Into the wild blue yonder. For a foam plane, it performs fantastically.
|Wing Area:||95.6 square inches|
|Weight:||Advertised as 17 oz., but 19 oz. according to my kitchen scale|
|Wing Loading:||28.6 oz/sq. ft.|
|Servos:||Four micro servos (installed)|
|Transmitter:||Four-channel analog FM (included)|
|Receiver:||FM receiver (installed)|
|Battery:||3S 1300mAh 20C LiPo (included)|
|Motor/fan unit:||Brushless motor with 64mm EDF unit (installed)|
|Speed controller:||25-amp brushless ESC (installed)|
In the history of jet fighters, there are quintessential planes that have a timeless yet intimidating look, and the F-16 is one of them. Developed by General Dynamics in the 1970s, it made its debut to the world in 1978 and has since been one of the chief dogfighters not only in the U.S. Air Force but also anywhere from Bahrain to Korea to Norway and everywhere in between.
It has served in all sorts of Middle East conflicts ever since, but it has also served as a fine performer at the local airshow, too, thanks to the Thunderbird squadrons that tour the world, performing nerve-wrecking aerobatic routines at insanely high speeds.
On the smaller-scale field, there are almost as many versions of this plane as there are markings for the full-scale ones. Big, small, fiberglass or foam, they're out there for the taking in your favorite flavor, size, color or material.
As for me, I'm going to be sticking (for now, anyway) with one of the newest releases from G&C Hobby and Nitroplanes, a small foamy without landing gear that should perform well in (relatively) smaller spaces and that should come together (relatively) quickly. Let's see what happens.
Shiny boxes with colorful photos are neat, and this one is no exception. But what really matters is what's inside, so let's rip this piece of cardboard open and get to the nitty gritty of this plane. Here's what I found:
There's little you will need to get the F-16 out on its first sortie, and here's the grocery list:
This plane is touted as an RTF, and in my book, that usually translates to "unpack, charge and boogie." Well, there's a bit more than that required to get this plane boogying, but the to-do list is not too extensive.
The instructions are as sparse as you would expect them to be, with a few pictures that tell the story yet fewer words to complement them. But then again, a plane that's built so much already doesn't quite require much guidance.
In the spirit of not having any airplane parts fly off during the maiden, I took a couple of creative liberties in the build process. First of all, I took some sandpaper and sanded off all the foam areas that were going to be glued to each other. The paint is surprisingly thick, and I burned my fair share of calories in the process (in fact, I probably oversanded a bit, so be careful). Nonetheless, a bit of sanding will help the parts adhere better.
The other thing I did was use 30-minute epoxy instead of the contact cement. I don't have anything against the latter, but I find the former to be a better insurance policy against sudden dismemberment of wings.
The servos are installed, so all that needs to be done here is glue the wings to the fuselage, do the same with the wingtips and attach the servos to the extensions and be done with it.
In a move that might be a deja vu from the previous section, all that's required from you is to douse each horizontal stabilizer with a bit of glue and attach it to the fuselage. The same applies to the vertical stabilizer.
The pushrods are not installed, so it's just a matter of getting them into the servo arms and then to the control horns on each elevator. It's as simple as that.
The only thing that needs to be done here is to attach the nose, made of fairly weak plastic, to the (you guessed it) nose of the plane. I did so, and the plane was finished.
All the electronics are pre-installed, so all that's left to do is to check and make sure the radio is doing its rightful job. The antenna comes coiled up, so now (before you forget) would be a good time to unwrap it and route it to the back of the plane, securing it with some tape. I put eight AA batteries in the transmitter and checked everything to make sure it was doing what it was supposed to be doing.
Elevator? Check. Ailerons? Check. Throttle? Papers sitting behind the F-16 blew all over the place, so check. It was relatively trimmed out of the box, but a few turns on the pushrod connectors did the trick.
Charging was another story, though: The supplied charger does its job, but it does so at a bit of a slow rate, and even then I'm not sure how successfully it does it. The charge rate for this specific battery should be 1.3A, but alas, the supplied LiPo charger only goes up to .8A.
As we can see, building this F-16 might take you all of a couple of hours at the very most. It's easy, painless and relatively quick. Now let's see if it flies as fast as it builds.
Maiden day was upon me, so it was off to the field I went. This is not a huge plane, so 40 unobstructed acres are not a requirement per se, but something a couple of football fields long might not hurt the cause either, especially for the first outing or two. As always, I headed out to my club, the Alabaster R/C Club, to perform the maidening ritual.
One of the reasons I decided to try my hand with this plane is something quite simple: I don't have access to a long runway from which to take off with my jets. Grassy runways won't cut the mustard if I'm donning a set of wheels, so a hand toss or bungee launch are what I always need. Since this EDF has no landing gear, it fits the bill just fine for me.
