Here is a simple but challenging little free flight model of a vintage
lightplane racer. Designed and flown in the early 1920s by Mr. Ettienne
Dormoy, this "Bathtub" airframe resembles some of today's ultralights.
Walt Mooney's version used a Cox .010 engine, but a brushless motor
and LiPo batteries can easily be substituted, and a micro size radio
system can even be accommodated. The plans do not seem to be available
for purchase, so I posted the full-resolution scan for use (click
on the image for the large version).
Modeler & Full Size Plane Designer
Walt Mooney Recreates for You - Dormoy's Famous "Bathtub"
By Walt Mooney
Author Mooney with "Bathtub" lightplane racer.
Dormoy's Famous "Bathtub"
In 1923 Ettienne Dormoy, then working for the Army Air Force
at what is now Wright field, designed and built this little ultra-light
for the 1924 Lightplane air races. Its novel engineering has intrigued
the aviation world ever since. We became acquainted with the late
Mr. Dormoy during the last few years he was an engineer for Convair,
A good deal of research has gone into this model. We believe
that the plans are as near scale as is possible. Unhappily, Mr.
Dormoy had not carefully saved three views for the modeling posterity.
He did have some photos and did compare my attempts at an earlier
three view. The Douglas Rolfe's three view of the Bathtub appeared
in the Spring 1960 Air Progress.
The Bathtub won or placed in the first three races it entered
as follows: (1) First race, first place, one plane finished; (2)
Second race, second place, two planes finished; (3) Third race,
third place, three planes finished. The other racers were overheating.
This problem was solved on the Bathtub by the shroud which ducted
cooling air over the cylinders of the Henderson four cylinder motorcycle
engine. This device was copied by first one and then two of its
The Bathtub won the cross-country race between Dayton and Cincinnati
and the Rickenbacker trophy. Since the fuel supply in the single
wing tank was not enough to permit a non-stop hop Dormoy carried
a five gallon can on his lap during the flight and a wobble pump
to transfer the gasoline to the gravity feeding tank on the wing.
Unfortunately the pump broke on the first wobble and the pilot was
forced to blow into the can using lung power to pressurize the can
and, so to transfer the fuel.
Mr. Dormoy earned the Rickenbacker trophy the hard way!
When testing the plane for maximum speed, the Bathtub was dived
above 100 miles per hour (max, level speed was about 70) and a vibration
was noted. One of the upper tail booms was vibrating with a six
inch amplitude that was increasing. Dormoy reached back as far as
possible and stabilized the boom with his hand. On recounting this
Mr. Dormoy said, "It's probably a good thing I didn't fly the plane
too much." He also claimed to be one of the few race pilots ever
to come out ahead financially. He sold the Bathtub after the races
for what it it cost him ... and figured the prizes were all profit.
Within practical limits the model has the same type of structure
as the original. Fuselage and fin are aluminum sheet as was the
prototype. Wing horizontal tail and rudder are built-up balsa structures
with tissue covering. Tail booms are aluminum tubes. Main frame
and landing gear is a soldered steel wire assembly. Fin and tail
are held on with wire wrapping as on the original. I would recommend
.004 thick aluminum lithograph sheet if you can get it. I used .012/2024/T83
sheet which is heavier than necessary. The little Cox .010 has plenty
of power for my 6 1/2-oz. job so weight isn't critical but light
airplanes don't get hurt so easily.
For wing, horizontal tail and rudder cut all parts and assemble
over plan. When dry, remove, carve leading and trailing edges to
section shown and sandpaper well to prepare for covering.
Main frame is eight pieces of wire bent to shape. This must be
done accurately because alignment of the entire model depends on
Make the cabane-keel assembly first. This is all the main frame
except the landing gear wires. Keel sticks into bottom boom at rear
end of body, has a quarter inch bent up to match front angle of
body. Two cabanes are bent up. These are identical and form wing
support braces from the fuselage. They start with a half inch length
parallel to keel at forward end then run up, forward cabane strut,
back to rear cabane strut, down to keel and forward three quarters
of an inch. Two short lengths of wire run along upper section of
cabane wire to connect with upper tail booms. These five wires are
soldered together as shown in main frame sketch.
Additional construction notes appear on the full size Hobby Helpers'
Walt Mooney Plans for Dormoy's Famous
Full size working drawings for this fantastic model
from Hobby Helpers.
The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size
version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always
best to buy printed plans because my scanner versions often have distortions that can cause parts to fit poorly. Purchasing
plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model
Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I
will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.
Try my Scale Calculator for Model Airplane Plans.
Posted June 11, 2014