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Durafly Retro Junior Plug-and-Fly Review

This beautiful four-channel electric pays homage to the free flight models of yesteryear, right down to a simulated glow engine cylinder head.

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Introduction

Durafly Retro Junior Plug-and-Fly

Wingspan:43.3" (1100mm)
Weight:24.5 oz (695g)
Length:30.1" (765mm)
Construction:Expanded polyolefin airframe with plastic scale details; plastic propeller; steel landing gear; plastic wheels with foam tires; plastic and nylon wing mounting hardware; optional rubber bands for the effect of affixing the wing in place
Servos:Four Durafly 9g analog
Battery:Turnigy Nano-Tech 1300mAh 25 - 50C 3S with XT60 connector and JST-XH balance tap
Motor:Turnigy Aerodrive DST-1100 1100Kv brushless outrunner
Propeller:8x6 proprietary
ESC:Durafly 20A brushless with 3A BEC
Claimed Typical Flight Duration:Up to 20 minutes depending on throttle input
Operator Skill Level/Age:Intermediate; 14+
Catalog Number:9041000009
Available From:Hobbyking.com
Price (USD):Varies according to warehouse location; average is just over $100

It's a fairly safe bet to assume that most of us have heard this old cliche:

"In order to know where you're going, it helps to know where you've been."

Or, to quote poet George Santayana:

"Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

Frankly, I prefer the former. With the new Durafly Retro Junior Plug-and-Fly available from the folks at HobbyKing, the style and grace of the 1930s are reborn in a thoroughly modern four-channel all-EPO park flyer. In this case, remembering and even repeating the past to some extent has resulted in one of the most unique models I've ever had the privilege of reviewing.

It takes its styling cues not from a full-scale aircraft but rather the free flight models of the 1930s and 1940s with a simulated silk-and-dope finish, simulated framing and even optional rubber bands which simulate those which would hold the wing in place on an early model.

Topping off the illusion is a simulated .049 cylinder head!

In short, it's a model of a model and, in the vernacular of the 1930s, it's aces and as cute as a bug's ear. Even my wife thinks it's one of the nicest model planes she's seen. It's also nearly complete as shipped from Durafly/HobbyKing and needs only minimal final assembly with no glue required.

Time to get started. In Jazz Age terms, let's get a wiggle on!

Contents

The Junior comes complete with:

  • Preassembled fuselage with servos, pushrods, motor, windows and cowl
  • Wing halves with preinstalled servos and hardware
  • Plastic wing joiners, tail joiners and landing gear mounting plates
  • Preassembled main landing gear
  • 8x6 propeller with spare
  • Spare pushrod clevises
  • Wrench for attaching the propeller
  • Magnetic-tipped phillips screwdriver
  • Rubber bands for simulated wing attachment
  • Optional 25g nose weight
  • Illustrated assembly manual in English, French and German

Needed to complete the model are:

  • 2.4GHz aircraft radio system, four channels or greater; computerized system recommended for best results
  • Turnigy Nano-Tech 1300mAh 3S lithium polymer batteries with XT60 connector, part number N1300.3S.45 or equivalent
  • Suitable battery charger
  • Metric ruler for measuring control surface throw

While many R/C model aircraft are rather plainly packaged, the Junior is anything but as seen in the above photos. The display box is one of the nicest on the market and it really captures the essence of the model.

Inside, things were just as nice. Everything was securely packaged in plenty of bubble wrap. The fuselage was just as well wrapped and held in place with a pair of hook-and-loop straps.

As for the model itself, it looked like one far more expensive than its price would suggest. The paint job with its simulated framing topped with a thin coat of matte finish ivory paint was darn near perfect as were the scalloped high-gloss black paint accents. Many models in this price range - or above - usually make do with some sort of simulated cabin glazing. Not so the Junior. The fully glazed cabin adds realism and some real class.

All of the parts looked great with the only flaws being a slight gouge in the right side of the fuselage and slightly crushed wing halves where they join together atop the cabin.

Add to that the incredibly cool little McCoy cylinder head (which is begging for a paint job) and the oversized plastic wheels and foam tires which do a more than passing imitation of vintage Veco units and the result is one of the most visually alluring park flyers on the market.

Assembling everything is next.

Assembly

Landing Gear

Getting the Junior airborne begins with the installation of the landing gear. The builder is instructed to remove premounted mounting plates and screws, but the parts are in fact bagged separately. An illustration of the screws showed them to look absolutely nothing like the so-called "PWA2x8x3mm" screws, but it wasn't hard to figure out what the manual meant. One of the zip-lock bags holding the hardware had exactly eight washer head screws to hold down the four mounting plates.

