Hobby-Lobby F/A-18 "Red Viper"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Jamie "GFBurke"
Specifications:

Manufacturer:StarMax
Name: F/A-18 "Red Viper"
Distributor: Hobby-Lobby, Intl
Type: Electric foam Ducted Fan Jet
For: Intermediate to advanced pilots
Flying weight: (review model): 19-3/4 oz. (560g)
Size: 28" (686mm) wingspan, 37" (980mm) long
Prop: 5 blade ducted EDF
Radio: Airtronics RD6000 Super transmitter with Hitec 6s Receiver, 4x 9g Servos.
Power system: MOTOR 14L inrunner EDF, 25A ESC, 3s 1300mAh 18C lipo.
CG: 580mm from nose tip


Introduction:
The new F/A-18 "Red Viper" from Hobby-Lobby is decorated in the scheme of the The "Diamondbacks" of VFA-102, complete with decals!

I have never flown an EDF jet before, but I love the idea of not seeing a prop sticking out and not having to worry about being hit by it! And of course, the sound is very appealing.

Unpacking:
Upon opening the box, everything seemed to be in order. All the parts were wrapped individually in plastic, then placed into a nice egg carton container.

All four servos are already glued in place with the control horns tightened on. The motor and ESC are at home and ready as well. The airframe is molded of a hard foam much like that of the Stryker.



The two servos that stick out of the fuselage are "Y'ed" together. These two servos control the elevator and move together on the same channel. The nose carries the steerable front wheel, so there is nothing to do to set up the ground control. I cannot get a close shot of the motor or ESC, so I'm not so sure what name brand they really are. Deans connectors where already soldered on the ESC and lipo (yea for me!).




I noticed the nose cone is made of a very soft material, as shown in these pictures. I'm sure this is for weight reduction, however I'm not so sure it's going to withstand my awesome landings.




Building:
The instructions say to glue the fuse halves together, however this was already done for me. Not only was the main fuse together, the 4th (aileron) servo is hidden in the fuse. This one servo connects to the rod going through the fuse, then into the main wing rod setup.

Step one was to put the landing gear in place. The design of the holder would allow the gear to be placed on backwards, since the hole for the aluminum are in front and in back. I studied the pictures of completed models, and set them up correctly.



The next step says to "put the control horns in". Well, that's about all the help you get! As you can see, the job requires a bit more thought on just how to make this all work. In the picture below, you can see that you only get 8 screws so that means 2 screws per horn. For extra peace of mind, I used the goop that was included on top of the 2 screws to really hold in the horns.



Designing this mechanical movement with just "install the control horns" takes some thinking. Not a big deal once you see it, but no real pictures were included to show you how. So this is what it looks like when it's good to go. All in all, it's a very cool design and unlike any setup I've seen before. The short rods are used for the ailerons, and the longer rods are used for the elevator. It works very smoothly.

I found it was easier to put the goop on the wing, then insert the aluminum stick that comes out of the fuse into the screw holder. Basically, thread that stick in the hole while gluing on the main wing. Otherwise, you will have to remove the screw that holds that strange "two-armed horn" then thread it through.

Be sure to get all rods and threads the same length on each side. Of course, turn on the radio and zero out the servo then align your control surfaces, then tighten up the screw that holds the threaded aluminum rod.





The next step is to put on the wings. This part was simple because everything fits nicely together and is obvious where each part goes. Again, I just used the standard goop that came with the kit (this is the same as the GWS goop).



Now we need to put the nose section onto the main fuse and body. Make sure all your and servos are working! Plug everything in and do a quick test to avoid pain later.

The fuse and nose fit together perfectly. You will need to decide on your electronic equipment placement before you glue this in. There are two opening doors, but the manual doesn't state what is for what item. However, to get the CG properly set you really only have one option: Put the lipo up front. In order to place the included lipo in the front hatch, you must cut a little bit of foam to get the deans and wires through. The front wheel servo will also be going into this area to reach the back hatch and RX.





I pulled my wires where I wanted them, then put glue on the nose piece and slowly placed the nose while pulling wires at the same time being sure nothing was going to get pinched.


