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HobbyZone Champ RTF Review

So you want to learn to fly RC? Well, pick up a HobbyZone Champ RTF and give it a try. This exciting new airplane is sure to please beginners and veteran pilots alike.

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Introduction

HobbyZone Champ RTF

Wingspan:22.4 in
Length:14.3 in
Weight:1.3 oz (38g) w/battery
Battery:E-flite 1S 3.7V 150mAh Li-Po
Propeller:130 x 70 mm
Transmitter:4-channel 2.4GHz with Spektrum DSM2
Manufacturer:HobbyZone
Available From:Horizon Hobby
Price:$89.99

Imagine, if you will, that you are a teenager in the late 1940s, and you're minding your own business as you ride your bicycle down the dirt road. You're enjoying the warm breeze blowing through your hair. You've traveled this road many times before, and today is no different. This road is out of your way, but it winds around the approach end of the local airport. Most days there isn't much traffic and rarely do you get to see an airplane take off or land. As you give the runway one last glance before heading on your way, your eye catches a flash of yellow at the far end of the strip. The dust flies as you slam on the brakes. "Now THAT is an airplane!", you think to yourself as you see the airplane start its takeoff run towards you. Your eyes are fixed on the little yellow plane with an orange belly as it lumbers down the runway. The airplane breaks ground and begins a gentle climb. The sound of the 65hp Continental engine purring overhead sounds almost musical. As the plane passes you by, you can see that the pilot has a big smile on his face...but not nearly as big as yours.

That's the kind of effect that an airplane like a Champ can have on a person. The legendary Aeronca Champ has been brought to the small-scale RC world by HobbyZone. Now you too can experience the excitement of piloting your very own Champ in your backyard or at the local park. The HobbyZone Champ RTF is aimed at beginner pilots, and offers them an easy-to-fly package that almost guarantees success.

Why the Champ?

The company that originally built the Champ was called Aeronca, which came from Aeronautical Corporation of America. In fact, the company is still around today and has a very interesting history in our country's aviation and aerospace industries. In an era dominated by Piper Cubs, Aeronca hoped to capitalize on the post-WWII aviation boom by introducing the Champion, or Champ for short. Although it was never as popular as the Cub, Champs developed quite a loyal following. I am one of those Champ lovers, and I have good reason to be. When I was younger, my Dad owned a 1947 Aeronca 7AC Champ. I miss the times I spent in the back seat of that plane, sitting on a boat cushion just so I could see out the windows.

Kit Contents

The Champ RTF comes complete with everything you need in the box.

  • Complete airframe
  • 2.4GHz DSM2 transmitter
  • 3.7v 1S 150mAh Li-Po battery
  • Li-Po charger
  • Eight AA batteries (4 for the transmitter, 4 for the charger)
  • Instruction manual

The packaging/box is built to hold the Champ secure during transport. Styrofoam blocks hold the airplane in place, and they are held down by tape. Take care when removing the blocks and then removing the Champ from the box because it is a pretty tight fit.

The transmitter is held in place by a nylon zip-tie, so it must be cut to remove the transmitter. Replacing the zip-tie with a velcro strap would allow you to transport the transmitter in the box with the airplane. If you don't secure the transmitter somehow, then I would recommend not placing the transmitter back in the box for transport.

There are places in the foam for carrying extra batteries. I'd suggest purchasing some spare batteries. Trust me on that one.

HobbyZone includes a really good instruction manual to help beginner pilots learn what they need to know about the Champ. The instructions are very clear and informative, from everything on how to charge the battery to how to replace a broken prop. The descriptions of how to fly the Champ are very detailed and helpful to understanding RC flight. There is also a good troubleshooting section, just in case you run into problems. If you are a new pilot, I would suggest reading the manual several times before attempting your first flight.

The manual is available for download here.

Another excellent resource worth mentioning are the tips and tricks videos that Horizon has posted on the Champ RTF product page. In the videos, product developer Matt Andren walks you through things like how to trim your Champ and how to use dual rates.

When it comes to scale looks, HobbyZone just plain got it right with the Champ. From the scale wing rib spacing to the accurate cowling intakes, this little Champ really looks the part. There are just some views that are unmistakably "Champ". Whether it is the way it sits on the runway or distinct outline against the sunset, the Champ RTF is definitely a good-looking airplane. The only obvious missing scale detail would be the wing struts. Although not structurally necessary for this model, wing struts would add that last bit of realism to the Champ.

