While most people outgrow making model airplanes at an early age, others soldier on well into their adult lives; even going so far as to create a sport out of it.

Airplane modeling began as early as 1871, where a Frenchman named Alphonse Penaud invented a rubber band-powered airplane. Though it would be more than 30 years before the Wright brothers took off in their first aircraft, the model was a significant influence for the brothers’ design.

You would be forgiven if you didn’t know there was an entire sport surrounding the design of model airplanes. In the world of competitive indoor model airplane flying, contestants spend hours working on a series of intricate pieces—all of which make up their unique airplane model. The goal is to make a plane with the least amount of weight and the longest amount of airtime. The competitor whose plane is left in the air while others are on the ground is the winner.

float documentary

Float is a documentary following two contestants, Brett Sanborn, and Yuan Kang Lee, as they compete in the cutthroat sport of indoor model airplane modeling. Along the way, the documentary goes in-depth on the creative process behind indoor model airplane crafting. Each craftsman takes into consideration multiple analyses such as the splicing of wood pieces to make frames, the cutting of plastic wings, and most importantly, the winding of the rubber band which powers the entire model airplane. It takes hours for a craftsman to make a plane from start to finish, only for it to fly for 40 minutes at most.

float documentary

The documentary is more than just a look inside the world of competitive model airplane flying though; despite the skill and patience needed to compete, the sport and community as a whole are dying. Float also aims to increase awareness of indoor model airplane flying and show that there is still a place for this simple analog past time in the digital age.

float documentary

If you’re interested in watching the film, screenings and a brief synopsis of the documentary can be found over at the Float webpage.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.