The photos could be better; they do show the gear being installed with the correct forward rake, but they aren't clear.

As for the wheels and tires, they were binding quite a bit. I finally managed to loosen one of the plastic retainer nuts at the ends of the axle which allowed me to center the axle better and to free up the wheels. A tiny drop of oil really helped; the wheels will spin as if they're on bearings, but the axle tends to shift somewhat which in turn binds the wheels. Some experimentation will definitely be in order.

Tail

Call me lazy or call me spoiled, but any time I can mount tail surfaces on an ARF or RTF model without breaking out epoxy and a tape measure is a welcome time.

The horizontal stabilizer is held in place with a bracket which also serves as a clip for mounting the vertical stab. Once again, the screws were vaguely described, this time as "PA2.6x8x4mm."

I'll save our readers the trouble of figuring out which was which. Of the remaining four screws, two were black anodized and the other two were plated. The tail calls for "PB2.6x8x4.5" screws later on in step five. These turned out to be the plated screws, so the black screws were what I needed.

On went the tail with the plated screws and the tail section was basically complete.

Step six shows how to connect the pushrod clevises, but without first centering the pushrods with the radio, doing so is a waste of time. Step 12 shows the very straightforward receiver installation; it's worth skipping to before proceding. Once centered, the photos show the clevises being mounted in the center hole, but the detail drawing shows the clevis going to the outside hole. I went with the center.

Wing

Not much to this at all.

Once the aluminum dihedral joiner/spar is inserted into one of the wing halves, on goes the other half over the other end.

Front and rear mounting plates atop the wing help hold things together. The manual shows the underside front plate marked with an "F," but I saw no marking on mine. Despite that, it wasn't difficult to ascertain which was which and in which direction they needed to face.

Plugging the servos into the preinstalled Y-harness is next, followed by bolting the wing atop the fuselage. The leads off of the wing are rather short which made plugging in the servos difficult. Some 3" servo extensions will go a long way toward simplifying things and I've done so since this writing. The 4x20mm nylon screws secure the wing at the rear and the 4x30mm do likewise up front.

The model is now complete unless one wishes to add a bit of optional visual fun.

A set of rubber bands, a plastic protector for the TE of the wing and some holddowns on the fuselage come together to create what appears to be a good old-fashioned way of holding the wing in place. It looks cool to be sure, but the bands are for looks only and are not meant to actually hold the wing.

Completion

Setting the control throws is next, but there is a glaring error in the manual, one which a sharp-eyed modeler will catch and one which HobbyKing has caught as well.

The control throw directions on page 10 show the ailerons and elevator responding in the wrong directions. Anyone who is capable of flying a four-channel model like the Junior will know the directions are incorrect, but nevertheless, HobbyKing is rightfully taking no chances with a .pdf addendum which may be found here.

Low and high rates of 10 - 12mm of elevator, 20 - 25mm of rudder and 6 - 8mm of aileron are recommended and easily set on any computerized radio. The CG was right on the recommended range of 55 - 60mm behind the LE of the wing with the Nano-Tech battery and propeller in place.

Since the Junior is set up to emulate an early free flight model, it's balanced as such. An optional 25g weight is provided to shift the CG forward for different flying tastes. I elected not to use the weight and I found out later that it wasn't needed in my instance.

Let's get this beauty in the air.

Flying

The Junior's maiden flight took place where most of my maiden flights do, namely at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club in the rural desert east of Palm Springs, California.

After attaching the wing and running a range check, off to the runway I went to place the Junior on the center line.

It proved to be a bit of a handful to get in the air in a scalelike manner; ground loops were the order of the day despite the manual's recommendation of gradual input. Again, since the Junior so closely emulates an FF model, ROG launches may actually be more difficult than hand launching according to HobbyKing. The manual states hand launching easily done by grasping the fuselage at the CG, throttle up to about three-quarters throttle and give the model a firm overhand toss into the wind with a bit of up elevator trim. In my instance, I brought up the throttle just enough to get the model rolling and moved the stick quickly but smoothly to full throttle.

As gentle as the Junior looked on the ground, the Junior airborne was an entirely different animal, with plenty of power to spare. In other words, retro looks don't have to mean retro performance.

