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Hobbyzone Commander II Trainer RTF with Anti-Crash Technology Review

The Hobbyzone Firebird Commander 2 RTF is a truly ready-to-fly model for beginners, featuring a new Anti-Crash Technology that is designed to keep the plane in the air where it belongs. If you've never thought of a 2-channel model for a beginner, be sure to read this review!

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:42.25"
Weight:17 oz.
Length:31"
Transmitter:3 Channel proportional
Receiver:3 Channel programmable RX/ESC and ACT (anti crash Technology) Installed.
Battery:6- Cell 7.2v 900 Mah NIMH
Motor:380 brushed motor
Manufacturer:HobbyZone
Available From:Horizon Hobby

The HobbyZone Firebird series of aircraft have proven themselves as excellent aircraft for one's first foray into R/C piloting. These simplified aircraft feature ready-to-fly convenience and offer an unusual and attractive design. The pusher propeller and top-mounted wing make the aircraft safe, robust, and intriguing.

One of the newest offerings in the Firebird series is the Commander 2 RTF, which offers 2 independent channels of control (rudder and throttle) plus a new Anti-Crash Technology (ACT), which assists newcomers who might otherwise have trouble with their first flights.

The aircraft was clearly designed to offer a complete newcomer the capability to fly without the rigors, hazards, and expense of traditional R/C. With a street price of under $100, it is sure to become wrapped, bowed, and stuffed under the Christmas tree in many young boy's homes.

Will the Commander 2 RTF make a good first aircraft? Will the 2 channel radio provide enough control and enjoyment to encourage a newcomer to pursue further advances in model aviation? Will the Anti-Crash Technology actually prevent a crash? Let's find out.

Kit Contents

Kit Includes:

  • Main Fuselage,
  • Wing,
  • Transmitter,
  • AA batteries,
  • Flight Pack,
  • Charger,
  • Learning to Fly CD,
  • Wheels,
  • Wing Shim,
  • Rubber Bands and
  • Transmitter Ribbon.

Requires:

  • Absolutely nothing!

This is a complete ready-to-fly package. The owner has just a few simple steps to go through before flying.

Assembly

With the Firebird Commander 2 RTF, the "builder" doesn't even have to put on the stickers. Of all the "ready to fly" aircraft on the market, the Firebirds are some of the "ready-est".

The assembly steps consisted of:

  • Insert the landing gear
  • Insert the AA batteries into the transmitter
  • Secure the wing with the rubber bands
  • Charge the flight battery

Flying The Commander

About 2 channel aircraft

Most R/C aircraft have at least 3 channels for elevator, rudder (or aileron), and throttle control. It isn't unusual for experienced R/C pilots to scratch their heads at the thought of flying an airplane on "only" 2 channels. However, at one time, 2 channel rudder/throttle airplanes were very common and many, many people have learned to fly on such planes.

Since there is no elevator for controlling the pitch of the aircraft, the Commander 2 has been designed to climb at full throttle and descend at zero throttle. This makes an elevator unnecessary, and makes the control much easier for a beginner. I consider this simplicity to be a real advantage to someone who is completely new to the hobby.

Other "Firebird" series aircraft are available with a full three channels, but after flying the 2-channel variant I can say that it definitely has its place.

The first flight

The first flight took place on a cool November afternoon at the local park. I haven't flown a 2 channel aircraft in some time and I was curious to see how well the Commander would do.

I tossed the model into the breeze and gave it full throttle. It climbed away nicely and with plenty of authority. This is nice because many ready-to-fly models are too anemic for safe operation. I'm happy to say that the Commander 2, while not a speed demon, is plenty fast and powerful enough for quick climbs to a safe altitude.

After a short climb the aircraft began to pitch up and I let off the throttle. I think this is where the 2-channel simplicity really helps a beginner. With a 3 channel system, it is hard for a newcomer to understand the relationship between throttle and elevator and to use both of those sticks correctly to set the aircraft's attitude. The Command 2 responds nicely to changes in throttle by climbing or descending in a predictable manner. If full throttle is held for too long then the plane begins to climb rapidly, the nose comes up, and a stall occurs, which in turn causes the nose to drop. The resulting oscillation can be calmed by simply letting off the throttle.

After flying the aircraft around a little bit, it became clear to me that every problem a new pilot could encounter with the Commander 2 is easily solved by backing off the throttle. It's just that simple to get out of trouble. The aircraft is stable and wants to fly, left undisturbed, in a nice flat glide. I think that with this in mind a new pilot could take the aircraft out to a suitably obstacle-free area and safely take his first steps in R/C without further advice.

