Horizon Hobby E-flite Beechcraft Staggerwing 480 ARF with Retracts Review - RC Groups

Horizon Hobby E-flite Beechcraft Staggerwing 480 ARF with Retracts Review

The Beechcraft Staggerwing set records in speed and altitude in the 1930s and served in World War II for both the Army and Navy. E-flite has come out with a very nice looking model in the Navy colors.



Wingspan:35 inches
Wing Area:354 sq inches
Weight:25 oz.
Length:30.7 inches
Retracts:Optional micro pneumatic retracts
Servos:5 sub-micro DS76 with flaps and retracts
Transmitter:Spektrum DX7s
Receiver:6 Channel Spektrum AR6115
Battery:E-flite 11.1V 2100mAh 3S 20C Li-Po
Motor:E-flite 480
Available From:Horizon Hobby

The Beechcraft Staggerwing was designed and built early in the 1930s and was a significant development in the world of aviation doing well as an air racer, setting an altitude record and serving as an executive transport in civilian and military use. Initially built early in the Great Depression it first flew in 1932 with a range of 800 miles and a speed of over 200 miles per hour. It changed aviation and how aviation was perceived. However due to the depression, sales started slowly with only 18 sold in 1933 but over 400 had been sold before the start of World War II. The plane took extensive man hours to manufacture with fabric over wood formers and stringers over a welded steel tube frame. The interior was finished with leather and mohair trim. In 1933 a Staggerwing was flown to victory in the Texaco Trophy Race. Captain Farquhar flew one around the world in 1935 and it won the 1936 Bendix Trophy Race while flown by Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes. Jackie Cochran set a women's speed record of 203.9 miles per hour in her Staggerwing and a women's altitude record of over 30,000 feet. She finished third in her Staggerwing in the 1937 Bendix Trophy Race. Years later Staggerwings were even raced at the Reno National Air Races in 1970.

The video below is from E-flite and is what attracted my attention to the Staggerwing in the first place. The plane is very nicely presented in this promotional video

Kit Contents

Other Items Supplied by E-flite

E-flite Supplied

  • Five DS76 servos
  • E-flite 40 A ESC
  • Spektrum AR6115 Park Flyer receiver
  • E-flite 480 motor
  • Special E-flite prop adapter with collet (EFLM1924L)
  • E-flite 3s 11.1V 2100mAh LiPo battery pack
  • One 6" servo extension
  • E-flite micro pneumatic retracts (EFLGPO150)

Tools For Assembly

  • Felt-tipped pen
  • Pencil
  • Pliers
  • Flat file
  • Pin vise
  • Ruler
  • Sandpaper
  • Side cutters
  • Hobby scissors
  • 1/16" Drill bit
  • Hex wrench 3/32" (1.5mm)
  • Hobby knife with new #11 blade
  • Phillips screwdrivers sizes: 0, 1 and 2
  • Medium CA
  • Thin CA
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Silicone adhesive
  • Thread lock
  • air pump
  • Towel to work on and protect the part's finish


They recommend binding the receiver to the transmitter before starting assembly so I did that. Be sure to rebind your receiver after finishing programming to keep the servos from moving to their endpoints when turning the system on and waiting for the transmitter and receiver to connect.

WARNING: Do NOT use a CA accelerator, "kicker," as it will damage the finish of the model and the foam as well. Even foam-safe accelerators will damage the finish of your model. Allow the CA to cure WITHOUT the use of an accelerator.

Top Wing

The top wing comes as one piece with the ailerons already installed. The aileron control rods have centered control connectors with a circle that clevises from the control rods can connect to from one aileron servo mounted in the center of the wing. For assembly I cut out a small square of foam in the front of the aileron mounting box for the servo wire to go through. I slipped the wire through and secured an E-flite DS-76 digital servo in the box with the two screws that came with the servo by screwing them into the plastic frame at the top of the servo mounting box. With the servo in place I removed the single arm servo arm. I connected the servo to the receiver and centered the servo and then secured a two arm servo arm to the servo. Per the instructions I had mounted the servo so that the servo arms were near the front of the wing. The instructions called for me to connect two 40mm controls rods with clevises to the servo arms and the aileron control connection rods. Although my kit had a bag of control rods with clevises It had three short control rods and only one 40 mm control rod for the ailerons.

