Pilot-1 PA-12 1/8 Scale ARF Review - RC Groups
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Pilot-1 PA-12 1/8 Scale ARF Review

Another anxiously awaited entry into the Pilot-1 hangar is the PA-12 from Hobby Lobby International. This pedigreed Super Cruiser is a park flyer extraordinaire with a ridiculously low wing loading of 10.44 oz./sq.ft.



Wingspan:53.25 in. / 1353mm
Wing Area:360 sq. in. / 23.23 sq. dm.
Weight w/o battery:27.5 oz. / 780g
Weight with 2200 mAh battery:Approx . 34 oz. / 964g
Length:39.5 in. / 1003mm
Wing Loading:10.44 oz/sq. ft. / 32g/ sq. dm.
Servos:Hitec HS-55
Transmitter:Futaba 9 Cap Super
Receiver:Hitec Micro 05S
Battery:Enerland 25C 2200 mAh 11.1 LiPo
Motor:Axi 2217/16 1050KV
ESC:Jeti Advance 18 plus Brushless
Available From:Hobby-Lobby International

Known as the Super Cruiser, the PA-12 morphed from the J-5C (Cub Cruiser) into a more popular plane with a chrome-moly frame and greater maximum takeoff weight after WWII. The obvious front cabin bracing behind the window is present in several later Pipers. The Super Cruiser also gained some notoriety in 1947 by flying around the world with little problem using the same engine still being flown in C-152s. Many of the nearly 4,000 are still flying.

Pilot-1 has recreated another great moment in aviation history in the PA-12. Itís right on target in its scale looks and flight characteristics.

Kit Contents

This is a completely balsa and lite-ply covered model. It is well made, and from my observations, produced with a great deal of care. Mine arrived double boxed and well protected with no damage.

Kit Contains:

  • Covered fuselage
  • Battery hatch
  • Engine cowl
  • Landing gear
  • Wheels, Velcro, tail wheel, misc. hardware
  • Windshield and side windows
  • Covered wings, and tails sections
  • Tube joiner and wing struts
  • Pushrods

Kit Requires:

  • 4 channel receiver
  • 2100 Ė 220 mAh 11.1 LiPo
  • 4 Hitec HS-55 servos
  • 18 amp Jeti ESC
  • Axi 2217/16 Brushless motor
  • Axi 22 series motor mount
  • APC 9x6 slow-flyer prop
  • solder and soldering iron
  • 5-minute epoxy
  • Thin CA
  • Canopy glue
  • Hot glue
  • Misc. tools
  • Deans connectors
  • 2- 12 inch aileron servo extensions


This is an ARF that will take you a few evenings to complete, and much of that time will be in careful gluing of the front windshield. The detail and quality of the covering is excellent.


The wings are real eye candy. The N numbers and the contrasting maroon and tan are very much like several planes still flying today. There is a sense that this plane is just a little larger than many of the planes in the less than 1000 gram class, and the 53 inch wingspan certainly gives a sense of its lift capability. The wing loading is in the glider realm at 10.44 oz./sq.ft.

The wing build begins with the installation of the servos into each wing. Servo doors are included. I centered the servos and attached them to the backside of the doors.

I aligned the servo arm inside the servo door opening, using a small dab of hot glue to make sure the servo stayed put while I installed the servo mounts to the doors and to also ensure a little extra adhesion. Once the servo was lined up, I glued in the servo mounting blocks using plenty of epoxy and the screws supplied with the servos to complete the attachment. Then I pulled the servo leads through and lightly secure the servo doors.

The ailerons are pre-hinged and glued, but only to the aileron side. I took the aileron loose from the wing and flexed the hinges so they worked easily. The fit of the ailerons is a little tight, so you may have to trim some of the wing if they rub. I glued it with a few drops of CA.

I installed the control horns, measuring a parallel line from the servo arm and making a mark, then measuring back from the hinge line abut 8mm and making another alignment mark. I pressed the horn into the covering to mark the points and drilled out the horn points removing the covering from under the horn.

Once the servos were in place and the linkages installed, I joined the wings. Itís a glueless process that involves slipping the tube spar in place and then the center section while threading the servo extensions down and through the bottom of the center section. I repeated for the other side, joining the wing halves with the supplied bolts. Blind nuts are provided in the wing.


The tail requires installing the wing so you can make sure the tail is square. I used the supplied bolts and measured from the wing tips to the horizontal stabilizer to get the symmetry critical to good flight characteristics. I marked the covering and removed it (22.5 inches was the number). The instructions say that one should be able to discern the top of the horizontal stabilizer, but I could not. I believe that component is symmetrical on both sides. I then glued with CA and did the same process for the vertical stabilizer.

The red trim on the tip of the stabilizer lines up perfectly with the fuselage trim.

Just like the ailerons, the hinges are pre-glued to the elevator and rudder. I flexed them a few times to get them to loosen up and move freely, lined the elevator up and glued with thin CA.

The rudder requires you to install the landing gear before you glue the rudder in place which is a pretty typical process. I glued the gear in place in the rudder with 5-minute epoxy, making sure the metal bracket was centered and that the rudder was centered behind the fuselage before I marked the holes for screwing in the landing gear bracket. I used CA to permanently attach the rudder hinges to the vertical stabilizer.

