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Jul 20, 2013, 09:36 PM
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Balsa ARF Parkflyer Shoot-Out! (11-20 oz AUW) >> Wormboy - Starlet 900

Graupner Starlet 900 Review
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The Starlet 900 from Graupner is a groovy little model with a great finish. The kit is overall of very high quality with a very reasonable price tag. At 12.5oz out of the box and a projected AUW of 17oz it is a nice little balsa parkflier. My build ended up a bit porky at just under 20oz but that’s because I used some heavier than recommended components. If you stick to the recommended power train and you should have a plane of around 18oz. Mine flew a bit fast for a small field but since I had wide open spaces all was well.

This is the 7th(?) part of the Balsa ARF Parkflyer Shoot-Out! (11-20 oz AUW) groups of reviews. I'd highly recommend having a look at the other contenders if you are looking for a plane in this category

I’ve put my overall ratings in this post and then details in following posts.

Packing and Transit 10/10
Manual 9/10
Parts Quality and Finish 8/10
Design 9/10
Build 8/10
Flight 7/10

ARF link -Graupner Starlet 900
Extras to finish
Turnigy SK3 2830 980kv
Turnigy AE 25 ESC
2x HXT500 aileron servos (+ extensions/Y-lead),
2x Hitec HS55 elevator and rudder
FrSky FHSS 4 channel Rx
MA 9x7 3-blade prop
Battery 1000mah 3 cell Lipo

Build time 10 Hours
ARF Price $99 AUD on special ($120 AUD normally) + shipping

Shoot-out ratings
Build quality - 4/5
Flight quality - 3/5
Time from box to air - 3/5
Overall value for money - 4/5
Last edited by Wormboy; Jul 20, 2013 at 11:04 PM.
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Jul 20, 2013, 09:36 PM
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The Nitty Gritty
Packaging and transit - 10/10

I was very impressed with the packaging and postage from Modelflight. I ordered it on Saturday, and received it on Tuesday of the same week, so I couldn’t really expect any better than that. It arrived double boxed and bubble-wrapped to prevent any in-transit damage and when I opened the package all the parts were in order, undamaged and individually wrapped.

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Manual - 9/10
I headed straight for the manual to make sure I had received all of the parts and was very pleasantly surprised to find a very well documented, reasonably well illustrated and TRILINGUAL manual. I think that instructions in German, English and French would take care of the majority of hobbyists. One shortfall, no parts manifest, so I had to troll through the manual and tick off all of the pieces as they were mentioned. As it turns out only one small bit was missing, a small amount of red sticker material to cover over a couple of screw holes. Certainly not worth complaining about. There are a couple of small differences between the model and the photos in the manual, most noticeably the servo tray. Nothing that can’t be fixed with 5 mins of head-scratching.

Parts Quality and Finish 8/10
The general construction is laser cut ply and balsa, with some areas like the turtledeck being balsa sheeted and then covered to get the right profile. The film covering is good I’d rate it about a 7.5/10. There were no wrinkles, just a couple of loose edges here and there but not enough to really make much extra work. A quick tap with the iron set them right. I saw no warped or bent parts, it’s all as straight as an arrow.

I was surprised at the liberal use of metal parts, given the small size and light AUW of the design. The elevator and rudder pushrods are 2mm steel rods inside tubes, and the landing gear struts are 2.5mm chromed rods. This all adds up to a considerable chunk of the AUW. While I’m not complaining about it, I think those parts may have been a tiny bit over-engineered as at the moment they look like leftovers from a B-52 build. The central wing supports are solid Alu which are also quite heavy, however, these centre ones are structural while the rest of wing supports are not. I don’t think I’ll play around with these for now.

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The wheel pants are molded plastic and the cowling is fiberglass. Both parts are well made, painted and finished. The cowl is designed to be screwed in place, but could be fitted with magnets if you choose. The foam wheels feel a little cheap compared to the rest of the model but should be serviceable enough for runway or short grass.

The attention to detail is very good, even down to the attachments for the wing, where there is a blind nut already set into the relevant parts to back up every bolt. Very tidy.
The battery hatch is well secured with a couple of lugs at the front and a decent magnet at the rear.

