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Hobby Lobby / Fliton Prodigy 3D ARF Review

Hobby Lobby distributes this newest "3D" ARF offering -- an all-balsa built up model manufactured by Fliton. The Prodigy 3D ARF is designed to be a "hybrid" which combines pattern styling and performance with "3D" capability.

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:37.5"
Wing Area:309 sq. in.
Weight:24 oz. as flown
Length:39.5"
Wing Loading:9.5 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Hitec HS-55
Transmitter:Futaba 9Z
Receiver:Hitec Electron 6
Battery:Thunder Power 3S 2100 mAh
Motor:AXI 2212/26
ESC:Jeti Advance PLUS 18 Amp Brushless Controller
Manufacturer:Fliton
Available From:Hobby Lobby

The Prodigy 3D ARF is the newest balsa ARF by Fliton models, available exclusively in the US via Hobby Lobby.

The Prodigy is designed to be a "hybrid" pattern/3D model. The tapered wing, wheel pants, and "widebody" fuselage shape remind the viewer of a modern pattern model, while the lightweight construction and oversized surfaces create the potential for true "3D" handling.

The Prodigy proves that you do not need "coke bottle" overly-thick airfoils or a profile foam fuselage to do "3D" maneuvers. The Prodigy may not 3D quite as well as some aircraft designed strictly for that purpose, but it has the advantage of being a true, pleasant aircraft during take-off, landing, and straight-and-level flight. A mix of gentle, precise aerobatics with a few torque rolls and harriers thrown in for effect is, in this reviewer's mind, much more appealing than the "drunken gnat" style of flying of most "foamie 3D" planes.

Kit Contents

What sold me on the Prodigy was the first view I had of the kit contents. It is so nicely built and covered that I knew the quality construction would guarantee pleasant flight characteristics.

Very few ARF manufacturers are working as hard as Fliton to create aircraft that look vibrant and customized. So many ARFs are covered in a basic two-color scheme upon which many stickers are heaped. The Prodigy, on the other hand, is clearly covered by hand. Over the basic white the ARF makers have added many different strips of color. This really enhances the appearance of the model, in my view, and makes it look much more authentic as a shrunken visage of a large pattern/3D ship.

The kit comes with composite landing gear, adequate instructions with large helpful pictures to guide the modeler, and all the hardware needed to complete the model. To this, I added servos (the Hitec HS-55s fit perfectly), a receiver, a motor, speed control, and battery pack. I agree with Hobby Lobby's recommendations on everything but the battery pack - they've been recommending a 1320 mAh pack - I couldn't get the Prodigy to balance with anything smaller than a 2100.

Assembly

The Prodigy goes together in a few hours. There are a few tricky parts that I'll guide you through, but I really think anyone who is ready to fly the Prodigy is ready to build it.

Wings and Tail Surfaces

The wing and tail hinges were the fabric CA type, with the slots pre-cut. The Prodigy 3D uses separate servos for each aileron, which allows for optional flaperon or elevator-flap mixing.

One of the ailerons on my Prodigy had a leading edge that wasn't quite straight. It bowed forward and made the hinge line a little hard to line up. I decided to build it as it was, but this left a considerable gap between one of the wings and its aileron, so you might want to pass an iron over the aileron if you encounter the same problem. Some gentle pressure while the covering is heated should allow you to bend the part into shape.

Fuselage

The Prodigy 3D ARF doesn't have removable wings, so they had to be permanently mounted. I found it difficult to line up the carbon fiber rods, but with some trial and error it can be done. It was definitely a plus to use 30 minute epoxy for this step.

I found that the wing joint flexed a bit after the glue dried, so I added a small amount of additional bracing. It probably wasn't strictly necessary as the plane is really light and flight loads are minimal, but I like to feel absolutely certain about the structure of an aircraft while it is in flight, so I tend to err on the sturdy side.

The motor mount is integrated into the Prodigy 3D's fuselage, which is a really nice feature. The Axi motor simply screwed into place. The fuselage had plenty of room for equipment.

Radio Installation

Hitec HS-55 servos fit perfectly in the built-in slots for servo mounting and have proven themselves adequate for the job, so I highly recommend these servos to make the installation job easier.

