|Contributed by: Bill Pryor | Published: November 2005 | Views: 62707 | Email this Article
by: Bill Pryor - updated 10/28/05
seen many threads on bulletin boards
asking how to build a crate, and how
to ship it, but precious little published
information on how to do it.
I often see ads for planes that say
you can pick them up, but they're
too big to ship. Nothing is too big
to ship. You might not be motivated
to do it, but you can ship any size
plane relatively painlessly and with
reasonable confidence that it will
arrive intact. People will often say
that they don't have the time, but
what I don't understand is why these
same people are willing to spend 30-500
hours building their complex giant
scale planes and then say they can't
find 5 hours to build a simple box
when they want to sell it. As
far as the cost goes, you can build
just about any size crate for around
$100 in materials. Just factor the
cost into the price of the sale of
the plane, or if you can, charge the
buyer for all, or part, of the cost.
I typically figure what I need to
get for the plane including the crate,
then don't charge for the crate. It's
pretty easy to hide $100 in the sales
price of a GS plane, but for some
reason if you tell people they'll
have to pay $100 for the crate they
resist...which typically means a lost
is a step-by-step guide to shipping
a giant scale plane. Most of it should
apply to the majority of planes
(or helicopters), though you'll have
to improvise on securing the plane
depending on its construction and
size. There are also some alternate
packing methods I'll describe at the
end of the article, plus some shipping
|The Stuff to Build It
Crate Size: 79" X 34"
X 24" - 75lbs
X 4' X 8' CDX plywood or OSB Board
||1"X2"X8' Doug Fir or Pine
||2"X4'X8" rigid foam insulation board
soft foam wrap
Note: Costs will be more
or less depending on your area and how
much you already have in your garage.
These same materials can build a larger
crate too, depending on the dimensions
of your box. Also, look at the alternate
methods I mention at the end of the
article to make sure there isn't a cheaper
method to ship your plane if it's small
are the top, bottom and two sides
of the crate ready to start assembly.
I built the ends out of scrap,
joining two pieces together. I
did this to avoid having to buy
another sheet of plywood. In your
application you may not have to
do this depending on the size
of the crate. There are no wood
strips on the end pieces. The
end pieces screw into the wood
strips on the sides, top and bottom.
Note: If you want to add a bit of extra
strength to the crate, add wood
glue to the 1"X2" strips before
screwing them on. I didn't do
this because I felt the crate
was plenty strong enough as
Note: You can use any
wood screws you want, but I
chose self-starting, coated
deck screws for ease of insertion
|Sides: The 1"X2" strips are screwed
(from the outside) onto all four sides
with 1" deck screws. The strips are
inset the thickness of the plywood all
the way around. The inset depends on
the thickness of the plywood, in this
|Top/Bottom: One strip is screwed
on each end of the top and bottom. They
should be inset the thickness of the
plywood along the long edge, and the
thickness of the strip at each end (3/4").
the Coffin...I Mean
to put the box together. First put
the bottom of the box (top and bottom
are identical at this point) onto
a pair of saw horses. Place
one of the two end pieces on the bottom
. Resting it on the small lip that
should be sticking out beyond the
screw strip. It should fit flush to
the screw strip and the outside of
the plywood should be flush with the
bottom. Next put one of the sides
on. Screw it to the bottom and the
end you just put on. Now you
can put the other end on, and then
the other side. You're done
with the box for now.
sure and put plenty of screws everywhere.
This helps to add strength and doesn't
take much effort (assuming you're
using a power screw driver. If you're
not, this is your excuse to go buy
||You'll need to decide how you plan
to pack the plane and all of its components.
There are several options for the wings,
the one I used is one way. If your plane
doesn't have a wing tube, you might
pack the wings lengthwise along each
side of the fuse in the same manner
that I packed these wings on the bottom
and top of the fuse.
I first measured where I wanted the 2"
rigid foam to cross the fuselage and
support the fuse. On this plane I
put it a bit in front of the tail
group and just ahead of the canopy.
I then figured where the wing half
had to be in the rigid foam and roughly
cut the foam in the shape of the wing,
though large enough to accept the
wing after being wrapped in bubble
|As you can see, I first wrapped the entire
wing in thin soft packing foam to prevent
scratching, and to provide some cushion.
