don’t mind the stringy mess.


Wings and body are ready to be assembled.


Line up the body on top of the wing, with the curved ends of the wing pointing up, and the paperclip on the bottom. Make sure the end of the paperclip is clear of the wing (unlike the alignment in the photo below).


Add duct tape to hold the body onto the wing. If you tape it tight, you’ll get a slight elevation on the wings, which is good, since it gives the plane more stability.


Now it is time to make the tail. All you need are two pieces of tape, and the two curved ends you kept from earlier.


Put one piece of tape on the end of the end… (I know, confusing).


Then attach it to the middle of the other end piece you kept.


Add the second piece of tape to the other side to reinforce it all. You’ve assembled the tail!


Now tape the tail onto the end of the body.


Here is the plane! One more addition to go!


Add a piece of Plasticine to the nose of the plane for weight. Ideally, when held by the middle of each wing, the plane should be balanced, or at least leaning forward (towards the nose) a little.


Time to make my easy-peasy launcher. All you need is a Popsicle stick and an elastic.


Loop the elastic around one end of the Popsicle stick…


… and through itself.


Then pull it tight. Launcher is made!


Hook the elastic from the launcher onto the paper clip and you are ready for flight! Just pull back and release.


Launching may not always work, sometimes there isn’t enough clearance between the paperclip and the body of the plane or its wings. Just bend the paperclip on the nose of the plane open a little more and try again. Also, your alignment can affect the flight. Try to pull both the plane and launcher level the first few times and adjust your angle of attack for maximum distance.

Also, aim away from face! This thing can fly pretty fast and far when you get good at it!

Good luck, and have fun!


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