Great Planes Wright Flyer ARF Review

Just in time to celebrate 100 years of powered manned flight comes Great Planes version of a Wright Flyer.

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Just before landing.
Just before landing.
Air foil:MH 32
Wingspan:31.375 inches
Wing area:312 sq. in.
Weight:11.6 ounces listed, actual 12.6 ounces RTF (per my scale)
Wing Loading:4.5 oz/sq. ft. listed
Length:24.5 inches
Motor:Two 250-size geared motors, each with 4.1 gear drives
ESC:A Great Planes speed control comes with kit
Radio:Transmitter JR 8103, 2 JR 241 servos, receiver GWS Pico
Available From:Hobbico/Great Planes
Note: The kit comes with the two-geared 250 motors with propellers, the speed controller and the battery pack.


Just in time to celebrate 100 years of powered manned flight comes Great Planes version of a Wright Flyer. This is not the 1903 Flyer! It is a model of the better flying 1905 Flyer. It is made with a plastic "fuselage" and foam wings and comes ready to assemble in one evening. The kit is very complete and includes two-geared motors with propellers, a speed controller and a seven-cell 300-mamp Nimh battery pack to power the plane. Although the package said ready to fly in one to two hours it took me three hours to assemble it but I have to admit I took my time and some pictures as I put it together.

This plane is a standoff scale plane. For those not familiar with the term "standoff scale" it means that when looked at from a distance it looks like a plane that really existed but less so when examined up close. The original plane used vastly different control methods then those used in this kit including: wing warping original vs. bell crank activated ailerons in the kit; and full flying canard elevator vs. split elevators on the canard on the model. These are huge changes in the control mechanisms between the original plane and this model. (These changes are also part of the reason this plane flies so well.) While there are purists who will cringe at these changes most parkflyers will be happy to have what Great Planes refers to as a: "Fun scale model of the historic Wright Flyer."

Kit Contents

The kit is very complete. Foam parts include the two foam wings with all necessary holes and cutouts already done. The two foam fixed rudders come already installed and you get two foam stabilizers for the canard and one foam pilot with two separate foam arms. The main plastic frame comes assembled. The next outer struts come with the geared motors installed and wired to run by simply plugging into the included speed controller. There are four additional plastic struts and two bags of hardware. One bag includes the wires for controlling the ailerons and elevators and the other bag includes plastic fasteners, bell cranks, guide wires (strings), control horns with screws, washers, additional screws and a plastic box for small receivers. There is also a nice instruction booklet with pictures of each step and written explanation. Finally, there is an additional addendum page to the instructions with a number of changes noted.


Don't bother getting out your glue now, as you won't need it until the last step. A small Phillips screwdriver will be need for step one. Assembly starts by installing a control horn to the underside of the right aileron in the bottom foam wing. Step 2 describes how the ailerons are self-hinged and talks about cutting out lines for the aileron but it turns out that the cutting was already done. Per the addendum page the next step is marking the centerline on the bottom of the wing. With the wing marked you slide the bottom wing into the assembled plastic fuselage and center the line you made on the bottom of the wing through the servo mounting holes in the plastic frame under the wing. With the wing installed in the fuselage you can now install the aileron control horn on the left aileron.

With the wing properly centered you use an Exacto knife and cut out the two spaces that will be used to mount your sub micro servos. The kit includes a small box to house your receiver. You need to decide if your receiver is small enough to fit in that box and if the connector plugs are positioned so that you can use the box. If your receiver will fit in the box then cut out two foam slots as shown in the instructions for mounting the box. If your receiver won't fit in the box due to size or connector orientation then skip this step of cutting out the slots. I used a GWS Pico receiver (servo plugs on the end) that fits in the box so I cut the slots.

The next step is installing the top wing. To do this you first install the struts into the bottom wing. There are three different pairs of struts. One pair comes with the geared motors already mounted in them. This pair is installed in the first set of holes moving away from the fuselage. Simply push the parts extending down through the holes that are predrilled or molded in the wing and secure the struts from the bottom with clear plastic clips that snap onto the struts. The middle struts on the wings are the struts that have nothing extra on them. The outer struts have notches on the back side, top and bottom, for securing strings that make up the guide wires on the plane. The middle and outer struts are also secured in place with the clear plastic clips.

