Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Building and other racing tips and suggestions.

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KRProton
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Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby KRProton » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:43 pm

I’ve been wanting to make an airplane rack for my van for a couple of years now, but I kept putting it off because I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to make it. And I didn’t want something hodgepodge and I didn’t want the project to take up the entire weekend, so I just never got started. Until that is, I started racing a third class requiring bringing at least six planes to a race. Wrapping my planes in towels, T-shirts and blankets is ridiculous and no longer going to work! :roll:

But even though I wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to come out, once I finally got started I figured it out as I went. So now that my airplane rack is finished I thought my ideas might help the next guy who is thinking about an airplane rack too.

I’d say the best way to start is just get to the hardware store and buy some pipe and fittings. You can figure it out as you go, but expect to make a few trips back to the store and save your receipts! It took me three trips and I returned items a couple of times.

I wasn’t sure what size pipe to buy. I didn’t want it too big and heavy, but I didn’t want my airplane rack to be rickety. I kind of wanted 1-1/4” pipe for the main framework, but those nifty snap-on T-fittings (Snap x threaded Tee I think they’re called) caught my eye. The largest ones were for 1” pipe, so that’s where I started. I knew I wanted the wings stacked across the top with vertical separator tubes from smaller pipe, so I used 1/2” pipe for that. The snap T-fittings are available in two different thread sizes, so I used the one with the larger thread for a coupler that works with 3/4” pipe, so that’s what I used for my cross-braces to support the fuselages across the bottom two layers.

The rack took shape as I went along, but the width was decided by the opening in my van and the height was determined by how much room I wanted for placing the wings on top. I knew there might also be a few occasions where I would sleep in my van, so I made the bottom fuselage rack high enough so I could sleep under the rack if I had to.

I used my miter saw to cut all the pipe – it throws PVC shavings all over the place (even with my shop vac connected to the exhaust tube), but it cuts easy, quick and clean.

I bought everything from Lowe’s. I tried Home Depot on one of my trips, but the snap T-fittings are made by Lasco and my Home Depot doesn’t have that brand.

As can be seen in the images, the rack is comprised of two mirrored ends with all the 1” pipes and fittings permanently glued together. The end racks are joined across the top by two horizontal 1” pipes, but they are not glued into the elbows. Instead, I fastened the pipes with #4 wood screws for disassembly and storage. The lower horizontal racks for the fuselages are from 3/4” pipe with the snap fittings on the ends.

I used more snap fittings across the top for adjustable wing racks and three sizes of foam pipe insulation around the rack as needed. Right now, I have enough vertical pipes for six wings, but could fit ten or twelve wings.

Once I had it all figured out, I disassembled the rack and washed all the cut pipes in my driveway with soapy water – all that tubing is pretty grubby from the store! I considered painting the rack black, but maybe I’ll save that for later.

Before I finally glued the rack together I assembled it once more, put in an airplane and ran some errands around town. The rack was a little shaky, but gluing it together stiffened it up. I still think anchoring it down is a good idea to keep the rack from flexing and moving around when it’s loaded with planes.

There were a few connection points in my van from where I removed the seats and seat belts, so I made hold-down brackets from more pipe, elbows and snap fittings. Once bolted down, the rack is sturdy and not going anywhere.

I also found a container of 10" bungee cords that looks like they will work for securing the fuselages.

With all the returns and receipts I didn’t really keep track of how much the whole deal cost me, but I’d guess it was around a hundred bucks.

Well, there it is! Maybe this will give you some ideas if you’ve been thinking about building a rack too.

More images in following posts...

Tim
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Last edited by KRProton on Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.


Topic Author
KRProton
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Re: Airplane rack from PVC pipe

Postby KRProton » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:44 pm

PVC airplane rack continued...
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Topic Author
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Re: Airplane rack from PVC pipe

Postby KRProton » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:46 pm

PVC airplane rack continued...
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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby fizzwater2 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:13 am

someone has to be the first to say it.......

"Nice rack!"

Looks good, Tim - are those vertical supports for the wings adjustable? Just wondering.

The one I built for my Subaru Forester is much simpler. No pictures, but I didn't put in any vertical dividers for wings, they lay flat on the top crossbars up near the ceiling. The Forester isn't as tall as a van, so vertical height is limited. I put the bottom crossbar high enough above the floor so the 10' square popup canopy can slide in underneath it. The legs are spaced so the two front feet fit into the child restraint anchor points on the backs of the seats when they're folded down, keeps the rack from moving around. I use some velcro straps to snug the rack into those seat anchors, and it's pretty solid and easy.

Velcro makes that two-sided stuff that comes in a long roll, I cut strips of that of various lengths to secure fuselages and wings to the rack, and when the rack isn't in use, the leg portions come out of the top piece, the whole thing hangs on my garage wall and doesn't take up much room. The velcro straps can be stored by just wrapping them around the pipes in the rack.
No matter where you go, there you are!


