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Phoenix Model Sea Bee ARF - Sport/F3A Pattern Model Review

F3A Pattern performance on a budget. Great looks and smooth maneuvers in a sport-size package. Phoenix Model Sea Bee

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Introduction

Phoenix Model Sea Bee
Wingspan:56 in (1423 mm)
Length:53.3 in (1405 mm)
Wing Area:598 sq in
Weight:6.1 lb
Wing Loading:23.5 oz/sq ft
Receiver:Futaba R617FS
Servos:4 or 5 Standard-sized Servos
Battery:6S LiPo, 4000 - 5500 mAh
Motor:1000-1400 W, 480 kV Outrunner
ESC:50 - 80 Amp
Prop:APC 10x5 2-Blade
Transmitter:Futaba 8FG Super
Manufacturer: Phoenix Model
Available From:Tower Hobbies and fine hobby shops
Street Price:$134.97

When I first started flying RC, my two passions were Pylon Racing and Pattern Flying. I competed in a number of Pattern Contests in the 70's and did OK, but I never was satisfied with the way my planes flew. Fast forward 40 years --- My how things have changed! Radios and planes have both evolved and the dream of a great flying Pattern plane may now be a reality.

For me, Pattern flying has always been a nice smooth ballet where the planes draw a series of pictures in the sky with seemingly effortless precision. A well flown Pattern sequence flows from maneuver to maneuver smoothly and with a predictable progression. Formal Pattern competition events usually involve flying a specific sequence of maneuvers in a very precise manner. If you would like more information about formal Pattern flying, a good source of information on prescribed sequences and competition events can be found at the National Society of Radio Controlled Aerobatics website.

If you think you might want to try your hand at Pattern flying, but you don't want to invest thousands of dollars in high-end competition airframes, then this newest offering from Phoenix Model may be just the plane you need. The Sea Bee is listed as a Sport/F3A Pattern type plane and it can be powered with a .46 to a .55 glow engine or a 1000-1400 Watt electric motor. With a street price of less than $150.00, this airframe is a real bargain. Let's open the box and see if this Phoenix Model ARF can deliver F3A level Pattern performance at an entry level price point.

Kit Contents

  • Built-up balsa and ply airframe
  • High-quality Oracover covering material
  • Fuselage with cockpit and large battery hatch
  • Two-piece wing with aluminum joiner tube and pre-hinged ailerons
  • Pre-hinged elevator and rudder
  • Fiberglass cowl and wheel pants painted to match the covering
  • Glow motor mount and 8 oz fuel tank
  • Plywood electric motor mount and spacers
  • 2-1/4" plastic spinner
  • Complete hardware package
  • 14-Page photo-illustrated instruction manual

Required Parts

  • Minimum 4-channel radio system
  • 4 standard servos (5 for glow)
  • .46 to .55 2-stroke glow engine
  • 800-1200 mAh NiMH receiver battery (glow)
  • 1000-1400 Watt electric motor
  • 4000-5500 mAh 6-cell 25C Lipo battery
  • 50 - 80 Amp ESC with BEC
  • ESC and Aileron Servo extensions
  • 30 minute epoxy and CA glue
  • Non-Permanent Thread Locking Compound
  • Common building tools

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Parts Supplied by Hobbico for this Review

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TheFutaba R617FS seven-channel receiver is a full range programmable receiver with FASST protocol and fail-safe.

Futaba S3010 servos are standard size analog servos with ball bearings, nylon gears and high torque output.

The FlightPower battery is a 3-cell 4000 mAh Lithium Polymer battery with a 25C discharge rating. Two of these batteries are used in series to produce a 6-cell power pack for the Sea Bee.

The RimFire .46 brushless motor is rated for 1000 Watts continuous power output.

The Castle Creations Talon 90 ESC is a brushless motor speed control with programmable functions and a hefty 20 Amp BEC.