With the struts mounted in the bottom wing, the upper wing is slid into the two slots for it on the center fuselage. With the wing properly in position, the mounting posts on the top of the struts are pushed through the existing holes in the upper wing. These posts are secured with the clear plastic clips. Four strings with loops on each end are included as "guide wires" and give support to the wings. The loops on the end of these strings slip onto the notches, top and bottom, on the outer pair of struts. The strings cross in a diagonal and loop onto pegs in the fuselage. As pointed out in the addendum page to the instructions these 4 strings are now the same length. That completes the wing assembly.

The sub micro servos are installed from the bottom of the wing so that the servo arms are under the bottom wing and out of sight. I used JR 241s but lots of sub micro servos would work. The instructions tell you to mount the servos with the screws etc. that came with your servos. I used the servo mounting screws that came with the plane as the ones that come with the 241 servos are very large. One screw is used with a mounting plate they supply to secure the backsides of both servos and then a screw for each is used to secure the front of the servos in place. With the servos installed it is time to connect up the control linkage to the ailerons. A motor strut post extends down through the bottom wing slightly ahead and to the inside of each aileron. A standoff is slipped over this post and then a washer is placed on top of the standoff. The bell crank will be mounted with a screw into this standoff and the washer will help reduce friction in the use of the bell crank. I found the holes for the control wires in my bell cranks were not well formed and I had to drill them out with a # 55 drill bit. I inserted both the long wire that goes to the servo and the short wire that connects with the aileron control horn and then I connected the short wire to the control horn and positioned the long wire into the fuselage. Only after those wires were positioned did I secure the bell crank to the standoff with the mounting screw. With the servo arm off the servo I installed the long control wires into the servo arm from the bell cranks. I then secured the servo arm to the servo.

Installing the canard is a simplified installation of the wings with the complication being the addition of the linkage for the elevator. This assembly is well shown in the instruction manual but I would stress the importance of drilling out the elevator control horns with a 2 mm (5/64) drill bit. Test fit the wire that links the two elevator control horns in those holes before assembly. After I had finished the canard assembly I practiced operating the split elevators. I noticed uneven deflection of the split elevators. This was created by torque in the control rod. It didn't just push forward it pushed some to the side. Thus one elevator side would go up more then the other side. To correct his I did several things. The first was simply working the controls to break it all in and decrease the friction that caused or contributed to the torque. Second, I limited the control movement to the maximum recommended for the elevator. I moved the control rod in one hole on my servo arm. (It is a long servo arm.)

The last process was to install my receiver, the speed controller and the battery. I fitted my GWS Pico receiver into the receiver box and secured the excess servo wire into the receiver box as well. I installed the battery onto the shelf under the Canard and secured it with the supplied rubber bands. I plugged the speed controller into the motor wire connector and secured those wires with nylon tie wraps and brown plastic tape and did the same with the wire running out towards the battery. At the same time I secured the receiver antenna wire around the fuselage with brown plastic tape. I did not glue the speed controller's on/off switch as shown in the plans but rather positioned it forward on the fuselage with a plastic wrap.

The instructions make no mention of our foam profile pilot. His separate arms give him a little bit of 3D and his profile helps hide the excess servo wires between him and the servos. I finally got out the epoxy and glued his arms into position and when they were dry, I glued him into position on the bottom wing. He added a nice finishing touch to the plane. My total construction time was just over three hours. With servos and receiver installed the all up weight balanced and ready to fly was 12.6 ounces. The listed weight in the instructions is 11.6 ounces.

Make sure you have a charging wire that will match up with the plug on the battery. I got my kit for review by mail and noticed the plugs shape and size as soon as I saw it. I found a matching connector and wire in my stash of wire supplies so I had no trouble charging up the battery. If you don't have a matching wire for your charger you will need to buy one or switch the plugs on the battery and speed controller to match what you do use. (They sell a charger with a matching plug separately.) It can be very frustrating if you are ready to fly but you can't charge the battery. I charged up the battery while I was assembling the plane. Using my Smart Charger I discharged the battery and cycled it twice more during the three hours I spent working on the kit. This cycling of NMIH batteries is necessary. They often don't give anywhere near full power until after 3-4 cycles. Best not to try and fly on the battery pack's first or second charge. It was on its forth charge when I was ready to test the motors and adjust the trim controls for the ailerons. As shown in the pictures above the long wires from the servo to the bell crank have Vs in them to allow for adjustment. To center the ailerons at neutral you adjust these "Vs" as needed. This type of mechanical centering is necessary in most cases where the ailerons both work off of one servo. I found I had to crimp the V on one long aileron wire and expand the V on the other side's long aileron wire. My elevator had too much throw and I moved the control rod wire to an inner hole on the servo arm to reduce this. I also decided to adjust my computerized transmitter and reduce the elevator travel adjustment down to 60 % to get the limited movement I wanted.

