A couple summers ago, at our old house in Ohio, we bought our son a couple of foam airplanes from Amazon. They were 17” long, featuring a speckled design on the outside, and a little white plastic housing where the cockpit was, with colored LEDs that could be turned on for night flying.
They provided many hours of fun. Well, let me clarify that: One of them provided many hours of fun. The cockpit on the blue plane (his favorite color at the time) constantly fell off upon impact with the ground, requiring constant repair. Putting it on incorrectly would throw off the balance of the plane, leading to terrible flights that only frustrated the youngster (and understandably so). Leaving it off entirely made the plane so light it couldn’t even fly. Despite it being his favorite color, the blue one quickly became mine.
Eventually, the orange plane took a wayward turn and landed on the roof of a nearby business. He was nearly inconsolable.
An image of him holding it has been the background photo on my phone ever since.
Two years and a state move later, I found similar planes at Dollar Tree. By “similar” I mean it’s the exact same plane, only without the LED cockpit. And for $1.25, which is about $13 cheaper than the price I paid for them on Amazon. The planes are so similar, in fact, that I’m convinced the Amazon seller just bought these, and then modified them themselves as a way to justify the higher markup.
Before using them, some very slight assembly is required. This consists of inserting the wing and tail wing to prepare them for flight. There are actually two locations for the tail wing that can alter the performance: Putting it in the lower slot makes the plane fly “flat”, which is great for distance. Moving it to the higher slot results in the plane flying in a “loop” motion.
Based on the previous planes we had, performance is exactly what I expected. Actually, it was a little better, as both of the planes work well. The “flat” flights can result in some pretty decent distances. I’d say they go 30 or so feet on windless days, though I’m terrible at judging distance so it might be a little farther than that. This length can be extended on windy days, if thrown with the air current.
The “loop” flights are also pretty cool. It works the way it sounds: The plane flies in a circle before crashing to the hard ground below. Throwing it just right can be tricky for youngsters, which led to some irritation from our six year old when his results weren’t exactly like mine. But with a little practice, most kids should be able to get the hang of it.
As with almost every toy in the price range, they aren’t the sturdiest flying toys on the market. Since they’re made with foam, the potential for “ripping” or other damage is quite high. And I’m not referring to the damage the plane takes after landing (although that can certainly add up over time on rough surfaces). I’m talking about the act of just putting in the tail wing. As much as I’d like to blame it on my son, I was the one who ripped the back of my plane while struggling to put in the tail wing.
Currently, it’s not bad enough to ruin the performance, but it speaks to how fragile the planes can be. Repeated switching of the wing would likely cause additional tears; these issues could become more pronounced in the hands of children, who are typically more aggressive and careless than adults. (Although not in this case.)
These clearly aren’t made to last forever, but with proper care, they’re also not “disposable”: I could see them lasting hundreds of flights before needing to be replaced. And for $1.25, that makes them a pretty solid value.
Overall: 6/10. They’re not the most exciting planes on the market, but these foam airplanes from Dollar Tree provide hours of fun at an excellent value. The flight path of the planes varies based on the location of the tail piece, which can be switched between two locations. The lower position results in “flat” flights, while the higher slot gives the potential for “loop de loops”, which can be pretty cool. The simple design makes flying easy, although it might take young’uns a bit to get the hang of it. (You don’t always have to throw things as hard as you can.) They aren’t the most duarable planes on the market, but with proper care, they’re also far from “disposable.” Worth a look for kids into flying machines.