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The Hobby Lobby Crazy Sparrow

Shaun Cronin puts "Capt'n Bird and his Crazy Sparrow" through the paces, finding this aerobatic parkflyer performs as nicely as promised.

Splash

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Specifications:
  • Wingspan: 38 in.
  • Wing area: 251 sq. in.
  • Length : 25.5 in.
  • Weight: 16.5 oz.
  • Wing loading: 9.5 oz./sq. ft.
  • Airfoil: Symmetric
  • Radio: JR transmitter, Hitec 555 micro receiver, 3 Hitec HS-55 micro servos
  • Motor: Power Drive 350+
  • Speed control:  Jeti 110
  • Battery: 7 or 8 cell 350mAh
  • Manufacturer: Flying Styro
  • Kit Price: $89.00
  • Available from:  Hobby Lobby International, www.hobby-lobby.com

Kit Contents

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The Crazy Sparrow came boxed with all the components nicely wrapped and well protected. This is kind of a standard statement, but with the thin foam construction of the Crazy Sparrow, good padding is essential to prevent damage during shipping.  The extra protection turned out to perform a secondary purpose - I used the bubble wrap several times during assembly to protect against hanger rash. The fuselage is of one-piece foam construction, pre-painted, and ready for decals. The wing comes painted in two halves ready to slide into the fuselage, with the exception of the add-on leading edge support. The tail fin needs only be hinged and glued into place, and the elevator and ailerons come pre-hinged. I was very happy with the high degree of detailing and the nice finish on the Crazy Sparrow right out of the box. Even the wheel hubs were painted.

Assembly

I began with the main landing gear, which is a fairly simple assembly.  The two gear legs are made from the supplied piano wire. Two quick bends to the wires and they are ready for their wood counter parts. One piece of the wood gear support contains a slot for the wire to lay in. The other acts as a cover and the two are glued together with epoxy. I chose to put epoxy on the slotted side and then lay the wire and cover piece into place. I then clamped the gear in a vise. This allowed the epoxy to dry nicely with all components firmly in place. To finish out the gear, a dark green, self-adhesive decal is wrapped around each gear leg. I opened up the two landing gear holes on the fuselage sides with a sharp X-acto knife. Make sure your blade is sharp, otherwise the foam has a tendency to tear instead of cut. From here I trial fit the gear and then employed five-minute epoxy to finish the job.

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The tail wheel is constructed in a similar manner.  First bend the wire, then glue the wood reinforcement on, and finally glue the assembly into the fuselage.

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The Power Drive 350+ geared motor system comes with clear and concise directions for the upgraded motor mount assembly (over the standard geared Speed 280), which consists of adding a 0.25 in. balsa spacer (shown below). The spacer is glued to the existing fire wall and then the motor gear box assembly is fastened with the supplied screws. The balsa spacer accounts for the gearbox offset as well as the final spacing for the front cowl. Make sure you use a harder balsa so the spacer does not crush when you have those not-so-perfect landings (something learned from experience).

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The tail feathers slide into place for a quick fit and square check, and are then glued in place with epoxy.

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The wing assembles in minutes. The pre-hinged ailerons needed a little bit of trimming to allow for smooth, equal travel. One hole must be drilled in each aileron for the supplied torque rods to be glued into. I used five-minute epoxy to cut down on build time. The kit comes with Styro glue, but I found it to be messy and slow setting. Take your time with the leading edge supports. Here again I used five-minute epoxy. Make sure you fit check the support before mixing or applying any epoxy. Mark the final location and then go for it. Apply glue to the inside of the support, place the leading edge on the wing, and hold in place firmly. Be very careful not to damage the wing, as the foam is easily marred. Only attempt one wing panel at a time.

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Once dry, the two halves slide nicely into the fuselage, mating with the main spar joiner. I recommend gluing the joiner in one half of the wing first, and then checking the fit again. The main spars in the two wing halves supplied in my kit did not quite line up, but with following the fit check I made a quick spacer and everything went together smoothly. I applied epoxy to the joiner and the bottom of the wing cut out before sliding both halves into the fuselage. The wing halves are pretty much self-aligning. I finished the process by gluing the top of the wing to the inside of the fuselage side with epoxy.

Following the wing and tail feathers installation, the flight gear can be installed. The elevator and rudder servos mount to two cross members glued to the fuselage sides. The aileron servo mounts to two wood reinforcements that are glued to the top of the wing, and a hole is cut through the wing center for the servo to sit in. Both the receiver and the speed control mount to the top of the wing with Velcro. The battery also mounts with Velcro in a cut out in the leading edge of the wing.

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The pilot, whom I have named "Captain Bird", really adds to the Crazy Sparrow's vintage look. Year to date, the Captain is still flying his Sparrow, although he has had to replace a broken prop and get a little gear work done.

crazycaptbird.jpg (20423 bytes)

Flying

I'll start out by saying the Sparrow is a lot of fun to fly. You can keep it in close proximity while you put on a great aerobatic show.  The Power Drive 350+ geared motor drive and the APC 9 x 6 slow flier prop proved to be a very respectable power combo. I first tested the Sparrow out on a windy afternoon at our favorite lunch time flying site (a field behind the local Wendy's fast food restaurant). The plane flew fine, but it's much more fun on nice, calm evenings. The first few flights were made using an 8-cell 350mAh pack, which achieved about 3 to 5 minutes per flight.

Sparrow_fly-1.jpg (2691 bytes)

Additional flights showed that a 7-cell 350mAh pack also performed well. Seven cells really didn't seem to affect the Sparrow's flight characteristics. I guess there was a little less power, but the plane was still capable of loops, rolls, and inverted flight. Not bad for a park flier.  When I flew the Sparrow off pavement, it lifted off in 10 to 15 feet. Quite impressive!

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The Crazy Sparrow is a great combination of park flyer and aerobat. Its small size, light construction, and agile control allow it to be flown in small fields or park settings. The plane needs to be flown in for landings - maintaining some air speed is essential. If the airspeed gets too slow, the Sparrow will tip stall and land sooner than expected.

I found the landing gear to be a little weak. I do most of my flying in grass covered fields and it took only a few landings to loosens things up. Eventually I removed the gear all together and protected the bottom of the fuselage with clear packing tape. Hand launches are easy, and landings in the grass are now as smooth as can be. I also tried out a 10 x 7 APC prop, which seemed to add a little more thrust and performance.  Losing the weight and drag of the landing gear helps as well, although it takes away a little of the charm.

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Overall I am very pleased with the Crazy Sparrow.  Its vintage looks and great flying characteristics make it a welcome addition to my hanger.

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