Completion

The canopy and cowl required some consideration. I mounted my cowl with 4 screws. The canopy is used as a hatch to access the batteries.

It seems that the designer of the aircraft assumed a much heavier motor and battery. In order to get the CG in the right spot I had to switch to a heavier battery than recommended, move it as far forward as possible, and add an ounce and a half of lead to the nose.

I can't recall ever having to add lead to an airplane before. I've been flying electrics exclusively for over 15 years and it seems like lately I'm seeing a lot more kits with this problem. I suppose it is to be expected because batteries have gotten much, much lighter lately, but to someone like me it just seems wrong to add lead. I'd prefer to use a larger pack. The trouble is that once you go above a 3S 2100 TP pack there probably isn't enough height within the battery compartment. (I haven't had a chance to try a Kokam pack. The form factor might be a problem, as the battery compartment in the Prodigy 3D is fairly narrow.)

I was really impressed with the landing gear, which are molded with an attractive curve. The included wheel pants are another nice touch.

The hatch caused me to pause a while and consider different options. The hatch is formed from very thin plastic. It seems that the builder is expected to secure the latch with tape. I went a different route and cut a notch in the hatch so I could slide the notch under the head of a screw which was secured in the rear turtledeck. I like this method a lot and recommend it over tape.

Once I got the hatch and battery mounting worked out I put some RCGroups.com vinyl stickers on the airplane (which help any plane fly better) and charged up the batteries. Time to fly!

Flying

First flights can sometimes be nerve wracking. Not so with the Prodigy. I knew its lightweight, clean design and powerful motor would put a smile on my face and I was eager to get it in the air.

Taking Off and Landing

The Prodigy 3D ARF, when powered by the recommended motor, leaps off the ground. The recommended APC 9x6 electric propeller allows for an impressive rate of climb. The model needs a bit more speed for landing than many 3D planes due to the thin airfoil, but the low wing loading helps to keep the plane controllable all the way to touchdown.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

With the recommended 9x6 propeller, the Prodigy 3D ARF is capable of all the basic pattern moves, such as loops, rolls, hammerheads, and inverted flight. It can maintain a 45 degree climb angle for reverse half cuban eights, spin entry, and other maneuvers. The only problem is that there isn't quite enough juice to hold a hover.

The first flight brought back memories of the Cloud Dancers I flew in the mid-nineties. At that time the performance I was getting was amazing, but nowadays we all seem to expect a lot more from our airplanes.

I finally switched to an 11x4.7 propeller to see if the vertical performance could be improved. I really like this set up. I use full throttle only for tumbling and torque rolls and I keep throttled back for pattern moves to reduce heat build-up in the motor. The bigger propeller makes uplines much easier and faster, and it is a lot easier to do maneuvers like loops because the airplane can keep a constant speed due to the increased thrust.

The larger propeller has a much lower pitch, which drops a lot of top-end speed off the airplane. I don't mind that with a plane like this. In fact, I like the fact that the 11 inch prop acts as a sort of speedbreak on the downlines and on final approach. And it is really neat to see the acceleration when I punch full throttle during a low-speed flyby.

3D Flight

I found 3D to be a bit more challenging with the Prodigy than with a "foamie", but with the right inputs the Prodigy can be made to torque roll and flip like its bigger "Artistic Aerobatic" cousins.

Pulling into a torque roll requires a blip of throttle. The thrust will kick the plane into vertical. Using this technique makes torque roll entry easy, but I've had a hard time entering torque rolls without gaining a bit of altitude.

I've moved the CG around a bit and have found that the recommended CG is about right. I'm currently flying the plane with the CG about 1/4" behind the recommended spot and this helps with 3D. Moving the CG back further adds even more to the 3D qualities of the airplane but detracts significantly from the "pattern" aspects. I prefer to mix things up with this plane - I have other planes for "3D" flying - so I like a mid-range setting.

Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion

The Prodigy 3D ARF is an exceptional airplane. It tracks smoothly like a much larger ship and looks really sharp.

With the recommended battery and propeller, performance will be limited. I recommend a 3S 2100 Thunder Power pack and an APC 11x4.7 propeller with one and a half ounces of lead added to the motor mount to put the CG in the right spot.