At this point I set the top wing aside and called Horizon Hobby about the problem the next day and they told me replacement parts would be sent but it would probably include all control rods and clevises needed for the plane. No hassle - they just confirmed that I had gotten the kit directly from them and shipped the replacement parts. A box with a complete set of replacement clevises arrived later in the week and this package had 2 of the longer 40 mm clevises as shown below in the replacement set photo below. Great service with no hassle.

Bottom Wing

Like the top wing the bottom wing comes in one piece but instead of ailerons, it has built in flaps that were ready to connect to a servo. For this installation I removed the servo arm from the E-flite DS-76 servo and connected the servo to channel six on my receiver and centered the servo. I installed a single arm servo arm and installed the Z-bend of the flap control rod into the second to bottom hole on the servo arm. I adjusted the clevis so that the flaps were up when the servo arm was in the flap up position and they were down with the servo in the flap down position. At this point I glued the servo in place on the wing with a little bit of medium CA. After the glue dried I confirmed I had three flap positions with all the way up, a middle position and a down position. Next step was the installation of the landing gear. I installed the included landing gear and their plastic mounting plates fit onto the wing's molded plates perfectly. I simply followed the instructions step by step per the instruction manual. Since I have the optional retracts I will discuss how I installed them into the wing with more detail. I did fly the plane initially with the standard landing gear.

Wing Installation to the Fuselage

There are two blue colored metal plates for the top wing and two for the bottom wing. These plates have nuts secured in them by plastic beads with a hole for the bolt to go through. The wing mounting bolts get screwed into the nuts to secure the wings to the fuselage. The blue metal plates are glued into slots in the foam fuselage. Jamming the wing bolts into these plates can dislodge the nuts that are needed to secure the wing bolts. Insert the bolts gently and screw them into the nuts. I apparently played rough with them and had to re-secure two nuts back into the blue mounts. The plastic beads were pressed into place and nut secured with glue. I had to remove the two mounting plates to again secure the nuts back into them and I secured the beads in place with Gorilla glue. Using a toothpick I applied Gorilla glue to the sides of the bead and the metal mounts of the other two wing mounts to secure the nuts in place. I recommend adding some glue to the sides (sides only) of these wing mounts before starting assembly.

Optional Micro Pneumatic Retracts: READ CAREFULLY!

After several flights with the standard landing gear I removed them and I installed the optional E-flite retracts, part number: EFLGPO150 and installed another E-flite DS-76 digital servo to control the retracts. There were some problems fitting some of the retract parts with the plane kit parts and the instruction manual was wrong in locating the fill and supply lines but the retracts can be installed, do work, and in my opinion make the plane look very cool. Stick with me and I hopefully will make the experience almost as easy as it should have been in the first place. (I said ALMOST.)

1) In setting up the landing gear servo I followed the instructions. I centered the servo and removed the control arm from the servo. I cut the control arm off at the second hole from the servo per the instructions and re-secured the servo arm on the servo. Next per the instructions I bent the wire control rod that goes between the servo arm and the retract valve with a distance of 1 1/8 inches.

2) I cut a 3-inch section of both the blue and red air lines and installed them where indicated on the retract valve. The instructions were WRONG here but I didn't discover that until much later. REVERSE the installation of the air lines with BLUE in BACK and RED in the FRONT of the valve closer to the servo. Both sets of instructions (plane and retracts) were wrong with the position of the air lines. Go with red towards the front control connector (closer to the servo) with blue behind it. Until I made this correction my retracts would not work.