It did well in the wind and was equally at home being guided with ailerons and rudder or simply rudder. In fact, the rudder did a superb job on guiding the Junior on its own.

This is the first plane I've ever flown where the ailerons are almost unnecessary. First time for everything, I suppose.

Slowing the Junior down to a more prototypically correct speed wasn't a problem; it flew just fine at low speeds and in fact, the manual even states that "(t)he Junior is every bit the free flight model in design, and as such, will almost fly itself in the right conditions." Those slower speeds coupled with the extreme dihedral meant that the Junior acted as if it wanted to tip stall in turns. Less aileron and/or more rudder and airspeed and all was well.

Landing was exceptionally easy and while the Junior glides beautifully, I kept a bit of power on the final for a near perfect landing.

I soon arranged for video to be shot once more by club videographer George Muir. George was kind enough to get the beauty shots I'd neglected to get prior to the maiden flights.

Once more, the Junior wanted to ground loop during attempts at scale takeoffs, so it was back to the approach of basically punching the throttle, compensating with rudder and compensating for a marked tendency to torque roll to the right before liftoff. Lack of power is definitely not an issue. Once airborne, the Junior was again the sweetheart I knew it was.

This is a model which is likely going to be hand launched more often than not in the future.

The sight of such a retro-looking model being flown by radio control caused quite a stir among the older club members present, most comparing it to the Dallaire, the Brooklyn Dodger and the Quaker Lady. One member thought that a model which looked like the Junior did should be flown slower and I was glad to oblige; the flyby is shown in the video and is slow enough to actually see the propeller turn.

Here was a model with enough power to satisfy most intermediate and advanced pilots, yet with the elegant design which would allow it to be flown as gently as an 80-year-old free flight model might be.

Not only that, the simulated cylinder head was a real hit.

Aerobatics and Special Flight Characteristics

One might not expect a model with such an acute angle of dihedral and an overall silhouette dating back to the Great Depression to be particularly aerobatic and such is the case with the Junior. The aileron response simply isn't there to roll the model onto its back quickly enough before a loss of altitude.

Ah, but all that lovely forward thrust means the Junior is more than capable of loops. Tracking was sloppy since, to put it charitably, this is far from a pattern plane. I got the hang of it after a couple of attempts, but I need more practice.

Flight Video and Photo Gallery

Here's my video of the Junior:

Durafly Retro Junior Plug-and-Fly from HobbyKing.com (2 min 33 sec)

HobbyKing produced one as well:

HobbyKing Product Video - Durafly Retro Series Junior 1100mm PnF (3 min 56 sec)

Conclusion

As I stated early on, the Durafly Retro Junior Plug-and-Fly is a unique, interesting and fun model which breaks ranks with the usual mix one generally encounters at the field. It's truly one of a kind, is a blast to fly, has power which belies its sedate looks and one can hope that Durafly's Retro brand continues to expand. After all, why not a radio controlled and throughly modern replica of the Dallaire or Brooklyn Dodger?

Two thumbs way up. This is a model which will be joining me at the field for a long time to come.

My thanks go to HobbyKing for the marvelous opportunity to review the Junior and I look forward to working with this terrific RCGroups.com sponsor again. Angela Haglund is the tireless RCG administrator who posts these reviews for the benefit of you, our worldwide and enthusiastic audience.

Thanks for reading!

Pluses and Minuses

There are a lot of pluses where the Junior is concerned:

  • Well made; looks and feels like a far more expensive model
  • Affordably priced
  • Goes together quickly
  • Flies great
  • Unique looks both on the ground and in the air
  • Much more powerful than its looks might suggest
  • Can be steered via rudder only for a more prototypically correct experience
  • Plenty of parts and technical support through HobbyKing
  • A surefire conversation piece at the flying field

As for the minuses:

  • Proprietary propeller isn't exactly one might find off the shelf, but a standard 3mm collet and slow flyer prop may be substituted
  • Control surface setup steps are out of sequence in the manual
  • Difficult to keep the wheels loose enough to rotate freely
  • Ground takeoffs are difficult to perform to scale
  • Leads off of the aileron servos and off of the Y-harness are short
Last edited by DismayingObservation; Feb 10, 2014 at 11:36 PM..

