PlaneMaker and Aircraft Construction

This page will be a work in progress for a while. It is not meant to be a complete PlaneMaker tutorial, but a collection point for PlaneMaker and aircraft design FAQ and other tidbits.

3D Cockpits

Prop Design

Tuning the Autopilot

Artificial Stability

Where can I find a PlaneMaker tutorial?

Tracy Walker has created a good tutorial at

There is an older one (from approximately V5) at

How do I delete an instrument from the panel?

Drag it to the edge of the panel.

I did, and it just sits there at the edge of the panel.

You need to drag the instrument so that it is more that half-way off the panel area. That means you have to grab it with the cursor on the opposite side of the direction you're dragging it. (i.e., push, don't pull.) As of V7.41, use the Delete key instead.

Every time I click on an instrument on the panel, it moves slightly.  (V7.41+)

The default behavior as of 7.41 is a "snap to grid" mode. To disable it, put your keyboard in Caps Lock mode.

How do I save a new version of a plane with "Save As"?

Where's the "Save" button in the Say Intentions box?

Thanks to Cormac Shaw... Okay, once you've navigated to the folder you want to save the file in, you enter the file name (ending in .acf) at the bottom of the dialog box and then ... drum roll please ... press the return key. Austin just left out the bit about putting a button marked 'Save' alongside the 'Cancel' one.

How do I put weapons on a plane?

You attach weapons using the Expert->Weapons menu. You specify the weapon type, attach point, and a couple other parameters. If you want them on structs or pylons, you have to specify those separately. The one thing I don't think you can do is opening bomb bay doors.

There's a Weapons folder with a library of common devices. This gets searched when X-Plane loads up the aircraft You can also create a Weapons folder in your aircraft folder and populate it with custom weapons. From the Expert->Weapons menu there's a link to a Build Weapons menu that allows you to create your own. The weapon is a simplified aircraft model with fuselage, fins, and a variety of guidance and behavior options. Artwork is done as usual with an
associated PNG file. For a good worked example, see the F-4.

Can I make parts of planes invisible?

From an email from Austin: OK here is the issue people keep pointing out in X-Plane 8.20 rc-2: Various cockpit objects and aircraft are INVISIBLE!

HUH??? HOW????
Well, it's easy:

For any plane with invisible stuff that you want to SEE, go to:


that's it!

You can specify what is visible, and when, and i tweaked that code a bit to be more powerful and accurate for 820, so you might have to update the chceckboxes for some of your planes.

A perfect example of this is the wonderful and funny snoopy sopwith from the ACCURATE SOPWITH is painted WITH INVISIBLE PAINT (paint is a totally-transparent PNG file), SO YOU CANNOT SEE THE BIG SOPWITH SURROUNDING SNOOPY, BUT THE COCKPIT OBJECT (which has NO aero model at all) is snoopy on the doghouse... THUS, snoopy flies his doghouse around in a sopwith camel that exists in his mind, (AND IN REALITY!) but is invisible to the outside world.

ANYWAY, this doghouse is invisible in 820 as well until you turn ON the "cockpit object" checkboxes in plane-maker as i described above.

How can I build the fuselage shape to match a photo? 

Paul B. Jones provides the following method:
This works for me, XP 7.x I think 670 etc., too (save and save often).

I'll talk about side view and adjust for top view later.

Crop a picture of your fuselage in your favorite photo editor. The  smallest side should be bigger that 256 pixels (I think that's about  right) at 72 dpi. Save as a 24bit win bitmap.

Open Planemaker and go to the first fuselage screen.

Set the positions of each section so that the first is at 0 feet and the last is at the length of the fuselage. (left to right)

Set the radius of the fuselage to the largest radius of the fuselage.

Stretch out the top, bottom and side of a couple of sections to the max, you can copy these to all sections if you want.

Go to the second fuselage screen and the middle window will be your starting points.

Click the button and import the side view. Planemaker scales the picture to fit you dimensions, but keeps the original proportions.

If all is well then the wireframe should fit within the bounds of the background picture.

You can adjust the section radius or fuselage length in screen one and check the changes in screen two.

Once the wireframe matches the background size, you could do the same with the top view. Import pic, adjust radius etc.

From here, I use the F1 key to adjust and shape the fuselage. The points in a fuselage section that are important if using F1 are 1, 5 and 9. Adjust them in the first or second screen and use f1 to see which way the shape of the fuselage is moving. Hint, you can click on point 5 and drag it around while pressing F1 and watch the shape smooth out while you make continual adjustments.

Now that you have played with a few shapes and practice, you will get the hang of it.

Once you get things under control, import the top and or bottom bitmap and adjust the top and bottom points.

A line in top view without a block on the end, represents a line in the bottom window, and vice versa.

Hint 2: the first and last points in the first fuselage screen, close up when you adjust them, but they can be adjusted in the second and third screens.

I usually get the overall shape right before adding lumpy bits as the use of the F1 kills off lumpy or angled bits.

+ and - keys zoom in and out, arrow keys move the wireframe around.

How do I get the picture to line up with the wireframe model I'm building?

From Tracy Walker:

You need to set the length and breadth of your aircraft in the cross-sections screen to match the plane's actual size. Then, crop the profile image in photoshop or whatever you're using, especially in width, so that it fits the dimensions on the side and top screen. Making the image wider or narrower will shrink it or lengthen it accordingly.

Sometimes, it's necessary to change the body radius figure to avoid cropping part of the fuselage width, but if you work carefully (trial and error) you can match the image profiles exactly to the dimensions. Don't worry about using the whole length of the profile window, just make sure your image matches the top and bottom dimensions as you have set them in the main window.

Now: once you have everything set perfectly, DON'T move the widest width section narrower than it was set. Go ahead and work with all of the other nodes as needed, leaving the widest one alone. Moving that one to a narrower figure than it was set will alter the image's scale immediately.

Once you are satisfied with your work, go ahead and move that last one into position. Incidentally, I always make another side and top view, not more than 1024 pixels in any dimension, for use as a background image on the main Plane Maker window, where you can scale your model up or down with the arrow keys to fit the image. That way, you can check further work without worrying about a wrong size image back on the fuselage profile screens.

How can I make the nose (or tail) of the fuselage bigger than a single point?

You can, but if you do that you'll have a transparent hole. Austin hates the way these look, so he won't let you do it. If you really have a need to do this (like you're going to cover the hole with another part) there is a workaround. First create the cross section you want in the adjacent section (e.g., one section back from the nose). Then use the "Copy Sec" arrow to copy the section profile forward to the nose section (or back to the tail section). Now you can set the second section to whatever you want it to be.

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