Fly Baby Baggage Compartment

Text and Photos by Matt Michael

February 2010


As part of my modifications to make my Fly Baby a more practical cross-country machine I built a baggage compartment and added an auxiliary fuel tank.  My aim was to keep weight to a minimum and to avoid doing any significant modifications to the basic design of the airplane.  Simplicity of construction was also important because I’m no expert craftsman and don’t have a lot of fancy tools or money to spare.

Pete Bowers' “baggage bomb” idea looks kind of cool but I really didn’t want anything extra hanging out in the breeze slowing the airplane down.  Looking at the fuselage one can see a lot of empty space behind the seat.  Some quick C of G calculations showed that a fair amount of weight could be placed there without exceeding limits.

There are also control cables for the elevator and rudder that must not be interfered with.  I came up with an idea for a lightly-constructed shelf that is supported on the fuselage side walls, with fabric front and rear panels to provide a secure enclosed space.

The only permanently-mounted pieces are the side wall shelf supports which are screwed and glued to the thin plywood skin.  Just screwing or bolting them wouldn’t be strong enough on such thin plywood.  I didn’t weigh those pieces but they were only a few ounces at most. 

The shelf itself had to be made in 2 separate pieces to facilitate installation (and removal if desired).  I drilled a bunch of holes in it trying to make it as light as possible but I think the main result is that the holes provide good places to hook bungee cords for securing baggage.  Not being an engineer, I did no calculations to determine dimensions for supporting structure as probably should be done.  Frankly, I just did it by best guesstimation and feel with the understanding that I would be the one loading it. Of course I considered the factor of G loading.  I figured that the worse case scenario would be shock loading during a hard landing that could fail the shelf and dump a bunch of stuff onto the elevator controls.  This could easily be fatal so was kept in the forefront of my thinking during construction.  A permanent shelf built during fuselage construction could be much tougher and could be one piece. 

In addition to the basic supporting structure, the fabric front and rear panels also provide some support of the shelf.  I used black vinyl with metal snaps to secure these panels though velcro would work well too.  The rear panel is screwed to the back edge of the shelf and the side and top snaps were mounted on thin wood sticks that were screwed to the fuselage.  An extra benefit of the front panel is that it seals off the cockpit from the rear fuselage creating a much smaller space to heat and also keeps items in the cockpit from migrating out of reach during flight.  It’s easy to snap this panel free to inspect the rear wing pins and the entire baggage compartment can be removed in about half a minute.

It’s SO great to have this relatively huge secure space to stash stuff.  Even for fun local flying I always have tie-downs, spare oil, chocks, whatever… For long trips I can really pack in a lot of necessities including my auxiliary fuel tank.


Matt Michael

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