I installed the control horns just like the ailerons and backed them up 9mm from the hinge line.

To finish the tail, I installed the flying wires, which was one of the few diversions from the instruction manual. Parts are supplied to thread the wire up through the horizontal stabilizer and then through the vertical and back down through the horizontal stabilizer. Small crimps are supplied, and it appeared that I had to thread the wire starting with one loop at the tail wheel bracket and then the other on the other side of the bracket. Unfortunately, the wire is not long enough. Parts are supplied, including a spring to actually thread the wire starting at one crimped loop and loop the other end through the spring attached to the tail gear bracket. This provided method works just fine. Do not over stretch the spring.


The beautiful fuselage is incredibly detailed. Letís walk around and take a look.

I found it was necessary to work the landing gear down into the provided slot so that they lay flush when screwed down.

Motor and ESC

I have already mentioned that I hooked up the radio gear prior to installing. But before I did that, I needed to solder the three bullet connector to the ESC and motor and solder the Deanís connector to the battery and the ESC.

The Axi motor fits well, provides the proper CG and clears the cowling. Bolts are provided. I routed the motor wires though one of the cutouts. The ESC mounts within the fuselage just over the battery tray. I used a Velcro strap to hold this tight and another Velcro strap to hold the battery in place. I also mounted the switch from the ESC inside the battery compartment with hot glue.

The cowl was an easy fit. I used pieces of paper to mark the existing cowl blocks, slipping the cowling under the paper and parking the screw location after I lined up the prop shaft in the front of the cowling.


If you really want a nice looking plane, take your time here. I used canopy glue since it dries clear. I found the best method was to pull the front window tight and tape it in place. Wherever there was no tape, I ran a bead of glue along the window and the fuselage and worked it under the window. I waited overnight for that to dry and then removed the tape and finished applying the glue. This process kept the window clean and free of glue.

The side windows only fit one way. I tried them on both sides and made sure before I applied any glue or trim that I had them in the right place. I sparingly applied glue and taped them in place from the inside of the fuselage.

Wing struts

The wings require struts. These are wood and aluminum and fit perfectly. I needed to slightly bend the tips of the struts to make sure they lay flat on the fuselage and wing, then I made the locations for the struts and secured with screws. Because it is marked perpendicular from the leading edge and the trailing edge, the location of the struts can be influenced if you let the wing tip touch anything during the marking process. I placed the plane on its back and supported the center section of the wings with foam.

!!Radio Installation

There is plenty of room to install the servos and receiver within the cockpit and the ESC, switch and battery within the battery compartment. I did pass a tube through the fuselage for routing the antennae wire and placed some foam under the battery to cushion the battery and force it to stay still under the Velcro.


This portion of the instructions really were excellent. I began the final setup by checking the CG. The instructions indicate the CG is 2 inches behind the leading edge. Because the wing struts and landing gear are in the way, some CG devices will not work. Instead, I fashioned a CG device I could hold.

Next I set the control throws. Not only are the throws provided, the highly recommended expo is too.

Elevator High rate

  • 22mm up and 22mm down
  • 25% Expo

Elevator Low Rate

  • 15mm up and 15mm down
  • 20% Expo

Rudder High Rate

  • 20mm right and 20mm left
  • 25% Expo

Rudder Low Rate

  • 15mm right and 15mm left
  • 20% Expo

Ailerons High Rate

  • 14mm up and 6mm down
  • 25% Expo

Ailerons Low Rate

  • 11mm up and 4mm down
  • 20% Expo

Mix Aileron to Rudder

  • 12% or 5mm

The PA-12 is not a full aerobatic plane. This model version is very much like the scale plane and has limited aerobatic capability but does roll, loop and do inverted flight using these settings.


The PA-12 flies wonderfully. But when scale is truly achieved, some of the tendencies of the original are retained. For example, the PA-12 will stall. It does so just like the original with a left wing tip drop. Power on is more dramatic than power off. It glides like a glider, but can move on with some throttle. In fact, you can hear it when you make passes even with the power off. The wind whistles through the struts, and it sounds fabulous.

It is one of those planes that draws you into the period. Just like warbirds, the PA-12 Cruiser makes you think of the days of having one of these little beauties on your farm ready to fly whenever you like. In fact, I was parked at a store with this in the back of the grocery packer, and someone came up and started to talk about one his grandfather owned. The PA-12 draws attention on the ground and in the air.

Overall, I loved flying the PA-12. It was just a little pitch sensitive so I dialed in some more expo, and that resolved the problem. It flies as well as the original.


Basics are exactly what you have with the PA-12: stable flight, good control, responsiveness, great looks in the air and exceptional performance. I liked the Axi motor as prescribed. It accelerated well, but did not make the plane behave like a vertical rocket. It gave good power when I needed it.

This plane has a strong airframe that is well designed and feels solid in the air. It has all the character of a 1940ís airplane and all the technological advances of the 21st century and makes for a super flying machine.

