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Hobby-Lobby Mini F-4N Phantom by JPower Review

An exciting "everything you need" package from Hobby Lobby is assembled and thrown into the never-never to see what it can do!

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:21-7/8"
Length:32-5/8"
Wing Area:135 sq. in.
Weight:18-1/2 oz.
Wing Loading:19-7/9 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:4x micro (included)
Battery:1300mAh 3S (included)
ESC:25 Amp (included)
Motor:inrunner (included)
Available From:Hobby-Lobby International
Manufacturer:J-Power
ARF Retail Price:$179.90
RTF Retail Price:$199.90

The F4 Phantom II is one of those aircraft you can call iconic without fear of overstatement. It was a very capable workhorse for the airborne war machine and the second most produced jet fighter of the western world. As the pinnacle of air superiority when it was introduced, this fighter was put to good use by all services for three decades. It still to this day holds many records including the speed record at an altitude under 125 feet: 907.769 mph! Add its distinctive shape to the impressive history and the F4 is unmistakable.

The F4 has always impressed me with its sharp and aggressive looks. Although I'm not quite sure as to why it's taken me thus far to have a flying model of the F4, I jumped with both feet when Hobby Lobby released the Mini F4N from JPower.

the real deal
the real deal

Box Contents

The plane arrived in perfect shape in a box with cardboard spacers and all parts in plastic bags. With the exception of transmitter and receiver you'll find everything you need to fly the plane in the box, including a charger (there is an RTF package available that includes transmitter and receiver already installed). The high level of pre-assembly is apparent as you take the parts out of their packaging.




The box contains:

  • Fuselage, with the following already installed:
    • fan unit
    • motor
    • speed control
    • two connected elevator servos (one per side!)
    • aileron servo y-harness
  • two wing panels, each with installed and connected servo
  • canopy / hatch
  • fin
  • nose cone
  • tube of contact adhesive
  • 3S 1300mAh Lipo battery pack
  • 12 volt charger
  • two spare pushrods
  • instruction booklet

Required to complete:

  • Transmitter and receiver (for the ARF version)
  • 5 minute epoxy if you want a quicker cure time

Assembly

The construction of the model is a simple process of gluing on the wings, fin and nose cone. Seasoned modelers have done more lengthy and involved field repairs than assembling this plane. Anyone wary about setting up motor mounts or electronics will feel at ease; all electronics are already mounted and connected. You will only need an hour to assemble this plane which includes reading the instructions and making a nice cup of coffee.

Fin

The molding in the fuselage to accept the fin is exacting fit. I simply ran some glue along the base of the fin, scraped some around the sides and slid it into place. Any excess on the bottom will come up the sides around the fin for strength, and you can clear any away that manages to see daylight again. Although it's a great fit, it doesn't hurt to do a quick sanity check from the rear to ensure it is nice and square.

the fin and fuselage molding
the fin and fuselage molding

glued into place
glued into place

check that it's straight
check that it's straight

Wings

The wings butt join to the fuselage and use a tab on the fuselage to provide positioning and some additional strength. Voices in my head were trying to convince me that a butt join wouldn't be strong enough, but in hindsight it is more than adequate. I used 5 minute epoxy to attach the wings simply to use a familiar adhesive on such an important joint.

I did each wing separately rather than rush the cure time of a single batch. I mixed up the glue, and applied it to the edge of the wing making sure to get good coverage around the tab. I wasn't too worried about getting glue on the base of the servo as it was already glued in and committed to the plane. I pushed the wing panel into place and squirmed it around a little to get good adhesion. The wing is well seated but there is a chance to have it aligned incorrectly so I applied some tape to set the position and hold it during the cure time. A quick check of alignment and it can be set aside to finish drying.

servo lead out of the way
servo lead out of the way

confirm fit and position
confirm fit and position

ensure its straight during cure time
ensure its straight during cure time

Nose Cone

Adding the pointy part to this jet is straightforward. Using the provided glue, I ran some glue around the inside of the nose cone and the front of the fuselage, allowed it to set up a little and then pushed the nose cone in place. It's a contact adhesive so when I put the nose on I made sure it went on straight. This glue turned out to have amazing grip, so you really could use it for the wings no problem as long as you allow it to fully cure before flying.

 position and add the sticky stuff
position and add the sticky stuff

 glued in place
glued in place

Radio Setup

The only thing left is to hook up is the receiver. Inside the fuselage there is a Y-harness for connecting the ailerons. I took that out, connected it up and poked the end through the hole in the bottom of the fuselage. I laid the servosí leads into the small channels provided to tidy it up. The elevator servos also use a Y-lead that is already installed, and J-Power has used opposite rotation servos for each elevator so there is no tricky mixing needed.

