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"Thing" Lifting Body Glider Article & Plans
December 1972 American Aircraft Modeler

December 1972 American Aircraft Modeler

December 1972 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Website visitor H.G.F., of Oshkosh, wrote to request that I scan and post the construction article for the "Thing" lifting body glider. "Thing" is a small 3-D polygonally shaped craft made from sheet balsa that is 7-1/4" long, 3-1/8" wide, and 3-3/8" high with a glob of modeling clay on the nose for balance. I imagine it could be scaled up a bit if you want something bigger. "Thing" was designed in the early 1970s at about the time lifting bodies were a big deal. Recall (if you were around then) that it was the era of astronaut Steven Austin and the Six Million Dollar Man television show.

"Thing" Lifting Body Glider

"For the Tenderfoot" Thing - Airplanes and RocketsFor the Tenderfoot

High Performance Angular Re-Entry Vehicle Offers Much Improvement on Ballistic Flight of Ordinary Shapes. Every Workshop Should Produce One for the Next Rainy Day.

Bill Potter

Lifting Body top side is flat - Airplanes and Rockets

Top side is flat. A hook could be added near the nose for catapult launching to orbital velocity.

Lifting Body small size allows easy storage in desk drawer - Airplanes and Rockets

Small size allows easy storage in desk drawer. This is the view seen by the oncoming air when Thing is in flight.

Lifting Body bottom view - Airplanes and Rockets

This photo shows the bottom view.

This model originated from the scraps that remained after constructing a more complex aircraft. Unfortunately, both craft exhibited the same ballistic characteristics that only can be loosely termed flight. After several years of playing with Thing, as I affectionately call the creation, I have come to see several advantages in its design. The age-old modeler's complaint of warped wings has been cleverly eliminated by eliminating the wings. Because it is a glider, there is no messy fuel or cantankerous engines to fool with. Its small size allows storage in a desk drawer. Its peculiar performance ends the need for a dethermalizer.


If you find the three-view drawing confusing, it is because it is not a three-view. Only the shapes of the parts are shown, not their relationship. If the plans are used as three-views, great hardships will result.

First, cut off five 4" lengths of 1/32" balsa sheet. Edge-glue these to form a 4 by 15" sheet with the grain running width wise. Layout the top and back on this sheet. Layout two sides on the 1/16 sheet, using a razor blade and a straightedge (or, perhaps, a well-trained beaver) to cut out the pieces. Keep track of the bottom edge (appropriately labeled "bottom edge" on the drawing) of both sides.

Next, lay a bead of glue along the bottom edge of one side. (If you're some sort of strength fanatic, you may want to double glue all joints.) When the glue gets tacky, put the other side up against it, bottom-edge to bottom-edge. Raise one side (keeping the two edges in contact) to form an angle of about 110 degrees. At this point, the model should resemble the tail end of an arrow with one fin missing. (If it doesn't, start over and keep trying until it does.) Hold the sides like that until almost dry (meaning the glue, not yourself) and then glue the back piece to the back end, which is the end opposite the front (pointy) end. When this mess is dry, glue the top on. You should have something similar to the pictures. If you don't, study the drawing, pictures, and directions and start over again. If, by the third try, your model still doesn't look anything like the pictures, disassemble and try yet again, the parts do make the "Thing."


Finish your model with several light coats of nothing. Put a dab of modeling clay on the nose (which, as mentioned earlier, is the pointy end). For contest use, glue on a piece of cloth tape along the bottom edge.


1 1/16 x 2 x 36 Balsa Sheet

1 1/32 x 3 x 36 Balsa Sheet

1 Glob of Modeling Clay

Note: Steel plate can be used to produce an exceptionally sturdy model, but lightweight balsa will increase performance significantly.

Flight Testing

Now that you've completed your model, you're probably wondering what to do with it. In still wind conditions, place the model in your palm and - with a slight forward push - drop Thing flat. It should glide merrily away. Try this several times, adding and subtracting bits of clay to obtain optimum performance - which is about a 2 to 1 glide ratio. Any turning can be corrected by placing dabs of clay on the side opposite the turn. The examples I built descended in a slow, flat turn that was reminiscent of the spaceships landing in the Flash Gordon serials. Maybe some rich RC flier will create a device that shoots smoke and sparks out the back while making "nnyeerrt nnyyeeeerrrrtttt" noises for added realism. Yea Dr. Zarkov!

"Thing" Lifting Body Plans - Airplanes and Rockets

"Thing" Lifting Body Plans


The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always best to buy printed plans because my scanner versions often have distortions that can cause parts to fit poorly. Purchasing plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.

Try my Scale Calculator for Model Airplane Plans.





Posted November 29, 2013

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