3) Next, I went to secure the retract valve to the wing using the plastic mount secured into the wing for it. Two bolts and nuts were supplied in the retract set to secure the valve through two holes in the retract valve and then through the two holes in the plastic mounting piece. The holes DO NOT both line up! I found I could only get one bolt mounted at a time so I went with the front bolt and it did the job. In the course of my working with the retracts and replacing the air lines the glue came loose on the plastic retract mount. While it was off of the wing I used a hobby knife with a #11 blade and carved out plastic on the hole portion of the back screw mount. It was the top outer quarter of the hole. I was then able to use the second small bolt to secure the retract valve to the back of the mounting plate. With that accomplished I first tried CA to glue the mount back exactly where it had been before. When that didn't hold I went to Gorilla glue which has held very well. One problem solved. (Had the mount not come loose I would have continued to go with just one bolt in front securing the retract valve as that had been working fine for me in operating the valve.)

4) The red and blue air lines from the retract valve go to their own T-fittings. The blue air line will connect with the two main retracts with a t-fitting after the retracts are installed into the wing as described below. The red air line T-fitting has an air line to the fill valve that gets mounted in the wing and connects to the air pump to charge the system and an air line that connects to the air tank with the other half of the quick disconnect valve. The instructions and the pictures in the Staggerwing manual properly took me through these steps. They are different from the instructions that came with the retracts so I followed the Staggerwing's manual with one exception here. The manual stated that the fill valve is the longer of the two valves supplied (TRUE) and has a BRASS nipple (FALSE) for one air line. My kit had the longer (fill) and shorter (quick disconnect) valve but neither of them had a brass nipple. The longer valve is the air fill valve, I ignored the mention of the brass nipple as there wasn't one on the valves in my kit.

5) At this point I programmed my Spektrum DX7s for the start of the gear mounting. I had earlier activated the landing gear switch to control the landing gear and now I reduced the throw of the gear servo to as low as it would go which was 60%. I connected the control rod to the retract valve and the serve arm (I had to take it off and put it back on to do this.) I threw the gear switch and it moved the exact amount desired. Thus 60% movement was perfect for my Staggerwing's retract servo movement.


I cut and installed the air line tubes per the instructions but didn't connect anything until I was told to do so. I found I was able to trim most of the air lines and I encourage trimming them as much as possible as there is very little room for everything when you later go to secure the bottom wing to the fuselage. I found I further trimmed some of the air lines after I first tried to mount the bottom wing to the fuselage. When I changed the red and blue air line positions on the retract valve I replaced the blue air line as I needed it longer after my trimming. Fortunately, they supplied more air line then was needed, even with my changes.

6) Securing the Optional retracts into the wing was the most disconcerting portion of the assembly. While the plastic plates for the fixed landing gear lined up perfectly over the molded plates in the wing the optional metal retracts did not. On page 11 the instruction manual stated:

"Because of the molding process, the holes for the gear mount brackets may shift slightly. The screws will still thread into the brackets, however extra care must be taken to ensure that the screws do not cross thread or thread into another position on the bracket."

I didn't initially find that to be helpful. However, it turned out upon later reflection that the screw instructions were helpful. The plastic mounts for the fixed wheels had lined up perfectly with the molded holes in the wing so there was no shifting there. With the optional landing gear the holes in the gear barely let me see some of the holes under them in the wing. After much hesitation on my part I just went for it and installed all four screws per individual landing gear into place and secured the gear firmly. Later it turned out I had secured one retract properly and one retract with too much side pressure. The screws need to be inserted as straight as possible to avoid this. I discovered this when I went to test the retracts as explained more fully below. The point is to carefully install the screws as straight as possible to avoid causing a bind in the retract itself.

The assembly of the optional landing gear pauses here in the instructions and other assembly is performed before returning to the landing gear. Since I had already assembled the plane my other construction was finished. However, I recommend you follow the assembly process step by step. For example it would not be possible to get the elevator and rudder servo wires forward to the receiver with the air tank in place. Accordingly, we leave the optional retract assembly now, to return to it later per the sequence in the instructional manual.


