Looking for a slow-flying, good looking model to teach your small child to fly on a budget? You could do a lot worse than the FT Old Speedster – the latest design by Josh Bixler from Flite Test.

I had previously built the FT Flyer for Lilly to play with. I made it out of Depron, feeling that the weight saved would make for a slower flying model. Sadly, whilst the model flew well the Depron lacked rigidity and the flat-plate wing flexed a lot making for less than perfect flight characteristics.

FT Old Speedster

The FT Old Speedster is a mid-wing model based around the racers of the 30’s and 40’s. The simple flat wing is cracked at 30% chord giving the simplest version of  an undercambered airfoil possible.

I had a choice between this and the FT Old Fogey but to be honest as the Flite Test had promised an identical flight envelope for both models the FT Old Speedster won the vote on looks alone. As part of the “Swappable” series, I already had a powerpod built that would suit this model. The only thing I wasn’t too sure about was the wheelpants as there is no way they would survive the grass landings of a (nearly) four-year-old girl.

I did have a couple of plans for this model from the outset. I was going to use an OrangeRX 3-axis stabilising RX with the option for also adding an electronic buddy-box switch later on.

My main concern with this build was reports of other Australian modellers building the FT Old Fogey from “heavy” Australian foam board and having a model that was either completely un-flyable or needed to carry a lot of speed to stay airborne. It stood to reason that the FT Old Speedster would suffer the same problem.

Let the cutting commence…

I used my tried and tested method of tracing the plan onto the foam board using a pin then joining the dots with pen. Cutting this model was more difficult than previous designs due to the large number of curves but a sharp blade and steady hand actually proved more successful than I had hoped.

FT Old Speedster parts

All the parts cut out and ready to go…

TOP TIP! It appears that the plans made available for download on Flite Test are the same drawings used for laser-cutting their Speed-Build Kits. As the laser cutting process creates a cut slightly wider than a scalpel blade (and recesses the foam) you will find that following the lines precisely on will make slots too narrow. Always cut on the outside of lines for the slots and the inside for the rest.

The simplest way to build a wing…

The cut for the polyhedral wing is perfectly measured on the plan and using the provided templates and wedges (yes it is worth cutting them out) means you can build a perfectly straight and surprisingly strong wing in no time at all.

Take time to make sure you reinforce the joins with a smear of hot glue to ensure a strong wing that will last. Remember that this is a lightweight slow-flying model so the roll inertia is very low and the chances of breaking these joints near impossible.

A-Folds and B-Folds a plenty…

Cut out in one piece the fuselage folds up into a strong box. Of course, the slots for the folds were too narrow (see above) so it took some time to get the sides square. The only real problem I had here was keeping the tail straight when I pulled the two halves together. In actual fact, putting the fin and horizontal stabiliser on proved the easiest way to keep things straight.

Power Pod Problems

It was at this stage of the build that I discovered that the powerpod I had already built simply wouldn’t fit in the model. With my intended Turnigy Park 300 up front the firewall was just too far back making the prop foul the nose of the model. Even with the motor removed I found that fitting the pod into the model was very arduous and was going to make access to the RX impossible.

Eventually I decided to cut the pod short and glue it permanently into the model. The shortened box would still provide a mount for the small battery and the extra space would allow me to mount the RX on the floor of the model. To bring the motor out to the nose I made four small stand-offs from carbon tube and passed bolts all the way through.

FT Old Speedster motor mount

The shortened power pod and motor mounts.

Putting it all together

The final assembly of the parts was a bit of an anti-climax. The hardest part was the cardboard turtle-decks. These were quite fiddly to get square and I used far too much glue on the front section but the finished product looks good.

I wasn’t going to pay another $15 for a strip of wire to make the undercarriage so I found an old lightweight set in the draw of bits and screwed them to an added block on the bottom of the plane.

Setting up the OrangeRX stabilised RX was very easy. You just need to make sure the orientation is correct and remember to use the switches on the receiver to reverse the servos if required (otherwise the RX will try to move the servos in the wrong direction to stabilise flight).

FT Old Speedster

Some nice stickers and ready for the off…

Time for a maiden flight…

It was pretty windy but I thought I would give it a go. To be honest, just feeling the weight of the model and the pull in the small Park 300 motor on 3-cells I knew I was onto a winner.

Sure enough, the FT Old Speedster was airborne in no more than a few feet. The original build video mentioned modifications to the wing to counteract torque in the motor and this was very quickly evident as I had little right rudder authority under full throttle. With a lot of trim and some airspeed this improved and I was soon cruising around smoothly.

The flight stabilising RX appears to work well and tests with it on and off prove that it does indeed smooth out the controls nicely.

Unfortunately, I was filming with the GoPro on a head mount but I had framed it all wrong and most of the flight was off the top of the screen! Try again next time.

With a bit of headwind this model is VERY slow flying. Any concern over the weight of the foamboard was soon forgotten and I managed to fly so slowly I could hover it all the way to the ground.

Finally, some video…

The weather still wasn’t perfect but I did get out again with the GoPro to capture some flight footage. I had added some right thrust to the motor to counteract the extra torque and give me back some rudder authority. Enjoy:

Conclusion

The FT Old Speedster is a great looking model. Once again relatively easy to build and fly with a lot of character in the air. My only concern is that with the size of the wing area and short coupling of the tail the control response is not that crisp – it may even benefit from ailerons!

Rumours of the FT Old Fogey performing badly when built from Australian foam board definitely do not apply here. To be brutally honest, my gut feeling is that this model would actually benefit from being a little heavier for outdoor flying so it could carry a little more inertia into the turns.

If you want something a little different, why not build one and give it a go? I’m off to teach a small person to fly…