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  1. #1

    Product review: PlaneFun Floats

    I'll post this here because there is not a category for floats in the "Reviews"section.

    PlaneFun Floats

    I decided to build a Kadet Senior in January, exclusively for Float Flying. I sent an Email to Ralph Smith at PlaneFun Floats to order a set. We communicated back and forth and agreed that a Ksr, as light as it is, should have a set of 45” Slim floats. Ralph makes conventional, traditional, proven floats with a v-bottom and sides that slope in toward a narrower top. AND he makes them with a foam core. They are light, can't sink, can't even leak! I like v-bottoms because they land a little more gently without skipping, even in choppy water, and the have a little better directional stability.

    Ralph kept me posted on all stages of his construction, even though I kept telling him it was no rush, the plane would take a while since I was extensively modifying the KSr design. (I never could color inside the lines). I re-made the KSr to look like a Cub, with bolt-on flat wings with “Cub” wingtips, flaps, Ailerons, and all-new Cub tailfeathers-and electric power courtesy of a .60 size motor and 100A speed controller from Heads-Up RC.

    Amazingly soon after I ordered the floats, a BIG box showed up on my doorstep. Courtesy of the US Postal Service, the box was undamaged in any way. Ralph and I corresponded with me letting him know they had arrived. Since the box was undamaged, I was sure the floats were safe, so I put the box aside so the floats would remain undamaged while I finished the plane.

    A couple of months later, I got the plane completed to the point that I could fit landing gear struts to the floats. Ralph had packed them carefully, top-to-top, wrapped in plastic film, and had then stuffed the box with newspaper packing. I opened the box with the floats and they are GORGEOUS. Pre-sheeted, pre-sanded, with built-in hardwood spine for the strut attachment, and ply transoms to accept water rudders. Ralph even marked where the spine ends were under the sheeting, so I would know where the reinforcements were when installing the struts.

    It took me a couple of weeks to work up the plan/courage to glass the floats. They were so perfect, and I struggle with fiberglass. It was important to me to do an attractive job. With recently sharpened scissors (important) I cut some ¾ oz glass cloth to shape, and applied Water Based Polyurethane (WBPU) varnish with a roller. WBPU has no solvent that will wick through the balsa sheeting to attack the foam. The roller does not drag the cloth like brushes have in my experience. Rolling on the WBPU really helped the cloth to lie flat. I glassed the bottoms first. When they were dry I flipped them over to do the tops. I added an extra strip of cloth along the keels where the floats would take punishment in transit or when beaching. When they were dry, I went over them with a sanding block and fine sandpaper to get the rough spots , then covered everything with lightweight spackling to fill the weave and the imperfections. When that was dry I sanded it back down to the cloth so the spackle coat almost disappeared, and rolled on another coat of WBPU. I wanted to show off the floats, so I left them varnished, without additional paint.

    I laid out a plan on some butcher paper, and bent the landing gear legs from ¾ x 1/8 aluminum strip I got at a Home Improvement Store. The struts are bent hat-shaped so I can use #10 sheet metal screws straight down into the reinforcing spine. Not scale, but cleaner than using a nose-gear block for each strut attachment. The front struts are about 3/8” taller to get proper incidence to the floats as the Kadet fuselage tapers up from the mains toward the firewall. Then I cut spreaders from 1/16 x ¾ strip. I drilled where holes were needed, bolted the floats to the plane, and made 1/16” holes and wire x-braces from SS leader wire. My installation could be prettier, but it is light and stiff.

    Flying: For the maiden flight the floats and the new plane drew favorable comments at the Florida Float Flyers' pond. The plane floated high on the floats and slightly nose-up when we placed it in the water. I have not at this time installed water rudders and may not. I found it controllable taxiing in a 10 mph breeze with only the air rudder.

    With the electric, it spins a BIG 18-8 prop. I did not add spray rails to the floats and never saw a drop of spray hitting the prop. Takeoffs were without incident-the plane just accelerated in a straight line and lifted off with only a gentle breath of back-pressure on the elevator stick. Landings-well, it's a Kadet Sr.! Chop the power , the plane slows down to a walk, and after a few minutes in the pattern it arrives at your landing spot, Hold it level just above the surface and it will settle in with no splashing, skipping, or other drama. Just avoid cross-winds as the KSr is so light that wind under the wing can tip it over easily. Having a flat wing and ailerons helps. I was able to taxi in crosswinds by taxiing with full UP elevator and controlling direction with the power lever. Ailerons help level he wing. There is an article about this in my website. The v-bottom makes this technique more easily utilized.

    All in all I give PlaneFun Floats a rave review.

    I am glad I requested the “Slim” floats because even these seem wider than I need for the KSr.

    My impressions:


      Super excellent workmanship


      Attractive scale-like proportions


      No spray in the prop.


      V-bottom for smooth landings and easy taxiing


      Foam core-can't sink


      Sheeted, with marked, reinforced hard points


      Packed with great care to withstand shipping abuse


      Great feedback from Ralph


      I wish I had a scale to give a quantitative measure but they are light, and I daresay much lighter than equivalent fiberglass or built-up ply floats.

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    Jim Casey/Seaplane Nerd

  2. #2
    silverwings's Avatar
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    Apr 2002
    Victoria, TX
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    RE: Product review: PlaneFun Floats

    Jim, you did a great job making the Kadet look like a Cub. The floats also look great.
    I agree with you about dealing with Ralph. I just purchased 2 sets of 38" floats from him and like you, he kept me updated all the way through the process. Unfortunately, one set came in damaged and it looked like they tried to squeeze the box between 2 18-wheelers. Ralph was very helpful with telling me what to do to get the claim process through the USPS. He also started assembly of a replacement set right away and the second set came by UPS and was in perfect shape. I agree with you about the floats being too beautiful to cover up. I coated one set of mine with clear WBPU and then covered them to match my Ultra Stick with transparent yellow on top and true red on bottom, both Ultracote.
    This set is to replace an old, beat-up set of floats I purchased before I ever saw Ralph's floats. I had purchased a set of 42" floats from him several years ago and they were the only thing unscathed on the plane I put them on after all the water quit splashing. They kept what was left of the plane afloat. The struts were bent, but the floats did not have a crack or ding anywhere.
    I have had flat bottom floats and agree with you about the V-bottoms being smoother to land.
    Way to go, Ralph. Keep up the good work.

  3. #3
    seaplane's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Gibraltar, MI
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    RE: Product review: PlaneFun Floats

    Thanks to Jim and Rick for the kind words. I must tell you that I did the unthinkable today. I flew my plane on balsa and ply kit floats. I put my old Great Planes floats on my Great Planes Cub today and flew it once. It was a hand full trying to get it trimmed until I realised what was happening. When I finally got it back to shore, the left float had probably 2-3 ciups of water inside. There was a long narrow crack right where the two front bottom pieces join. The crack was not there when I put the floats on the plane, but it appeared sometime between putting the floats on and flying. I'm sure if I would have stayed in the air longer, the water would have drained out.
    I guess I have been too busy making floats for everyone else to make a set for myself. I love flying that Cub so it won't be long before it has some foam core floats under it.

  4. #4

    RE: Product review: PlaneFun Floats

    Ralph, you should weigh the old floats and the new set and post the difference.  I have always downgraded built-up plywood floats not only because they can leak, but because they are so much heavier.  I'll bet your Cub is a LOT sportier with the lightweight floats. 
    Jim Casey/Seaplane Nerd

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