I temporarily installed the top wing to the fuselage per the instructions to use as a level guide when I glued the horizontal stabilizer onto the back of the fuselage carefully per the instructions. After letting the medium CA dry I found I needed to trim some foam from the inside of the right elevator where it was rubbing against the fuselage. An easy process but it removed some blue painted foam leaving white foam but since it is next to the fuselage I never noticed it later.

For the vertical stabilizer and rudder I carefully cut the rudder off of the stabilizer and then sanded the parts to clean up the cut while keeping the bevel on the rudder. I used the supplied hinges, my hobby knife and CA and secured the hinges into both the stabilizer and rudder and glued the vertical stabilizer to the fuselage.

The rudder and tail wheel control linkage is done a bit differently. The tail wheel assembly enters the fuselage from the bottom and runs through a hex spacer and then a control arm and hex landing gear collet in the control arm and from there up into the rudder itself. The control arm was secured to the landing gear assembly with a setscrew on a flat spot. The control arm assembly was secured in place with a molded plate that fit over the hex spacer and was secured in place with four small bolts. The tail wheel assembly was secured to the bottom of the rudder with a small screw. The assembly area was covered with a small molded blue plate made to match up and blend with the foam fuselage.

Radio Installation

By this point in the assembly I had already installed three servos into the wings to handle ailerons, flaps and the retracts. I installed some different colored tape on the wires near the connectors on the servos that go into the receiver so I could tell what was what when it came time to connect them to the receiver. I also added tape to the ends of the elevator and rudder servo. There was a wooden framed servo tray in the fuselage for these last two servos and I installed the servos and then drilled the holes for the servo mounting screws using a hand held pin drill. Accidently, I first used two servo screws and two strut securing screws to secure the servos in place. I later replaced the strut screws with smaller headed servo screws but my mistake showed up in the picture below. Anyway, no harm no fowl.

With the servos properly secured I now removed the clevises from the two long control rods and snaked them into the tubes mounted in the fuselage for them to the back of the fuselage. I screwed the clevises back on and eyeballed their positions to be close to where they needed to be to properly connect to the elevator and rudder/tail wheel control arm respectively. I then installed the Z-bend into the outer control arm hole for the elevator and secured the control arm onto the elevator servo and repeated the process for the rudder. I then did final adjustment to the clevises so they attached to the control horns with the elevator and rudder in their neutral positions.

I had the throttle connector already plugged into the proper channel on the receiver and now it was time to connect more of the wires. The servo wires from the elevator and rudder servos were a bit on the short side but I got them into the receiver and thanks in part to my colored tape I got them in the right spot on the first try. I next trial fitted the retract and the flap servo wires into the receiver using my colored tape to guide my installation. They were not actually plugged into the receiver for good until the bottom wing was secured to the fuselage in the final completion stage of the assembly. The aileron extension wire was plugged in and run back under the cockpit seats and then up to connect with the aileron servo in the top wing.In the final assembly with the bottom wing installed the receiver was secured under the front seat in the cockpit per the instructions and the speed controller was secured to the left side of the cockpit with hook and loop fabric to keep it out of the way. I glued a strip of hook and loop fabric in the front of the cockpit where the battery pack will go and secured the matching fabric to the battery pack itself.

If I were to do it again I would probably add a three inch servo extension to the servos from the rudder and elevator and that would have made connecting those servos to the receiver much easier. My colored tape for marking what servo controlled what allowed me to get the servos plugged into the receiver correctly the first time.