This plane seems well suited to aerobatic beginners who are looking for a great flying small plane for lunchtime visits to the field. More advanced pilots will appreciate the handling characteristics of the airplane. Many people such as myself are looking for a fun small model that looks and flies like a bigger plane. The "3D Foamy" offerings are all too similar to be interesting. Once you get past the "crunch" phase of learning 3D, you start to want a model with a few curves, and I think the Prodigy appealed to me for that reason.

The Prodigy 3D ARF fulfills its design goals of being a "hybrid" plane suitable for pattern and 3D aerobatics. It is slightly more suited for the former than the latter, but this makes for a great combination for my needs.

I recommend this plane highly to early intermediate R/C pilots and beyond looking for a smaller precision-capable aerobatic model.

The Good

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Covering scheme is sharp.
  • Flies any sort of aerobatics from precision pattern to wild 3D.
  • It is a really nice combination in a small package. Its small size makes it convenient to tote around even in a hatchback.
  • It's balsa! Looks way better than a 3D Foamy!

The Bad

  • The drawings are nice but written instructions should be included as well.
  • CG is hard to get right without adding a heavy battery pack or lead.
  • Recommended power system at the time of this writing doesn't provide the oomph needed for "3D" flight.
  • It's balsa! Bad for people who are used to bouncing their airplanes on the ground.

Discussion

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Old Aug 16, 2005, 10:16 PM
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Neil Morse's Avatar
San Francisco, CA, USA
Joined Jul 1999
6,076 Posts
Jim:

Your plane came out to 20 oz. AUW, even with the 3S 2100 pack and 1.5 oz. of lead in the nose?

Neil
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Old Aug 17, 2005, 10:46 PM
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jbourke's Avatar
United States, OR, Corvallis
Joined Nov 1998
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Neil,

Ah, good catch! I forgot to correct the weight. I'll update the article tomorrow.

Jim
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Old Aug 18, 2005, 08:54 AM
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Neil Morse's Avatar
San Francisco, CA, USA
Joined Jul 1999
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Jim:

I think if you moved your esc and receiver up front under the motor mount, you could remove that lead and use a 3S 1320 Prolite pack. You would shave off a lot of weight and that might take care of your complaint that the stock power system doesn't give enough oomph. I think adding weight should be a last resort that you only try when you've moved all your components as far forward as possible. On my Quiet Storm, I tie-wrapped the esc under the motor mount and put the rx under the battery tray. It looks like you would have plenty of room to do the same on the Prodigy.

Neil
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Last edited by Neil Morse; Aug 18, 2005 at 09:02 AM.
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Old Aug 18, 2005, 11:30 AM
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jbourke's Avatar
United States, OR, Corvallis
Joined Nov 1998
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Neil, that would certainly help, but I don't like putting anything in front of the battery due to the fact that it gets pulverized in a crash.

I'm actually really happy with the model the way it flies now. I have no complaints even with the extra weight.

You have a good point, though, that the model might balance acceptably if I moved things around to that configuration, at which point Hobby Lobby's recommendations seem more realistic.

Jim
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Old Aug 18, 2005, 12:40 PM
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Neil Morse's Avatar
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Joined Jul 1999
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbourke
Neil, that would certainly help, but I don't like putting anything in front of the battery due to the fact that it gets pulverized in a crash.
That's easy -- just don't crash!

Thanks for your thoughtful responses, Jim. I think the Prodigy is a winner, along with the Quiet Storm. Both planes have some build issues that Fliton should correct (and decent instructions would go a long way toward doing this), but they are both fantastic flyers once they are built right.

Neil
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Old Aug 19, 2005, 12:50 AM
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jbourke's Avatar
United States, OR, Corvallis
Joined Nov 1998
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil Morse
That's easy -- just don't crash!
I don't crash very often but I have many building habits that were formed when I did!

Jim
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Old Aug 19, 2005, 12:52 AM
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jbourke's Avatar
United States, OR, Corvallis
Joined Nov 1998
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Note that I've updated the airplane weight to 24 ounces.

Jim
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Old Aug 22, 2005, 02:22 PM
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United States, TX, Rockwall
Joined Jun 2001
8,080 Posts
Jim;
Good to see you find some time to fly.

