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Hobby Lobby Internationals' Judge 3D Edge 540 Foamie ARF Review!

AnnMarie Cross takes the plunge into 3D foamies with HL's newest release, the Judge 3D, and finds a GREAT LOOKING airplane with some neat design touches and AWESOME 3D performance!

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:38-1/2"
Wing Area:287 sq. in.
Advertised Weight:16 oz.
Tested Weight:17.9 oz.
Length:37"
Wing Loading:8-9 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:4 micro (HS55)
Receiver:Hitec Micro 555
Battery:Thunder Power TP13203 3S1P 1320mah LiPo
Motor:Axi 2212/26
ESC:Jeti Advance Plus 18A Brushless
Manufacturer:Hobby Lobby
Available From:Hobby Lobby

For those of you who don't know me, I'm primarily a 'slimer' -- that is to say, I typically fly glow or gasoline powered aircraft, although I do also have some electric, including electric conversion, experience. I've been watching the foamy revolution with interest, waiting for something to catch my eye that wouldn't look like I'd cut a wing shape out of a piece of wallboard and threw on some stickers. When Hobby Lobby sent the Judge to RCGroups to go out to review, it landed on my desk to assign (I'm the Fun Manager/Editor/Publisher here). There it was, what I'd been waiting for -- a foamy with a finish that promised looks as great as it's performance! And I decided that I simply had to have this one...so here we are!

Kit Contents

Again, for those of you who don't know me, I used to be the Senior Manager over a major industry player's service and support team. In that position, I became VERY aware of the kinds of things that are appreciated by -- and also that cause frustration for -- the average modeler. Based on my experience, Hobby Lobby *REALLY* does some things right with this product for the average modeler, and I hope I don't bore you all by pointing those out. They also have a few 'misses', and I'll talk about those as well.

First About The Finish....

Hobby Lobby has something really sharp looking in this new release. The Judge has a great look to it, with superb graphics already applied! No plain foam and tons of stickers to argue with, which could never look as nice as a pre-print. Sure, the shocky's had print on them, but it looked sickly at best.

Remember when glow ARF's required more work to put on the stickers than it would've taken to MonoKote a good built-up kit, and the MonoKote job would always look a WHOLE lot better? That's what the first generation foamies reminded me of. These new generation foamies remind me of the newer generation ARFs -- all the hard appearance work is done for me, and far better than anything I could do myself, even IF I wanted to spend a day with an airbrush! (Don't like the Judge's particular appearance? Hobby Lobby has a whole line of these GREAT LOOKING planes available!)

Now About The Complete Package...

As a relative newcomer to electric flight, I cannot say THANK YOU loud enough to Hobby Lobby for offering their aircraft in a "pick this single stock number and we will send you EVERYTHING needed to build and fly this airplane successfully" approach! Buying the Judge Complete means the buyer gets EVERYTHING -- from the minimum transmitter able to competently fly this plane (in this case a Hitec Flash 5FM), to not only the proper battery but also an inexpensive but capable charger for that and other packs (in this case an ETEC Smart Charger 2500!)...AND the buyer gets a discount off the cost of purchasing each item individually (in this case $30+)!

(There is one small 'miss' here in this great 'hit' -- the complete package includes HS55s, but the instructions clearly state that if HS55s are to be used then Dubro 848 micro control arms are needed to get the required throws. These arms were not listed in the requireds, and not included in my package. Determined to at least begin by testing with exactly what was provided, my model was built with the arms Hitec provided with my servos. Performance is more than adequate with the provided arms, but I found I did want the recommended arms.)

Don't need a new transmitter or charger? Already have the right receiver and servos, but not sure what motor and ESC are right for your purchase? No problem. Hobby Lobby's product page also lists every item individually, and the user can purchase one or more of each needed item from a clear, simple list.

Instructions

First, I have to give Hobby Lobby credit -- compared to the other foamie's instructions I've perused while working with reviewers on other models, these instructions are GOOD, and they are far more detailed. It even started with a "what you need to complete this model" list that would be very helpful to someone who didn't purchase the Complete Package.

That said, however, this manual still reminds me of those first generation glow ARFs. The instructions are long on actions per step and short on photos. A few steps are VERY long and feel like maybe the manual writer wasn't sure how the designer meant to put some things together. There were several places where they provided GREAT notes, and several where they're missing key things. I'll try to cover both here in the review, and won't belabor the points in-between.

Other Thoughts on The Included Items

The gear parts were all in a small polybag, helping ensure I didn't lose them. THANKS!! Did I mention the foam looks GREAT?!

Unfortunately, the little aileron pushrods were taped in the bundle of long carbon fiber pieces and tail pushrods and tubes. By the time I went to install the aileron pushrods, they were lost. I still haven't found them! I would've loved to see the carbon and pushrods taped individually to the box lid to avoid damage and loss.

Assembly

Right at the start, it was really helpful that HL told us which spar was which! Although it was certainly logical if I thought about it, having them remind me where the longer and shorter spars went made sure I didn't mistake them for the same lengths and mis-install one. They even illustrated this with a photo for me! What a nice start.

