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Revell Tuff Bird Balsa Gliders and Rubber Band Powered Planes Review

Michael Heer reviews Revell's "new" line of free flight gliders and rubber band powered planes for the child in all of us, no matter our chronological age.

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Introduction

This little review is just for the fun of it and covers the balsa line of the Revell Tuff Birds. None of these gliders and planes are radio controlled, and technically they don't belong at RCGroups. Both my editor and I know that, but she is letting me review them anyway. I want people to remember the simple fun that comes from hand tossing a little balsa glider or rubber band powered plane. I have never forgotten the pleasure they gave me as a child.

I usually have a stash of little balsa gliders in my car to give to kids (after I assemble it and toss it at least once or twice just to make sure it is working properly of course). My current supply of balsa gliders came from Astoria, Oregon and were purchased at the Astoria, Column souvenir stand. That supply is almost gone as I give them out to kids who show up at the flying field. So these new Revell gliders are coming out at a good time - I can resupply locally. (Its a bit of a stair climb but the column is a great place to launch a balsa glider.)

Revell Tuff Birds Glider

These gliders are sold in at least red or blue coloring and are the simplest and smallest of the Revell Tuff Bird balsa gliders. As part of this review I had one of these assembled and with me at the flying field one day when I was flying my Electrifly Spad XIII. As an experienced RC glider pilot I can often physically feel when a good thermal is cycling through the field. (Catching the thermal is a different talent altogether.) Feeling one, I picked up the glider and gave it a firm hard toss up into the air. I was hoping it might be sucked up and carried out of my sight. I caught the edge of the thermal, and the glider did go up for awhile to a height of about 90 feet. It drifted down field about 200 feet in the process. My flying buddy was darn impressed as he had never seen a little balsa glider climb like that. About that time the glider fell out of the thermal and glided down at the far end of the park just short of the Delta, about 350 feet from where I launched it. I will be doing that some more in the future as it was a lot of fun to do. (Per the reviewer's "Code of Honesty" I must admit that I had about 100 other ordinary flights/tosses where I thought I felt a thermal, but didn't get the glider into it.)

Revell Tuff Birds Jet Glider

This is lightly larger with approximately 1/3 more wingspan then the base Revell glider and more decoratively packaged. The jet glider is available in at least red, blue and green colors and can be purchased for a savings in a two pack. It proved to be my personal favorite.

Revell Tuff Birds Biplane Glider

The biplanes are fun for something different, but I couldn't get them to perform as well as the base glider or the jet glider in my indoor or outdoor gliding tests. There’s little more drag in the two wing design, and it flew the straightest of all the gliders and planes.

Revell Tuff Birds Sky Soarer

The Sky Soarer is not a glider, but a rubber band powered plane with a very nice glide to sink ratio. It is the smallest and simplest of the rubber band powered planes in this series and has no wheels. The lack of wheels and the reduced weight and drag helped it perform second best in my non-scientific flight tests.

Revell Tuff Birds Stratosphere

The Revell Tuff Birds Stratosphere is a slightly larger plane then the Sky Soarer and includes plastic wheels. In my not-so-scientific flight tests it performed better then my Sky Soarer. I decided that between the Sky Soarer and the Stratosphere I would pay the extra dime for the Stratosphere, but I would still be going with the big boy: the Super Stratosphere.

Revell Tuff Birds Super Stratosphere

The Super Stratosphere is the king of the lineup, and it was when I was a kid. This was my favorite design as a child, and I once had an airforce of five operating Super Stratosphere type rubber band powered planes at one time. The torque of the spinning prop made it difficult to get them to take off from the ground smoothly; They pretty much leaped off of the ground, and that is still the case. The wheels come in handy for landings, but they were not so handy if the plane found a tree branch, though if the snag was high enough, that in itself was something to brag about. This was the first one I opened and test flew, and it brought back many memories of my childhood and friends I hadn't thought about in years. This model flies just as nicely as the ones from my childhood.

Real Testing

The real test for these gliders and planes came from children at my church. Most of my volunteer pilots with parent approval agreed to pose for a picture with their glider and participate in several mass launchings with their gliders for pictures and video, and afterwards, got to keep their glider or rubber band powered plane. Equipment was assigned by blind draw for the mass launchings. I did not have the children test the gliders or planes for duration of flight. I had them test them for fun. On that, I can tell you they were a big success. Only a part of the joy was captured on the video.

