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Hobby Lobby Starmax F5-E ARF EDF with Retracts Review

Beautifully finished in Camo and with working retracts, Mike Heer finds this to be one very sweet plane.

Splash

Introduction

The F5-E in Swiss markings
The F5-E in Swiss markings
Wingspan:760mm/30-1/2"
Wing Area:12.44dm sq
Weight:37.5 oz.
Length:1312mm
Wing Loading:72.3g/dm sq
Servos:9 nine gram servos
Transmitter:JR 7202
Receiver:Hitec FM Supreme IIS with autoshift
Battery:14.8 volt 4-cell 2,200 mAh Lipoly battery
Motor:outrunner brushless motor
Fan unit:70 mm ducted fan unit
ESC:40 Amps
Manufacturer:StarMax
Available From:Hobby-Lobby
Price:$279.00 with an intro price of $259.00

Big! Bright! Beautiful! All of that, and truly Almost Ready to Fly with 9 installed servos including working retracts and steerable nose gear. It called out to me, "Fly and review!”

Kit Contents

Included in the kit:

  • 9 preinstalled servos
  • 70mm electric ducted fan unit with brushless outrunner motor
  • 40 Amp ESC
  • 4-cell 2,200 mAh lipoly battery pack
  • Retractable landing gear
  • Steerable nose gear
  • Fuselage
  • Fuselage nose cone
  • Two wing panels
  • Decals
  • Tube of glue
  • Horizontal stabilizer (two pieces) with elevators installed
  • Vertical stabilizer with rudder & servo installed
  • Hardware for control arms and control rods

Items need to finish the plane and fly:

  • Lipoly charger/balancer for a 4-cell lipoly pack (Bantam 8)
  • 6 channel minimum transmitter (JR-7202)
  • 6 channel minimum receiver (Hitec Supreme IIS 8 channel used)
  • Small screwdrivers
  • Some foam safe CA glue and kicker
  • Pacer, Formula 560 canopy glue
  • Pilot optional (I couldn't wait)

Assembly

The first thing I did was place the 4-cell battery on my Bantam 8 charger so it would be ready when I was.

Per the instruction manual, I glued on the nose cone first using the supplied glue and added the vertical stabilizer with rudder and pre-installed rudder servo. I used foam safe CA in the fuselage and sprayed kicker on the bottom of the stabilizer and let it dry. I wanted this to be a quick set, and also because the supplied tube of glue did not have a lot of glue in it.

Horizontal stabilizers and elevators.

I wanted to install the control horns to the elevators, but I found the four small screws supplied for that task were somewhat short. I carefully compressed the foam area with the control arm and the mounting plate and secured the front screw by pressing hard with a Phillips screwdriver. I got the screw into the mounting plate. I then added a screw diagonally in back and tightened both. I repeated the process on the other elevator. The elevators are pre-hinged to the stabilizers.

The horizontal stabilizers/elevators had a rectangular block on the fuselage mounting side that had a top, a side, and two ends in contact with the fuselage, which is a nice design for gluing on the stabilizers. I put a thin layer of the supplied glue on the top, side, front and back surfaces of the stabilizer and the matching surfaces on the fuselage and pushed the part into place holding it firmly for a minute while checking on the alignment. I checked on it a couple of times over the next fifteen minutes and repeated the process on the other side. I let those parts dry while I installed the wings. The next morning I connected the elevator control horns to their respective servos in the fuselage to complete the process. (This Camo version had two elevator servos. My friend's earlier Swiss marking version had only one elevator servo. This should be a big improvement in control at higher speeds.

Wings

If this weren't for a review, I might have made a modification by adding a wing spar. know that many RCGroups members love to increase the power with bigger, more powerful motors, and if you are one of those, I strongly recommend that you plan to add a carbon fiber wing rod support or two or add a thin layer of fiberglass on the bottom of the fuselage and wing that doesn't interfere with the ailerons or the retracts.