Mounting the Fuse Center

The next, huge step in the instructions was by far the most frustrating. Everything up to here took me approximately 1 hour. This step took the next hour. No, really. An hour. I timed it!

So, here's what was included into a single step -- a single paragraph -- in the order it was provided:

  1. Mark a reference line on the fuselage side where the fuse center section will align toward the nose;
  2. Slide the hinged-wing/fuselage-center assembly through the slot in the fuse, which is only one layer of depron thick, without breaking the depron;
  3. Push it forward and position it roughly where it goes;
  4. Make sure the rear of the fuse center is aligned with the slot, cut down if needed;
  5. Slide the motor mount in place but don't glue;
  6. Get ready to glue, including instructions of how to glue;
  7. Now find the pre-hinged horizontal and slide it into its slot, including having to slide it on top of the fuselage center section through a slot a single layer of depron wide without breaking the depron;
  8. Now forget about the tail again, go back to the nose, pull the nose down, twisting the depron, apply CA along the line you drew earlier, and push the fuse front back up against the line, gluing the forward fuse section;
  9. CA the rest of the fuselage length, using the squaring tool provided (a photo of it in use would've really been helpful!)
  10. "Work you way back to the tail" which it turns out means glue the entire fuselage AND STAB in place -- so be sure you've got the stab square to the wing as well as square to the fuselage sides when you glue it, although that wasn't mentioned;
  11. "Last, push about 2 degrees of right thrust into the motor mount and glue in place..."(and instructions how to fix it when you aren't happy with the thrust angle you set);
  12. Also, glue in the gussets behind the motor mount.

There are about a dozen things I can think of that might've made this hour-long process go much easier, but the biggest two I can think of would have been to take smaller bite-sized steps, and to have reference marks pre-printed on the model. The printing provided is GORGEOUS! Wouldn't it have been great, for example, to have the graphics include a horizontal line that the fuse center aligned with along the whole length of the fuselage? How about pre-made tick marks showing the center of the wing, leading and trailing, on both the wing proper and the foam wing extension, as well as on the fuselage center section?

I *DID* like mounting the wing to the fuse center first, as I felt I had better control aligning the two parts, and making sure I had a good, strong glue joint. Others might disagree. But there had to be a better way to install it -- perhaps a 2-layer-thick cut in the depron with support pieces to be glued in after? I'm not sure what, but this part was frustrating, and I'd sure like to see someone make it easier!

On to The Rest of the Plane!

OK, enough ranting on that one single frustrating step. The rest of the assembly, including radio setup, took a total of 2 more hours, for almost exactly 4 hours total build time.

Mounting the radio gear was straightforward. Cool control horns! I encountered a problem with the control horn screws being too short(see photos). A call to HL informed me that the designer intended the horns to be glued to the surface, rather than screwed into the thick foam.

I sure would have liked standoffs to support the tail pushrods, as the bow in them caused them to break free from the foam/glue joint several times during radio setup. Were I to build it again, I would've made 2 plywood supports for each side, cut holes in the fuse sides, and glued a good joint into the fuse.

They instructed me to install the ESC and receiver "(...somewhere) between the firewall and the leading edge", several steps before setting CG. I chose to use mounting them to help in setting the CG, so that I wouldn't have to worry about different size batteries moving the CG. Putting the CG at 2-1/2" as recommended, the motor and ESC ended up centered between the motor and wing leading edge.

I also had to punch a hole to get the elevator servo lead to the underside of the plane, and a few others to route the motor wires safely away from the prop. Again, precuts would've been nice.

The throws and CG section was wonderfully clear and detailed, including a specific recommendation for starting CG, throws, and even exponential. THANKS! I followed the CG and exponential exactly, and got as much throw as possible from the provided arms -- 40+ degrees on all surfaces.

Flying

Given that I don't have foamy experience, I begged the help of 2 local and VERY experienced foamy fliers. The text here is a compilation of input from all 3 of us. With an 18 oz. take-off weight, we were a bit worried at how fast Judge would need to fly. We needn't have worried. It's large wing area and ample control surfaces made her feel like a much smaller, lighter foamy. At no time did we feel like we were "running out of space" in our indoor venue with her.

Basics

The Judge handled normal forward flight with ease. It was smooth and consistent, and the thrust angle came out right on -- having no change in trim -- elevator or rudder -- on different flying speeds. Inverted was similarly simple, with just barely a breath of push to keep it level. "Yank and bank" and coordinated turns were both smooth and clean.

Taking Off and Landing

After the basic checks, we tossed the Judge nice and easy, and the Axi spooled to life. It flew easily off a soft toss, and later also flew as easily as a vertical take off and, once I adjusted the toe in back out of the gear, also had a nice ROG takeoff. (The "mount your own" axles resulted in uneven toe in on each side which made an ROG takeoff impossible, and a gear landing hairy until adjusted.)

Landings were sweet. She settled in with ease, flat and smooth, for a conventional landing, and landed equally well from a harrier tail-touch to touch down.