The 480 motor is mounted to the plastic motor mount plate that came in the Staggerwing kit with 6 bolts. Four of the bolts are used to secure the motor to the plate with the motor wires going up at the center of the plate. The motor wires from the ESC came through a hole at the top of the "firewall" and I plugged the motor wires into the ESC motor wires. The wires are pulled back into the fuselage as the plate is secured to the "firewall" with the two long bolts that came in the motor plate part bag. With the motor secured in place the cowl is slid back onto the fuselage where mine was held in place by friction. Double sided tape is recommended per the instructions if friction alone is not sufficient to keep the cowl in place. (USE THE TAPE FOR REASONS DESCRIBED BELOW IN THE FLIGHT SECTION!) I next secured the propeller with a prop adapter and spinner in place on the propeller shaft extending through the fake motor on the front of the cowl. The prop adapter that comes with the 480 motor is not long enough to work with the plastic silver spinner that comes in the Staggerwing kit. I used E-flite part EFLM1924L prop adapter with collet and it fits perfectly. That fits inside the plastic decorative spinner that came in the kit and actually secures the propeller to the propeller shaft. Two pictures of this arrangement are included below. The silver plastic spinner cone snapped into place with its back plate.

Completing the Retract installation.

A 2" piece of red air line was installed onto the air tank and on the other end of that air line I installed the supplied half of the quick disconnect as shown in the instruction manual. The tank installed into the plane from the back top of the wing saddle with the air line end going into the fuselage first. The air line and the quick disconnect were then accessible at the bottom of the wing saddle. The tank was secured in place in the fuselage with a small amount of silicone adhesive. The manual was correct about this process.

As I fit the bottom wing into the fuselage I connected the quick disconnect valve to the half connected to the air tank. This assembly process was correct per the instructions. I guided and tucked the air lines out of the way as I fit the bottom wing into position and as mentioned I found I had excess air lines so I trimmed them and re-installed as appropriate. I carefully got everything together and loosely secured the wing to the bottom of the fuselage with the two supplied bolts. In a perfect world the retracts were done.


My retract air pump had a brass connector that worked two different sets of pneumatic retracts on two of my Hangar 9 planes. It had a brass connector that is used with both planes to fill their air tanks. It does not fit the connector on the Staggerwing's pneumatic retracts which have no brass parts and has a very differently shaped aluminum connector to use with the pump. I wish they had used a design consistent with the connection on the Hangar 9 planes. I will have to switch the connectors to fill the different planes.


Two of the wing strut mounting holes came covered with decals. I found the holes and using my hobby knife cut the decal away from the inside of the screw holes. Next I fitted the wing struts into the slots molded for them in the top portion of the bottom wing and the bottom portion of the top wing. I now tightened the two bolts mounting the bottom wing to the fuselage. Four self-tapping, washer-head screws total secured the wing struts in place in their molded spaces. One top and bottom on both sides of the plane. Next I actually completed the radio installation as discussed above connecting the flap and landing gear servos into the receiver and placed the windscreen cover onto the front of the fuselage.

Using medium CA I secured the decorative antennas to the top of the wing. I trimmed the gear doors and snapped them onto my retracts and secured them in place with a drop each of silicon adhesive.

The Center of Gravity is given as between 2.25 inches back from the leading edge of the bottom wing to 2.50 inches back. I went for the front position initially of 2.25 inches and obtained this by where I positioned the battery pack in the very front of the cockpit and partially through the hole for the battery in the bottom of the firewall.

High and Low Dual Rates for the Controls.

High Rates + 15% Expo All
Aileron Elevator Rudder
1/2" Up 21/32" Up 3/4" Right
1/2" Down 21/32" Down 3/4" Left

Low Rates + 15% Expo All
Aileron Elevator Rudder
13/32" Up 1/2" Up 21/32" Right
13/32" Down 1/2" Down 21/32" Left

No flap to elevator mixing was necessary during my review of the Staggerwing.