As it is, the designed wing support is this: gluing the wing onto the side of the fuselage and on top of a short slightly interlocking ledge. I placed a bead of glue along the top of the ledge and against the fuselage above the ledge. I also placed the glue on the matching places on the wing panel as well as the side of the wing out to the front and to the back. I connected the aileron servo on the first wing panel to the extension wire in the fuselage, and the tight pull of the wire got a little glue from the wing panel onto the fuselage where I didn't intend for it to be. I got the wing in place, cleaned up the glue, pressed the wing hard against the side of the fuselage a couple of times during the first five minutes and let it sit for a half hour. It looked like a nice tight fit.

After the half hour, I repeated the process for the second wing panel except this time I didn't plug in the aileron servo to the extension wire. I pressed the wing firmly in place while holding it for five minutes, and then set it aside for a half hour and checked on it a couple times during that time.

Fuselage

I got out my Pacer Formula 560 canopy glue and trial fit the canopy onto the fuselage. There was a molded line where it rested, and I laid a thin bead of glue along that line, wiping the excess with my finger and carefully placed the canopy where it belonged, pressing it against the glue softly. I repeated this every half hour 2 more times, and by the last time the glue was getting tackier, and the canopy was holding against the sides of the fuselage better. One last time, and all gaps were gone. The glue wasn't dry, but it was tacky and holding the canopy in place and would now dry with the canopy in place.

The next morning I connected the control arms to the elevators and their respective servos and adjusted the clevises mechanically as necessary to have neutral elevators with the servo arms at 90 degrees down. plugged in the second aileron servo to the extension wire coming out of the fuselage to finish the wings.

I moved to the retracts and examined how they each connected to their own servo with a short control arm and figured out how they should work and be installed. I hadn't needed any instructions to this point, and the build to this point had been straightforward anyway, but I would have liked some instructions or pictures for the retracts, and there were none. But I quickly saw how to position it and set the short control rod between the retract and the controlling servo.

I decided I wanted to install the retracts in the landing gear down position so I would have access to the servos if I needed to adjust the control arm locations. So I skipped ahead and installed my receiver and the battery pack, and then moved the retract servos to the down position (front wheel lowered) and installed the main gear. There was a little play towards the inside on both of the main gear wheels, so I moved one servo control arm to tighten up one to match the other side, but both still had some play.

RETRACT TIP:

After a couple of flights I remembered that the retracts have computer adjustment on my transmitter. While they all three closed nicely, the two mains had some play towards the inside. Using my computer programing, I took the sub-trim from 100% in the downward movement and moved it out to 125%, then later back down to 120% of normal throw. This still got the wheels to the full down position, but the main wheels were pushed out harder, and there was almost no play towards the inside. My plane’s main wheels were in a much firmer straight down position with no give to the inside.

Downloads

Radio Installation

I opened up the radio and battery compartments and installed a new Hitec Supreme IIS receiver and found numbers on the servo connector plugs in the compartment. The "instructional manual" had no explanation for the numbers. I made my best guess as to how they they would match up and they proved to be a good guesses.

The connector's numbers matched up as follows:

  • 1) Aileron servos
  • 2) Elevator servos
  • 3) Throtttle
  • 4) Rudder and steering servo for nose gear
  • 5) Three retract servos.

I had to reverse the aileron and elevator directions on my programmable JR-7202 transmitter. Throttle, rudder/steering and retracts all worked in the correct direction. I was hoping to find a tube for the antenna in the fuselage, but no such luck. I ran it over the battery box out of the way and then outside and taped it to the bottom of the fuselage. I secured the receiver in the radio compartment with Velcro. I had to make very minor mechanical adjustments to the ailerons and elevator clevises as well as to the servo arms on the front wheel and one of the main retracts. The rudder servo required no adjustment.

Completion

The plane was ready to fly 13 hours after I received it from Hobby-Lobby, and that included a good night's (by my whacked out sleep standards) sleep. The assembly was easy, and except for the vertical stabilizer, was done with the supplied glue which seemed to work very well. Although I only added a one ounce receiver, my plane's RTF weight was 37.5 ounces, 2.5 ounces heavier than the suggested weight.

