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Great Planes Electrify Citabria 3D EP ARF Review

Chris Mulcahy reviews the new Citabria from Electrifly.

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Introduction


Wingspan:33" (840mm)
Wing Area:243 sq in (15.7 sq dm)
Weight:6 - 6.3oz (170 -180)
Length:29.5" (750mm)
Servos:3x micro high torque
Transmitter:4 Channel
Receiver:Mini Receiver
Battery:2 - 3 Cell Lipo
Motor:250 - 300 Outrunner Brushless
ESC:8amp ESC
Typical Flight Duration:5 minutes
Manufacturer:Electrifly
Available From:Tower Hobbies
Price:$49.99

Electrifly have an impressive line of profile foam models, and recently added to the line up is the high wing Citabria. The Citabria is an "almost ready to fly" (ARF) model, with most of the hard work done for you. All that is required is final assembly and setup. With the market flooded with mid-wing and biplane models, the high wing Citabria definitely stands out, and with its large control surfaces it should have no problem flying 3D. The model is suitable for indoor and outdoor flying, and I'll be taking a look at two different power setups to match.

The Real Citabria

Designed for a multitude of purposes, including training, the real Citabria is rated for +5g to -2g, so it is popular for basic aerobatics. In fact, take a look at the name "Citabria" spelled backwards... Its first flight was in 1964, and since then over 5000 Citabrias have been built. At first glance you might mistake the Citabria as a Decathlon, but this is no coincidence. The Citabria was originally produced by Champion Aircraft, later acquired by Bellanca Aircraft Corp. Bellanca then went on to produce the Decathlon, and there is no denying the family resemblance between the two!

Kit Contents

The Citabria arrived in a large cardboard box, which had a nice large image of the Citabria in flight on the front cover. The box was extremely light, and almost felt like there was nothing in there! Opening the box revealed the kit split in two halves, with one half taped to the top of the box and the other half taped to the lower box. All of the foam parts had a protective polybag over them, and all the pushrods were taped together to stop them moving around in the box. Immediately I noticed how vibrant the printed color was on the foam parts, and I also noted the landing gear assembly which was ready to be attached to the plane. The box consisted of the Citabria model, a building crutch, and the instruction booklet.
A lot of care was needed when removing the model from the box. As mentioned, all of the parts are sealed in poly bags, which are also all taped together in their respective box halves. You might be tempted to pull all of the parts out in one shot, but you run the risk of damaging them. I painstakingly peeled off each piece of tape, and removed the parts one at a time as best I could. It took a little longer, but it was worth it so as not to damage any of the foam parts.

Servos, Motor, ESC, Batteries, etc.

Provided for the review were the servos, receiver, ESC, motors, and batteries. The servos are Futaba S3114 micro servos, and the ESC is a Flightpower 10 amp brushless. Two motors were sent, one for indoor flying and one for outdoor flying. The indoor motor is the Rimfire 250, and the outdoor is the Rimfire 300. I had a number of batteries to test out too. For the indoor setup I had an Electrifly 7.4v 300mA 20C lipo, and a Flightpower Eonxlite 7.4v 350mA 25C lipo. The outdoor battery setups were similar, but 3 cell 11.1v instead of the two cell 7.4v.
The prop used for both power setups is a Great Planes 8x3.5 Power Flow indoor propeller. They come in a pack of two, so you end up with a backup if you need it! I'd be using my Futaba 8FG to fly the Citabria, so I used a Futaba R6004FF Indoor Micro 4-Ch Rx. I planned on flying the Citabria indoors to begin with, so I started out with the Rimfire 250 motor.

