HobbyKing Estrella 50E - RCGroups Review - RC Groups

HobbyKing Estrella 50E - RCGroups Review

Reviewer Kevin Petrilla takes this balsa sport aerobat for a test flight.

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Introduction


HobbyKing Estrella Sport/Aerobatic Plane 50E Balsa 1500mm (ARF)
Length:52 in (1322mm)
Wingspan:59 in (1500mm)
Weight:5lbs. 14oz. RTF with battery
Servos:5 standard servos required for glow (4 for EP). HXT 5010 twin bearing digital servos used
Transmitter:Spektrum DX-18
Receiver:Spektrum AR6210 6-Channel DSMX Receiver
Battery:Turnigy 4000mAh 4S 30C LiPo battery
Motor:Turnigy G46 Brushless Outrunner 670kv
ESC:Turnigy Plush 60amp Speed Controller w/BEC
Manufacturer:HobbyKing
Available from:HobbyKing
Price:From $154.99

Taken directly from the HobbyKing website, this is how they describe the Estrella...

A low wing sport plane with style and grace, the Estrella Sport 50E is an electric or nitro powered plane that anyone can enjoy. The Estrella arrives almost ready to go. It just requires final assembly and equipment installation to get airborne. The all balsa airframe is strong and light weight and is beautifully covered in a multi-colored plastic film. The aluminum landing gear, fiberglass wheel pants and matching cowl round off the model providing a clean and crisp finish that is striking both on the ground and in the air. This is one seriously good looking airplane! But it's not just about looks with the Estrella, the large elliptical shaped wing and its light weight give the model excellent slow flight characteristics and with plenty of power on hand the full range of aerobatics are also easily performed. This model can literally be flown to anyone's level of expertise. If you're looking for a sport plane with classic lines and looks as well as great flying performance then the Estrella Sport 50E is for you.

It might seem a tall order to live up to the hype any company puts out about their own product. At this point I can agree that the Estrella is a good looking airplane. I admit, I tend to fly mostly electric jets and electric warbirds, but there is something about the Estrella that made me take notice...It could have been that nice elliptical wing! I have been looking for an everyday sport plane that looks great while providing a low stress flight experience. HobbyKing says the Estrella is for you if you are looking for a sport plane with classic lines as well as great flying performance. Well, I am definitely looking for that! Let's see if the Estrella can deliver on the HobbyKing promise.

Kit Contents

I was rather impressed during my initial inspection of the Estrella kit contents. The first thing I noticed was how vibrant the color scheme was and how well it was applied. The other thing I noticed quickly was how light the sub-assemblies felt when removing them from the kit box, especially the wing panels. The fiberglass parts looked good and were painted well with only the very slightest mismatch in the blue color as compared to the fuselage, but it was very acceptable. The aluminum main landing gear seemed very sturdy and the paint looked good although there was a very small run in one of them. The large hatch is rather impressive and provides plenty of room to insert and remove a flight battery. Overall, I was impressed with The Estrella kit and was hoping it would fly as good as it looked. Here's what's included:

  • Balsa and plywood airframe covered with bright iron-on covering.
  • Plastic and plywood painted canopy / hatch.
  • Painted aluminum landing gear with fiberglass wheel pants and rubber tires.
  • Factory painted fiberglass cowl.
  • Carbon tail wheel mount with metal strut and rubber tail wheel.
  • Carbon wing tube.
  • Hardware including fuel tank, spinner, hinges, electric and glow motor mounts, pushrods, and assembly screws and bolts.
  • Instruction manual on mini cd.
  • Decals

Items Needed for Completion

Recommended Electric Set-Up (Not Included)

  • Turnigy G46 Brushless Outrunner 670 KV G46-670.
  • Turnigy 60amp electronic speed controller with BEC.
  • Turnigy 4000mAh 4S 30C Lipo Pack .
  • Propeller 13x6.

Additional items

  • 4-channel or greater transmitter with compatible receiver
  • Standard size servos (5 for glow version or 4 for EP version)
  • Servo Extension (4). 2 for ailerons, 2 for aileron to receiver connection.
  • Y-Harness for ailerons with 4 channel receiver, not needed with 6 channel receiver / transmitter.
  • Misc. building supplies

Assembly

The instruction manual for the Estrella is provided on a small cd. Although some people don't mind following along digitally while building, I prefer a paper manual so I printed off a copy to build with. The manual itself is in color and is fairly easy to follow although the pictures are somewhat small so some of the smaller details can be a bit hard to see when printed.