Taking Off and Landing

Because of the balanced components, I could throttle up, keep rolling, lift the tail and then lift off. There was no need to cram the throttle forward and jump off the runway. The PA-12 was very well behaved, and there was no need for much rudder correction. Landings were just as simple: I just lined it up and let it glide to the runway. No stall tendencies with power off were present.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Of course it does loops, but rolls required that little bit of dual rate and some healthy doses of down elevator once I got her upside down. The flat bottom wing is not an inverted flying wing. I also recommend you get some altitude if you want to do some rolls (remember that stall?). Pins are real easy to achieve as you get it into a stall and keep the nose up. Getting out of the stall just requires you putting the nose down.

It also loops better with the dual rate on high. The loops were big and round with little variation. The low rate tended to let the plane lose too much airspeed at or near the top. You can use the low rate, but you have to have some speed going in.

Is This For a Beginner?

I would say this is for the intermediate pilot wanting to gain the experience of owning a nostalgic scale 1940s aircraft. It had nothing that would discourage a beginner in flight, but I am not sure how durable the airframe is after a crash. Lite-ply and balsa are a little more difficult to repair.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery



Thank you Hobby Lobby for making these beautiful planes available. The PA-12 is an outstanding opportunity for pilots to experience the nostalgic era of 1940s flying n Pilot-1 style. I canít wait for the next Pilot-1 to come out.


  • Easy build
  • Excellent laser cutting
  • Outstanding covering with detail
  • Flies like I believe the original flew
  • Great coupling of components


  • Perhaps an addendum on the tail build and flying wires
  • Landing gear supports over time will separate as they spread
Last edited by Angela H; Jul 30, 2009 at 06:06 PM..
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Jul 30, 2009, 05:50 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
As of 2:49 Pacific Daylight Time, July 30th: There is no video in the article to view. It is n/a.
Jul 30, 2009, 06:04 PM
Dr. Dave
Repairs are underway
Jul 30, 2009, 06:06 PM
Angela H's Avatar
Fixed it!
Jul 30, 2009, 07:41 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Nice review Dave! Looks like a fun plane to fly around for a relaxed flight. I have a friend you can't decide which Pilot plane he is going to buy and I don't know if your review will make it easier for him or harder as he has been leaning towards the Waco. I don't think he can go wrong with either one. I love the nice Mid-west clouds in the sky in your video. Most of our summer days are cloudless here in the cental valley of CA. Mike H
Jul 30, 2009, 08:41 PM
Wishing I was at Torrey Pines
dee-grose's Avatar
Looks good, Dave! Will give it a more thorough read later, but the pictures are splendid! Kudos to your photographer!

EDIT: Dave, I just finished reading the article. Great job and very thorough. Looks like it built almost exactly like the Pilot-1 Champ. Change the colors and some of the pictures could be interchanged!

Again, the pictures were great, especially the flying shots. That was a perfect setting for that plane. Very nice indeed!

I watched the video too. Looked like a good thermal day. I saw you fly thru some lift several times. Did you try thermalling the PA-12? Bet the Radian would have done well that day!

Good job, Dave! I can't wait to see what else Hobby-Lobby has in store for us...

Last edited by dee-grose; Jul 30, 2009 at 11:27 PM.
Jul 31, 2009, 07:02 AM
Dr. Dave
It was indeed a beautiful day. The puffy clouds kept blocking the sun so Dawn and I just sat around in the middle of a sod farm and waited. We have had some really nice cool temps here over the last few weeks and through this weekend.

Andy, you are correct I think both are similar. I was most impressed with the size. One of those planes that while I wish I owned all the originals this one would be a favorite in anyones hanger.
Jul 31, 2009, 09:20 AM
Registered User
pda4you's Avatar
I love the pictures with the fields and farm buildings in the background - reminds me of home and the PA-12 is right at home in that setting!

Great review - nice little plane...

Jul 31, 2009, 03:31 PM
Registered User
very nice review. thanks!
Aug 01, 2009, 02:06 AM
Plowin Dirt
deckert's Avatar
Nice review and great pics. As a lover of these old-timey birds, I'd buy this one except for a single factor, the color scheme. It's not going to be in my stable and that's a loss because I'd really like to have it. And NO, I'm not doing a recover!

Aug 01, 2009, 06:11 AM
Registered User
Great review of a fine little aircraft!! Photos and videos are exceptional also.
Thanks for all your hard work.

Aug 01, 2009, 05:05 PM
Registered User
A BIG THANKS,Jim.as I purchased one about 6 weeks ago.I have not started on it,but I AM SURE I WILL REFERENCE YOUR REVIEW OFTEN.
Aug 02, 2009, 09:42 PM
Suspended Account
Camel Tow's Avatar
I love it !!!

I'm the type of guy that likes the old planes, and that review was great -

I just might order one up this week - - Jim -
Aug 03, 2009, 06:16 AM
Dr. Dave
Thanks all. I had to be out of town this weekend, but plan on getting the PA-12 into the air again tonight. Dan, what is you color scheme?
Aug 05, 2009, 09:12 PM
Retired and Lovin' it!
TPfingston's Avatar
Great review. In that setting, I kept looking for the spray attachment for doing a little crop dusting. Really nice. Makes me really tempted.


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