Most of the kids adjusted their gliders after each flight and most got improved flights as they adjusted the position of the wings. I got calls from several of the parents post flying session to tell me how much fun their children were having with the planes and gliders. In one call I was asked how to get a rubber band powered plane down from a tree without breaking it.

I did notice that the biplane glider flew the best into the wind and flew the farthest with a strong toss. The Jet glider flew the best aerobatics and had the longest flight of the gliders on a time basis. The rubber band powered planes flew much better in calm conditions than in the spring breeze conditions we had on Sunday.

Photo Gallery and Video

The Heer Force

Downloads

Is this for Beginners?

These gliders and rubber band powered planes are for everyone. But it is special to see a child react to the wonder of making something fly, especially your own child or grandchild. I will be buying some more of these to share the joy of flying with others. All of these gliders and planes went home with their student pilot.

Conclusion

Sometimes I forget why I got into this hobby in the first place - the fun of flying! I had a surprising amount of fun test flying these planes on a Saturday at a local park, drawing a crowd of young post game soccer players. While I had fun, some of the kids were off the scale happy with their plane or glider. When my current supply of Balsa gliders gives out I will be restocking with more of these Revell Tuff Bird balsa gliders. It really wasn't about how well they flew as long as they flew when the kids tossed them. Some kids tossed better then others, and some gliders flew better then others, but all the kids had fun.

Pluses:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to store
  • They fly well
  • Cost is low
  • Shares the joy of our hobby

Minuses:

  • You might feel bad if you don't have enough for everyone
Last edited by Angela H; Apr 16, 2009 at 03:00 PM..

Discussion

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Old Apr 22, 2009, 11:27 AM
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eli5539's Avatar
Western New York
Joined Dec 2007
1,120 Posts
It's funny you had this review. I happen to catch these out of the corner of my eye in a store the other day. Remembering days of my youth I purchased a couple a flew them with my grandkids, what a blast. When I was young I would have to save my money for a week or two so I could buy the big upgrade "rubber band power". Great review
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 11:52 AM
Gravity's a harsh Mistress....
southernmd_man's Avatar
United States, MD, Lusby
Joined Jan 2007
2,805 Posts
Thanks for the smile, and fond memories...I may have to get one or two to toss around the yard.
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 12:03 PM
ooops
StCalvin's Avatar
Dekalb,Illinois
Joined Oct 2003
1,452 Posts
" For the fun of it' is right on the money. Anyone else return bottles for the deposit to buy these as a kid? WE also would chase the milkman for chunks of ice to suck on a hot summer day.
Thanks for a sweet memory Mchael.
Rick
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 12:47 PM
I want to fly everything!
Lance Nordby's Avatar
Hillsboro, OR, USA
Joined Mar 2004
962 Posts
This was a great, fun review.

I remember saving my pennies for balsa planes when I was a kid. The little gliders were 10 cents, the rubber band plane with wheels was 25 cents and once in a while I would save a long time for the 50 cent big rubber powered plane with wheels.

One day a little while back I was at the hobby shop and saw a display of balsa toy planes. Even though inflation had increased the prices I still could easily afford a half dozen of them. It made me feel incredibly wealthy!

I passed them out to friends at work and we had an impromptu contest. What fun!
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 01:06 PM
Registered User
Crossville Memorial, Tennesse, United States
Joined Jul 2003
204 Posts
Nice Review

Michael

Thanks for the review. To me, nothing quite matches the thrill of seeing my own rubber powered model floating around in a thermal. I hope we see more of these models reviewed.