Hand-launching is a learned technique, and for this plane, it's certainly something that you need to know about. It doesn't necessarily require a testosterone-induced hurl, but rather a steady, well-aimed throw without much of an angle of attack. I often enlist the help of a fellow club member for the launches, but you can do it yourself without much of a problem either. Just give it its fair share of wattage, throw it with the nose pointed up a bit and then be gentle on the sticks until the F-16 gains enough energy to cruise along on its own.
If you thought launches were easy, get ready for some easier landings. While most jets, due to the lower wing loading, tend to drop like bricks when you let go of the throttle, this G&C Hobby creation was surprisingly floaty. In fact, my landing approaches always lingered for a good 50 yards longer than what I had aimed for originally, and I have burned a few extra calories going to retrieve the plane at the other end of the runway.
Flying the F-16 is not for the faint of heart, but it's a surprisingly docile machine once you get it set it up to your liking.
For me, the maiden flight felt a bit too hairy. All throughout the first passes, it felt like it was either a bit tail-heavy or that it had some sort of thrust-angle issue. It kept wanting to climb uncontrollably when I went wide-open on the throttle. At medium speeds, it fared all right, more than all right, in fact, but it just became too twitchy at high speeds.
Not knowing from the instructions where the center of gravity would fall, I still tried adding a small amount of weight to the nose. That wasn't such a good idea, so apparently the plane was well-balanced.
What did make a difference was something a bit simpler: dumping the included radio system. This is a fast, twitchy plane that zooms along and requires subtle inputs along the way. The "Famous" radio quickly became infamous for its inability to keep up with the F-16, so I resorted to the big guns: Spektrum DX7 Special Edition and Spektrum AR6100E, to the rescue!
Did it make a difference? You bet it did. Having a good amount of expo (read: 50 percent on ailerons and elevator) while still keeping the same throws on all surfaces made the plane a lot more manageable, especially at high speeds. With everything a bit gentler on the sticks, it flew like it was on rails. Mission accomplished. Testing may resume now.
With that radio issue out of the way, it was time for some real flying. So, another toss into the wind and...
Success! The plane darted skyward without any odd tendencies to speak of. For a plane that's this small with such small wing area and with so much power under the cowl, it performed surprisingly gentle. In fact, it felt less like an EDF than I had expected it to; full throttle wasn't a requirement for the full duration of the flight.
In fact, cruising around was more than doable. I often made passes at half throttle and even a bit less than that, and the F-16 didn't want to fall out of the sky. It held its own in the air and flew, again, as if it were on rails. Once I rammed the throttle stick, however, the plane would just dart along. With the proper radio equipment it wasnt uncontrollable. Low-altitude, high-speed passes quickly became a favorite.
The roll rate was a bit disappointing, however. I was hoping for a bit of a faster rate, but the F-16 is a bit sluggish at it. At least the rolls are axial, so that's a plus.
There's enough power to perform a loop, but without a rudder, there's often a tendency for the plane to snap out in the middle. C'est la vie, as they say and it could be worse, for at least they have been accomplished on my watch.
The one thing that did impress my the most is how relatively floaty this plane is. I can chop the throttle, and the F-16 won't just be gravity-bound right away. The glide path is nice and gentle, and if you exercise good energy and throttle management, you'll be in the air longer than you would expect.
Speaking of flight times, it's safe to say that you'll be getting between five and seven minutes of decent flight time, depending on your flying style. As for me, it usually involves a fair amount of low-speed passes, but it also calls for a few gentle circuits around the field to let my knees stop shaking.
Speaking of field, once you get a bit accustomed to this plane, you could fly it in a large park without much of a problem. 150-200 yards should be plenty, though the trees will quickly close in on you if you don't slow down enough between full-throttle passes.
Jets are jets, and they were made for one purpose and one purpose alone: to fly fast. When it comes to that purpose, this model does it right.
But, beyond loops and rolls and the different variants of it, there's not much more than can be accomplished with this three-channel model. You can also fly inverted, but that's about it.
"But what about the Thunderbirds?," you might be itching to ask me? Well, they have a rudder, so that solves our dilemma right there. Without such a contraption, our aerobatic performance gets a bit more limited.
But fear not: You can fly fast, low and straight to your heart's desire, and that's enough special flight performance for me. I can be content with that.
A true beginner might keep this plane in the air for all of 3.274 seconds, upon which it might just become an earth-bound dart. It's twitchy, it's fast and it's not a calm, relaxing flyer as we know it. So, in other words, it's a big, resounding no-no for a beginner.
It's not a second plane, either, for that would involve learning ailerons. It may not be a great third one, either, since that might require learning about planes that go where they're pointed.