Testing the ACT system

Unfortunately, new R/C pilots are tempted to do all sorts of things...everything but keep their hands off the controls, so the Anti-Crash Technology comes into play. (For the more experienced pilot, the ACT can be turned off for recovery-free 'normal' flying.)

The Commander has two sensors, which I presume are infrared sensors of some kind, that are an integral part of the Anti Crash Technology. These sensors are used to determine the aircraft's attitude relative to the horizon. If the aircraft is determined to be on a collision course with the ground, the system will override the steering and throttle commands given by the pilot.

From what I gather by reading the manual and experimenting with the aircraft, when the ACT system detects a severe nose-down attitude it:

  • reduces motor speed
  • gives reverse steering input
  • reduces control movement (rate reduction)

I deliberately put the Commander 2 into a few dives and spiral situations and I definitely noticed that the ACT system was working as designed. I could clearly hear the motor speed decrease and the plane assumed a safer orientation by itself.

It would still be possible to crash the Commander 2, even with the ACT system, because it can't compensate for obstacles or for incorrect commands that are initiated very low to the ground.

Flight Video

Downloads

Look Ma! I'm flying!

After I got the plane up to 150 feet or so I began executing turns. With the throttle at neutral, the plane performs a shallow descent. I used turns to keep the aircraft in the general area and found it to have good handling characteristics. I let it descend to about 50 feet while performing figure 8's and ovals.

A little bit of throttle now and then kept gravity at bay and held the plane aloft at my chosen altitude. By holding the throttle at full, I was able to cause the aircraft to rise back up to 150 feet where more turns could be practiced.

Landing the Commander 2

After about 5 minutes of playing around I decided to bring the plane in for a landing so my son could have a turn, with plenty of charge still left in the pack. This is a no-brainer with the Commander 2. The pilot only has to bring the throttle to neutral and steer it away from any obstacles. The plane basically lands itself.

I found that by giving occasional blips of throttle I could perform a proper landing with a sort of "flare" at the end, but this really isn't necessary.

The wheels don't do much for the plane at my field because the grass is too tall, but I've left the gear on as it gives the plane a sort of shock-absorber to handle the kind of "arrivals" my son might throw at it.

Raymond's turn

My 3 year old son, Raymond, naturally loves planes and likes working on them with his dad when he isn't busy pretending he is Spider-Man. His previous R/C experience includes a bit of practice on the computer and a store-bought foam R/C plane that was more like a free flight model than a controllable aircraft. So we can consider him a rank beginner who, without a special product like the Commander 2, has no real business flying an R/C airplane.

I took him with me to the flying field and decided I would give the Commander 2 a real test. I would get the aircraft to altitude, I decided, and then hand the transmitter over to Ray. At that point it would be his to control until he dropped below a comfortable altitude.

I knelt beside him and showed him the controls. I let him play with the throttle and rudder a bit to see how the airplane worked.

The first toss didn't have enough "oomph" on it and the Firebird settled into the grass about 25 feet away from us. The previous flight had been made with a bit of a headwind so this was the first time I realized that a pretty good throw was needed to get the plane on its way.

After a much firmer throw and a climb out to altitude I gave the transmitter over to Ray and stood impatiently behind him. I shouted out orders for awhile like any parent would and then finally relaxed as I realized that the Commander 2 wasn't in danger of falling out of the sky.

Ray showed a tendency to enter a spiral by holding in full throttle and giving generally random rudder commands. Each time this happened I could see that the ACT system was kicking in and helping him out of trouble.

When the time came to land I took the control from him and brought the plane in. Needless to say, he was immensely proud of his accomplishment and is longing for another flight.

Conclusion

There are a lot of trainers on the market and I think newcomers are generally overwhelmed by the choices. The Firebird Commander 2 is a one of a kind product due to its combination of price and features. At a street price of around $100 it is approachable for families that couldn't otherwise afford to purchase an R/C plane.

The Anti-Crash Technology is no gimmick. I've seen firsthand what it can do with a three year old pilot at the helm. While I can't say it makes crashes impossible, I do feel that this is an ideal aid for the enthusiastic father/son pair who want to spend time together and put something into the air quickly. It will also work nicely as an introductory trainer for a youngster or absolute newcomer who has someone to help with the initial climb out and landing sequences. Once the plane is at altitude it is very safe in the hands of just about anybody. Add that the ACT can be turned off, and it is a real asset to this bird.

Some people might consider passing on the Commander because it lacks elevator control, without really thinking it through. In my opinion, that's a mistake. The Firebird series has 3 channel models as well so there are other options for those who want the additional control, but before you go that route, factor in the expense and frustration that you might have to go through in the event of a crash. The Commander 2's simplicity and low cost make it hard to beat for one's first foray into R/C planes.