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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby Bob_T » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:01 pm

I made a PVC rack that I could slide in and out of my truck bed, a couple of years ago. I made it so I could load either three 40 or 60 size planes (two facing fwd, one facing aft) , or two 120 size planes, and the three wings fit in vertically along one side, like you have on your top rack. I incorporated a PVC pipe "handle" onto each end of it, so I could easily grab the handle and slide it out onto the tailgate or with two people, pull it out and then carry it, loaded, to where ever we needed it. Worked great!
Last edited by Bob_T on Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby KRProton » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:09 pm

Hi Gordon – thanks.

Yes, the vertical wing supports are adjustable (as are the horizontal fuselage supports fore and aft). I’ve copied the image of the wing supports below. They snap onto the top tubes with those snap-on T-fittings which can slide laterally across the top tubes, so I can slide the wing supports closer or farther depending on the thickness of a wing. But they can get only so close due to the width of the fitting (but I have considered cutting a little off the base part of the fittings so I can position the vertical supports even closer for thin wings). The supports also rotate if necessary (but I cannot think of a reason to have them in any other position than vertical). That’s the beauty of the snap-on T-fittings, they can slide and rotate for versatility.

Tim
Attachments
vertical supports.jpg


Bob_T
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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby Bob_T » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:19 pm

Tim,
Thanks for sharing your airplane build threads and for all of the other creative devices you make! I didn't know about the snap on T fittings ... that would have came in handy! I appreciate you sharing all of this! :D

Bob T.


twitte
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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby twitte » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:59 pm

Once again Tim, nice job!!

Depending on the width of your rack and the number of planes on it, you may get some sag on the horizontal pipes. I added a wood dowel to the inside of these horizontal pieces. Strengthens them up well.

Trey


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KRProton
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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby KRProton » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:48 am

Hey, thanks Trey!

I was a little concerned about the pipes holding the fuselage sagging when laden with planes. Dowel - great idea!

Thanks again! :mrgreen:

Tim


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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby ronin4740 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:29 pm

I made one for my Tiguan before the Phoenix race in January. I used 45 degree bends across the top to create a pocket for each fuselage to sit into. However I would never do that again as it added a bunch of cost and complexity to the build... It also ended up being a couple of inches too wide to get into the car so I had to trim two of the 45 degree elbows which resulted in some lack of strength in the top portion.

Once I had the top of the rack assembled I used foam tubing and tape to give it padding and strength. Harbor Freight's electrical tape is cheap but it doesn't stick well... Still it's done the job.

Initially the rack was a bit too tall for my liking. The airplanes would slide in but they'd slide against the headliner and I wasn't thrilled with that. I cut down the bottom part and used couplers to solve this mistake.

The middle bars are at just the right height to get four wings in bags to sit under the fuselages as long as the EF1 wing bags are put in wheels down. This leaves quite a bit of "floor" space under the rack for tools, batteries, parts, etc... which didn't exist before I made the rack.

The rack fits in the front half of the Tiguan's cargo area with the seats folded down. That area isn't perfectly flat but it's pretty close - I've seen other CUV's with seats which, when folded down, are at more of an angle. My dad's Jeep Liberty for example. This leaves plenty of room in the back half of the cargo area for larger items like the 2000W generator in a sealed plastic tub I travel with so I can charge battery packs for EF1. I'd hoped it would create enough space so that the dog would fit in back as well but sadly it didn't...

If I had a taller cargo area I'd probably have done something like what Tim did. What I learned while making this rack is that it's better not to over think - keep it simple and you'll be happier. Also measure everything then go back and measure it again to make sure you're accounting for everything :) Oh and that a quality PVC cutter is worth it's weight in gold.

Chris
Attachments
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Bob_T
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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby Bob_T » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:54 pm

Oh and that a quality PVC cutter is worth it's weight in gold.


I will second that remark! My first attempts were with a "less than desirable" pvc cutter. Not much fun :roll: I quickly remedied that mistake and bought a good one ... world of difference!


Topic Author
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Re: Airplane transport rack from PVC pipe

Postby KRProton » Mon May 22, 2017 10:33 am

Here's a quick follow-up to my PVC pipe transport rack; Loaded for bear for the race last weekend -- two EF1s, three 426 planes and three Q40s. The rack worked superbly. Was easy to load/unload and stable the whole way. I ended up ditching the small bungee cords and used strips cut from the Velcro roll to secure the fuselages.

The second image is my view from where I slept on the floor of the van Friday and Saturday evening -- PLENTY of room! :mrgreen: (But I need a better cushion to sleep on than my wive's yoga mat!).

Tim
Attachments
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