Since the Champ is configured to be a good trainer for beginner pilots, the flight controls are configured to be as tame as mechanically possible. This means that the pushrods are connected to the outermost hole in the control horn at each of the control surfaces. There are plenty of holes available to move the pushrod in towards the control surface. Keep in mind that this will produce more than the recommended throws on the elevator and rudder. While this will make the Champ more maneuverable, it will also make it more difficult to control for a new pilot. I would recommend leaving the pushrods where they are to start out with.

Assembly

The Champ is Ready-To-Fly (RTF), and it requires zero assembly. The only thing that could even be related to assembly would be installing the provided AA batteries into the transmitter and charger. That will take you all of 30 seconds. Charging the flight pack shouldn't take very long for the first charge, since the pack is partially charged already. Mine only took 15 minutes or so for the first charge. Subsequent charges will take a little longer if you drain the pack all the way down.

The flight pack attaches to the slot on the bottom of the fuselage with hook and loop tape. I found that it is easier to plug the battery in before sticking the battery down in the slot.

The manual shows the battery installed all the way forward in the battery slot. With the battery installed here, the Champ balances with a center of gravity about 28mm back from the leading edge of the wing. I have experimented by moving the battery back about 1/4" and found the Champ still flies well.

Radio Details

The Champ RTF comes with a DSM2 transmitter that is already bound to the airplane. Note that the 2.4GHz radio is DSM2, which means you can bind the Champ to any DSM2 radio such as a Spektrum DX6i or DX7. Since the Champ RTF is sold as a beginner's package, I didn't bind my Champ to my DX7 for testing. However, one of my flying buddies, Matt, flies his Champ with a DX6i.

With beginner's simplicity being the goal for this airplane, I don't see that using a more advanced transmitter will give a new pilot any advantage in learning to fly the Champ. If you already have a DSM2 radio that you would like to use, by all means feel free to try it out. Having more programming features such as exponential and programmable mixes could help the Champ to fly a little better, but those features really aren't critical to having a nice-flying Champ. In fact, the transmitter included with the Champ is equipped with dual rates.

What are dual rates, you ask? What this means is that the amount of control throw on the elevator and rudder has two settings. By pushing "down" on the right stick of the transmitter, the pilot can toggle between low and high rates. There is an audible beep to tell you that you have switched modes. The LED on the face of the transmitter will blink on low rates and be solid on high rates. On low rates, the throws are reduced, which gives the Champ a very nice, smooth feel on the controls. Switching to high rates, or more increased throws, causes the Champ to be more maneuverable and aerobatic. The default setting out-of-the-box is high rates, but it is recommended that beginners start out on low rates.

Flying

When I first powered up my Champ, I checked the controls and found out that I had no elevator movement. I could hear the servo working, but the elevator wasn't responding. Looking inside through the cowling, I could tell that the servo was moving, but the pushrod was flexing as if something was binding. I checked where the pushrod exits the fuselage at the aft end and found it was sticking to the paint there. A little pressure got it loose and all was well after that.

I have spoken to the product development team at HobbyZone, and they have noticed that the paint can become soft if exposed to high temperatures. This could cause the pushrod to stick to the paint. No doubt these little Champs get warm during shipping as well.

I know this is not a major problem with the Champ, but I felt that pointing it out might save a new pilot some grief and frustration. This does bring up the importance of always doing a thorough preflight before attempting to fly your plane. A quick control check is always a good idea. Wiggle those sticks and make sure the control surfaces do what you tell them to.

Basics

Since the Champ is a beginner's airplane, it is very stable in the air. The wing has generous dihedral to give a very positive self-righting tendency. This means the Champ will want to roll to wings level unless you hold it in the turn.

Speaking of turns, I should note that the Champ has a tendency to drop the nose in turns if you hold the stick over for too long. This can be avoided by using a little up elevator to "pull" the Champ through the turn. I only point this out for the new pilots out there since this characteristic won't catch a veteran pilot off-guard. Just remember to fly a nice smooth turn, initiate the turn with left or right stick inputs, ease back on the stick to give some up elevator as you are neutralizing the left/right input. Continue to fly the turn by adjusting the elevator input. Roll out of the turn using opposite left/right input. Wasn't that easy?