 <b>Futaba S3114</b>
Futaba S3114
Type: Sub-Micro Servo
Operating Speed (4.8V/6v): 0.10 sec 60 / 0.09 sec 60
Stall Torque (4.8V/6v): 21 oz-in / 24 oz-in
Weight: .28oz (1/4oz)
Dimensions: 0.9 x 0.4 x 0.8"
Connector Wire Length: 6.5"
Gear Type: All Nylon
Operating Voltage: 4.8-6.0 Volts

 <b>Flightpower 10a Brushless ESC</b>
Flightpower 10a Brushless ESC
Output Current: 10A continuous max., 15A surge max
Input Voltage: 5-10 NiCd/NiMH cells, 2-3 LiPo cells, auto-detecting
Max. Output Power: 105 watts
BEC: 5V/1.0A linear
Weight: 0.26oz. (7.5g)
Dimensions: 1.10 x 0.71 x 0.24"

 <b>Rimfire 250 Brushless Outrunner Motor</b>
Rimfire 250 Brushless Outrunner Motor
Motor Diameter: 1.1"
Motor Length: 0.51"
KV Rating: 1750rpm/v
Input Voltage: 7.4-11.1V (2-3S LiPo)
Constant Watts: 90
Burst Watts: 120
Weight: .71oz (20g)

 <b>Futaba R6004FF Indoor Micro 4-Ch Rx</b>
Futaba R6004FF Indoor Micro 4-Ch Rx
Type: 2.4GHz FAAST
Channels: 4 Channel
Power Requirement: 4.0V- 8.5V
Battery F/S Voltage: 3.8v
Approximate range: 300 ft
Weight: 0.13oz (3.8g)
Dimensions: 0.81 x 1.39 x 0.30"

Assembly

The Citabria goes together fairly quickly, and you can have the model ready to fly in only a few hours. Foam safe C/A glue is needed, with some accelerator to speed up the process. Most of the work is done already for you, all of the foam pieces are laser cut, and the carbon fiber wing spars are already glued into the wing, horizontal stabilizer, and elevator. The control surfaces are already beveled for extreme 3D throws, and taped with 3M hinge tape.

Assembly began with the crutch that holds the fuselage during construction. The crutch is an arrangement of foam supports that cradle the fuselage, keeping it straight as you build it. Once this was completed the fuselage was dry assembled in the crutch and then glued in place. I then laid the wing upside down on my workbench, and attached the fuselage to the underside of the wing. While still in the crutch, the carbon fiber boom supports were assembled using the ABS plastic guides. Using accelerator on the glue really sped up the process, so assembly went very quickly. Once the main wing struts were glued in place, the horizontal stabilizer struts were also glued in a similar fashion. All that was left of the fuselage assembly was to glue the landing gear in place. All of the holes for the struts and landing gear were already cut, so it was simply a case of gluing the ABS doublers in place and attaching the carbon parts, all in all the assembly process was very easy.

At this point the servos needed to be installed, one for elevator, one for rudder, and one for ailerons. The first thing I did was hook up all the servos to the receiver and make sure they were centered before I attached the servo horns. I then glued the servos in place, one in the center of the fuselage for the two ailerons, and the rudder and elevator servos sat one in front of the other. Using the included hardware, I then attached the elevator and rudder pushrods, gluing in the ABS pushrod guides along the side of the fuselage. This gave a very rigid pushrod setup, with very little flex. Provided in the kit is an ABS servo horn for the aileron servo. This horn is much wider than the stock servo horns, and is screwed to the existing horn. The extended servo horn creates more throw for the ailerons, giving it 3D ability with a single micro servo.

The rest of the electronics were installed without much trouble. The firewall is pre-drilled for both the Rimfire 250 and the Rimfire 300, which makes installing either motor a snap. I started with the Rimfire 250, and secured it to the firewall using three screws through the mount. The ESC was installed using some 3M Dual Lock that I always keep on hand, but in case you don't have any the kit does come with velcro. The ESC wires were routed through a precut hole in the fuselage to connect to the motor wires on the other side. The receiver was installed in the suggested location, and I routed all the servo wires accordingly. I found the best way to keep the wiring in an organized fashion, was to wrap them with a plastic zip tie, and cut the end down with an 1/8th" or so remaining, and then piercing that end into the foam with a little glue. I balanced the prop, and secured it to the Rimfire 250 using a rubber o-ring.