Assembly

The 14-page photo-illustrated Instruction Manual is adequately written for intermediate to advanced ARF builders. There are numerous photos, but there are some gaps in the assembly process discussions. This Review will attempt to give some useful tips to help fill in the gaps and ease the building process. The first tip would be to install all the trim decals before starting the assembly process. Use the box illustrations to help with the decal placement. For those who prefer a unique trim scheme, the stock covering pattern provides a nice starting point.

Wing

The airframe assembly process began with the wing. The ailerons were pre-hinged and pinned in place - a really nice touch. Each aileron servo position had a matching servo tray taped in place on the wing. It was helpful to remove each tray one at a time and mark it with reference to the wing half (left or right) and the tray orientation with reference to the front of the wing.

The Futaba S3010 servos were a perfect fit between the servo tray rails. However, they would not fully seat against the tray surface because of excess glue on the mounting blocks. A quick touch of the Dremel wheel and the servos fit just fine. The included thread taped in the servo bays was a great help in pulling the servo leads through the wing structure.

Next step was to mount the control horns for the ailerons. In the hardware pack there were four long screws and six shorter screws. The longer screws were for the ailerons and the shorter screws were for all the other flight surfaces.

With both of the aileron servos mounted and the linkages and control horns in place, the next step was to trial fit the wings to the fuselage. The included 2-1/2" long nylon wing bolts were nice, but they were WAY too long. I cut the bolts to 1-1/4" and dressed the thread ends with my Dremel.

When I tried to tighten the bolts down, I found that the wings would not cinch down all the way to the fuselage sides. After some measuring and marking, I found that the provided aluminum wing tube was 1/8" too long. After shortening the tube 3/16", the wing fit nice an snug up against the fuselage.

Fuselage

The assembly process continued with the fuselage. A trial fit of the vertical stab found that the assembly would not seat flush with the top of the fuselage. The culprit was an incorrect angle cut into the bottom surface of the front section. A few cuts with my X-Acto knife dressed up the area and resulted in a nice flush fit.

Rudder and elevator installation only required minor touches with sandpaper to line up the surfaces to the wing and at 90 degrees to each other. However, the tailwheel bracket needed some attention. The screws provided for mounting the tailwheel bracket were too large to fit in the rear mounting hole. A screw with a smaller head was substituted, and the bracket mounted easily. Only one wire clamp was needed to connect the tailwheel wire to the rudder.

The main landing gear were next, but they would not bolt down together. The gear legs are split in the middle and each half mounted separately. I needed to remove almost 1/8" of material from one gear leg before I could fit them on the fuselage.

Motor mount assembly was next. The mounting bolts provided for the motor extensions were too long. The installed bolts extended into the fuselage and would have touched the front of the battery pack. The spacer bolts were each shortened 1/4", and reinstalled. Next was the installation of the motor mount. The RimFire motor mount slots were too narrow for the provided bolts, so the ends of the slots needed to be enlarged slightly.

ESC installation was next, and the muffler tunnel on the bottom of the fuselage looked like a perfect location for the Talon 90. The ESC included a mounting plate and it only needed a little trimming of the retaining ears for a tight fit in the tunnel slot. Once the ears were trimmed, the Talon 90 was snapped into place and the motor leads connected for a very sleek overall installation.

After just a couple of installation and removal cycles, the canopy/battery hatch wasn't as tight as before. Upon closer inspection, the rear hole for the latch pin was slightly enlarged. The latch hole was drilled in a soft balsa sheet and the removal and installation cycles had enlarged the hole. The fix was easy, I cut a short length of inner Gold-N-Rod tubing and CA'd it into the soft balsa sheet.

Radio Installation

The Futaba R617FS receiver was mounted with hook and loop fastening material and was installed in front of the servos. The antennas were routed inside some spare pushrod tubing to obtain the recommended 90 degree angles to each other. I used a 2" Heavy Duty servo extension for the ESC and two 2" servo extensions for the ailerons. The servo leads for the rudder and elevator servos were secured behind the fuselage bulkhead.

Completion

The completed Sea Bee weighed exactly 6 lbs with batteries, RTF. The plane balanced on the recommended 110mm CG with the batteries positioned midway between the firewall and wing tube.