One thing that is surprising about the Champ is its ability to handle the wind better than most planes its size. With an all-up-weight of only 1.3 ounces, you would think that the slightest breeze would just carry it away. While I'm not recommending you fly your Champ in gale-force winds, you shouldn't be afraid to fly the Champ just because there's a little wind blowing. Early morning or late evening calm air is oh-so-sweet for flying the Champ, but having a little breeze to play in can be just as fun. You can expect to get bounced around pretty good in a stiff breeze.

Flight times with the included 150mAh Li-Po battery can be anywhere from 10-15 minutes, depending on throttle usage. The Champ has plenty of power with a fresh battery. You won't do much full-throttle flying with the Champ because it just doesn't need it. I find myself flying at 40-50% throttle most of the time since I like low-and-slow cruising with lots of touch-and-goes thrown in. When you start to notice that you don't have as much power during a climb, the battery is getting close to being drained. You may also notice the motor will "surge," and this is an audible cue that you need to land as soon as possible. If you continue to fly, the power to the motor will eventually cut out. You will still have control of the elevator and rudder, but not the motor.

Takeoff and Landing

For successful takeoffs, you're going to need a smooth runway. Asphalt or concrete surfaces work well, and unless you've got a golf green for a yard, you won't be taking off from grass. The Champ has plenty of power, so takeoff runs can be as short as you want. You can also back off the throttle a bit if you prefer more scale takeoffs. Normally with taildragger aircraft, you'll want to get the tailwheel off the ground and continue the takeoff run with only the main gear on the ground. With this Champ, however, you'll have to be very careful since there is very little prop clearance. With the plane in a level attitude, the prop will hit the ground if you get the tail up too far. I've found it is best to just punch the throttle and feed in some up elevator to get the Champ flying as soon as possible. Quick takeoffs mean less time working the rudder to keep it straight as well. Even if you do need some rudder on takeoff, it is very minimal.

Hand-launches are just as easy. While holding the transmitter in your left hand and the Champ overhead in your right hand, advance the throttle to anything above half-throttle and give the Champ a gentle toss forward. Be sure the wings are level and you'll be flying before you know it.

Landings with the Champ couldn't be any easier. In fact, the Champ flies so well that it will practically land itself if you kill the throttle and let go of the sticks. While this is not the recommended procedure for landing the Champ, this trick could help a beginner out tremendously during a panic. For more traditional landings, just fly your final approach directly into the wind and reduce the throttle to near zero. The Champ has a very good glide for such a small plane, so you'll need to plan your approaches accordingly. The distance the Champ will glide will surprise you. As the Champ descends, feed in a little throttle and up elevator to level out just inches above the runway. Remember that you don't have much prop clearance, so try to get the nose up as much as possible to avoid a prop-strike. Wheel landings (only on the main gear) are possible if you are careful, but gently plopping it on the runway in a three-point stance is just as good.

Ground-handling with the Champ is quite good thanks to the steerable tailwheel. I've found that it steers better when using high-rates. A little burst of throttle will also help to whip the tail around when needed.

Aerobatics

The Champ isn't exactly an aerobatic machine. It was meant for low-and-slow flying, but if you feel the need to toss a loop here and there, the Champ will deliver. I've found that loops are easier with a fresh battery and a gentle dive to pick up some speed. Reducing the throttle at the top of the loop helps to keep it tracking straight through the loop. If you are still at full power and getting slow at the top, the motor's torque will cause you to roll out a bit. Toward the end of the pack, the Champ will tend to roll out at the top of a loop from lack of speed.

Sloppy rudder-rolls are also possible, but they take a little work to make it work right. I tried to make the Champ spin, but it just wouldn't do it. Any attempt at a spin just ended up with the Champ descending in a wide, gentle circular spiral. No extreme aerobatics here.

Inverted flight is possible, but the self-righting tendency of the Champ makes you work for it. If you aren't completely wings-level when attempting inverted flight, the Champ will roll out despite your best efforts with the rudder. I could manage no more than 10 seconds of inverted flight and even then it wasn't pretty. I think I just got lucky.

