Designing a plane...where do I start?

Discussion of aircraft design, new designs and designing your own

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Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by mrlight » Fri Aug 20, 2021 7:43 pm

Hi all 👋

I want to design a build a two seat, 3 axis aircraft.

I have no experience but have an engineering pal to help.

Where do I start in terms of drawing it and getting the spec right?

I'm then thinking build a decent sized scaled flyable model?

Then onto an actual build and testing.

Hit me with it... I know its nearly impossible and expensive and time consuming
and that I need experience and all that, so just looking for technical advice.

Andrew Randle

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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by tnowak » Mon Aug 23, 2021 7:43 am

I suggest you contact LAA Engineering for advice.


Tony Nowak

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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by TRAZZELL » Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:59 am

There are a lot of good text books that can help you. I'd recommend starting with Dan Raymer's book "Simplified Aircraft Design for Homebuilders" and Bud Evans "Lightplane Designer's Handbook", plus the spreadsheets on the LAA Engineering pages.

Tony Razzell
Tony Razzell

Ian Melville
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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by Ian Melville » Wed Apr 06, 2022 9:42 pm

Have you seen the articles in the last two magazines by Mike Roberts?

I will be following this closely as it has been my wish to scratch design something. I am enjoying Mikes approach and hope he is able to keep up regular articles.
I have read many of the suggested books and are able to follow them to a point, but then comes a point where everything rushes over my head.

Ian Melville

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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by neilld » Sat Dec 24, 2022 9:59 am

Apologies if this is old news but the RAeS in conjunction with Coventry University are running a virtual course (using Teams) in Aircraft Design from Jan 18th. Not sure if it's too late to enrol. ... HI,6QB48,1

David Neill

Hamish Mead
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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by Hamish Mead » Mon Mar 06, 2023 1:59 pm

The 64 million dollar question... where to begin!

Experimenting might be a great starting point – that approach certainly served Dick VanGrunsven very well when he created the RV-1 out the fuselage of a Stits Playboy with his own aluminum cantilevered wing design - but bear in mind he was already a graduate engineer and pilot when he began his experimenting:

If like me, your budget and engineering abilities are more modest, the 2023 RAeS + Coventry University online course that DFN mentioned is probably as great a place as any to begin. Just be prepared to accept that you'll be banging your way around in the dark for a long time to come, as in any rabbit hole, and the field of aircraft design is riddled with the things. :wink:

Barry Taylor (Vice-Chair, RAeS General Aviation Specialist Group) recently posted the first two of four sessions of the 2023 RAeS / Coventry University Light Aircraft Design Teach-ins’: Evaluate Your own Aircraft in X-Plane on YouTube, links below.

A quick review of the course to date (Session 1+2):
It's got some way to go to reach the standard of MIT's online learning material, particularly the audio, but if you focus on the content – delivered by the enthusiastic, very knowledgeable and industry-served Dr Rashid Ali – I have to say as a life-long amateur wannabe designer, it's a super course and I do hope they don't stop at four sessions but build on it in future.

As it says on the tin, the course is all about 'Evaluating Your own Aircraft in X-Plane', so the focus is less on the how's and why's of the details of aircraft design and more about getting you up to speed with flight testing a design in X-Plane by flying in the presenter's own simple stick plane, leaving you able to experiment more fully in your own time. As a guided learn-thru-play approach, I love the concept of the course!

Session 1:
Topics: General discussion, open X-Plane and learn some of the available X-Plane settings useful for flight testing purposes.

Session 2:
Topics: A few generalised rules of thumb for light aircraft design, Playing with Dr Ali's simple stick-plane.

Other Resources:
You will need a moderately powerful graphics card to run the latest versions of X-Plane. Alternatively consider downloading an older version. The system requirements for each available version are linked below for convenience: ... uirements/ ... uirements/ ... uirements/ ... uirements/

2023 Teach-In Files - unofficial repository: ... VV1pa?dl=0
A list of the books recommended by Dr Ali in Session 1.
The demo stick plane designed by Dr Ali for Session 2.

Extras - a few interesting articles I've collected over the years: ... jgxea?dl=0
... like I mentioned, the rabbit holes are endless! Good luck staying focused if you ever want to fly what you design. 8)

Building: Kitfox Series 7 Super Sport

K Burns
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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by K Burns » Thu May 25, 2023 12:36 am

I started with a blank sheet of paper and copied a design demonstrated by my father , he fold d a few times and I copied , he then doubled the nose back to provide balance and threw the glider across the room and it flew perfectly. I then copied other successful plans scratch building balsa models until I understand how glider balanced and controls worked including secondary effects of controls . ( That saved my life when a rudder cable crimp pulled through on a glider , I then copied a KR 2 build , and learned as I built that the weight and balance was wrong for my mission, I eventually got flying in my own Europa Xs that exceeded my mission by a safe Margin by sticking faithful the the original design that I had found through experience that it was hard to better ,being a good balance between power load carrying abilities and range ..I’m an admirer of the Burt Ruttan Long EZE and other composite designs but long hard runways usually mean expensive hangers … so start with your mission , decide what materials you want / or need to use / your skill set and work backwards.. see if what you want has been done before and evolve that design creating new stress calculations for your new lighter faster more fuel efficient long range aircraft …e powered ..diesel top up .. solar wing topped ..hydrogen e generator paper dart with gyro stability for its drone takeoff and wheelchair friendly operation..( imagineering starts with study and a few dead ends for us meer mortals , a rare few can visualise the numbers that’s make us fly at high performance, the rest is excess power or speed without breaking your aeroplane or yourself while defeating gravity and the elements .
Any one can build their own plane and fly successfully.Many did in the 1970 s with hang gliders , has now evolved in to Microlights .. Wishing you every success.. starting with your models is your quickest way to learn . ( if you need to ask wher to start) !
Kevin Burns

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Re: Designing a plane...where do I start?

Post by tr7v8 » Mon May 29, 2023 3:51 pm

This Forum is fantastic, obviously USA orientated but a huge amount of knowledge & help. Quite a few UK guys on there as well.
Jim Hearnden

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