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Division: Div B & C – Middle School & High School

NC Essential Standards Alignment: Science as Inquiry

Event Rules: See the National Rule Manual

Event Score Sheet: Coming Soon

National Event Page: Here

Clarifications: In NC, participants will be required to wear safety glasses while in the flight area. 


Prior to the tournament, teams will construct, collect data on test flights, analyze and optimize a free flight rubber-powered aircraft to achieve maximum time aloft.  


Teams MUST bring Safety glasses, up to 2 aircraft, flight log, transportation boxes, tools and equipment.  Teams must bring one or more measurement boxes; transportation and measurement boxes may be the same box.  Event Leaders will provide all other measurement tools and timing devices for scoring purpose.


Highest final score wins. A team’s final score is the larger of the team’s flight scores.

Common Mistakes:

Don’t forget your flight log! This is an easy penalty to avoid.


These flights will take place in some sort of gym, either a basketball court or an open arena, depending on where you compete.  If you do not have access to a gym, reach out to other competitors at nearby middle or high schools and see if you can share practice time with them.

Balsa wood can be bought at most hobby stores, or in bulk from Tower Hobbies or other online stores

Rubber band motors and winders can be bought at some hobby stores, or from Midwest or other online stores, search for rubber motor or contest rubber. Also, make sure you know the gear ratio of your winder. 1:5, 1:8, and 1:16 are all common, and will affect how many turns you make to achieve the ideal number of winds on your motor. The first number (1) is how many times you turn the crank compared to how many times your motor is turned on the output side (the 2nd number).

Event Resources:

Flight Resources List

2017 Coaches Clinic Presentation – Flying tools

2017 Coaches Clinic Presentation – Wright Stuff

Laser Cut Planes

Guru Engineering Tech 

The National Free Flight Society
2021 Coaches Clinic Presentation

2022 Coaches Clinic Resources


How to wind your rubber motor. This video shows a helicopter, but the principles of winding and what to watch out for are the same.
How to attach wing covering- tissue paper shown.
How to weigh, cut, tie, and lubricate a rubber band motor for one of the flying events.
In flying events in Science Olympiad (Wright Stuff, Gliders, Flying Bird, Helicopters, etc.) it is sometimes necessary to curve balsa wood to get a desired shape for the outline or a rib of your wing. This demonstration shows one way to achieve a significant curve.