Discussion

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Old Feb 11, 2014, 04:27 PM
WMD
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Bradford, UK
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50s, not 30s.
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Old Feb 11, 2014, 04:41 PM
urs
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switzerland
Joined Dec 2000
707 Posts
disapointed

Hi
I have had my junior for 2 weaks now and am very disapointed with it...sure it looks like an old timer even down to the not needed rubber bands (and sont mention those absolute idiotic non funtioning ailerons)and that is the problem....I have flown the junior 60 the Ben Buckle falcon the playboy senior and that is the problem I know how they flew and that is slowly and gracefully...but as your video shows its more at home blasting around the sky like a hot rod!!!!! I tried to fly my junior slowly and it just fell out of the sky...it should be half the weight and then it would be a true old timer.Sadly its a good idea which just does not funtion correctly....


urs (switzerland)
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 02:13 AM
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United States, NV, Las Vegas
Joined Jan 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urs View Post
Hi
I have had my junior for 2 weaks now and am very disapointed with it...sure it looks like an old timer even down to the not needed rubber bands (and sont mention those absolute idiotic non funtioning ailerons)and that is the problem....I have flown the junior 60 the Ben Buckle falcon the playboy senior and that is the problem I know how they flew and that is slowly and gracefully...but as your video shows its more at home blasting around the sky like a hot rod!!!!! I tried to fly my junior slowly and it just fell out of the sky...it should be half the weight and then it would be a true old timer.Sadly its a good idea which just does not funtion correctly....


urs (switzerland)
Yes, from the videos I've seen, I'd have to agree (though I haven't seen one fly in person). Wonder if anyone has connected the ailerons as flaps and if that slows it down enough to be the plane it was intended to emulate?
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 06:21 AM
urs
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switzerland
Joined Dec 2000
707 Posts
time

I have been wondering wether to try a drastic weight reduction on the beast..the aileron sevos have gone and I am going to beg borrow-steal my sons belt sander andturn the wing profile to udercambered (I think this is the corect expretion ) then do big holes in the tail and fin then covering them with ultra lite tisue....then attack the fusalage and do some seriouse reduction there..the undercariadge can be resculpted....It would be possible but time consuming.and messy.To do or not to do that is the question...on the plus side it would be fun to do and rewarding if it works

When I have fineshed my latest project I will give it a try


urs (switzerland)
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 07:41 AM
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United States, OH, Parma
Joined Jul 2009
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I had some issues getting any response from the ailerons as well. It's not the control surfaces, but the dihedral of the wing that renders them ineffective. The solution was to mix in generous rudder which completely changed the flight habits of my Junior for the better. Granted, it is overly heavy, but with the rudder mixed into the ailerons, I was able to turn precisely. I flew my Junior in an indoor football field and was able to slow it down nicely, but there is a very thin line between flying and total wing stall with this plane; the stall speed is much higher than you would think.

Overall, I like it for a large indoor-venue plane. It sure gets a lot of looks from other pilots, and with the proper setup, will fly pretty well.

Very nice job on the review, Ralph... as always!
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Last edited by Matt Gunn; Feb 12, 2014 at 09:16 AM.
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 08:50 AM
Transmogrified.
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Southern California
Joined Feb 2006
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Thanks, Doc.

As I pointed out, I too experienced the stall issue - or almost so - on a couple of occasions. It likes rudder input. I generally fly with manual rudder control anyway on a four-channel plane, but an aileron/rudder mix is an excellent idea.
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 09:13 AM
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Olympia, WA USA
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I agree that this is an interesting variation on the "foam-RTF" theme. As a real old timer, my first thought was "Why don't they just build a real old time model airplane with balsa and doped fabric covering?" OK...just kidding. I agree that this is an honest attempt at a practical replication of those old designs that just about anybody can enjoy. I also agree with most of what is being said in the comments. If had one I would simply remove the aileron servos, fix the ailerons in neutral, and hook up the rudder to the aileron stick. Without the ailerons the tip stalling thing should pretty much go away.Get rid of those wheels that don't really look that great and get a set of Trexlers (Google if you don't know what those are). Swap out the stock prop for something with a bigger diameter and less pitch so full throttle won't make the airplane try to fly so fast. Don't bother trying to fix the ground looping...it's a built-in characteristic of all those old free flight designs with the landing gear/wheels set so far ahead of the CG (they did that to prevent nose-overs and save breaking props)

As the for dummy engine, I have to add my thoughts. It's appropriate and looks "close enough", but it's NOT an .049...those little glow engines weren't around until 1948-49 and in any event would have been way too small for the five-and-six foot span models we're talking about here. Nor does it look anything like any of the McCoy engines...they were also post-War and nearly always used in control line planes. What the simulated cylinder/head on the model looks most like is a Brown Junior (a .60) , which is what would probably have been used in the models we are trying to represent.

