Balsa-wood gliders

We are going to be designing, building, and flying our own balsa wood gliders. There are several things to consider and understand before you begin. See some examples of finished gliders

Parts of the glider -

Parts of a glider


Center of gravity - the point where your glider will balance. If the center of gravity is too far forward, the plane will dive down. If the center of gravity is too far back, the plane will try to go up and stall. You can add clay to the front or back to balance the center of gravity just under the front wing (the red triangle below).

balanced glider

Wing shapes - There are three basic wing shapes

Elliptical - Ideal for slow speeds, but difficult to build
Straight - Not as efficient as the elliptical, but easy to build

Tapered - Most effective at high speeds. Has the best characteristics of both, but hard to build correctly

Dihedral - means the angle that the wings go upward from the center.
Many gliders have a "dihedral" angle, but yours does not HAVE to have one to fly.

Forces that act upon a plane

Forces of flight

Lift is the upward force caused by the air going over the wing
Gravity is the downward force on a glider
Thrust is the forward force caused by you throwing the glider (or a rubber band)
Drag is the backward force caused by air resistance


Cross-section of the wing -

cross section of wing

• Leading eges are rounded
• Thickest part of the wing should be near the front
• Thinnest part of the wing should be near the back

See some examples of finished gliders

as of 8/11/05