Testing the Retracts

With all of my transmitter programming done, I rebound the receiver to the transmitter so that the retract servo would not move when I turned the radio system on. I started with the gear down and the gear switch on the transmitter in the gear down position. I had the Staggerwing in a cradle with the wheels facing up until I was sure they moved where and when I wanted them to move. Using my hand air pump I went to fill the air tank with my pump. I screwed the air fill valves together at the underside of the bottom wing and went to fill the tank. DANG!* No air was pumping in. I should have tried this before putting the plane all together. I removed the wings from the plane so I could see the retract system on the bottom wing. I visually checked the instructions and the pictures of the assembly with my actual assembly and taking into consideration the changes I had to make everything looked right, everything matched up. I reconnected the pump and this time it worked and I pumped up the tank to 100 psi. I threw the retract switch for gear up and one wheel popped up and one stayed down. With the help of my friend Dick Andersen we discovered the problem, the solution and a required adjustment. The non working retract worked fine after I removed it from the wing. My mounting job had placed too much side pressure on it and was causing it to bind. We lubricated it with WD-40 and very carefully secured it back in the wing and then it worked but was hitting the inside edge of the wheel well. We loosened the Allen nut holding the landing gear in the retract and pulled it up about 1/32 of an inch and tightened the Allen nut back in place and we had clearance for the wheel in the wheel well. This was done on the other retract as well. The retracts were then working properly. On the work bench I could get up to ten operations of the landing gear with the tank pumped up to 100 psi. In operation I try to limit myself to four or six movements of the wheels if shooting touch and goes. The good thing is that when the tank runs out of air the gear comes down and locks in place. It was a bit of a struggle but the landing gear was now working wonderfully.



Flight time duration was listed at about seven minutes with the recommended battery. With throttle management I was able to easily get seven minute flights.


For control the Staggerwing has ailerons, rudder, elevator, throttle and flaps available for control surfaces and the retracts discussed above. I made sure the flaps were in the neutral position and worked in the proper direction. I had full up, partially down and then a further down position. With the flaps in neutral I didn't do anything with them in the first couple of flights. I double checked my control surfaces with both their low and high rates. I double checked the planes Center of Gravity and it was balanced at 2.25 inches back as planned for the first flights. Next I performed a range check and finally, tested the retracts at the field. I pumped up the air tank to 100 psi after cycling the retracts a couple of times. With ailerons, rudder and elevator all working properly I taxied out to the center of the runway and facing into the wind I ran up the throttle to 3/4s throttle and she started to lift up on her own. I climbed using up elevator and then began to bank and turn to the left just using ailerons and elevator. The E-flite 480 motor supplied plenty of power and I throttled back and made a few minor trim adjustments to the ailerons and elevator.

I consider the plane to be a great little flyer. The rudder does help make the turns smoother when combined with the ailerons. I don't use a mix, just both thumbs. It may be a false perception on my part but the plane looks a little faster in flight with the gear up. At full throttle she is definitely fast and she tracks very well. While I like the Navy colors a couple friends would like me to paint her in brighter civilian colors but I don't see that happening.

Taking Off and Landing

I first flew the Staggerwing with the fixed retracts that came with the plane. All of my takeoffs and landings were into the wind. I did not try any crosswind landings or takeoffs. Takeoffs were simply a matter of throttling up and speed quickly built up and with a little up elevator my Staggerwing was airborne. Landings were made with motor running and the plane landed with power on. Throttle was killed or greatly reduced at touchdown and up elevator applied to keep the tail down.

On a rough dirt landing strip the landing gear was seen to vibrate/move more but I had no trouble controlling the plane for either takeoff or landing. I expected I might nose over with a poor landing but I have avoided doing that, at least thus far.

The day we shot the videos we had rather gusty winds coming across the runway. In the last video we probably should have landed a bit hotter and used more rudder for a more picturesque landing.

The Optional Retracts

Once I had the retracts properly installed with the air lines properly connected as explained above I had the joy of using retracts. The air would force the wheels up and release of the air allowed the wheels to pop down into the down position. The gear locks in the down position and I had no problems with gear collapsing at any time. If the tank ran out of air the gear would simply stay down or drop down. Taking off and landing straight into the wind has been no problem. The gear has remained firmly in position and centered in the wing mounts. I hope not to have to make cross wind landings and so far I haven't as that might put a little more of a strain on the retract mounts.

