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Hobby Lobby F/A-18 Hornet ARF Review

Hobby Lobby's F/A-18 ARF is an ideal first ducted fan aircraft! Ronnie Pope gets hooked.

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Introduction

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet is a modern all-weather carrier-capable strike fighter jet, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets. Designed in the 1970s for service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the Hornet is also used by the air forces of several other nations. It has been the aerial demonstration aircraft for the Blue Angels since 1986. Its primary missions are fighter escort, fleet air defense, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), interdiction, close air support and reconnaissance. Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset. The Hornet has also been exported to several nations worldwide.

Hobby Lobby's F/A-18 is offered in a RTF and a receiver-ready ARF version. It's an exciting model that's a joy to fly and is the perfect way to get hooked on ducted fan flying!


Wingspan:28"
Wing Area:256 sq in
Wing type:molded bead foam construction
AUW weight:19 3/4oz
Length:37"
Wing loading:8.19 oz/sq ft (25 g/sq dm)
Servos:3 – 9 gram micro-type
Battery:3 cell 1300 mAh Lipo w/balance taps
Motor:Inrunner-type brushless
ESC:20 amp brushless
US distributor:Hobby Lobby
Available From:Hobby Lobby
Retail Price:RTF - $229, ARF - $199

Kit Contents

The review package shipped from Hobby Lobby, and it arrived double-boxed and free of damage. The components were secured inside the box and were well protected. Since the F/A-18 is offered in RTF and ARF versions, the parts count is extremely low. In fact, the airframe consists of just eight pieces!

Kit includes:

  • Prepainted foam fuselage nose with steerable nose wheel installed
  • Left and right painted foam wing halves
  • Prepainted foam main fuselage with ducted fan motor and ESC, aileron and elevator servos installed
  • Prepainted foam elevator halves
  • Prepainted foam vertical fins
  • Hardware package (hold-down straps, screws and clevises)
  • Wire main landing gear and wheels
  • Battery and receiver compartments with ventilated doors
  • Assembly guide and instructions
  • 3-cell 1300 mAh 15C LiPo battery
  • 12V DC balancing charger

Kit requires:

  • 4 channel radio and receiver

Assembly

The F/A-18 can be assembled in about 2 hours using 15 minute epoxy or UHU POR and a small Phillips screwdriver. The included Lithium Polymer wall charger is a 12V type, and it took a little over an hour to fully charge the battery. The photo-illustrated instruction manual has small photos, but the assembly is pretty straightforward.

Wing

The ailerons and elevators are pre-hinged and use small plastic clevises with screws and back plates. There are molded depressions in the foam where the clevises install. The ailerons use a single servo with bell crank hardware on each wing to link them to the single aileron servo.

Fuselage

The two-piece fuselage glues together with epoxy and the parts fit together very well. The canopy is held in place with canopy glue, but foam-safe CA would also work fine.

Tail assembly

The vertical fins glue in place with epoxy, and since the rudders are fixed, no other hardware needed to be installed here.

Landing gear

I installed the pre-bent main landing gear into holes and slots on the underside of the fuselage with hold-down straps and screws. The steerable nose wheel was already installed from the factory!

Motor, ESC and battery installation

The inrunner brushless motor, 5-blade ducted fan and 20 amp ESC were all factory installed. The battery compartment was perfectly sized for the included 3-cell 1300mAh LiPo pack, and features a nice ventilated latching battery door. Another ventilated compartment houses the receiver.

Finish

After installing my own receiver and battery, I verified that all control surfaces were at neutral trim. Only the ailerons needed some adjustment which was easy to do thanks to the included clevises.

I could not find any information on the Center of Gravity placement, but there was no room for the battery to move fore and aft, and using the “1/3rd of the wing chord from the leading edge at the wing root” method, the plane seemed to balance slightly nose heavy.

