Free-Flight (FF) is one of the earliest forms of flying model aircraft that dates back as far as the 1800s. There are no expensive radios or batteries to charge or maintain and it requires little to no field equipment, making FF one of the lowest cost ways to enter the hobby. The most popular type of free-flight is rubber powered.
From simple stick models right up to muti-prop scale jobs, there is a plane for every budget and building experience, all adding up to the satisfaction of seeing a plane you built take to the skies.
Wingspans can range from 8 inches right up to 50 inches or more. Power is supplied by a rubber motor that can be hand wound or stretch wound using a hand winder for quickness and efficiency.
Once launched, a rubber powered plane typically has three elements of flight. The climb where the plane gains altitude, the cruise where it circles overhead while exhausting the energy stored in the rubber motor, and the glide where the plane glides back to earth: all while staying within the confines of the field. By making small adjustments to the flying surfaces and/or rubber motor, the plane is trimmed to achieve all of the above.
Flight duration can be controlled by the number of winds of rubber in the motor or by a device called a de-thermalizer that ends the flight, bringing down the aircraft quickly but safely.
You will find an incredible variety of planes when it comes to free-flight. Whether you are looking for a sport model for maximum duration of flight or a scale model of your favorite aircraft, rest assured, there is a kit or plan out there for you.
There have been few pre-built free-flight models available over the years. Most have been, and continue to be, built from ready available kits or from plans which can be purchased or downloaded free from on-line plan depositories. Planes can be simple: built using sheet balsawood or foam. They can be more complex: built using the traditional stick and tissue method where the framework consists of balsawood cut, shaped, and glued together and then covered with tissue paper or plastic film. Prices of kits start at around $5 and go up with the majority being around $30. Most kits come complete with all wood, plans, covering, and hardware needed to build and get your plane into the air. The builder just has to supply basic building supplies such as glue, sandpaper, building board, etc.
Flying at Stillwell Park is a pleasure for free-flight enthusiasts and as a member of LISF it is easily accessible. The center field is a large area of grass, typically cut once in June, August and September. It is surrounded by acres of tall grass, which in turn is surrounded by trees.
Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned free-flight pilot, you can be assured of a great time building and flying with like-minded fellow LISF members.
These free-flight articles from the LISF newsletters are by Steve Sweeney
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Building and Flying Techniques
Covering a model plane with tissue – Video by Zach
Information on building and flying free-flight – by Mike Stuart
A Selection of Kit Suppliers and Plans
Easy Built Models – since 1932
These calendars show both national and local free-flight contest schedules. LISF members compete in a few of them.
The National Free-Flight Society Calendar – Almost all of the NY area contests are held upstate at Geneseo or Waywayanda.
Annual Cole and Rita Palen Memorial Free-Flight Meet – This is about the closest contest to LISF. The contest is held at the Red Hook High School. Here is a video of 2012’s entries and contest results
More Information About This Sport
National Free-Flight Society – A great source for the latest news and information