Secure the Cowl With the Supplied Two Sided Tape (Belated assembly)

The cowl is held on with a friction fit. The instructions advise that two sided tape has been provided to help secure the cowl if friction alone isn't enough. You simply put the tape on the front area of the fuselage where the cowl fits and then fit the cowl on over it all the way on and press the cowl against the two sided tape on opposite sides of the cowl. I initially went with the friction fit and it worked for me for a number of flights with no problems. However, when out shooting one of the videos we suddenly heard a strange noise and didn't know what was causing it. The cowl had come loose, slide forward and the propeller was rubbing against the cowl. The picture below shows where the propeller was worn down due to this rubbing in just a short portion of one flight. After the flight, and when back at home, I added two sided tape as described above and the problem was solved. Therefore, I recommend that you install the tape when you have finished working on installing the motor. Don't rely on the friction fit.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Let me start by discussing the flaps. I cut away a bit of foam and expanded the throw of the flaps to get a little more down flap than I had with my initial set up. The flaps do help slow the plane down so they are functional but do so without making the plane balloon up. Accordingly, I did not need to program any mix with the elevator for the flaps which I have done with other planes in the past.

The plane has a great speed range with a surprisingly fast top speed. By utilizing the full speed range and starting slowly I have surprised several friends when I have kicked it up to full throttle and sped past their planes. Pilots that just use full throttle as off and on are missing some fun if they do that with this plane.

With a fresh battery the Staggerwing can do huge loops and a nice string of rolls when starting in a slight climb with full throttle. She also performs a great tail slide and rudder turn over into a dive leading to half pipes with rudder turns at the top. Not only does she let me perform these maneuvers well she looks great performing them.

I realize that in reality she is probably only slighter faster with the gear up but she looks faster with the gear up. She is a very fun plane to fly.

Is This For a Beginner?

E-flite recommends this plane for intermediate pilots and above and for pilots 14 and older. I will let parents decide if there child is old enough for this plane but I definite agree that this plane is not for the beginner but rather for the intermediate and better pilots primarily because of its speed.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery



The kit for the Staggerwing was nicely designed and went together quickly. I was missing the proper length second control rod for the ailerons as mentioned above but that part was quickly sent at no charge when I contacted Horizon Hobby. I also secured the wing mounting nuts as described above and that was quick and easy. I flew the plane with the standard landing gear and I had no problems with the gear in installing, landing or taking off. I found the plane to be an excellent flier and was very happy with the assembly and the plane's performance.

I have described in detail the problems I had with installing the retracts. I overcame those problems and those of you reading this review should be able to overcome those problems should you choose to accept this mission. I simply didn't feel the retract installation into the wing and instructions were up to E-flite's usual high standard of excellence. That said, I felt the end result was worth the effort I put in to figure them out as the plane looks very special with the retracts up and lives up to the speed legend of the plane it was modeled after.

I store and transport my Staggerwing fully assembled and ready to fly. I only need to insert a fully charged 3-cell 1800 to 2200mAh battery pack, pump up the air tank and I am ready to have fun with my Staggerwing. The flaps are functional but don't cause her to balloon up so they are very easy to use. The plane has a wide speed range and flying her slowly at first really allows me to surprise people when I give her full throttle.

Pluses and Minuses


  • Nice Appearance with molded in details
  • Can be left assembled to display at home and transport to the field RTF
  • Nice speed range with a surprisingly fast top speed
  • Plane handles very well in the air


  • At least two mistakes in the instruction manual for installing the optional pneumatic retracts
  • Mounting plate for the retract valve did not line up with both mounting holes in the valve
  • Mounting plates in wing for the optional retracts did not line up with the retracts very well but worked.
  • Wing mounting nuts not very well secured.