The surface throws were set to the recommended amounts for high and low rates. Since I prefer some exponential, I set 25% Expo for high rates and 20% Expo for low rates. I then set the transmitter countdown timer for 6 minutes and had it start and run at any throttle setting above 20%.

With the recommended 10x5 prop, the Rimfire .46 pulled a hefty 60.7 Amps and indicated 1378 Watts static power at WOT. This power level calculated out to an impressive 230 Watts per pound. Since a good pattern plane must be able to fly the sequence smoothly even in windy conditions, this level of power should be very beneficial.

Flying

Spinner Change

The provided spinner was nice, but it was heavy and hard to balance for this electric motor application. After numerous attempts to get rid of a very noisy high-speed vibration, I replaced the stock unit with a Great Planes 2-1/4" Nylon Spinner which smoothed things out.

Basics

The Sea Bee is advertised as a Sport/F3A Pattern airplane. As such, it should have spirited performance, neutral flight stability, and rock-solid tracking. I think it excels at all three areas.

Taking Off and Landing

The Phoenix Sea Bee had plenty of power and the takeoffs could be slow and easy, or fast and short. Since the Sea Bee is a tail dragger, rudder inputs were critical during the takeoff runs. The rudder was very effective, so only small inputs were needed to keep the plane centered on the runway. The long tail moment helped keep the fuselage tracking straight. Low rates worked best to keep the plane on the centerline.

Landings needed to carry a little power all the way through touchdown. Once the wheels touched down, the elevator pressure needed to be released to keep the plane from bouncing back into the air. When the plane had slowed below flying speed, the tail needed to be planted and held with the elevator to maintain steering with the tail wheel. Switching to Low rates for landings worked best to keep the plane tracking smoothly down the center of the runway.

Sport Flying

The Phoenix Model Sea Bee is an excellent sport model. It is very responsive to control inputs and it will perform all the sport aerobatic maneuvers with ease. Though the control surfaces are too small for 3D flying, they are just right for any other spinning or snapping maneuver.

F3A Aerobatics

With the rates on Low, and careful attention to smoothing out the maneuvers, the Sea Bee was able to fly a pretty respectable F3A Sportsman pattern sequence. The plane could be flown very smoothly and it would maintain heading nicely on its own. There was very little coupling during knife edge flight and only a little down elevator needed during inverted flight. There was plenty of power for long vertical lines and large looping maneuvers.

Is This For a Beginner?

Not a chance. The Phoenix Model Sea Bee is designed for neutral stability and has no self-righting characteristics. However, it is exactly what is needed if you are a first-time pattern flyer on a budget.

Flight Photo Gallery

Grab your flight sequence sheet and let's get airborne!

Flight Video

My bud Jesse was once again on video duty as I taxied out the Sea Bee and lined up for takeoff. He was able to easily keep up as I put the Sea Bee through its paces. I was using High rate rudder for the first takeoff and landing, but later switched to Low rate rudder to smooth things out. Overall, the Sea Bee flew very smoothly. However, it looks like the pilot still needs a lot more practice before competing in any Pattern events.

Phoenix Model Sea Bee (6 min 22 sec)

Conclusion

The Phoenix Model Sea Bee is an excellent Sport/F3A Pattern model. The modest initial purchase price is perfect for someone who wants to try formal Pattern competition. The Sea Bee will allow Sportsman Class competition participation at an entry level price point that won't break the bank. If it turns out that Pattern is not your cup of tea, the Sea Bee is an excellent everyday sport flyer that will give plenty of weekend thrills. The 56" wingspan model transports easily fully assembled and it flies on two standard 3-cell Lipo batteries.

Pluses

  • Excellent Flight Characteristics
  • F3A Sportsman Class Capable
  • Highly Visible Color Scheme
  • Sport Plane Performance Bonus
  • Very high value in a convenient size

Minuses

  • Excess glue issues
  • Parts fit issues
  • Minor hardware issues

Thanks

I'd like to thank Phoenix Model and Hobbico for providing the Sea Bee model for this review. Thanks to Jesse Webb for helping with the photos and video and thanks to our editor Angela for her assistance in editing this review.