Yes the plane now has proper center of gravity (per instructions) with the 3s 1300 in front and the RX in the back hatch.


Finishing up:
I didn't install the drop tanks for now, but I may later since it will give it a better scale look. I wish it came with a couple of Sidewinders for the wing tips! That would be cooler than drop tanks. Incidentally, the manual states these are "missiles" but no, just drop tanks. I can guess where they go but nothing is stated as to where to install them anyways.

Technical specs:
24A @ 259W WOT

Plane starts to roll @ 1.5A
All up weight with lipo (rtf) = 584g


Flying:
The jet taxis on the ground with ease. Lift-offs are smooth, and roll rates are solid and quick. The jet feels good in the air and moves quickly on low passes. It loses speed really quickly on tight turns, however in an easy turn you retain most speed. This is probably a feature of most EDFs, but I have nothing to compare to since this is the first one I've flown. The way it is out of the box, it is slightly nose heavy. This can be fixed by moving the lipo back slightly.

As with many military models, orientation is easily lost if you fly out too far, and that is a scary feeling! If you know the craft well, then you should be ok taking it out further.
Landing are nice and smooth. You can take her in slower than you think and almost "harrier" it in. I was quite amazed as I attempted to stall the jet facing into the wind. It almost came straight down on the wheels! It is very easy to land, even for somebody like me.



A beginner aircraft?
The plane isn't designed for a beginner flier. However, since most everything is already done for you, a beginner could probably put it together if somebody with some experience was there as a mentor. I think with better instructions a beginner could do it just fine, but as it is the instructions consist of about 5 steps. The pictures are tiny and one whole step is dedicated to setting up all horns and controls. It states "Connect the control rod with clevis". That's really not adequate for someone who hasn't put together a few models already.


As a side note: What year is this? I understand that full graphic images can be costly to print, but a URL in the manual to a wiki or some other collaborative build guide would be very helpful for everybody. Most RC models suffer from inadequate instructions, but a wiki is free. Ok, off the soapbox and back to the review.

Negatives:
- The manual and paper-thin nose cone.
- The CG point is not correct in the manual. You need it about 5mm back from the specified point.
- The clevises need to be secured more than just the "snap in place" method provided.


Conclusion:
This model is an amazing value. For under $200, all you need to add is your own transmitter and receiver. If you heed the cautions on center of gravity and securing the clevises, you should be just fine. We chose to put some mechanical "up" in the elevator and used a bit lighter lipo in the front to get proper CG. I think many people are making both compartments together as one, then mounting the lipo in about the middle of the chambers. Keep her in close if you have orientation issues or older eyes. The landings are super easy!


Things I would have done differently now that I've built one:
1: I may leave off the lading gear entirely since I fly in nice grass. Remove the 4th servo and LG to save some weight.
2: Could be possible to setup that 4th servo to do a rudder or a thrust vectored mod.
3: Find some Missiles!


Video


>>> HD Video <<<





6 Comments:

Tronix123 said...

Jamie, yet another great review.. Thanks,
learned a lot , great photos, very credible.. I'm interested..and wouls get it but for the type of foam/ durability factor.. JimS

Pete said...

I have the starmax F/A-18 c. rtf radio's are terrible as mine lost radio at about 120 ft away. Lucky im good with glue and jigsaw puzzles. 2nd flight lasted about 5 seconds. nosed up ,rolled, and head first into ground. The Cg, is that 5mm back towards the rear of aircraft? im desperate to fly this lovely bird. also, do u need much up pitch for take off? ty

leo said...

This is a great review. I had mine last year and i was impressed with it s durability.
edf jet video

aaaa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adam smith said...

nice jet. thanks for sharing this brief information about this jet. i think i am going to buy it.
Adam smith
adam.smith402@yahoo.com
Nitrotek.se

Berry Martin said...

very informative website and for people interested in building model Rc Jet. this is the best tutorial place. Video are also very helpful and the step by step instructions on how to combine the various parts are very useful for people interested in building model F/A-18 c in the workplace home.Good job.


Regards,
Berry