I was ready to test fly the Wright Flyer but it was late, very dark and pretty breezy outside. I would have to wait for daylight and better conditions for the first test flight.


After the first day of testing flying I had good news and bad news. The good news was that I had three flights and under full power the plane handled beautifully. I could climb and turn with control and it looks to be a fun parkflyer that looks fairly scale from a distance of over 15 feet when it is flying. The bad news is that my flights lasted only five, ten and fifteen seconds. My first two flights landed smoothly but flight three landed a little rough and one of the motors shifted and its prop made two slices in the bottom wing. Additionally, my pilot came off. The repairs from this third flight were quick and easy. I repaired the two slices in the foam with Elmer's white glue. When that was dry I repositioned the motor that had come loose and tightened the nuts and screws holding it in place and also checked the other motor to make sure the screws and nuts holding it in place were secure.


On the first day with each flight the motors initially sounded powerful but they quickly lost power. I suspected that the battery was not yet willing to work fully and needed some more break-in running. Although I had previously cycled the battery three times, all three battery runs had been with relatively slow power discharges. Also, I had charged the battery on Friday night and didn't get to fly until Sunday afternoon. My solution was to run the plane's motors on the bench for the rest of the existing charge and fluctuate the speed from full speed to half speed. Recharge the battery and do this a couple of times more before I tried to fly again. I was able to tell by the motor sound alone that this was correcting my problem. While I wasn't happy about the shortness of my first three test flights or the damage at the end of the third retrospect it seemed sort of fitting for a Wright Flyer. But unlike the Wright's first plane mine would fly again.

Per the picture below right the motors on my plane came mounted with full down thrust. This proved to be a good position for the motors and is the position of the motors in all of the clips in the attached video. The motors can be adjusted to a slightly more level position and control and flight response remains good.

Two days after the initial short test flights I had a calm afternoon. Despite the lack of an available flying buddy to serve as a cameraperson I decided to see if the battery would now maintain flight. I charged up the battery and drove to the park and after checking everything over I launched the plane with full throttle. It took off and climbed with authority. I rose to 20 feet and I throttled pack to about 3/4s throttle and maintained level flight. I didn't time it but I flew for about three minutes and the plane responded beautifully. I had complete control through out that portion of the flight. Then I heard the sound of the motors slowing down slightly so I gave the plane full throttle and it again began to climb. I throttled back a couple clicks and flew around for about two more minutes. It was now time for the final approach and landing. It landed smoothly at my feet. While the battery recharged I adjusted the motors to less downward thrust for the second flight of the day. I finished the adjustments and flew another plane while the battery finished recharging. I then gave the battery about ten more minutes to cool down from the charge. On this second flight of the day the plane was slightly faster, or was it my imagination? It handled well but seemed to require a little more elevator adjustment with a change in throttle. Nothing radical or difficult but a slight difference. Otherwise the flight was uneventful and seemed to last about five minutes. I again landed under power chopping the throttle just as I touched down. I had two more flights that day and ended up with about twenty minutes of flight time. No fancy flying, just circles, ovals and figure eights in scale like fashion around the sky. While I notice the ailerons and elevator from 90 feet and closer, none of the spectators at the park noticed and a couple guys were amazed to see a small Wright Flyer handle so smoothly. I wish I could claim superior piloting skill was the reason but the plane is a pussycat to fly. A pilot with aileron experience should be able to handle this plane.