Flying

I did a few taxi tests first to get a feel for the F/A-18's ground handling. I was very surprised at how much taxiing power the plane had. Just a few clicks of throttle were needed to get the plane moving, and the F/A-18 turned easily thanks to its steerable nose wheel.

Takeoff and Landing

I decided to start my takeoff roll with plenty of runway available. I started off by advancing throttle quickly to half, and the F/A-18 began to accelerate quickly. When I applied full power the F/A-18 lifted off in a nice, shallow climb and gained altitude quickly. The plane stayed level and felt very stable from the second it left the ground!

Although the F/A-18's all-up weight of 19 3/4 ounce might make you think the plane would land fairly hot, it slows down amazingly well with just a few clicks of throttle. It's also a lot of fun to try high alpha landings with a little more power and some additional up-elevator just before touchdown. The plane just felt smooth and rock-solid, and touch-and-go's off of a paved surface were a blast to perform!

Power

The stock inrunner brushless motor and 5-blade fan provided plenty of motivation for the Hornet. As you'll see in the video, it provided more than enough power for a brisk takeoff, yet the plane is not a speed demon. The fuselage has two intakes that provide plenty of airflow through the ducted fan chamber and the twin exhaust nozzles really look authentic. The 3-cell LiPo battery pack was fairly warm to the touch upon landing, but I'm told this is common with ducted fan airplanes, as they typically demand significantly more amp draw from their batteries and therefore reduced flight times. That said, I was surprised that I was able to fly the F/A-18 for over 6 minutes before the battery started to lag! The battery compartment could use a little better ventilation, but this could easily be accomplished by adding a homemade air 'scoop', like a plastic spoon for example.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Characteristics

The F/A-18 surprised me again with how gentle and predictably it stalls, and it recovered quickly once full power was applied, with no hint of a wingtip dropping.

Loops were big and smooth, and easily accomplished after starting a shallow dive and pulling back smoothly on the elevator stick. Again, the plane recovered beautifully each time a loop was performed.

Rolls were crisp and axial, and could be done slow or fast depending on the amount of throw.

Tail slides are actually one of the most impressive maneuvers the F/A-18 can perform. Just go to a safe height, then apply full power, and put the plane in a steep vertical climb. Chop the throttle, and the Hornet does a nice tail slide into a half-loop. Apply throttle quickly, and the plane recovers beautifully and predictably. You might even get a little half twist at the bottom of the loop (watch the video)!

Is this plane for a beginner?

Although the F/A-18 does require some aileron experience, I would have to say that if you're an intermediate pilot looking for your first ducted fan plane, or just wanting a great-looking semi-scale aircraft that is a joy to fly, look no further than the Hobby Lobby F/A-18 Hornet!

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

As you can see from the photos, the Hobby Lobby F/A-18 Hornet is a terrific looking aircraft!

Conclusion

As I've previously mentioned, the Hobby Lobby F/A-18 Hornet is a fantastic flier and the perfect choice for your first ducted fan aircraft. It’s very nimble yet easy to fly, and even if you've never flown a ducted fan before, you will be look like a veteran the first time you fly it. Its factory-installed brushless ducted fan power system is surprisingly powerful, and the F/A-18's amazing speed range and stable flight characteristics put it in a class by itself. It is a plane you will want to take to the field every time you go!

Pluses:

  • Beautifully finished with factory painted Blue Angels colors
  • Super-stable even at slower speeds
  • Fast assembly
  • Good instructions
  • Good quality hardware
  • 3-wire servos allow easy programming of 72 MHz or 2.4 GHz radio systems

Minuses:

  • The plastic nosecone is very thin and can be dented if not handled properly.

The Hobby Lobby F/A-18 ARF is a great performer and an excellent value. It can be purchased in two versions, an ARF (almost ready to fly) version that is receiver-ready, or an RTF (ready to fly) with 72 MHz radio and receiver installed. Either way, you can not go wrong. See it at your local hobby shop or at Hobby Lobby USA!