Plugging into the receiver is an easy task. You can see which plug is from the ailerons by looking into the fuselage: the other JR style lead (orange-red-brown) is to the elevators, and the Futaba style lead (white-red-black) is the speed control. This is actually a three channel plane, so this is all that's needed. I used the Futaba R617FS receiver, and it fits in perfectly for a light friction fit.

included y-lead
included y-lead

connect servos
connect servos

poke through and inset the wires
poke through and inset the wires

connected receiver
connected receiver

snug spot for the Futaba R617FS
snug spot for the Futaba R617FS

outer horn hole for ailerons
outer horn hole for ailerons

With the radio connected and turned on, I checked for correct control surface movement. The elevator and aileron servos were already matched properly for driving their respective control surface. I had to reverse my throttle and elevator channels in my Futaba system, JR/Spektrum style sets should only need to reverse ailerons.

Before heading out to fly, I confirmed that the control surfaces for correct centering. I had to give a few twists of one aileron clevis to get things to line up. I wrapped some tape around the clevises to prevent them opening; fuel tubing is also a great method of doing the same.

second inner hole for elevator
second inner hole for elevator

check servo centering
check servo centering

corrected aileron centering
corrected aileron centering

Control throws

The one thing the instructions failed to provide were details of control throws. I approached this with the idea that jets are generally sensitive on ailerons and less so for elevator, so I moved the pushrod for ailerons to the outer hole on the horn and the second nearest hole on the horn for the elevator. I set up triple rates for the maiden to hedge my bets, though it turns out all my flying is done on the following two settings:

High rates:

  • ailerons: 125% throw, 40% expo
  • elevator: 100% throw, 20% expo

Low Rates:

  • ailerons: 100% throw, 20% expo
  • elevator: 85% throw, 10% expo

Battery

The battery tucks right up front in the nose to balance, and there is a small ridge of foam in the bottom of the fuselage to keep it in place. This is perfect for flying with the stock sized batteries, and it was great to see that nothing further was needed in order to go fly the plane.

stock battery right up front
stock battery right up front

connected and ready
connected and ready

ready to fly
ready to fly

If you want to play with larger batteries, there is plenty of room available if you remove that foam ridge. Doing so means you will have to employ velcro or some other means to stop your batteries from sliding around. I flew the phantom with stock packs and 1600mah packs I had on hand. Because of where the larger pack had to be for balance reasons, I added a small balsa tab to the canopy hatch to ensure it wouldn't come off during inverted maneuvers. There was room for even larger packs but I didn't go there.

Completion

In very little time you will have yourself an aggressive looking flying machine!








Flying

Launching

The technique recommended by Hobby Lobby is to simply grip the fuselage from the top and use an underarm launch. I went this route for the maiden flight and tried to put a little more "oomph" into it. The result was I launched too nose high and had a hard time getting the nose down for it to tuck in and track properly. The second attempt was better. I learned that the less stress I had over the launch, the better (it's a Zen thing). Full throttle and a firm flat shove forward is all that is needed. If the nose comes up too steep you'll have a tough time getting it down so error on the side of nose down rather than nose high.


Once you have the hang of it, this plane is super easy to launch. And although it's always recommended to launch into the wind, this plane is actually quite remarkable in crosswind launches: it will simply start a gradual turn into the wind.

Power Performance

It's always handy to send the EagleTree up with the plane and see what is really going on. Itís doubly helpful here because the motor and speed control are built into the plane, so thereís not much chance for pawing over electronics. Here are the basic numbers:


cruising:
    amps: 13.75
    watts: 150
speed runs:
    amps: 23.5
    watts: 250
peak:
    amps: 30.84
    watts: 324


The power system is all very well matched. The current draw is the upper end for a modern 1300mAh pack, that the 25amp ESC is well matched for the speed runs, and it all strikes a nice symbiotic balance. The power train handles it in stride: Most of my flying sessions put numerous packs through back to back with no effective rest time between.

The results also speak for themselves: the plane is very quick and a "jet" in every way. The only way to get more performance would be to gut all the electronics and replace with a higher wattage system (which, to me given the current performance, would be a complete waste of time).

Flight Performance

In the air this plane is a spirited little performer. After watching and flying some lackluster power from stock setups in the past, I had my hopes set to "reasonable". However, I was very impressed at how fast the plane was. It has all the speed and presence that a jet should have. While it doesn't have unlimited vertical, it does have power to spare; there's no way you could describe the plane as sluggish. It can happily create a satisfyingly large loop from level at full throttle.