John Blankenship
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 02:08 PM
Registered User
Joined Dec 2002
163 Posts
The ones we all bought as kids were likely the the Guillow gliders and rubber powered planes. They still exist and are still produced in springfield mass. The Revell planes are cool, but it bothers me a bit that Guillow will lose more shelf space. The guillow planes used to be everywhere. Lately, I only saw them in Michael's craft stores. Last time I was there, no guillows, but the Revell planes instead.
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 05:20 PM
"Butchering Balsa since 1971"
CashRC's Avatar
USA, TX, McKinney
Joined Dec 2003
1,056 Posts
Oh man...my Pa would occasionally stop at a little store on the way home from work, and bring home a little North Pacific Sleek Streek for me to play with. As I got older, some of my paper route money went to financing a small numbered air force of those little suckers..I had a blast with 'em..thanks for the memories, it was a great article..
Cash
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 06:11 PM
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Corelli's Avatar
United States, NM, Farmington
Joined Jun 2008
840 Posts
Im 39 , and when i was a kid the rubber powered version went for about 79 cents. I could make one of these babies last for days! The rubber would give out and I would have to tie a couple smaller rubber bands together.

I'd have to agree with everyone else and say looking at this article brings back memories.
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Old Apr 22, 2009, 11:11 PM
Lucid Dreamer
kobkobico's Avatar
USA, CA, Temecula
Joined Jul 2005
646 Posts
When I was ten (which admittedly was only 6 years ago...) I'd buy little balsa gliders all the time. My favorite thing to do would be to cut a little notch in the front and launch them straight up with a rubber band. Did it with paper airplanes too, which works better than expected. Actually, I suddenly remembered when I was about three or four and my dad would buy me these things once in a while, and I'd be amazed. One day I tried to take one out of the packaging so fast I broke the wing, and my dad said he wouldn't buy them anymore. The fact I still remember that trivial detail explains how much I loved the things.

To be honest though, do those gliders really fly? It looks more like, as Woody puts it, "falling with style" me. Hmmm... that's a good trait for a slingshot plane.
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 12:39 AM
Registered User
Palo Alto, California, United States
Joined Jan 2003
1,062 Posts
Great review, but I have to say it made me sad. Why? Because these models are poor imitations of what many of us grew up with 30 years (or more) ago. No company has offered as much performance per dollar (or per quarter!) than the original North Pacific series, especially the Sleek Streek and Star Flyer models. These models featured contest grade balsa, cambered wings, efficient propellers and front end assemblies, and properly sized rubber motors. Their flight performance with a little adjusting was outstanding. When I see the latest generation of slide-together rubber models with their flat wings, sad looking propellers, and giant rubber bands I feel sorry for kids today. They don't know how good it can be.

Long live the Sleek Streek!

Steve
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 03:58 AM
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Joined Jun 2006
54 Posts
I recall taking 2 rubber powered ones and overlapping the left and right wings in my wish to have a twin engined Lockheed sort of flyer

thanks for the great review
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 05:17 AM
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gordonbw's Avatar
Canada, ON, Toronto
Joined Oct 2000
251 Posts
I remember the North Pacific and Guillows planes, but the best ever were the Jim Walker gliders that had folding wings -- you launched them with a slingshot. One actually got away on me in a thermal!
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 05:37 AM
Light and floaty does it
Work in Progress's Avatar
Cambridge, Great Britain (UK)
Joined Sep 2004
2,859 Posts
This biplane interests me because it is clearly an SE5a, and (apart from different surface printing) clearly is the same as ones that I used to have in the UK 35 years ago, and which I was also able to buy in the UK for my daughter a few years ago. There's been some good use made of that tooling over the decades! There is also a Fokker D.VII in the same series, so maybe that will come out as well from Revell.

I agree with Steve though: the Sleek Streek was the greatest model of its kind. I still have a pair of wings for the moulded blue foam version, which was very good, and an original motor stick. I'm planning to make a couple of recreated Sleek Streek copies this summer.
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Old Apr 23, 2009, 08:12 AM
Registered User
Beaumont tx
Joined Oct 2004
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Way to be a wet blanket, mlbco!

Back in MY day, the AJ (Jim Walker) were the only ones available. 74 Fighter (a dime), Interceptor (folding wing, .39 I think), and AJ Hornet (half-a-buck). Twin Engines (as Visigoth said), Biplanes, landing gears -- tree climbing.

My great Aunt once time gave me 5 74 fighters. I felt so rich!! I still ahve a few rubber jobs and a HLG. Need to get these for the grandkids, though.

thanks for the memories.

howell
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