The manual suggests that the plane should balance at 1-15/16" back from the leading edge of the wing. Per the manual I marked the bottom of the wing at this location with a felt pen. I used this as a guide for locating the battery, and used the same 3M dual lock that I had used for the ESC to secure it to the plane. I made sure I added enough dual lock so that I could tweak the CG in either direction.
I also followed the manual when setting up the control throws. The manual provides details for low, high, and 3D rate, and using a straight edge I followed the setup guide. I assigned all three flight conditions to a single flight mode switch on the 8FG. With the control throws programmed, the Citabria was now ready to take to the air!

Flying

Indoor

I started out with the Rimfire 250, powered by the 2 cell 300mA battery from electrifly and the 350mA Flightpower. I headed over to the local recreation center for the initial test flight. I balanced the model right on the recommended CG, did a quick preflight to make sure everything was working correctly, and fed in some throttle to take flight. The model lifted off after a short roll out, and seemed to be in trim without any adjustments needed. I immediately felt that the model was slightly nose heavy, so I landed and moved the flight battery slightly backwards. Once back in the air the Citabria felt a little more "floaty" (I know - it's a technical term!) and I was able to cruise around at half throttle. After a couple of laps I was comfortable enough to start playing around with it a little more, and it wasn't long before I was doing rollers and flying around inverted. The Citabria tracked very well, and there was surprisingly little knife edge coupling, but enough to want to mix it out. Being used to mid wing planes, it took me a little while to adjust to the high wing during rollers, as they appear to be off center (even though they are axial), and I started having flash backs to my old GP Cap 232! Once I got used to it I found rolling maneuvers to be very easy, and the Citabria hovers like it's dangling from a string (though I was a little rusty!).
The Electrifly 300mA battery performed well, and had plenty of power to pull the Citabria straight up with authority. After a five minute flight I landed and switched to the Flightpower 350mA battery. The Electrifly battery has a 20c discharge rating, and the Flightpower is rated at 25c, so I was curious to see the difference. As it turned out, there really wasn't too much of a difference at all. The Flightpower battery may have had a little more immediate power on the throttle, but I think the slightly heavier pack negated most of the advantage. Either way, both batteries seemed to do well, and were only ever so slightly warm to the touch after a vigorous flight.

When my buddy Jeff called me up to tell me he'd found a warehouse that we could fly in, I packed up the Citabria and headed right over. Unfortunately the floor space was a little crowded, but the warehouse had a high roof and it wasn't long before I was "walking the dog" (hovering) the Citabria down the aisles. Again the Citabria flew great, and I was very comfortable flying in the tight spaces. Due to an oversight on my part (not setting the timer) I flew one pack until it ran out of juice, and the resulting tail slide ended up breaking one of the counter balances on one of the ailerons. Fortunately the pack was not damaged, after throwing it on my Futaba BR3000 it showed that I hadn't run the pack completely out, and I was able to charge it up again (see info below for the BR3000). The great thing about foam is that I just used a little glue (with some kicker) and I was back in business!


The Futaba BR3000 battery checker is a great little tool to have in your box. Capable of checking most battery chemistry types, up to 7 cells, it is a sure fire way of seeing how your packs are being used. It even displays each individual cell, and gives you min/max cell voltage. Check the link for more info.

Outdoor

I was eager to try the Rimfire 300 setup, so after a few indoor sessions I decided to switch motors to see how the Citabria would do outdoors. The setup consisted of the Rimfire 300 motor, and an extra cell on the battery packs to give me 11.1v. The switch over was quick and easy, as mentioned before the holes are already drilled on the firewall for both of the Rimfire motors. I found the 300 to definitely give more power authority, even with the added weight of the bigger motor and battery. As I was flying it around at a local park, I realized that the wind was blowing about 5 to 10 mph, and it didn't seem to faze the Citabria in the slightest. I really couldn't tell too much of a difference between the Flightpower and Electrifly batteries, and I really think that either pack is perfectly suited for the Citabria.
The 300 motor pulled the Citabria around with ease, with unlimited vertical performance (sometimes it felt like it was accelerating!). I did have to sit the flight battery a little further back to keep the CG in the correct location, and this involved repositioning my ESC a little further back so that the battery connector would reach.

Is This For a Beginner?

