Fly Electric!

Float Flying & Plans

I flew off water for the first time at 'Beale Park' in the UK in October 1999. I used my then current sport plane, 'Electric 40' (the Lilac and Green plane below). The floats were built following plans from a magazine and were 'built-up' mainly using balsa and covered with nylon, doped and painted. Some of the formers were made from Depron to save a little weight. They weighed 14oz which added about 12oz to total flying weight after removing the normal undercarriage.

E40 on floats
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E40's floats
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Because these lilac floats do not match my 'Bubbles' colour scheme I decided to design some new ones (seemed a good enough reason to me!). More seriously, the floats on the E40 worked extremely well but I also thought they were slightly oversized. There is a formula for comparing the volume of floats to the weight of an aircraft, but gut feel suggested that they could be smaller to further reduce weight and to improve aerobatic performance. The end result of my new floats is just 7.4oz, almost half the weight of the built up ones which I originally thought were quite light. Rolls are better because the floats are smaller in profile and their light weight reduces the pendulum effect. I keep flight times to 6 or 7 minutes to make sure I have power to taxi back.
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Bubbles landing
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Bubbles on floats
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I only fly off water a couple of times a year. So, because the Oct'00 event was on Sunday and I only started designing the new floats on Friday night, they had to be quick to make! White polystyrene foam is the easiest and lightest substance to shape, so this formed the basis. An article on the Ezone indicated that someone had used 1/4" square spruce to reinforce foam, and this is what I had in mind as well. The Ezone article suggested self-adhesive plastic on the bottom of the floats which was a good idea (that I should have followed!). What the Ezone article did not tell me was what shape to make the floats (minor flaw!). This is what mine look like:
Foam cores
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Foam cores
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U/C mounting
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U/C attachment
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Water rudder
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As with Bubbles, plans for these floats are available free and in many formats. File compatibility across the World is challenging (sigh!) so I have different formats for you to try. I recommend the Adobe Acrobat 'PDF' format which can be opened and printed using Adobe's free 'Reader' software (which you should already have). The small Preview below will give you a single screen view. The full size plans will print on 8 to 12 pages of normal paper (8.5x11" or A4) and printed borders will make them easy to trim and glue together. Please try the different versions if you have printing or other problems. Three CAD versions are provided as well, and I can provide more if you email me.
Free Float Plans
File format:

'PDF' versions

'GIF' versions

'CAD' versions
Preview (1 page): 12kb 13kb -
Full Size (12 pages): 19kb (version 1)
23kb (version 2)
DXF (Zipped): - - 30kb
AutoCAD (Zipped): - - 43kb
TurboCAD (not zipped): - - 38kb

I have designed and flown these floats on my Bubbles aircraft. You will need some 70mm foam, a hot wire cutter (have a look at my construction guide if you need to build one), two lengths of 1/4" sq spruce, one length each of 1/8 and 3/32" piano wire, a plastic pushrod, a few other bits and bobs, and Bubbles :-) .

Now, as mentioned I only fly off water once or twice a year. So I don't get to experiment very often, but my latest experience is that the floats should have a shallow 'V' sanded into the section between the nose and step. It should be about 10 degrees and a simple sanding block can do this if you are careful. One floats tends to release before the other so lift-offs are not smooth. The 'V' will allow the release from water to be more progressive.

I would also draw your attention to the float volume/size. It may need to be increased if your plane is heavier than mine (increase the width/footprint; keep length to about 75% of fuz length). Bubbles (about 67oz AUW with floats) did get airborne with a camera, twice, (extra 9.2oz with a Digi-Ixus) but struggled with this extra weight.

Here are a couple of picture of a 7oz AndNow model on floats (to further tempt you!). I have more details on my Tiny Treasures page if you are interested.

The version we flew off water
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Dave's model on one of the first flights with smaller floats
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The red 'Magnattila' in the following photos belongs to a fellow club member, Roger Hymans. The plane and floats are from the Flair range (and are flat bottomed!). Motor was an Aveox 1409/2y with a 15x9.5 CFK folding carbon prop and normally 12 to 14 cells (RC2000's or CR3000's). This plane is also flown with a 1406/4y on 21 RC2000 cells with a 12x8 prop. A very successful model with good performance and flight duration.

Magnattila and friends
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Be prepared!
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And the last two photos? They bring back very fond memories of a trip to Alaska. You guys know how to fly off water! (with real planes, of course).
Fairbanks, Alaska
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Ankorage, Alaska
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