3D Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

This bird is designed for 3D, and does it very well! This first set of flights notes is on the stock Hitec "long arm" servos arms, not the Dubros recommended in the manual, as they did not come with the complete package. I do intend to purchase a set, add them, and add more into this flight report at a later time, but wanted to get this information available now! Please stop back again soon!

Hoping to make it quick and easy to find the information on the exact maneuvers any reader might want from the Judge, we decided to provide you a "3D report card" to go with the extensive video examples of its performance:




ManueverGrade Notes
Hangar A The Judge won't hang on its own without correction, but the corrections needed were minor. Good air over the tail surfaces.
Torque Roll B The hangar corrections needed are compounded when torque rolling.
High Alpha Level Flight A VERY NICE! Minimal wing rock.
High Alpha Inverted A+ Really stable and easy!
Flips (high alpha half loops) A Nice, no torque problems, needed more elevator.
High Alpha Rolling A Again, very nice! Minimal corrections.
High Alpha Knife Edge B+ WOW! She excelled here AFTER adding the rudder-to-elev mixing.
Stall Turns B Again, very nice after correcting the coupling.
Knife-edge-to-knife-edge turns B Needed more rudder throw to complete with authority.
Walk the Dog A Nice! Minimal corrections needed.
Tail-slide B+ Quick corrections needed due to throws.
Wall B Needed more elevator throw to complete with authority.
Flying Flat-Spin N/A Rudder coupling and insufficient throws made this impossible.
Waterfall/loopet N/A Not enough elevator throw with stock arms.
Pinwheel N/A Not enough rudder throw with stock arms.

Is This For a Beginner?

Absolutely not. The Judge is an aggressive aerobatic bird and does not belong in the hands of a beginner under any circumstances. However, as a first 3D bird, the Judge has a lot of stability and predictability to offer the new 3D pilot, and the new foamy pilot like me!

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

Hits and Misses

Hits

  • FANTASTIC graphics!
  • EXCELS at inverted high alpha and, after adding 32% rudder-to-elevator mixing, high alpha knife edge
  • Cool wheel pants!
  • Cool control horns!
  • Better than most instructions
  • 8+ minute run time and superb performance on the recommended power package

Misses

  • nearly 2 oz. (12.5%) over on flying weight
  • Instructions could be clearer, take smaller steps, and simplify a few key areas
  • Control horn screws were too short
  • Tail pushrods need better support
  • Complete Package could include HS56 servos or Dubro arm extensions

This is one GREAT looking airplane! It can sit beside my scale aerobats with pride! The instructions were somewhat frustrating, but if a newbie to foam like me could struggle through them, then I'm sure most other builders could as well. As far as flight, the Judge flew as great as she looked! Her forward flight performance was perfect, and her 3D was really a joy. I can't wait to get the Dubro arms here and try her again with even more authority! She was calm enough for a foamy newbie like me, and wild enough to entertain both of my expert pilots. What a blast!

Last edited by AMCross; Aug 03, 2006 at 09:46 AM..

Discussion

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Old Feb 20, 2005, 08:39 PM
Registered User
Canada's East Coast, "An Ocean Playground"
Joined Apr 2002
4,169 Posts
Good review ...lousy video ..! Hope you take some outdoor video on a bright day with the new Dubro servo arms ..

Bill
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Old Mar 10, 2005, 02:55 PM
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Joined Jan 2005
458 Posts
I was pretty surprised at the review plane's weight - 17.5 oz. I'm using a 2212/34 (same weight), Jr 700 receiver (.75 oz), TP 1320, CC10 controller - 15.5 oz. I tend to build a little heavy - too much epoxy.

I have finished the plane but haven't flown it yet. My motor/battery/controller was previously in a HL Raptor - I was getting 20 to 25 min. flying time.
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Old Aug 25, 2005, 04:23 PM
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Joined Mar 2004
132 Posts
I thought the vid was great myself. Thinken about getting one of these.
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Old Aug 26, 2005, 09:54 AM
Fun Manager
AMCross's Avatar
Villa Grove, Illinois
Joined May 2000
1,695 Posts
Thanks, KC. Glad you liked the video. IMHO, the judge is designed for indoor, so that's where we shot the video....
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Old Dec 10, 2005, 08:07 PM
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Joined Dec 2005
1 Posts
Instructions were a bit confusing, pictures need help, two diffrent places it said to glue the motor mount gussets, no where did it say when and how to glue hor. stab. I had a part that it did not show what or where it went ( 4"X 6" WITH A SLOT CUT IN IT). I also could not get the foam safe CA to take on areas where there were graphics, it would take on wheel pants. I had to use 6 min. epoxy which was a pain. It is probably a great plane but the instructions are not for a nube to electrics.
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Old Dec 10, 2005, 08:19 PM
Fun Manager
AMCross's Avatar
Villa Grove, Illinois
Joined May 2000
1,695 Posts
James,
Sorry for your frustration. I would agree the instructions assumed the builder was NOT new to electrics and foamies.

She is a GREAT flyer.
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