On the second Sunday that I had the plane I was able to get in two flights. Again with my friend Dick Andersen operating my video camera. The plane flew well despite breezy conditions with about 7-10 mile per hour gusts at times. Downwind legs appeared fairly fast while it more slowly beat its way back into the wind. The blue-sky flight pictures were taken that day. You will note that my pilot is absent without leave. He came loose the first day and again the second day and needs to again be secured to the top of the bottom wing. The missing pilot was my only problem and the plane handled beautifully. I again flew circles and figure eights and climbed and did slow dives and found the plane responded well to my commands. You may notice a change from black to red with the battery plugs. The battery now has a red male JST plug and a matching female plug is on the speed controller. I made the switch so I could use a Li-poly pack. Specifically a two-cell (2S) 1050 Technical Product Engineering (TPE) pack. This pack weighs the same as the seven-cell Nimh pack. I safely got a seven-minute flight with power to spare using this Li-poly pack. It will probably be safe to fly for nine or ten minutes with this pack but I like to error on the side of caution.


At this point I had enough information to write this review. But I decided to do one more thing. I ran some bench tests with the two battery packs I used through my Astroflight Watt meter. The Li-poly pack has a 7.9 volts reading at rest with a full charge and at full throttle the motors draw 5 amps at 34 watts and the volt reading drops down to 6.3. The Nimh pack that comes with the plane at seven-cells registers 9.6 volts at rest with a full charge. Initially at full throttle the reading drops to 7.2 volts and the motors are drawing 6.0 amps at 44 watts. However at full throttle this starts dropping rapidly. After one minute of operation the readings on the Nimh battery are almost down to the initial power readings of the Li-poly battery at 6.5 volts, 5.2 amps and 34 watts. These keep dropping rather quickly at full throttle. However only 3/4 throttle is needed to maintain flight when the Nimh battery is fully charged so with throttle maintenance you can still have more power with the Nimh battery pack for the first minute and half of flight. The Li-poly pack also experiences a drop off in juice. However, voltage was only down to 6.2 volts, amps had only dropped to 4.9 amps and 32 watts after a minute of operation. Thus the bench test results matched my flying experience. In the first minute of flight the Nimh pack supplies more power and the plane can fly faster with that pack. However, after the first minute or so the two packs are about even and from then on the advantage in power and duration goes to the two-cell Li-poly pack.

WARNING: There are unique risks associated with the use and charging of Li-poly packs and they require a special charger for safe use. Li-poly packs should only be used after a person has become familiar with these risks and understands what is necessary for the proper handling of Li-poly packs!

During the course of these last bench tests the torque on the right motor caused it to twist in toward the fuselage and the right propeller hit the back of the fuselage and back of the foam wing. To stop this I added a paper shim between the motor and the motor mount and this corrected the problem. The paper shim, the nick in the propeller and the minor damage to the back of the foam wing can be seen in the picture below right.

Only after I had completed the above review and all pictures were taken for this article did I go a little crazy and abuse my Wright Flyer with any attempts at aerobatics. This plane is not intended for aerobatics but some of you are going to try them so I thought I would report on how the plane does. These were attempted with a fresh Nimh battery pack just off the charger. I climbed to altitude and did a reasonable dive and pulled full up elevator to attempt a loop and I failed to finish it. During the climb the plane stalled and the nose dropped. Recovery was easy but I was not able in a couple of attempts to get it to loop. Doubting any chance of success with a roll I again climbed to altitude and did a slight dive above the field at full throttle and got it into a slight climb and attempted a roll. I stalled and did sort of a half roll with a corkscrew downward finish. I corrected and climbed back to altitude and attempted to do it again with a slightly longer dive and started the roll as soon as it turned up. This time I completed the roll but it was rather ugly in my opinion. I have tried acrobatics and for my taste, I am done with them with the Flyer as they just don't look right.


The plane flies well and the handling is very good. I experienced none of the control problems I have heard associated with other company's versions of the Wright Flyer. I can strongly recommend this plane for pilots with an intermediate level of skill or better. Even a beginner should have no serious problems with assembly of this plane. Unfortunately, I don't think this plane will be very crash tolerant for the beginner pilot. If a pilot has been able to successfully fly with ailerons before, they should be able to handle this plane. For the list price of just under $90.00 you get a very complete plane that assembles in just one evening by snapping the parts together and screwing in two sub micro servos. I have chosen to upgrade the battery pack for some flights to a two cell Li-poly pack for longer flights and more power during the second half of the flight. I also use the 7-cell Nimh pack that comes with the plane and it works best hot off the charger.