Another great surprise was just how good the stock battery pack is. It holds its voltage well and is the "show" pack for when you want to impress people: Put in the fresh stock pack, launch, come to 3/4 throttle and climb to height, turn to point down the strip, pour on the coals, dive and burn through a fast low pass. It's exciting to see this ability in a very economical package, out of the box, no upgrades needed.

Flight times were around 4 minutes flying full throttle. Easygoing cruising will extend flight times with throttle management. There was no noticeable change in handling with the extra weight of the 1600mAh packs, so extra duration can be found with similarly larger packs.

Slow speed and throttle management

The only part of flying that can bring surprises is at slow speeds and bringing on the throttle too aggressively; The nose can rise and make it all very hard to control. It is easy to keep at bay if you're ready to apply down elevator as it happens, or simply remember to advance the throttle gradually. It can happen at launch if you're not careful, just be ready to push the stick full forward until it starts tracking properly. The Phantom wants to go nose high when it's around the stall. Because it has a delta wing shape, it is still relatively very stable. This only caught me out in the first couple of flights and hasn't been an issue outside of my first flying session.

Aerobatics

If the "flat and fast" is getting repetitive, this plane is more than capable of mixing it up. Rolls are nice and axial and loops are as large as you want them. Inverted flight takes some corrective down elevator, but it's stable and has plenty of down elevator left to comfortably fly as long as you wish with her belly facing the sky.

The slow speed handling alluded to this plane's willingness to bring the nose up. It turns out that it's quite willing to go high alpha throughout the speed range. In high rates at full speed, you can pull back for full up elevator to see the plane practically stop and make a turn in a fashion only seen by jets with vectored thrust. Because there is no tendency to snap out of this, you can can wash off a lot of speed and really explore some tight maneuvering. This is unique for an EDF to handle this so well and is great fun to play with. However, you do need to be wary of washing off so much speed because of the impending stall. Either learn to prevent it or at least be ready to "catch" it if it does.

Another interesting thing you can play with is in a light wind, slow down and bring the nose right up. It is possible to bring it to an almost dead stop and start to bring it down vertically.

What a fun, freaky little plane!

Landing

You can set the glide angle that is comfortable, bring it down to a couple of feet above the ground and wait for the energy to dissipate. When it does, the plane will settle gently to the ground. With practice, the mini F4 needs very little area to land safely.

Photo Gallery












Videos

Review Flight

This video takes the Mini F4N through its flight envelope dance: low speed, high speed, aerobatics, a few launches and a couple of landings.

Downloads

Single Uncut Phlight

For an uncut look at what fun a single flight with the phantom can be like, watch the following video. From start to finish, this video is without cuts or edits.

Downloads


What happened to the radome?

The observant person will have noticed that the radome is missing from the flying pics and videos. The reason for this is that the field I was flying from was a frozen jurassic tundra with very aggressive plant life. I'd call it grass, but it's clearly a higher form of species. While this grass has ripped elevators off of other models, it targeted the radome. To fix the situation I removed the split area and replaced it with some carved up depron. If you have nice fluffy grass, this wont be a problem.

jurassic tundra plant life
jurassic tundra plant life

carved off the radome
carved off the radome

adding the blocked depron
adding the blocked depron


Is this for a beginner?

This plane is no trainer, but those comfortable with aerobatic aileron models looking to get their first ducted fan model should look no further.


Conclusion

It is clear that Hobby Lobby and J-Power have worked hard to provide an exciting flying experience out of the box with the Mini F4N. In the 6 hours of flight time I've accrued on this model, it's delivered: It proved to be a true "no upgrade needed" package.

A large part of my personal enjoyment of this plane is in its distinctive shape and the silhouette it creates in the sky. Watching it rip past clouds and sky scenery after a high speed pass never fails to bring a smile to my face.

This plane rocks.


Pluses

  • Well detailed presentation
  • All electronics already mounted and good to go
  • Awesome performance on the stock power system
  • Stock battery outperformed all other batteries used

Minuses

  • The radome couldn't stand up to tough grass







Flight time: 6 hours 2 minutes

Last edited by Angela H; Feb 03, 2009 at 05:08 AM..

Discussion

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Old Feb 03, 2009, 07:06 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,107 Posts
Very nice review Aaron. I really like the multiple shot stills. Looks like I need to add this F4 to my EDF wish list.
McD
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 07:12 AM
3DHS Junkie
800mZero's Avatar
Rhode Island
Joined Jun 2005
5,683 Posts
pictures are some of the best I have seen. the vids dont seem to work though---what format are they in?
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:14 AM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Great review, Arron. Looks like a fun plane, and it certainly looks great in the air. The pics are great, too!