Bob Benjamin
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 11:00 AM
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take-off problems

I suspect that the problem of direction control on take-off is caused by the wheels being too far in front of the CG. On real old timers this wasn't a problem because they flew off of dirt and had almost zero ground roll. Sticky tires on asphalt also aggravate the ground looping tendencies.

Move the wheels back by reconfiguring the landing gear and getting rid of the sticky tires should solve the ground handling problems. Even a wrap of black plastic tape around the rubber tires should help a lot, especially if you are flying off of hard surfaces.
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 11:19 AM
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ouraydog is correct re position of the wheels too far in front of the CG. Back in the 1930s and '40s, the practice was to position the wheels well in advance of the CG to reduce the chance of tipping forward on either take-off or landing, which would risk breaking the expensive wood propeller. Ground-looping was the price paid.

Jim R.
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 11:54 AM
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Ralph

The Junior is based on the UK Keil Kraft Junior 60 which was a 60'' span free flight model released as a kit in 1946. It was later slightly redesigned and reissued by Keil Kraft as a single channel model intended for valve (sorry tube!) receivers and rubber powered escapements. It would typically be powered by a diesel of about 2.5cc (.15 cu in) in those days.

The model is still very popular in the UK and a kit is available from Ben Buckle models in two versions for IC and for electric power. R/C today would always be rudder, elevator, throttle - never ailerons which, as you point out, are redundant on a model with this much dihedral.

Thanks for a great review

Regards

Mike
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Old Feb 12, 2014, 08:28 PM
Just thumbing through...
victapilot's Avatar
United States, SC, Simpsonville
Joined Feb 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urs View Post
Hi
I have had my junior for 2 weaks now and am very disapointed with it...sure it looks like an old timer even down to the not needed rubber bands (and sont mention those absolute idiotic non funtioning ailerons)and that is the problem....I have flown the junior 60 the Ben Buckle falcon the playboy senior and that is the problem I know how they flew and that is slowly and gracefully...but as your video shows its more at home blasting around the sky like a hot rod!!!!! I tried to fly my junior slowly and it just fell out of the sky...it should be half the weight and then it would be a true old timer.Sadly its a good idea which just does not funtion correctly....


urs (switzerland)
My first reaction after looking at the specs, is that the plane is way overpowered. My Rascal 49 is about 100g less, but flies fine, slow or quite fast, with 8amp Jeti ESC, 8x4 prop.
With this amount of dihedral, ailerons are not effective, not needed. Rubber bands should be functional, that's crazy to have fakes.
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Old Feb 13, 2014, 05:53 AM
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I think is rather nice, but why not just built a real one from the Ben Buckle kit or the easily available plan? Mine has got an OS30 four stroke. For the 'correct' sound. But of course it isn't. No one every used four strokes, they were not available. An ED Racer diesel was common.

I am talking about the 'real' one, not this foamy. The real one is quite heavy, because of all the nose weight needed, so is faster than you might think.

Ailerons? No problem. I fitted inset ailerons. Work perfectly, only use the rudder for keeping 'straight' on take off. Kept the very steep dihedral too. Does rolls fine too, though not fast ones. Just use LOTS of differential. Don't bother with coupled aileron and rudder.

Take offs? Don't move the undercarriage, it spoils the look. Try harder with the rudder, which is too small as standard anyway, so it not very effective at take off speed. I made it bigger. It takes off in about twice its own length, maybe a little more, and then its fine.

I can't land it without bouncing
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Old Feb 14, 2014, 08:38 AM
Time for me to Fly...
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United States, MI, Fenton
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I always liked the looks of those old planes but every time I see someone fly one I re-remember why I'll never have one. It would just sit gathering dust.
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Old Feb 14, 2014, 09:49 AM
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United States, CA, Fontana
Joined May 2011
544 Posts
I have flown both The Retro Junior & the Retro Pioneer

The Pioneer is fun to fly & will do decent rolls & even inverted isn't difficult.
Lands easy, just need to add a fair amount of elevator before touch down (no big deal)
The only mod i did, was added a steerable tail wheel (love that).

The Junior just flys around pretty much the same as a 3 channel plane.
The Ailerons are useless.
Easy to fly & land, but to me it is a very boring plane.
I am glad i got to fly the Junior before i made a mistake & bought one.

Thumbs up for the Pioneer.
Thumbs down for the Junior.
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