Photo Gallery/Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion

A WORD OF THANKS

I owe a HUGE thank you to my good friend and fellow author, Napo, for the spectacular flying shots of the Champ. Another shout-out goes to my Dad for running the camera and flying the Champ for the video session. Mom even snapped some pictures for us at Moontown. Fellow author Matt Gunn gets photo credit for the thumbnail image. Great shot, Matt!

I'd also like to thank Horizon Hobby for providing the RTF airplane for this review.

Thank you all so much!

Is this for a beginner?

Absolutely! HobbyZone sells the Champ as part of its Zone 1 (Z1) line of aircraft. New pilots with no previous flight experience are just the kind of customer the Champ is made for. By reading the manual and understanding how the flight controls work, a new pilot has a good chance of teaching himself to fly the Champ. Beginners will also appreciate the fact that the Champ's light weight means that less-than-perfect landings and collisions with other objects (cars, trees, light poles, yourself, etc.) probably won't do much damage to the airplane.

Summary

The HobbyZone Champ RTF is just the ticket for pilots of all skill levels. The Champ is sure to provide many first-time pilots a very positive introduction to this hobby. Like its full-scale counterpart, the HobbyZone Champ is very stable and easy to fly. Beginners will appreciate the self-righting characteristics and hands-off glide this little Champ displays. With enough altitude, just releasing the sticks will return the Champ to an upright and wings level attitude, something a new pilot will be thankful for.

But what about all the veteran pilots out there that already know how to fly and have more planes than they can count? Well, they too should run to their local hobby shop and buy themselves a Champ, of course! I have had a lot of fun with my Champ so far. The ability to grab the plane and a battery and step out onto the driveway for 10-15 minutes of flying fun is just so convenient. Flying without hassles is what the Champ is all about. Whether it is shooting touch-and-goes on the driveway or just cruising around the trees in the yard as if they were pylons, the Champ delivers in a big way.

Pluses:

  • Everything is included in the box
  • Super stable and gentle flight characteristics
  • Excellent scale lines
  • Lots of fun for beginners and experienced pilots

Minuses:

  • It isn't big enough to ride in.

Last edited by Angela H; Jun 27, 2010 at 01:36 PM..

Discussion

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Old Jul 02, 2010, 01:48 PM
Registered User
Bend, Oregon
Joined Mar 2010
371 Posts
Great review and pics... I really have the urge to pick one up. I have a small area close to the house I can fly, but the the area is to small for my SC and
J-3.

The Champ seems like it would be perfect for my small area, when I don't feel like driving to the other areas
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 02:31 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
United States, OH, Parma
Joined Jul 2009
5,061 Posts
Good work, great review, great flying airplane.
Hey, your a hybrid flier! Thumb on the throttle, and pinching the control stick. Just like me.
Matt
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 03:29 PM
NiCd + Mabuchi 550 was da bomb
NY USA
Joined Apr 1999
610 Posts
I'd like to mention that the sticking paint is a real issue and not just a fluke.

Not only did both pushrods on my buddy's plane come stuck to the paint, the plane was also stuck to the styrofoam box. The plane looks like it has white mold growing on it where it came in contact with the styrofoam. To rub salt on the wound, it also came with a DOA servo.

A call to Horizon got us a new board in the mail, but for the price they should improve the quality of their products.
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 05:13 PM
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The Raddish's Avatar
Rocket City
Joined May 2008
361 Posts
I picked one up online last week and have been having a blast flying it around in my cul-de-sac. I don't have a lot of room here and there are lots of trees and other obstacles to try to avoid, and this Champ fits the bill for a quick flying fix in the late evenings just nicely without having to go find somewhere else to fly.