I was surprised about how well the plane handles at lower speeds. A lot of EDFs out there seem to only be able to operate on the on/off speeds, but it's nice to see a (relatively-speaking) "floaty" jet out there.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:27 AM
Moderated. Severely.
TheAddler's Avatar
Sonoma County, California
Joined Apr 2002
450 Posts
Nice review.
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Last edited by TheAddler; Feb 11, 2009 at 03:58 PM.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:53 AM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
20,189 Posts
Thanks for the props guys. This jet is awesome, it really is a ton of fun.


800mZero: mp4 format, Quicktime is the easiest way to play it on windows, although it's an open standard, there will be something somewhere that will be able to make mediaPlayer dance right. Or looks like TheAddler has hosted a WMV version.

Easiest way however would be these vimeo links


The "review" video...

Mini F4N Phantom - flight envelope (4 min 50 sec)



The Single uncut flight...

Mini F4N Phantom - single review flight (4 min 52 sec)
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:59 AM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
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And it's full disclosure time (I was thinking of putting it in the review, but anyways...)


...a few sessions in I flew this puppy straight into a tree! (flat and fast doesn't really mix with a boxed in field unless you accommodate the trees properly) And it bounced really well: it it the very top of the tree and tumbled to the ground. It was still flyable as I walked over, powered up and relaunched it. Quite a happy little plane to fly. However, I had still not taken any outside photos or videos, so, I had to repair it up all nice like. All pics and vids in the review are after this repair

Here are the pics...
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 10:04 AM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by theKM
And it's full disclosure time (I was thinking of putting it in the review, but anyways...)


...a few sessions in I flew this puppy straight into a tree! (flat and fast doesn't really mix with a boxed in field unless you accommodate the trees properly) And it bounced really well: it it the very top of the tree and tumbled to the ground. It was still flyable as I walked over, powered up and relaunched it. Quite a happy little plane to fly. However, I had still not taken any outside photos or videos, so, I had to repair it up all nice like. All pics and vids in the review are after this repair

Here are the pics...
That takes the "Eagle Tree" measurements to a whole new level...
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 10:51 AM
Offical Lightpole Magnet
Whidbey Island, WA.
Joined Feb 2007
777 Posts
Good looking plane, good review! I think this one has made my list for choices for a new EDF!

Would it be possible to go 4S in this bird or leave it as is?
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Last edited by Splat762; Feb 03, 2009 at 11:10 AM.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:23 AM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
20,189 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spackles94
That takes the "Eagle Tree" measurements to a whole new level...
heh, ya.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Splat762
Good looking plane, good review! I think this one has made my list for choices for a new EDF!

Would it be possible to go 4S in this bird or leave it as is?
You wont be disappointed in the purchase if you do.

4S?... the included system wouldn't be able to handle the power increase. As mentioned in the EagleTree sidebar of the review, it's all very well matched: ESC, batts, motor. They all match the load and what is happening. So to increase one you'll have to increase the others, and to do that you'll have to cut off the hatch over the power equipment (it's all installed and sealed in out of the box).

I have a LittleScreamers JetScream motor that I was going to put in it, but this little guy is fast enough as it is... going to save the JetScream for another project that really needs it (this one doesn't ).
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:26 AM
Offical Lightpole Magnet
Whidbey Island, WA.
Joined Feb 2007
777 Posts
I think you've helped me make up my mind. I'll buy it and leave it stock! Save my 4S for another project....a 70mm.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:27 AM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
20,189 Posts
...let me back that up actually. The ESC is said to be a 25Amp, if it is, then it's running at capacity as it is. And there was no access to the motor to find out how hot or cold it was coming down, so without getting at the gear, it's hard to really know the head-room is. It may be possible to go 4S, but I have no way to verify whether it's a safe option or not.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:28 AM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
20,189 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splat762
I think you've helped me make up my mind. I'll buy it and leave it stock! Save my 4S for another project....a 70mm.
sounds like a plan
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:42 AM
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latebraker's Avatar
Sacramento, CA
Joined Feb 2006
177 Posts
Good video. Nice job of keeping it in close for the camera to pick up. Review videos of specks in the sky are a drag. I especially enjoyed the close-in low passes, good stuff.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:55 AM
Offical Lightpole Magnet
Whidbey Island, WA.
Joined Feb 2007
777 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by theKM
sounds like a plan
Placed my order with Hobby-Lobby just a second ago...yippie, can't wait to get my hands on this bird. Great review, you made a sale!

...and I have a feeling I won't be the only one swayed.

Quick question, where is the Rx in this bird? In the cockpit?
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