Several months ago I was asked by a friend if I could build a replica of Poe Damerons’ X-wing fighter from the latest Star Wars episode. The challenge was: it had to come apart to make it easy to transport, be big enough (and strong enough) for an average-sized adult to fit inside the cockpit, be built as inexpensively as possible, and be done in 5 months. After searching the internet for days looking for plans, I realized there weren’t any and I was going to have to come up with Plan B.
I did figure out that a full-sized replica would be close to 40 feet long and 20 feet across the wings, way too big for the space I had to build in! I needed to scale the build down, but by how much and how to do it and still make it look right? I bought a battered Kenner X-wing from 1977 on eBay to use a basis for measurements. Looking at the model I realized the engineers at Kenner had selectively compressed the original design just enough so the toy wouldn’t be too big, but the action figures used with it could still fit easily into the cockpit and look proportionally “real”. I bought a Revell model of Poes’ X-wing, started measuring both models and drawing plans. The final version is 23 times larger than the model, a little snug for tall adults, but a perfect fit for kids!
I decided to build the fighter like a giant model airplane, using hollow ribs and stringers to form the fuselage, then cover them with ⅛” plywood for strength. I made the first 5 feet of the nose removable using through bolts and wing nuts at a seam in the plywood, and reinforced the same rib so it would support the nose landing gear.
Strengthening the rear of the fuselage to support the weight of everything else was tough; the wings were supposed to be open for display because it looked terrific, but in that position the landing gear put tremendous strain on the wings which in turn wanted to wrench themselves out of the fuselage. The cure was to double up the ribs at the wing attach points so the wings could just be lifted and “plugged “ into position, just like plugging in an appliance into a wall outlet.
The ribs and stringers were ¼” plywood and ¾” pine strips; the wings were made from 2×4 pine and ⅛” plywood. The engines and nacelles are made from sonotubes, cardboard, fiberglass and Styrofoam. The “weapons systems” are PVC pipe, plywood, sonotube sections and rigid plastic drain pipe.
The canopy and cockpit are ¼” plywood and ½” pine strips. I ran out of time so there are still details to be finished like detailing the cockpit interior, the photon torpedo tubes and the intake ends of the engines. The project to this point took over 250 hours, I expect to put in another 8-10 to finish everything up. The owner is planning to bring it to Florida this spring for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars in Orlando. It was displayed at the Lock City Comicon in Stamfor this past July and the guests of the show loved it. I watched as a 10 year old boy in a full Rebel uniform and helmet climbed in and posed. He looked like he was going to start the engines and fly off with it!
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