This is a highly aerobatic model, and with its fragile foam nature it is definitely not suitable for beginners. Intermediate pilots and beyond will have a great time with the Citabria, it will perform all the maneuvers you want in the comfort of a warm indoor venue during those cold winter days! Then once spring arrives, you'll have a great model to fly outside too.

Flight Video

Youtube Video Link

Conclusion

I'm very pleased with the Citabria. It is allowing me to get my fixed wing "fix" when I would otherwise be unable to do with this cold weather. When I did get it outside I was very happy with its performance. The carbon struts do an excellent job of keeping the wing straight, and it shows in the flight characteristics of the plane. There was no twisting or flexing, and the Citabria tracked like a much larger model. With the different power options available, you can customize your build to suit your own flying style.
I'd like to thank my friends Jeff and Bob for helping me shoot photos and video of this project, couldn't have done it without you guys!

Pros Cons
Highly prefabricated, cuts down assembly time None that I've come across so far
Various Power Options
Rigid Airframe

Last edited by CSpaced; Jan 11, 2012 at 07:38 PM..

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Old Jan 19, 2012, 11:18 AM
That's so classic you.
Generic Member's Avatar
United States, NC, Stokesdale
Joined Jul 2006
363 Posts
Very nice. Looks like a lot of fun!
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Old Jan 19, 2012, 07:46 PM
Transmogrified.
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Southern California
Joined Feb 2006
2,952 Posts
It's very similar to the flat foam Edge 330 I reviewed a couple of years ago by the look of it. I've never flown mine indoors, but it's a kick to fly outside on the recommended three-cell pack and the indoor propeller. Got that right from Hobbico's own engineers.

The only caveat on the three-cell is that it produces a bunch of power, enough to overpower the control surfaces. Firewall the throttle on takeoff and you get all sorts of up, but nothing else.
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Last edited by DismayingObservation; Jan 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM.
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Old Jan 21, 2012, 04:22 AM
Don't worry be happy :)
Stark's Avatar
Joined Sep 2001
642 Posts
Great review Chris!

Mine ended up at 160 grams in indoor configuration with Futaba 3114, Turnigy 2204/14 and Desire Power 300 mAh battery.


Peace
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Old Jan 21, 2012, 10:14 PM
VOLTS > AMPS
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United States, MN, Buffalo
Joined Jul 2011
3,867 Posts
I wish hobbico would bring out a 42-50" super decathlon, the hk kit I had flew like crap and I always wanted one of them from the tower catalog when I was growing up.
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Old Jan 25, 2012, 01:52 PM
Moderately Dangerous
TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
United States, CA, Chico
Joined Apr 2011
1,062 Posts
Nice looking plane! I've been looking for a foamie 3D that I can fly in the street outside my house, and this fits the bill. I already have a 2712/12 1300kv "Blue Wonder" motor that is .9 ounces. That will probably pair up perfectly with 9x3.8SF prop for about 18 ounces of thrust.
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Old Jan 25, 2012, 06:23 PM
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jsmith285's Avatar
Fort Wayne
Joined Feb 2009
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Hope you don't mind if I post a video we did?

ElectriFly Citabria 3D Foam Plane pilot Joe Smith (5 min 6 sec)
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Old Jan 25, 2012, 07:24 PM
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Oak Ridge, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsmith285 View Post
Hope you don't mind if I post a video we did?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE9iYjrNaEQ
Not at all, nice flight!
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Old Jan 25, 2012, 07:59 PM
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Fort Wayne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSpaced View Post
Not at all, nice flight!
Thanks. These planes are a blast to fly. And a very well designed kit.
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Old Jan 26, 2012, 10:53 AM
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United States, KY, Berea
Joined Dec 2003
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I always wanted a 3D Decathlon/Citabria ever sense '3D Foamy' came out with plans for one but I never got around to scratching one out, I guess now that there is a kit I have no excuse!
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Old Feb 03, 2012, 03:13 PM
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citabria electrifly great planes (3 min 44 sec)
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Old Feb 03, 2012, 03:25 PM
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Nice vid!
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 01:54 PM
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thank you, greetings from Belgium
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