So overall is the 2212 26 the wrong motor if you want to 3d?
were your motor temps reasonable after going to the 11x4.7?
Do you think there it is possible to move the tail servos toward the canopy, and use a pull pull on both rud/ele to correct the CG/adding weight problem?

I like this plane a lot, but have a real problem adding weight to a design. I feel a lot of times, they simply should have increased the motor moment a 1/2" or so on some of these planes which would fix a lot of issues.

regards;
Kirby
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Old Aug 22, 2005, 08:03 PM
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jbourke's Avatar
United States, OR, Corvallis
Joined Nov 1998
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Kirby,

I think you have two options.

1. Try moving components around and using the small pack, at which point you'll have a lighter airplane and 3D performance will be improved.
2. Drop the lead and use a more powerful, heavier motor and stay with the larger 2100 mah pack.

If you try to use the recommended equipment I don't think you are going to be able to avoid adding lead in the nose without a lot of time-consuming modifications. I might swap in a more powerful motor if I decide I need more oomph but for now I have no complaints with the set up I'm using.

Jim
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Old Aug 23, 2005, 03:44 AM
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Surrey, England
Joined Feb 2002
534 Posts
Jim, nice review. Mine is on it's way and will hopefully be with me today or tommorow. Only 1 problem, no instructions! (they are being sent later). In the meantime, could you please advise of your CG position and control movements? I am a builder so I don't think putting it together will create too many problems, in fact, this is only my 2nd ARTF in nearly 18 years of modelling! I intend to fit the Hacker A20-20L so 200W+ is on the cards which should help the 3D performance. Not sure if this is heavier or lighter than the AXi so will have to see what go's on the balancing issue.
OK, just found out the Hacker is the same weight as the AXi, so looks like putting the esc under the motor will have to be the way to go.

Alan
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Old Aug 23, 2005, 04:54 PM
Scott Stoops
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United States, CO, Longmont
Joined Mar 2002
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cosmic
Jim, nice review. Mine is on it's way and will hopefully be with me today or tommorow. Only 1 problem, no instructions! (they are being sent later). In the meantime, could you please advise of your CG position and control movements? I am a builder so I don't think putting it together will create too many problems, in fact, this is only my 2nd ARTF in nearly 18 years of modelling! I intend to fit the Hacker A20-20L so 200W+ is on the cards which should help the 3D performance. Not sure if this is heavier or lighter than the AXi so will have to see what go's on the balancing issue.
OK, just found out the Hacker is the same weight as the AXi, so looks like putting the esc under the motor will have to be the way to go.

Alan
I can't speak for Jim, but I think the Hacker is A20 is the perfect match for the model. I have no problem balancing mine with the A20, 3S TP 1320 Prolites with the RX under the battery tray and the ESC zip-tied to the motor mount. A good starting CG is on the spar, but I fly mine comfortable with the CG 1/2" aft of the spar. As far as the instructions... they are a waste of good paper. Make sure you add a doubler to the spar and check to see that the landing gear attach plate is adequately glued.

Scott
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Old Aug 24, 2005, 12:57 PM
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Dave Lauck's Avatar
Penn Valley California
Joined Jun 2004
643 Posts
Video is up on the Prodigy review

The video we took with both Jim and John Glezellis is up on the review now. Sorry it took so long to get it up there.

enjoy,

Dave
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Old Aug 27, 2005, 10:35 PM
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USA, OK, Oklahoma City
Joined Mar 2001
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The nose weight issue can be handled easily buy using a 2208/34 instead of the 2212 motor recommended. It weighs 3/4 of an ounce heavier than the 2212. With the combination of the motor, and moving the battery pack all the way to the front, you won't/shouldn't need any additional weight. That's the setup I have on my Prodigy and it works out great with the 3 cell 2100's I got from HL.
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Old Jan 28, 2006, 05:02 PM
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TexasFlyer's Avatar
Houston, TX
Joined Sep 2005
1,015 Posts
ROG off grass

As anyone tried ROG off grass with this model? The wheels look like they may be a little small for that. If I had to increase the wheel size, could the wheel pants accomodate them with little modification? The reason I ask is that most of the fields in my area are short grass and not paved.

Thanks,

Alan
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