Last edited by Angela H; Jul 21, 2015 at 03:34 PM..
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Old Aug 03, 2015, 08:12 AM
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Update

My first update will offer an alternative to the 6-cell battery/10x5 prop combination that is recommended for Pattern competition. There are a number of good reasons for selecting the 6-cell battery pack as the base power system for formal Pattern flying the Sea Bee. Many of the F3A Pattern flyers use 12-cell packs to power their larger competition planes and if you already have 6-cell packs on hand, it is very easy to make up 12-cell packs. For practice sessions, the Sea Bee would be perfect with the 6-cell packs you already have on hand. Also, with higher cell count packs the current draw is lower and your ESC, power connectors, and wiring will stay cooler. Finally, the power level is spectacular! Almost 1400 watts of power in a 6 pound airframe makes for very spirited performance.

What I was looking for was a 4-cell power combination that would provide almost the same performance with a lower cell count battery pack. I have a number of 4-cell packs and wanted to see if some of them might work. My first attempt was to use a 13x6.5 prop and a 5000 mAh 4-cell battery pack. Current draw is now 72 Amps and the power level is down slightly at 1130 Watts, but overall performance is still very good. I only have a few flights on the setup, but I'm impressed. The motor/ESC/battery are not overheating even here in Texas. This is my preferred prop for 4-cell Sport Flying.

Today I flew the Sea Bee with the 5000 mah 4-cell pack and a 12x6E prop. The current draw was 60 Amps and the static power loading was 1010 Watts. I thought the Sea Bee flew smoother with this prop and I was better able to set up and perform Pattern maneuvers. This is definitely my preferred prop for 4-cell Pattern work.

McD
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Old Aug 03, 2015, 06:41 PM
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One of the best planes I ever had.......sadly not available in the UK anymore....
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Old Aug 04, 2015, 03:06 AM
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kingsflyer, the 2 m F3A pattern planes use 10S packs since that is the maximum allowed by the rules. A half of that, 5S would also be a perfect choice for a plane such as this.
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Old Aug 04, 2015, 05:56 AM
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mine had a 1 piece wing and no removable cockpit , in my view not suitable for elec
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Old Aug 04, 2015, 07:10 AM
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Is it me or does a 10x5 prop seem really small for this size plane and .46 motor?

Btw. I'm very interested in this model.
I also have an Aero-Works Sting Ray for an "economy" pattern plane but she's a bit small at 40"ws.
This is a perfect size and the price is more than right!
Just puzzled about the prop.
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Old Aug 04, 2015, 09:29 AM
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Finnspeed, thanks for the clarification on the 10S limit on pack size for F3A. I was a little puzzled myself when Phoenix Model recommended the 6-cell pack because it forced a smaller prop choice. As a reviewer, I try to stay with the manufacturer's recommended setup for the formal Review. However, as you can see in my first Post, I'm trying other battery/prop combinations now that the Review has gone live. I much prefer 3S and 4S packs because they offer a lot of versatility whereas a 5-cell pack is pretty limited for my usage. However, you are right that a 5-cell pack should work very well.

ChinoD, the 10x5 prop was the largest I could find that would not exceed the maximum ratings of the Rimfire 46 under Pattern conditions with the recommended 6-cell battery pack. As you can see in the video, the 6-cell/10x5 prop combination has plenty of power and acceleration, but it does eventually drop off a little during sustained vertical up lines. The 4-cell pack with the 13x6.5 prop is very promising. It has much better vertical performance and seems to maintain a more consistent speed throughout large maneuvers. I think I'll try a 12x6E next to see if I can reduce the current draw slightly and still keep the same performance level. I also have some smaller 4-cell packs that I can try if I reduce the current draw that might reduce the wing loading a little. However, the CG will be the limiting factor on pack size - I'd rather carry more mAh's that start putting lead in the nose.

Iqon, this newer version is much more electric friendly. The 2-piece wing, huge removable cockpit hatch, and the included electric motor mount have really improved the usability of the Sea Bee.