DANG: (This is a family friend site. The word was changed to protect the innocent.) On several occasions my pump was not pumping air into the system although I thought I had the pump attached correctly. When that happened I just unscrewed the connector and then screwed it back on until that corrected the problem.

My thanks to fellow author Dick Andersen for his assistance with this review and to our editor, Angela, for her assistance.

Last edited by Angela H; Jun 01, 2012 at 03:46 PM..
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Aug 01, 2012, 09:46 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Last edited by Michael Heer; Aug 02, 2012 at 10:27 PM.
Aug 01, 2012, 11:25 AM
killickb's Avatar
Nice review as always by Michael but hasn't everyone who is going to purchase one of these done so by now and so who is to gain anything from the review? It seems no matter the product it is a fact -- perhaps sad? -- that in today's high tech world the time a review comes to print the product many times is either obsolete or off the market! Take Consumers Reports for example, try and find the models they recommend!

Same with the model magazines, the product reviews I read about I already knew about through web sites such as this, months ago. Don't have a solution just thinking out loud.
Aug 01, 2012, 11:40 AM
Registered User
tom_B_in_DC's Avatar
Great review. I've been waiting for a Staggerwing this size to finally come out. I was wondering if electric retracts would work and save a lot of hassle?
Aug 01, 2012, 04:11 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Hi Tom:
Hopefully someone who has done or seriously considered doing the modification will respond about using electric retracts as an option. I have flown such a plane but did not examine the undercarriage at all as I got busy with another plane immediately after landing. Mike H.
Aug 02, 2012, 12:27 AM
Registered User
Wingman26's Avatar
How about streaming video on YouTube or Vimeo? After waiting several minutes to download the 9 mb video, I gave up the idea of watching the other videos.
Aug 02, 2012, 07:54 AM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
I offered to add a You Tube version of the video to this review and the upcoming UMX Gee Bee review but they have to be made available for me to do that. I have Y T video in the upcoming B-17 review and the Pulsar 4E review and I will have both embedded and Y T videos in future reviews. Mike H
Aug 05, 2012, 04:39 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by tom_B_in_DC
Great review. I've been waiting for a Staggerwing this size to finally come out. I was wondering if electric retracts would work and save a lot of hassle?
I purchased and installed these electric retracts in my Beechcraft:

ChangeSun Electronic Retract 15- 2 set..
There are sold by X-Flight R/C models.

Light modifcations, i.e. foam removal and light ply for strength. Looks awesome, works great and cheaper.

Aug 06, 2012, 03:14 PM
Cranky old fart
Balr14's Avatar
Many thanks for a great review. The Staggerwing has always been one of my favorite bi-planes. A foam version of it is a lot more tempting than a wooden one, for me.
Aug 24, 2012, 11:37 AM
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The staggerwing is my all-time favorite, but I can't stand foam.
Aug 24, 2012, 02:05 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Actually Jonathan, with the two short wings and their relative thickness the plane doesn't have the flex associated with many foam wing planes. It flies pretty much like a built up plane and in the air it looks very pleasing to my eye. Foam is obviously growing in use in the industry but you are free to like and not stand what you want. Mike Heer
Aug 24, 2012, 02:08 PM
Suspended Account
I'll take another look!
Sep 04, 2012, 06:28 PM
Registered User
Do secure cowl with tape or by driving tiny screw on under side of cowl into foam.
Also careful not to leave it in direct sun to long, 85 degrees outside and my cowl warped where dark blue painted on it.
Oct 29, 2012, 06:39 PM
Just Keeping UP

pneumatic retract size

Any chance of someone measuring the total thickness of these retracts and posting it? (I'm too cheap to spent $100+ just to measure them.)

If you want a balsa Staggerwing, there is one.
Oct 29, 2012, 08:41 PM
Suspended Account
Who makes an electric, balsa staggerwing?

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