Many thanks to Mike Llewellyn, John Hadaway and Kelvin Ritchie for their help with the video and pics taken for this review!

Last edited by Angela H; Nov 28, 2007 at 06:46 PM..

Discussion

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Old Nov 28, 2007, 07:15 PM
KK6MQJ
Bajora's Avatar
Joined Sep 2004
13,701 Posts
In-flight photo #4 is my favorite!

This looks like a very nice way to help a budding EDf'er?
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 07:26 PM
Addicted to RC
YarSmythe's Avatar
USA, TX, Houston
Joined Nov 2003
2,760 Posts
Just how many planes DO you have from Hobby Lobby???

Another nice one. Looks tempting.

-Lee
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 07:30 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Thanks Jon, it would be an EXCELLENT choice!

Lee, is there such a thing as too many? Hope to see you at our toy drive/funfly on Dec 8th!

Ronnie
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 07:31 PM
Registered User
Fort Collins, CO.
Joined Sep 2002
457 Posts
this reveiw is almost too perfect.
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 07:36 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by flybye
this reveiw is almost too perfect.
So is the plane! flybye, I'm a decent r/c pilot, but this little plane really does fly that well and makes me look like a better pilot than I am!

Ronnie
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Last edited by dawnron1; Nov 28, 2007 at 07:42 PM.
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 08:46 PM
Member 120mph Club
ATIS's Avatar
New Bern, North Carolina, United States
Joined Oct 2004
12,445 Posts
I posted Flybye's maiden flight video...

www.myspace.com/rcihcc

to include his wonderful soldering skills for the lipo to ESC connection... LOL

Sorry Scott, had to include it...
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 08:52 PM
'Riders fan.
David Winter's Avatar
Vancouver, British Columbia
Joined Mar 2004
1,165 Posts
I don't suppose this comes in grey? or better yet, not painted at all?
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 09:00 PM
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ATIS's Avatar
New Bern, North Carolina, United States
Joined Oct 2004
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daved.. I thought I saw a teaser photo of it in grey but I dont recall where... it was in RCG but its not available yet...
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 09:07 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,107 Posts
Another Great Review Ronnie. I was really surprised at the slow speed handling of the F-18. I thought that most EDF jets would stall and fall out of the sky at anything less than half throttle. In the video, the F-18 looked rock solid. The recovery from the tail slides was almost a non-event. The bird just resumed flying as if nothing had happened. Looks like Doug's masterpiece pilot has a new home for a long time to come.
Mike McD
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 09:16 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,458 Posts
Another very nice review Ronnie with great still pictures and a very nice video. I think your F-18 is considerably faster then my SU-27 from Hobby Lobby. Hope to shoot my video on Saturday. Both fly nice and slow when that is desired. Wouldn't want to have to do combat with mine vs yours. Keep the peace. Mike
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 09:18 PM
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ATIS's Avatar
New Bern, North Carolina, United States
Joined Oct 2004
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Michael... I have the SU-27 and FlyBye has the F-18... we flew back to back and the F-18 is faster... even after I upgraded to EFlite 400 (4200kv) motors which doubled the power of the SU-27... the F-18 comes well equiped. The only issue Flybye and I had with his F-18 was the paint job was terrible. You can see it in the video I posted.
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 09:53 PM
Registered User
Fort Collins, CO.
Joined Sep 2002
457 Posts
thanks bryan, its cool. man after watching my vid it looks like I cant fly worth a dam. now that I have set expo and set the cg right it flys soooooo much better, smooth. wonder if anyone has flown with the radio that comes with the rtf version?
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Old Nov 28, 2007, 11:07 PM
Registered User
Joined Jul 2007
20 Posts
Thank You for that review.
I've been looking for more info on this plane.
I should be getting mine in a couple days
Happy Holidays
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Old Nov 29, 2007, 04:02 AM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
United States, NH
Joined May 2005
7,676 Posts
Thanks guys!
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