The servo count: two aileron servos, two elevator servos, one rudder servo, two main retract servos, one front retract servo and one front wheel steering servo for a total of nine.

I added decals after the plane had flown two patrols, morning and evening.

Flying

From the text on the Hobby Lobby’s website:

"This jet has plenty of power to take off from a smooth surface or runway. The speed range is moderate with very good manners. Difficult to stall, the jet will slow to a crawl and still maintain full control. Great to land, the approach is easy to control and smooth landings are easy to do."

That’s a very accurate description. The top speed was only moderate but seemed faster than that after literally crawling around the sky with the plane at a slow throttle setting for a pass or two and then hitting full throttle.

Basics

Elevator response is good on my plane at both slow and high speeds. The ailerons will allow for good turns and axial rolls. Bringing in the rudder with the ailerons allows for smoother turns and barrel rolls. It continues to be controllable even at speeds under 10 miles per hour with a very nice flight envelope.

Taking Off and Landing

All flights have started with a run down the runway and have been wonderful takeoffs. She takes off without any problem or lack of power. Landings have mostly been with the retracts down on runways, and I have enjoyed watching the gear go up after takeoff and come down for landing (very high cool factor for me).

So far my landing gear has worked as it should! I generally don't slam the plane in on landing like a naval aviator making a carrier landing. I prefer to flair and set down gently so I am pretty easy on my planes’ landing gear in most cases. I have made a slide landing on the grass at the park when conditions (large dogs on the loose in runway area) required it. That landing was nice and smooth as well, but wasn't nearly as much fun to watch as when the gear drops on final approach followed by touch down.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

My favorite maneuver (on a fresh battery pack) has been slowly flying down the field with the nose high and then hitting full throttle and climbing. It looks like a US Air Force show maneuver have seen the F-16 perform. WAY COOL! The F5 also does a nice loop and good tight axial rolls. Top speed was only moderate, but seems faster especially after a very slow pass. The plane flies inverted very well, much better than I do. Control and handling have been excellent. Speed ranges from very slow to good moderate, which is fine for me.

My plane's elevator response at full throttle is quicker than my friend's F5-E with Swiss markings first batch that only had one elevator servo. Hopefully they will add a second elevator servo to it as well. This was one improvement where I could easily see the difference.

Tip!

When not at the field I keep the retracts in the up/retracted position. My plane lies on a carpeted bench at home in storage and in my car going to the field. Far less chance of damage to the retracts or the plane itself by storing it this way.

Is This For a Beginner?

With no self correction, I go with Hobby Lobby's call of it being for the intermediate pilot or better.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Downloads

Conclusion

A true ARF with a quick and easy assembly. It’s a lot of fun to be able to fly the plane fully assembled the morning after I receiving it from Hobby Lobby. I was a happy pilot from the get go.

Pluses:

  • The model looks great!
  • Assembles quickly and easily, a true ARF.
  • Assembles so easily I didn't need the instruction manual.
  • Flies very well from slow to a moderately fast speed as advertised.
  • Climbed with more authority than I expected.
  • Using two elevator servos gave good elevator response at all speeds.

Minuses

  • The instruction booklet isn't very helpful
  • Good glue, but I could have used a smidge more.
Last edited by Angela H; Sep 08, 2008 at 07:14 PM..

Discussion

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Old Sep 09, 2008, 12:24 PM
3DHS Junkie
800mZero's Avatar
Rhode Island
Joined Jun 2005
5,682 Posts
sweet review! i have been looking at the swiss one since it showed up on thier home page!
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 01:00 PM
from Plane to LAWNDART!
Aznisegi's Avatar
Lubbock, TX :(
Joined May 2008
578 Posts
I just found my new EDF PLANE
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 02:23 PM
Serenity Now!
jbrundt's Avatar
O'Fallon, MO, USA
Joined Jan 2001
1,315 Posts
I flew mine this weekend for the first time.