Be aware that the plane has a poor glide rate so plan to land under reducing power and kill the throttle at touchdown. I have now made approximately fifteen landings with this plane and only two were not nice smooth landings and that was because of lack of power on the third flight and a slight pilot error on one for the video. I have a couple of schoolyard demonstrations coming up as part of the 100 years of manned flight celebration and I know this plane will be a big hit. My thanks to my friends Dick Andersen and Alan Brose for video taping some of the flights so I could make the attached short videos. Also thanks to Ezoner JAH for sharing his Sepia pictures of his Wright Flyer.

Final notes: Jah's plane came in right on the advertised weight by Great Planes while mine was an ounce heavier. There is no good explanation for this unless my scale is off. So, I will test my scale with some precision weights in the near future. But first I need to locate some precision weights to borrow. The plane is a good flyer that is easy to handle with no unusual tendencies in powered flight. I truely find it to be a "fun fly scale plane."

Last edited by AMCross; Jan 19, 2007 at 09:18 AM..
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Dec 17, 2003, 05:14 PM
EDF all the way!
bruff's Avatar

Flew mine today!

Flew mine today. It is a great flier. I'm using a Kokam 1500ma pack. Great review of a great palne.
Dec 18, 2003, 09:58 AM
Registered User
Enjoyed the review and have a few other personal observations:

Props need balancing, found both to be heavy on the same blade.
Canards fit loose in the frame, used small balsa wedges to stop them from shifting fore and aft.
Instructions should give speed control specs and operating instructions.
Instructions should contain advice for adjusting motor angles.
Don't exceed maximum throws. Less is better.
Battery supplied is just barely able to supply necessary current. found in 40 degree temps it's hard to stop low voltage cutoff. Plan on Lithium upgrade.
The addendum in my kit said support strings were all the same size, they weren't, recommend checking them prior to installation.

All in all my daughter and I enjoyed assembling the plane and flights so far have been good, will be better with lithium I'm sure.

Dec 18, 2003, 08:31 PM
Dragons, WindMills, all Same
jcstalls's Avatar

Thanks for the review Michael. I picked mine up yesterday, and did not even go in to buy it, too funny. HP has them now with the Electronics, or without.

Last edited by jcstalls; Dec 18, 2003 at 11:34 PM.
Dec 29, 2003, 11:04 AM
Registered User
Hello All,

Just started building mine. Ran into the same uneven torque problem on the elevator linkage. Did others have this problem and how did you cure it? It seems as though the use of a quick link contributes to this problem. Maybe a different fixed type link would eliminate the the tendency to uneven torque? Thanx for any help.
Dec 29, 2003, 01:46 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP

Work it!

When I initially connected up the elevator I was a little disappointed by seeing how much the control rod torqued between the servo and the control horns on the elevator. I did two things that greatly reduced the problem. First I limited the movement of the elevator to the amount recommended in the directions. I did this by moving the rod to a hole closer to center on the servo and then I also reduced the end point movements on my computerized transmitter. I could have done it all mechanically at the servo arm if I had wanted to. Since most of the torqueing was at the extreme end of the movement this removed much of the problem. Second, I simply disconnected the rod from the servo and moved the rod and thus the elevators up and down a number of times and broke them in by working them. This further reduced the problem.
I had no slippage of my anchor points but still had some torqueing that moved the right elevator more then the left elevator on my plane and I was aware of that and expecting I might have to compensate for it in flight. So being aware of the potential problem I went out for the test flight. On my plane the problem that existed on the bench did not exist in flight! With air moving over the control surfaces the elevators seems to move an equal amount on both sides and remained in level flight despite climbing or diving. The added resistence of the air pressure seemed to prevent the bench torque from happening in actual flight. But I think my first two steps did much to help correct the possible problem. I hope that helps you. Mike Heer
Last edited by Michael Heer; Dec 30, 2003 at 08:40 AM.
Dec 30, 2003, 08:01 AM
Registered User
Thanx. I worked the elevator as you suggested and the uneven throw went away. By the way, I also greatly appreciate your article. It also helped me catch that the aileron rods from the bellcranks were not correctly arranged as shown in your pictures (the instructions photos in this area were not the model of clarity).