It did catch the attention of quite a few neighbors who wanted to learn, so I took a few to a local school where there was a bit more room to fly. We had a few nose-in crashes that eventually worked the motor loose, so I do have to take it apart and do some surgery to it, but overall this is a tough little booger for being so small, and it does fly extremely well!
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,458 Posts
Nice review on a great plane. I also had a little sticky paint that left a small white mark on my plane but otherwise it has been great! Mine flies on about a third throttle and gives nice long flights. I have been recommending the Super Cub to people to learn to fly but they sometimes crash when on there own in a matter of seconds. I think in ares with calm flying conditions this might be the way for beginners to go.
I almost lost mine in a thermal but went inverted and flew her down inverted. Mike Heer
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 06:09 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
United States, OH, Parma
Joined Jul 2009
5,061 Posts
On a whim I took my wife to the ball diamond a few hours ago and let her teach herself to fly on the Champ! Just a few verbal commands on stick movement and she was flying.
She went from never having piloted an rc airplane to flying figure eights and no crashes in about 15 minutes
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 06:58 PM
Is it SEFF yet?
reg3's Avatar
Florence, AL
Joined Jun 2006
862 Posts
Nice review Andy. I picked one up too after seeing them at your place.

You are right...it does fly like a Champ.
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 07:30 PM
Full throttle and supersonic!
Admiral14's Avatar
USA, VA, Richmond
Joined Aug 2009
935 Posts
Sounds like it's more forgiving than the J-3! And the RTF sells for the same price as the BNF Cub, for what sounds like a better package!

Nice Review.

Tim
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 08:24 PM
The building never ends!
Tucson, AZ
Joined Oct 2008
1,056 Posts
I agree. Great review. Though I must say that I've managed to get mine to spin just fine. It's just that if I try to spin it to the left, it descends in that wide, gentle spiral your review describes. If I try to spin it to the right though, it spins quite nicely.
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 08:25 PM
Registered User
Joined Mar 2001
2,625 Posts
Nice review. I'm not usually a "me too" person, but the Champ is one of the best flying planes I have ever owned. I flew mine for 30 minutes right before dusk tonight in a church parking lot surrounded by trees and houses. I haven't enjoyed RC so much in a long time.

Tony
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 08:49 PM
Team Destruction
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USA, LA, Lafayette
Joined Oct 2009
187 Posts
Been flying mine all day today...did manage to rip both sides of the wing off when flying under a trellis in the garden.....A little hot glue packing tape and a few minutes later she was back in the air...you have to love this little plane!
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 08:56 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Great review! Thanks for letting me fly it! It really is a very gentle plane.

These micro planes are the next best thing, no doubt — especially for those of us with young babies and not a lot of time to go to the field.
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Old Jul 02, 2010, 10:17 PM
Registered User
Joined Jun 2010
100 Posts
Just a simple fix, pick up the foam insert and turn it 180 so when you pick up the box the TX is on the bottom, that way it will not fall onto the plane.
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Old Jul 03, 2010, 07:03 AM
Crash McNooblet
ci_phon's Avatar
United States, KY, Lexington
Joined Nov 2009
47 Posts
Does anyone happen to have a rough idea as to how this might compare the the PZ Ultra Micro P-51D Mustang? (as far as top speeds, agility, forgiveness...how much of a football field the Champ can eat up both in length and in width... )

I bought a Mustang a short while back as a means of upgrading from an Ember 2 to flying with 4-channels & ailerons. I wanted something close to the same size as the Ember 2 to retain some of that familiar size comfort feeling. I don't know when this aircraft was released, and I don't remember hearing about this 2 months or so ago when I bought the Mustang...but I'm thinking that I wish I had!!!

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my Mustang...but it was a tad fast for me at first, and still to this day I find it to be a bit of a handful at times and not always as completely as enjoyable as I'd prefer. Sometimes I "don't" want to be all hyper and excited or having to always stay on the sticks. The Champ seems like it would have made a much better plane for me, and maybe still would make a better plane for me, at least until I gain a more comfortable handle on flying with ailerons...when "I" have become the primary deciding factor in when it generally gets to be exciting...or relaxing.

Anywho, I'd appreciate any thoughts on this please. I'm sure that the Mustang has a higher top speed and is more agile, due to the difference in plane types (high wing, low wing), and I'm sure the Champ is more forgiving than the Mustang is when (still) learning to fly with ailerons. But I am still curious to get a more detailed idea of how they differ from one another in those aspects.

*if it helps, I compare the speed of my planes in a simple way...how long it takes to fly 300ft/the length of a football field, at full throttle, level flight, and in no winds. I use a football field as a reference because I usually fly in one when going out to fly my smaller aircraft when the winds are likely to pick up soon, if that makes any sense.

Thanks in advance! And I wish everyone the best of winds and good times!
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