It didn't come with an instruction book but after talking with Mike Hines at HL I found out that if you use the stock battery pack that comes with it the CG is right on. With a standard radio at 100% ATV on the servos the control throws are just fine. I had to make a new wire rod for the L/H landing gear actuator. Even with ATV adjustment and sub-trim adjustments I could not get the servo to stop stalling or give positive downlock. I made the new rod 1/8" shorter and that helped. I believe the red servos they use are wired for opposite travel without having to use a servo reverser and that's what may cause the problem. Mike also said to reduce the throw on the nose wheel steering because it's a bit much. I didn't have any problems, however.

The provided screws for the elevator control horns were too short. If you used them you would really crush the foam. I had to dig around my hardware to fine some screws that were small enough in diameter and long enough. I found some long ones but had to cut them to length with a Dremel. Make sure you cut them to length BEFORE installing them as the heat generated will melt the plastic and the foam (ask me how I know). The rudder and aileron horns are pre-installed so no worries there.

I used 15 min epoxy to glue all the styro parts together. Mike from HL said that was fine. 5 min epoxy might not be strong enough, especially if you did some high G pull-ups. I made sure I had a nice fillet between the joints for added strength.

The decals are water slide and I put on a coat of acrylic dullcoat afterwards to seal them. I've found waterslide decals don't hold up well to handling and need something to help protect them. Make sure if you do the same to use something foam friendly.

I also scratch built an ACMI pod to hang on the left pylon. The real aggressors use this to data link the air combat maneuvers to the situation room and for post flight briefs. I made mine from some balsa dowel, tape and plastic tubing.

AUW was 36oz, a tad heavier than the advertised 33.5oz. It wasn't a factor.

If some guys out there decide to detail the cockpit keep the weight down as much as possible. It would be nice to have a known CG point and some nubs on the lower wing to at least check it.

After some pics I took her up. The take off roll was straight with minimal rudder/nosewheel needed. The t/o roll was about 150'. She needed full up elevator trim to fly level, however. It wans't due to nose heavy condition but where I set the neutral position of the elevators. I set them where I thought the trail position would be and this was wrong. Once the trim was set she flew fine (elevator trim was all that was needed). Full power for loops. Rolls were very quick and axial. The plane scoots along well on the stock motor. Plenty of power in the vertical. Low level, high speed passes are AWESOME. The plane is not really an aerobat but will do the basic stuff just fine. I'm sure there will be guys trying to put in a more powerful motor but I have to say the stock one is just fine.

After 6 minutes I decided it was time to land. I found you need to keep a bit of power on approach as the plane slows quickly when you bring the power back to idle or off. Landing was uneventful, if a bit off centerline.

I proceeded to adjust the elevator clevises when during the process one broke. Not good. The plastic is a bit brittle. I had no spares and the wire used is too small a diameter for a standard Goldberg/Dubro mini nylon clevis. No more flying for that day. I'm glad it broke on the ground and not in the air. I've since replaced the wire with some .032" music wire with a z-bend and Du Bro mini E-Z connectors. Much better.

The pack was slightly warm upon removal. Not bad though. After charging the battery I saw I put in about 1250mAh so for a 6 min flight I used a little over half the pack. not too bad. I bought a spare battery with the plane so next time I fly I'll be able to 'round-robin the packs and get maximum flying time.

I would not fly this one off grass. The gear struts just aren't made for it and the method the retracts are attached/fitted into the wing isn't strong enough to withstand repeated stress that grass fields would impose. Now if you belly land it then that's another story.....

here are a few pics on the ground...no in flight shots since I was by my lonesome that day....