Al Mostek Sr.
Cohoes, NY
Last edited by KingCobra11; Dec 30, 2003 at 08:03 AM.
Dec 30, 2003, 08:43 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
Glad I was able to help. I have about 30 flights on mine now and I love watching it in the air. I always land under reducing power but with the motors still running as I don't like the way it lands with power off. Good luck and happy flying! Mike
Dec 30, 2003, 09:24 AM
Registered User
Do you find you need right aileron trim for straight flight? Do you feel there is torque that needs to be overcome with both props running in the same direction?

Dec 30, 2003, 11:58 AM
I had to use a little aileron at first until I bent some rudder trim in.

I flew the Flyer this weekend and found it will fly inverted. It does it quite well. Rolls, loops and stall turns are easy if you know the tricks.

With loops, as you reach just past vertical the plane wants to push negative because it now has a high thrust line. So, to get it over the top, just cut power and let it fall through the top. Be sure to add power as you pass vertical on the down side so you have enough elevator authority.

Rolls are easy. Just crank in the aileron and add down while inverted. They are sloppy, but they are rolls.

Stall turns are also easy, just pull slightly to one side of vertical and let it fall over the side.

Inverted takes only about 1/2 down stick.

Everything on mine is stock except the battery. I found the 7 cell Nimh marginal, so I put a 3s1p 700mah Lipo on it. Balance works out great and you have plenty of extra power. I find myself flying usually at 1/2 throttle.

Dec 30, 2003, 12:03 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
I saw comments from someone that they required adjustment on their ailerons to fly level because of reported torque but I have not experienced that. Most of my flights have been on breezy days and I have had to adjust for the wind pushing me around. the one completely calm day mine flew straight as could be. Hands off for 50 yards in a straight line. (Note that I have put some paper between one motor and the mount as a shim and that has changed my thrust line a little bit. it is discussed in my review.)
I note your comment about lack of power with the standard battery. I get five minute flights with it but only if I fly within fifteen minutes of coming off the charger. With a two cell Li-poly back I fly for nine minutes and land. I continue to use both packs.
Dec 30, 2003, 01:24 PM
Registered User

I use a seven cell 2/3A nimh pack, 650 mah, from my Potensky Cobra. Heavier than the stock battery so no need to add weight. Lots of power and way long flights. It's a show-stopper at the RC club where I fly.

Jan 04, 2004, 02:22 AM
i overcame the prop torque with a 37 cm line of spectra kite line looped around each motor strut and anchored at the knotched strut points.

its pretty obvious that the right motor torques inward more and pushes the flyer left.

at an indoor fly in, i tried a rog and it just whizzed around to the left.

i also extended the futaba s3108 servo and c5 esc wires to center the electrifly receiver.

i'm still getting only a few minutes of flight even after the 7th cycle of the batteries. are there some sources for 5/4 aaa 800 mah nimh sanyo's so i can make a few packs?

i wish i knew a source for left handed props that'll work for our application.
Jan 04, 2004, 06:24 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
I Philips, welcome to Ezone!
Check Cheap Battery Packs under loose cells. they have a wide variety of cells at good prices but currently don't have the 800s you were asking about. To find them just click on our sponsors on the top right corner of this page. I corrected the thrust line with a wedge of paper between the motor and the motor mount on the right. I had no choice as the prop was starting to strike the plane.
I have had several 300 mamp Nimhs packs from different sources and all of them have acted more like capacitors then real batteries. that is they need to be used hot off the charger (within 15 minutes of the charge) to get a full duration flight of about five minutes. This is true with my Wright Flyer, with my Sig Demoiselle and with my Vortex Cube when I still had it. Otherwise if I use the batteries a few hours after the charge I loose so much power after about 1 1/2 minutes that I no longer have enough energy to remain airborne. Good Flying to you! Mike
Jan 08, 2004, 12:24 AM

8 batteries?

just for kicks did anyone try 9.6 volts? i have the electrifly c5 esc with bec so it will adjust the voltages to the servos. i am curious about this since i plan to make some more 9.6v packs for my other park flyer. maybe it will be just too heavy for the flyer.

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