the towel

The great power of the Towel is that everyone thinks they can make one — and they’re right. Stupid-simple to build, all it takes is a spare afternoon, $100 worth of gear, and some DIY chutzpah.

The Towel is a great-flying airplane that’s optimized for typical urban flying conditions: gusty winds, small flying spaces, and rough landing spots. Unlike store-bought beginner planes, the Towel has a 1:1 thrust-to-weight ratio that makes it highly maneuverable. This allows it to fly in tight spaces and turbulence. It can also carry a camera.

Lots of people have learned to fly on the Towel. Repairs are simple and the airframe can take a lot of punishment before needing replacement, which takes minutes. It’s made from recycled materials and designed to not seriously hurt people or property.

Why the Towel moniker? Back in the day, I was flying an early version of the plane that had met Mother Earth at aggressive velocities many times. The nose had become a rumpled shadow of its former self. A fellow pilot, who was a bit of a smartass, remarked that it looked like I was trying to launch a wet towel, and the name stuck.

The Towel’s detachable deck is an innovation in DIY hobby flying. You’ll spend 80% of your build time on the deck, and only 20% on the airframe and control surfaces. This allows for a very desirable property of the Towel, which is that the airframe can be easily replaced in that 20% time frame. We can all thank Mark Harder (aka Splinter) for the deck concept.

We estimate that well over 100 Towels have been built, by kids and by vastly older kids. Here’s how you can make one.