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Last edited by jbrundt; Sep 09, 2008 at 02:38 PM.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 02:54 PM
Registered User
Bajora's Avatar
United States, CA, Petaluma
Joined Sep 2004
13,499 Posts
Ohhhhhh MAN but that is a great looking plane! NIce review but I think my wife may be wanting to talk to you when one of these shows up in my hangar soon.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 03:15 PM
Registered User
Joined May 2006
8,113 Posts
In case anyone is wondering the high speed pass at 1:20 in the aerobatics video is 74-75 mph. It might be higher or lower depending on what the temperature was when the video was shot. Still, that is better than some of the other Starmax planes.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 03:47 PM
LOVE MAIDEN'S : >
neiloneil's Avatar
norfolk va
Joined Aug 2007
1,480 Posts
nice review...looks like a sweet plane
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 04:15 PM
Registered User
Enterprise AL
Joined Aug 2008
557 Posts
Got the F-5 completed today. Maiden will be this weekend! I Went all stock. My came with instructions but I really didn't even use them. Anyone with any building experience can figure out how to put this thing together. I went with 5min epoxy on the wings with no spar! I'm sure the wings will stay attached but judging from videos I'm bound to get some wing flex. I'm still worried about the gear though. I ajusted them as close to lock out as possible so i hope to God they don't collapse on landing. It's a big bird and my first retract. I put it next to my Skyrc A-7 and my EDO F-15. Much bigger and heavier. Hope she flys good!
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 04:41 PM
Park Stormer
United States, NJ, Brooklawn
Joined Jul 2008
823 Posts
Sounds awesome! Can't wait to get mine!

I have heard people talk of the landing gear, control servos, and Fan unit being of suspect quality. From the looks of it though, the equipment is typical ARF fair, and looks like it gets the job done. I personally follow an upgrade-as-it-breaks policy anyway.

Also, why does it need 6 channels, Cant the Nose wheel steering/rudder be Y-clipped together and use a single channel?
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 04:57 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,253 Posts
Actually a five channel will do!
Ailerons
Elevator
Rudder/steering
Throttle
Retracts
Thanks for the catch. If you have a five channel transmitter and receiver that will fit the bill you are good to go. My mistake. Mike H.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 05:23 PM
Park Stormer
United States, NJ, Brooklawn
Joined Jul 2008
823 Posts
well, to be fair HL also says it needs 6 channels.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 10:41 PM
Registered User
faustrocket's Avatar
Joined Jun 2008
94 Posts
Oh goodness, I have been eyeballing this for a while. I couldn't even contain myself to read the whole review before posting. (insert giddy, girlish giggle here.)

If my history is correct the F-16 beat this bird out for contract with the airforce back in the day. I have always loved this bird.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 10:56 PM
Suspended Account
lavochkin's Avatar
Mokena,Illinois -United States
Joined Oct 2006
5,833 Posts
Anyone want to buy mine new in box F-5 swiss schemed one? It brand new, all I did was take the horrible stock fan out and disconnected the esc. That essentially is a favor!! As a het or wemo fan is much better for use in there with a 2w-20 or equivelant motor. It was not broken once removed. No need for pics really as its nib other than the above. I'll take 200.00 paypal and you pay shipping of your choice.
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 11:08 PM
Registered User
Bajora's Avatar
United States, CA, Petaluma
Joined Sep 2004
13,499 Posts
Joe, now if it was the camo one, you and me would be sitting down to talk sir!
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Old Sep 09, 2008, 11:38 PM
tom
tomme21's Avatar
USA, LA, Natchitoches
Joined Apr 2004
1,578 Posts
what??

Minuses

* The instruction booklet isn't very helpful
* Good glue, but I could have used a smidge more.

someone needs to read around the groups forum here!!

glue?? instruction manual?? thats it?? what!!!??

i love this plane, would get another one in a second if i could get just the airframe minus the junk radio gear and retracs.

i had to strip mine clean to fly it, and now ive got the biggest and best looking edf jet around my area.

people love it but have all had the same big problems with it i had.

once stripped and re-kitted you got a great looking plane.

i just had to replace the stock battery here yesterday, on its fifth flight it finally puffed up too big to take a chance with, ill be looking to replace it and that will make it a complete overhaul. the battery was the last holdout.

i was lucky, most have had their battery swell on the third or fourth flight.

so, i think your review was great, you got a free plane that was one of the very few that flew great out of the box. i envy your luck.

now, on to my new sapac jas 39, which i finished yesterday and flies like a champ.

i now have two great looking big edf jets that im extremely proud to own.

my hobby lobby f5 and sapac jas grippen.

now excuse me while i don my flak jacket!
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