I then wrapped the sections that fit
through the rigid foam in a couple of
layers of bubble wrap.
|After cutting the foam for the wing I glued
the rigid foam into the crate using
3M spray adhesive.
Fuselage to Bed
|The rear of the fuselage rests on the padded
wing, with the tail wheel clearing the
bottom of the box by about a half inch.
I supported the front of the fuse with
a large foam block constructed from
4 eight inch pieces of the rigid
foam glued together. I glued this to
the bottom of the box under the landing
gear mounting area. I made this high
enough to keep the wheels about an inch
clear of the bottom of the box.
I next cut a piece of the rigid foam to
fit on top of the rigid foam that
I had already placed in the box with
the wing half in it. This went completely
under the fuse with a cutout big enough
to drop the fuse in snuggly with soft
foam padding surrounding the bubble
wrapped fuse. I now placed the fuse
in the box with the tail resting on
the wing in the rear, the foam padded
rigid foam cradle, and resting on
top of the foam block glued to the
bottom of the crate. The rigid
foam cradle was glued to the sides
of the box and to the rigid foam already
in the box. The top of the cradle
has sufficient clearance to prevent
the lid from hitting it. You'll see
later where I add rigid foam to reach
to the lid at points where you want
pressure to be transferred.
||The only thing remaining in this step was
to cut a piece of foam to fit over the
rear of the fuse. It slides down over
the top of the fuse, holding it snuggly
in place. Again, it is glued to the
sides and the other piece of foam holding
It is important that this is tight,
and will not allow the plane to shift
sideways because there is little clearance
at the side of the horizontal tail (see
photo on left). You can change this
if you want and add more clearance,
but it isn't really necessary as long
as you have the fuse located well. The
box is very rigid in this area.
Fuselage to Bed - Details
||The picture on the right shows the wing
under the fuse and the bubble wrap and
soft foam padding. You can also see
where the two pieces of rigid foam have
been glued together
Below you can see the foam block
that supports the fuse under the landing
gear. This block keeps the landing
gear from resting on the bottom of
the box, so any bumps are not transferred
through the gear to the fuse.
Below is another picture of the block and
you can see the clearance in front
of the spinner. I did put a foam
block over the spinner, but it really
wasn't necessary as you'll see on
the next page I located the plane
using the wing tubes so it could
not shift at all in the box.
Fuse From Moving
method I used to securely fix the fuse
in the crate will only work if you have
wing tubes in your plane. If you don't
you'll need to come up with an alternate
method to make sure the fuse can not
move without putting undo stress on
The method I came up with is fastening
two 2X4 wood blocks together and drilling
a slot in them the same size as the
wing tube. It should be a close fit,
but does not have to be a tight fit.
I was only attempting to keep the
plane from moving fore, aft, and upward.
The foam block under the landing
gear kept the plane from moving down
and the rigid foam cradles keep the
plane from moving side to side. The
hole is plenty deep so there is no
pressure on the wing tube on the ends.
Second Wing Half and Finishing Up
second wing half is added on top of
the fuse in the same manner that the
first one was packed on the bottom.
The wing is again held snuggly in the
rigid foam, but not too tightly.
Rigid foam pieces are added to the top
so it will contact the crate lid when
it is closed. It is only over points
on either side of the wing, not directly
over the wing or fuse. This
is done so if any pressure is applied
to the lid it will pass through to
the bottom of the crate without adding
pressure to the wing or fuse.
You can also see the foam block I placed
on the tip of the spinner, but I don't
think this was necessary.
Close it -
Label It - Ship It!
in any extras you have, such as plans,
parts, documentation, etc., then close
it up.....NO, WAIT! Take pictures
of the contents first for insurance
purposes (and to prove to the buyer
the condition it was in when you shipped
it)....now you can close it up....but
the note on
shipping carriers below before you seal
it up for good.
sure and use plenty of screws. Now,
get out the stencils and black spray
paint and start spraying. Thanks to
Michael Glavin for his post on the
IMAC board regarding what should be
stenciled on the crate. If you can't
read it on the picture, the two messages
that should be applied to all sides
are "Fragile Aircraft Parts" and "Top
Load Only". I also added an "Up" and
arrow, and on the bottom I added "Other
Side Up", but I built the crate to
be safe in any position, and I think
that's the way you should approach
You also need to write the "From" and "To"
addresses on the crate too, though
the shipper will also add their own
building a crate can take from about
4-8 hours from start to finish. My
first one took me closer to 8 hours
including shopping and travel time,
and now it takes me from 3-4 hours.