I sometimes wonder what the future holds for our hobby and I think the Commander 2 is an example of the kind of products that will drive the growth of R/C, as it makes its way further and further into the general public as a fun recreational activity. Many of us know R/C as a hobby that is primarily about building and assembling aircraft, but a new generation of pilots will know it as something that is fun to enjoy primarily outdoors. The Commander 2 offers a no-stress approach to R/C and may be one of the few R/C airplanes on the market that can chip away at the R/C car market at Christmastime.

Hits

  • Really Ready to Fly. It would be hard to be more ready than this!
  • Complete set up including AA cells for the transmitter.
  • ACT works as advertised. Once the plane is at altitude it can be safely flown by just about anyone.
  • Plenty of power from the included power system.
  • Attractive looks.
  • 2 channel design offers simplicity.

Misses

  • The single "construction" step of inserting the wheels wasn't as easy as it could have been.
  • Pilots may outgrow the aircraft quicker than a 3-channel trainer.

Discussion

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Old Dec 15, 2005, 10:00 AM
AMA #851612
BIGDANO's Avatar
Alameda, CA
Joined Dec 2005
1,617 Posts
Great article! I'm just getting into the airplane aspect of RC and am looking for something simple for my wife. She bought me the Megatech Airstrike for my birthday and I've been doing ok with it. I think this might just be the ticket for her!
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Old Sep 29, 2006, 02:15 PM
Registered User
dwardio's Avatar
Joined Sep 2006
2 Posts
Complete Novice-- TOTAL SUCCESS!

I received the Commander 2 this morning as a gift from my wonderful wife. I haven't flown model planes in over 30 years and even then I only flew line-control planes, but I've always wanted to try r/c flight...

I followed all the directions, including discharging then charging the battery pack, and then watched the included VCD (which played fine on my Sony DVD player) and reread the instructions while waiting for the batteries to charge.

Three hours later, I was in the middle of a nearby field that was populated with a fair amount of sagebrush about 18" high (more about this in a bit). The wind, which had been <3 mph all morning, of course picked this time to freshen to about 8 mph, gusting to 10. A bit above the recommended novice parameters, but how could I possibly wait until tomorrow?

I checked all the control surfaces and everything was perfect straight out of the box. Since I knew that I would be landing in low bushes instead of grass, I left the landing gear off. I faced into the wind, made sure the trim settings were neutral, hit the throttle and tossed it into the air. It flew straight and level for about 20 feet then gently decended and made a perfect 1-point landing. In a sage bush. Obviously, I needed to toss it a bit harder...

I recovered the plane, re-checked everything, and gave it a good, stiff throw into the wind. It flew straight and level for about 25 feet and then started climbing crisply, just like in the video! Given that the wind was blowing, I thought the plane flew very well. It was easy to tell when I was over-controlling it-- the engine would throttle down for a moment or two and it would return to stable fligth. Turns were easy, as long as I didn't keep the stick pegged to the max.

My first flight lasted about 5 minutes, at which point I suspect it was getting a bit too far from the transmitter. The engine went to idle, and it landed itself from about 150' up, making a very nice landing. In a sage bush. I strolled over to the plane, expecting the worst. Amazingly, the only damage was to the trailing edge of the wing, which had a bit of a nick from the pusher prop. I dusted it off, turned into the wind and launched. Again, everything went perfect, and I was able to fly pretty much where I wanted to, subject only to the increasing wind. I practiced landings, and made 3 or 4 more short flights, until the wind increased to the point where further novice flights were unthinkable. When I got back to the car, I held the plane and applied throttle until the batteries discharged about 90 seconds later. I looked at my watch and was amazed to see that an hour had gone by! I guess waling to each landing site took a bit longer than I thought.

Bottom Line: The Commander 2 greatly exceded my expectations. It was set up correctly out of the box, it worked perfectly, and a complete novice (without any r/c experience) was able fly it successfully. What more could you possibly ask?
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Old Sep 04, 2007, 04:57 PM
rob from tinton falls, nj
flyin's Avatar
Joined Sep 2007
50 Posts
1. for this newbie, the pusher prop is a bad design. The problem with the design is the inevitable crashes continue to eat at the wings, since a newbie like myself are trying to get out of the dangerous turn/whatever without regard to the engine.

2. I don't know what "neutral" means in the review. The engine is either off or on, I have a very very hard time finding a "neutral" setting for my commander 2. Hence I had to trim the wing to get it to do anything other than the whoop/whoop stalls.