But if what you're after is your first electric ducted-fan aircraft, it's fair to say that this would be a good introduction to the wonderful world of impellers. It's surprisingly docile, and it's surprisingly durable, too. I've had a few botched takeoffs in my time with it, and they wranged anywhere from "Pick it up and toss it again, boy!" to "Where's that glue gun again?" But even then it's simple enough to repair if you get a couple of clean breaks (like I did), and it was back in the air in a matter of minutes. The only thing that kept getting crunched was the feeble nose cone I understand the "bumper" approach to this thin plastic part, but after a few landings, it becomes crumpled and downright unattractive.
For the most part, I was not disappointed at all with this plane. Needless to say (for you have seen the video already), it's a hoot to fly, no doubt about it. It flies slow yet can rip the skies like a champ, and it does so with an equal amount of good looks and good performance.
It's not a perfect plane by any means, but then again, most RTF can sometimes be lacking in the electronics department. But, if you take the plane itself and put your own radio in it, you've got yourself a fun little plane that's as portable as it is enjoyable. I thought it would be a handful, but I now stand corrected. The F-16 has found a spot into my list of frequently flown planes.
I would like to thank the following for making this review possible: Nitroplanes for providing the review kit; and my friends Chris Giles, Bob Anderson and Tony Muggeo at the Alabaster R/C Club for helping with the outstanding photos and footage for this review.
And, if you're looking to get into electric jets, this could very well become a fun plane to earn your EDF wings with. Just be ready for a good dose of voltage-induced speed.
|Apr 21, 2009, 08:08 PM|
New Castle, PA
Joined Oct 2006
Hey Napo. Its me again and still having problems viewing the video. Can I bother you to give a link to youtube or some other site like that?
I just can't wait to check out this plane.
|Apr 21, 2009, 08:17 PM|
Doesn't look too bad for a foamie ARF. Nice review.
I am wondering though, is there no wing spar/ carry through? I would not trust a foam to foam butt joint on a 20oz EDF jet.
|Apr 21, 2009, 08:47 PM|
|Apr 21, 2009, 08:48 PM|
|Apr 21, 2009, 09:16 PM|
I'm not quite all that familiar with the HP one, so I'd hate to make a call on that one. I believe I've seen a Phase 3 one fly, though, and that one is significantly bigger than this one, and a friend of mine had it running on 4S and not with the stock power system either. So it was a different animal altogether.
What I can say about this one, though, is that it's nice not to have a landing gear, and you can fly it in relatively small quarters, too...
|Apr 22, 2009, 07:09 AM|
Great review Napo! This plane just looks BAAADDDDD.....in the air, and I mean that in a good way! It has a great sound too!
|Apr 22, 2009, 12:37 PM|
Joined Oct 2004
I had the same problem flying my Exceed F-35 on the stock radio. I was going to throw it out untill i put a Spektrum radio in it. Now it flies great. Wish they would offer the kits without radio.
Did you ever try Gorrilla glue(white)? It fills the gaps and is super strong. I tested it on a few foam parts and it holds together better than anything else.
|Apr 22, 2009, 06:14 PM|
(PS. If you want to redo the wingtips: just cutoff the fake stubby missliles, get a piece of squarebalsa paint it grey to make it into a missile rail, (Look at the pics of real F-16's (calculate the length by comparing it to plans or so) and fix it to the wing by either a)cutting a slit in the wing, and a piece of thin plastic, which is glued in a slit in the rail. or b) use a tiny superstrong magnet, (mostly used for hatches and so) so it will come off, when the misslie rail keeps hanging behind a doorpost, or your cardoor or your sleeve or high grass upon landing or whatever...
|Apr 23, 2009, 05:42 AM|
Hi guys I have what I suspect is the same model although mine has both undercariage, drop tanks and a rudder with the same dodgy 72 meg radio. Mine too was binned in exchange for my PCM 10x and ar6100E. so far I absolutely love the model, but the colour scheme will be replaced buy the tiger meet colours to make the model more vissable. I beleive the manufacturer (Fantastic models) is about to release an F-14 complete with swing wing and retracts, should be loads of fun.
|Apr 24, 2009, 04:51 PM|
Very nice review Napo. The radio with my Catalina was adequate for a parkflyer but I went to a Spektrum receiver with my Catalina to make traveling easier with one less transmitter. The radio with my Blue Ray helicopter from Nitroplanes is very good. Mike H
|May 01, 2009, 09:42 PM|
Joined Mar 2009
That intake setup is so far off scale- it looks terrible. From the side it doesn`t even look like an F-16. Why can some companies ( like Flying Styro) make F-16s that look scale and fly well and companies like this make stuff like this that they shouldn`t even be allowed to call an F-16?
It looks like an F-16 carrying a huge tube under it. Even the nose cone is wrong-too pointy. Yuck!
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