1. Pack it in peanuts. If
you have access to cheap Styrofoam
peanuts in bulk, instead of all
the foam wrapping and support, all
you do is fill your crate, or cardboard
box, full of peanuts, with the plane
and parts floating in the middle.
You do need to make sure you have
ample clear space around the plane,
but this is about the simplest,
and yes, the safest way to "secure"
the plane in your crate/box. I've
received multiple GS planes from
the Asia Pacific region in very
large cardboard "crates"
filled only with peanuts, and they've
all arrived without any damage.
BTW, the plane and parts stay put
in the peanuts, they do not ship
around during shipment, but make
sure the crate/box is packed full.
2. Use the original cardboard
boxes, or make your own. For
up to some 33% planes, you can ship
in multiple cardboard boxes. It
usually takes three. One for the
fuse, one for the wings, and one
for the engine, cowl and accessories.
With this method you can ship up
to some 33% planes via UPS/Fedex
or Greyhound for around a
total $50 - $80.
is a picture of an H9 33% Extra
fuse in a cardboard box I modified
from the original shipping box.
You can see the Styrofoam pieces
I put in to help prevent the box
from being crushed. The box just
fit within the size restrictions
for the above mentioned carriers.
I did have to cut off the hinges
for the rudder, which of course
would have to be re-attached by
the buyer, but that's a fairly simple
task to have to do for the benefits
gained shipping in this way. For
the wings I used the original shipping
box (you could make one pretty easily
too), and for the cowl and engine
I just bubble-wrapped them carefully
in a third box.
I typically fill the boxes with
peanuts to be extra safe.
Maximum size: 165" - Length
- The distance around your box at
its widest point.
Length - The longest dimension of
Maximum length: 108"
Maximum weight: 150lbs
Maximum weight: 70 lbs
Maximum size: 130" - Length
Maximum size: 30 inches X
47 inches X 82 inches.
Maximum weight: 100lbs except with
select routes it is 150lbs
Maximum insurance: $1000. This usually
works out ok if you use the alternate
method #2 above, though you have
to send them each as a separate
Forward Air (www.forwardair.com)
much unlimited size and weight.
Remember, they go by dimensional
weight when figuring costs on these.
In other words, with our relatively
light content, you typically will
get charged by the size of the box
rather than the actual weight....so
keep your crate as small as possible
if you're shipping by Forward Air
or any of the trucking or air freight
Special considerations: Forward
Air requires room under the crate
for a fork lift to pick it up. All
you need to do is screw on a couple
of 2X4s to the bottom.
Other Trucking lines
Same as Forward Air, except typically
more expensive, though you can get
Southwest Airlines Cargo - This
is the only one I've used, but others
Maximum weight: 150lbs
Maximum size: Must fit in their
cargo door - I don't have the max
dimensions, but the crate in this
Multiple crates can be shipped for
one freight charge.
of service: Same day, 24 hour guarantee
and standard freight (cheapest).
Standard means it gets on the next
flight space permitting. I used
standard freight and I dropped the
crate off with Southwest at 11 a.m.
and it arrived in Tucson the same
day at 4:40 p.m. The crate arrived
in perfect shape. Rates can be relatively
reasonable, even less than truck
rates in some cases, so it is worth
checking into if you're in a hurry,
or the delivery location isn't too
far away from you.
- Southwest doesn't want anything
on the bottom of the crate, such
as runners for fork lifts as required
by Forward Air. This is probably
the same for all air freight companies
because of the limitations of the
cargo doors and loading methods.
2 - One thing Southwest didn't tell me
before I took the crate in, is that
you have to open it for inspection
before they'll take it.
Buy it. As mentioned before,
take pictures of the contents before
closing the lid. It is very important
to have this documentation if you
need to file a claim. Each carrier
handles insurance differently, and
they're all pretty difficult to
deal with, but you can get claims
settled if you have your shipment
properly insured and documented.
40% 3W Extra in a long narrow box
Same 3W Extra with all the accessories
Proof - no plane is too large to
ship - 40% Aeronca
40% AW Edge
Spitfire - 88" one piece wing
H9 33% Extra - Shipped via UPS
this article is helpful to you....now
there are no more excuses! :-) Good
luck, and have fun, shipping.
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