3. I'm trying to find as little wind conditions as possible. 8mph, bah. I wouldn't dare to take this model into wind that high. 4 or 5 and it is virtually uncontrollable.

for this newbie, it is almost enough to say 'forget it'. however, once I get all the parts back together, and find a near impossible no-wind day, I'll try it again.

sage bush? I wish. We have trees and rocks... even on a the soccer fields there are goals, posts, lamp posts, pavement etc. my commander 2 has found them all, including the roof of a nearby picnic pavilion (thankfully recovered by climbing on top of a nearby garbage container).

For this newbie, I'll be trying again, but this model is no where near perfect. Then again, if it is the best out there, I'll stick with surf fishing, kayaking or some other hobby.

I may (if I lose my mind and have too many $$ in my check book at some point), consider getting the super cub which seems to be a much more sensible design.
Had Hobbyzone not went with the pusher prop I'm sure this model would be much
more durable. As such, having taped up the wing beyond recognition (and now purchasing a new wing and tail), having the tail fall apart on a 1 point landing, having the nose cowling cracked already, the least they could have done was design it so that the blade stays away from the wing, no?

ah well, end of the work day for me and I'm just a bit cranky.
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Old Sep 26, 2007, 10:28 AM
Registered User
jpwkeeper's Avatar
Joined Sep 2005
601 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by flyin
1. for this newbie, the pusher prop is a bad design. The problem with the design is the inevitable crashes continue to eat at the wings, since a newbie like myself are trying to get out of the dangerous turn/whatever without regard to the engine.

2. I don't know what "neutral" means in the review. The engine is either off or on, I have a very very hard time finding a "neutral" setting for my commander 2. Hence I had to trim the wing to get it to do anything other than the whoop/whoop stalls.

3. I'm trying to find as little wind conditions as possible. 8mph, bah. I wouldn't dare to take this model into wind that high. 4 or 5 and it is virtually uncontrollable.

for this newbie, it is almost enough to say 'forget it'. however, once I get all the parts back together, and find a near impossible no-wind day, I'll try it again.

sage bush? I wish. We have trees and rocks... even on a the soccer fields there are goals, posts, lamp posts, pavement etc. my commander 2 has found them all, including the roof of a nearby picnic pavilion (thankfully recovered by climbing on top of a nearby garbage container).

For this newbie, I'll be trying again, but this model is no where near perfect. Then again, if it is the best out there, I'll stick with surf fishing, kayaking or some other hobby.

I may (if I lose my mind and have too many $$ in my check book at some point), consider getting the super cub which seems to be a much more sensible design.
Had Hobbyzone not went with the pusher prop I'm sure this model would be much
more durable. As such, having taped up the wing beyond recognition (and now purchasing a new wing and tail), having the tail fall apart on a 1 point landing, having the nose cowling cracked already, the least they could have done was design it so that the blade stays away from the wing, no?

ah well, end of the work day for me and I'm just a bit cranky.
A few points here.

While point 1 is true, a nick in the wing is far preferable to a bent shaft and/or broken gearbox.

Point 2 is completely incorrect. The engine is not either on or off. If you are experiencing this, you may have something faulty. The Commander2 has a fully graduated throttle (or enough that I can't find the steps). And, if you have trimmed your wings, you may have made the plane nearly uncontrollable by reducing the amount of polyhedral.

As far as porpoising (Whoop/Whoop stalls?), if you read the manual you'll find that it has instructions on how to adjust the angle of the tail to prevent this. It's trivial. At full power you should get a nice steady climb.

Point 3 is also false. We don't get many 4-5Mph days where I live, yet even as a rank newbie the plane was controllable. Since then I've flown mine in 10-15Mph winds. I'm not sure how hard it was blowing exactly, but I had to tack upwind in order to make headway without climbing. It was VERY controllable. In fact, it was on that very day when I was trying to loop it by death-spiraling and coming out directly in to the wind that I broke the main wing in half in flight.

Once again, if you've trimmed your wings, you've probably reduced the polyhedral, which is necessary for this bird to turn correctly.

Replace your main wing, sort out the throttle issue, and work with your tail in order get rid of the stalling and you'll find that this is a very nice plane to fly for a newbie. Also, your issues with your wing tailing edge will go away when you learn to cut power in event of a crash. It's counter-intuitive since you want to save the plane from crashing at all costs, but you'll eventually learn when to just let it crash softly by cutting the power, which will keep the wing from being eaten by the prop. Even then, I kept packing tape in by flight bag for quick repairs for those cuts.
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Old Sep 26, 2007, 01:24 PM
rob from tinton falls, nj
flyin's Avatar
Joined Sep 2007
50 Posts
one clarification on the throttle "on" vs "off":

I mis-typed for sure in using "on" vs "off" to describe the throttle behavior. However, in my opinion there is no "neutral". If you let go of the throttle it goes to "off", any variable setting is completely by "feel" against the spring tension and hence I described this as "off" or "on"... even though it is continuously variable.