McD
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Old Aug 04, 2015, 04:35 PM
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Thanks McD.
The 2nd landing was definitely better than the 1st.
Good call.
If you've got the 4s bats I would think the bigger 12x6 prop would be the way to go.
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Old Aug 05, 2015, 02:57 AM
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I wonder why the manufacturer did not recommend the Rimfire .55 motor? It is the same size and weight but lower Kv at 480. This would be more optimal for 6S and even 5S use, although for 5S the optimal prop would be 16 x 12 or close to that. This in turn could be much larger than the allowable clearance by the landing gear. But with 6S there should be no problems as the prop should be 14" or 15" at most.

Addition: Ah, I see they actually do that. The spec sheet says: "1000-1400 W, 480 kV Outrunner" which is exactly what the .55 is...
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Old Aug 05, 2015, 05:42 AM
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The RimFire .55 would be a great choice also. I've found that with 6 cells, the 14x7 prop works very well on the .55. However, the ground clearance will be pretty close on the Sea Bee with that prop. If you fly off grass runways, you may occasionally trim a little grass on less than perfect landings.

As I mentioned earlier, I use the components that are supplied for the formal Review. Hobbico supplied the RimFire .46 for the Sea Bee and it worked really well.

McD
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Old Aug 05, 2015, 10:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iqon View Post
One of the best planes I ever had.......sadly not available in the UK anymore....
I agree, and still have mine. It was bought around 2003-2004 so its over 10yrs old now but for the last couple years I haven't flown it much. It still has the Thunder Tiger .46pro I maidened it with. Both are still going strong.

For once its nice to see a good flying ARF still be available, even if in updated form, instead of being discontinued the second you buy one.

Mike
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Old Aug 07, 2015, 04:07 AM
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Is it being relaunched, I would not have thought so.......???
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Old Aug 07, 2015, 06:51 AM
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When I was assigned the Sea Bee for this Review, I was not aware that there was a previous version of this model. Only after seeing pictures of the previous version was I able to determine the various changes that had been made. Here is what I have been able to determine so far.

The plane is now capable of using electric power as well as glow power. The electric motor mounting plate and aluminum standoffs are included in addition to the glow mount and glow fuel tank. In addition, the cockpit area has been made into a generous, removable hatch for easy access to the battery packs. The one piece wing with it's body fairing has been replaced with a built-up fuselage area and a two-piece bolt-on wing.

These pictures should help show the differences. Thanks to jhaywood for posting the picture of the previous version.

The following information is listed by Hobbico for their contact in the UK. You might give them a call and check on the availability in your area.

UNITED KINGDOM
Revell GmbH
Unit 10
Old Airfield Industrial Estate
Cheddington Lane
Tring
HP23 4QR
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 845 459 1966
Fax: +44 (0) 1296 660041
E-mail: uk@hobbico.de

McD
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Old Aug 09, 2015, 06:53 AM
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This was a great review . I bought this plane late last fall here in MN when it came to Tower Hobbies had it flying before the cold/snow hit and it flew great. mine flew very much like the reviewers talked about, iam new to these kind of planes to an I am no expert but enjoy the sport/pattern flying, mine was set up on 5 cells, kept the wheel pants off so I could use larger wheels, flew with the 5 cells setup for around 20 flights and decided to try a 6 cell setup, had a 42-60 600 kv motor that mounted right up, bench test was very good but don't recall the watts/amps or even the prop, Buuuuuuuttttt on take off of the new set I had a radio interference that turned it into tooth picks.
I also had like this plane so much that I have one ready to put together, this one will be set with 6 cells.
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Old Aug 09, 2015, 07:23 AM
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Scott, I've heard a lot of good comments about the Sea Bee since the Review has been posted. It seems to be a favorite of everyone who has owned one. I can certainly see why.

I've recently updated the first post to include some information about using 4-cell battery packs and larger props. I like the 12x6 prop for Pattern flying and the 13x6.5 for Sport flying on 4-cell packs. I've used a single large 5000 mah 4-cell pack and I've used two smaller 4-cell packs in parallel with good results. You just have to check your CG and move the pack location to get it right.

McD
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