All of the control surfaces are hinged with CA hinges but have not been glued in place. Check them all once, then check them all again during your preflight.

Design 9/10
This model looks as great as the full size plane. The only concession I can see that the designers have made is to flare out the cowling to provide some motor cooling, which IMO looks kinda cool. The only part that I was disappointed in was that the trailing edges of the wing, rudder and elevator are squared off at about 3mm width. I assume this was to make the model more durable but it gives the tail surfaces a bit of a chunky feel. I will also be rerouting the aileron servo wires to enter the fuse where the wing struts do rather than hanging free between the parasol wing and fuselage.

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Last edited by Wormboy; Jul 20, 2013 at 11:10 PM.
Jul 20, 2013, 09:37 PM
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Build 8/10
The build went reasonably uneventfully and no major modifications were needed.
Just a couple of points to note:
Follow the instructions, including the order of building. The manual is good so use it. I deviated a little from the specified order and found myself backtracking and taking things back off at some stages. This increased my build time to about 10 hrs. It could have easily been done in 6 hours for a practiced builder, maybe 8 hrs for a newbie

The parasol wing has the AOI set by the wing supports. You pretty much can’t get it wrong. In saying that, I had to dig a little of the wing away to make the holes in the supports and the blind nuts line up correctly, which was an easy task for a sharp exacto knife. This is important, as otherwise you will end up cross threading the bolts and giving yourself a world of grief. Make sure you also set the fuselage ends of the supports well. I missed one and only just caught it in my preflight.

I replaced the rudder pushrod (the one that looks like it came from a plane 4x the size) with some music wire since the original was binding in the pushrod tube. It was an easy mod to both reduce weight and make it work better. The same could be done for the elevator if desired.

Spinner: Good luck finding a 1” spinner. Admittedly, I didn’t look very hard and I wanted a 3-blade prop so I just settled for a collet-style adapter. I went to the Graupner website but they didn’t seem to have one available.

The recommended CG is between 60 and 70mm from the point of the wing, which seemed like a massive range on such a small airframe. I set the CG at 65 for the first flight. I think this was still too far back and have set it to 60 for the next flight.

Finished plane:
The result is a beautiful little plane. I used a couple of heavier than normal components (battery, motor, esc and prop) so mine turned out porky, coming in a whisker under 20oz instead of the specified 17oz.

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Last edited by Wormboy; Jul 20, 2013 at 09:44 PM.
Jul 20, 2013, 09:38 PM
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Flight 7/10
Attempt 1
Attempt 1 was a fail to launch. I think it was due to the combination of the extra weight and the elevator throws being a little too great. I tip stalle don takeoff and took her home with a broken motor mount which was fixed easily with a little epoxy.

Positive: I can confirm that this plane bounces very well and can take a beating that would send many balsa planes back to kit form. It must be that German engineering.

Attempt 2
This attempt was a success. As it was the first actual flight I’ll call this the maiden.
Set up was as before but with CG adjusted to 60mm and elevator throw dialed down to 12mm each way. It was important to get a good run up at full noise and let it take off under its own power. It did not need up elevator at all as the wing has a pretty decent angle AOI. This is where I went wrong last time
Cruise speed was at 3/4 throttle and she climbed at full. As I expected she was a little twitchy in the light breeze but flew quite smoothly with a couple of clicks of trim. Rolls were nice and axial but she didn’t like loops much and kinda mushed out of it.

The power train was quite efficient and I only drew 350mah during a 6 min flight. You could easily use a 500-650mah battery and get the weight down to about 18.5oz while keeping flight times reasonable.

Landing was quite hot but if you carry about 1/3 throttle she’ll come down easily and predictably.

I ran another 2 batteries through and went home a happy lad!

I have shot some video but am still cleaning it up. Coming soon

The Starlet certainly isn’t the easiest plane in my hangar to fly but it’s far from the hardest.
I would definitely recommend this ARF for an intermediate pilot so don’t be put off by mine being a bit heavy. If you’re diligent and keep the weight down during the build you’ll have a great little plane.
Last edited by Wormboy; Jul 20, 2013 at 09:44 PM.

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