With respect to main wing trim, to control the lift, the manual directs one to use the shim, the manual also directs a user to tighten or loosen tail controls. I followed the manual in setting the tail trim and it did *not* help. In reading other online forums, I believe I took the manual a bit too literally and could have adjusted these screws even further.

Lastly, with respect to 10-15 mph winds, I still fail to believe, and there are a LOT of web reports of same, that this plane can fly adequately if at all in those kinds of winds. So I stand by that part of my comments.

I received the following from Hobbyzone directly and I quote (name left off):


" I am sorry to hear of the problems that you have had with the commander 2. Let me start
be saying that we are not the manufacturer of this plane, we are a retail shop that
sells them. You can contact Horozon Hobby's, the manufacturer at 877-504-0233.
the Commander 2 is not a bad plane but it is a very simple plane and it does not have
elevator so it is more difficult to fly in my opinion. learning on a 2 channel plane
can be a good thing because it teaches you how to use wind speed to create lift.
I usually will not suggest this as a beginner plane but because of the price of the
plane, many people prefer to buy it as a beginner plane. My suggestion to most people
is for them to start out on a 3 channel high wing plane like the Hobby Zone super cub.
this is a much easier plane to fly and is easier to repair because it is a foam plane
and you can replace the parts separately rather then having to buy the whole fuselage
with electronics. The other problem with a Pod and Boom type plane like the commander
2 is that after you crash it a few times you tend to knock the motor or tail boom out
of whack, therefore changing the angle of attack and making it even more difficult to
fly.
As for the ACT, this is a very simple function. the Act has 2 light sensors one on top
and one on the bottom of the plane when it senses changes in light it will adjust the
position of the plane. this only works if it is high enough to read the horizon. which
means that the plane needs to be at least 150 feet in the air. the nice thing about the
ACT on the Super Cub is that you can turn it on and off with a button on the top of the
airplane and that it actually controls both throttle and elevator. I hope this
information helps you and hope you wont be discouraged from hobby because of your
expeirience with the commander 2 airplane."

-- Rob
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Old Oct 31, 2007, 11:43 AM
RC Newbie
Colorado
Joined Oct 2007
1 Posts
Great Trainer!

I finally got my Commander 2 (C2) a couple of weeks ago.

I popped the wings on and headed for the local school yard. (No - I did not read the instructions.)

I was so excited! The C2 taxied and climbed gently in to the air. I executed a couple of right turns heading east. I decided to do a 180 to head west when I lost sight of the C2. It had crash landed on the top of a nearby church building! I was able to get a ladder from the church and recover the C2. No major damage to the bird other than a prop strike on the wing.

I took it home to fly again the next day. I found another field which was a little larger. Again the ROG take off was perfect! The flight? Well, I missed the first tree (pwer off, left stick) but hit the second. I didn't realize I had bent the wing. I made a few more attenpts at controlled flight but every time I banked hard, the wing folded.

I went home and actually read the instructions! Bent wings -- BAD! Small field -- BAD!

So I used my remaining store credit at a local hobby shop to order a new wing.

The wing came in and I headed down to the second field. I was cruising along quite well (using the repaired old wing) when I clipped the top of the baseball backstop.

The next day, I found myself out at the RC airfield when there is nothing to hit within a 1/2 a mile! (New wing... Overcast skies... Winds: calm)

What a kick to taxi down the runway and fly around! I did some left turns and some right turns... I tried to do a loop. (I am not sure the C2 can do that.)

There were a couple of veteran RC'ers out there and they thought the C2 was great... I was chatting with them and forgot to turn the C2 around as it headed west. I lost radio contact but the plane drifted off and kept a true course. It landed about 1/4 mile from the runway with no significant damage. The plane truly flies itself!

I can't wait to get back out there! I need to put some color on the wing. It was hard tracking against the white clouds.

I am using the C2 to prepare myself to fly the ParkZone P-51... I bought that a couple of years ago but have been afraid to fly it.

Needless to say, I am hooked! I want to get out and do touch and goes... I can't wait until I can get back out to the field!

I hope this helps!

Happy flying!

CptHydro
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Old Oct 16, 2008, 10:29 PM
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