Hobbyking-Estrella Sport 50E_manual

Wing

The first step in building the wing is to hinge the ailerons. The ailerons are hinged with CA hinges that are easily removed form a larger sheet that is provided. The one thing to note while hinging the ailerons is that the manual calls for 4 hinges per aileron but the ailerons actually have 5 hinge slots provided for each aileron. I chose to hinge all of the provided hinge slots.

While preparing for the final hinge installation, I noticed two of the hinge slots on one of the ailerons were way off of the centerline. I decided to re-slot the ailerons for those hinges and then covered over the previous slots with white covering.

The aileron servo installation entails gluing two wood mounts to the servo plate and then attaching the servo to that with the servo hardware. I would suggest soaking some thin CA into the two wood mounts in order to strengthen the wood. As provided, the wood is a little soft.

The manual calls for installing a larger arm the servo control horn for proper clearance and leverage for aileron control. The assembly process is outlined in the pictures below. The process is simple with one small deviation from the manual. The top of the stock servo control horn will need to be sanded flat, or the hole in the horn extension will need to be drilled larger in order for the parts to fit together flat and tight.

Assembling the control horn extension as noted in the manual also causes another issue that I needed to address. The new control horn created by the above process, now created a control horn that would also not fit properly through the provided slot in the servo hatch...it was too thick. At this point I decided to cut the slot wider with a Dremel cut-off wheel.

Before final assembly of the aileron control system can be completed, an aileron control horn is epoxied into a factory cut slot in the aileron (covering removed first). After the aileron control horn was dry, I went to install the servo hatches and pushrods only to notice that the pushrods didn't line up properly. The solution was to switch the servo hatches from one panel to other to get everything to line up properly. The kit includes ball links for the pushrods which are nice and smooth addition. With the installation of the pushrods, the wing panels are now set aside until further in the build.

Tail

To prepare for permanent mounting of the horizontal stab, the stab must first be inserted into the factory provided slot at the rear of the fuselage and aligned to make sure it is square with the fuselage, wing , and vertical fin. After I was comfortable with the alignment (Which always takes way too long), I marked the top and bottom of the stab with a pencil along the sides of the fuselage. Next, I cut just inside of those lines and removed the covering. This will allow for a good wood-to-wood glue joint when adding the horizontal stab permanently. After the stab is installed permanently, the elevators are installed with CA hinges. Note: There is an elevator joining wire that fits at the back of the stab slot and is inserted into the elevators before gluing in the CA hinges.

The vertical fin is glued into the fin slot at the rear of the fuselage after part of the covering is removed. For the fin installation, I deviated only slightly form the manual in that I also remove some covering up the back of the turtle deck for a better glue joint for the fin extension.

After the fin was on but before I added the rudder, I screwed the carbon tail wheel mount to the back of the fuselage.

Before adding the rudder, I needed to bend the tail wheel strut to match the hole for the strut in the rudder. After the strut was bent at the proper place I went to add the CA hinges to the rudder and noticed I was one short. Since the slots provided in the airframe were more than mentioned in the manual, I came up short. Luckily I had a spare CA hinge in my junk box.

Fuselage

Landing Gear

The main landing gear is screwed to the bottom of the fuselage with a total of six screws. The nice part of this installation is that the blind nuts for the landing gear are factory installed. Next, I installed the axles by inserting them through a hole in the gear and securing them in place with an aircraft nut. The wheel is installed on the axle next with wheel collars. The wheel pant is slid over the wheel and installed with two small screws for each wheel pant. I didn't have enough screw provided in my kit so the black screws you see holding the wheel pant on were provided by me.

Elevator / Rudder Servos and Control Horns

The control horns for the elevator and rudder are the same as used for the ailerons, but on the elevator and rudder they stick through the control surface and must be cut before being mounted permanently.

For the rudder and elevator, a long metal pushrod rides inside of a pushrod tube that is factory installed in the fuselage. These are connected to the control surfaces with ball links and to the servo control horns with a 90 degree bend in the pushrod and a pushrod keeper. For my model, I chose to use a Z-bend at the servo end instead of the pushrod keeper.

Power System

Some rather nice and very sturdy motor standoffs are provided in the Estrella kit for the electric version. A plastic motor mount and fuel tank is also provided for the glow version. As noted in the manual, for the electric version the alignment marks provided on the firewall need to be moved so the installation of the motor does not interfere with the notch in the fuselage for the hatch pin. To mount the motor, I sent the 4 mounting screws through the x-mount of the motor, then through the standoffs and the firewall, and into blind nuts on the back of the firewall. The installation is very easy and the final assembly is amazingly sturdy.

Cowl

To align the cowl properly, I taped it in place on the fuselage temporarily while I added the spinner to the motor. Using the spinner back plate as a guide, I aligned the lines of the cowl to those of the fuselage. The lines of the cowl did match at the same point, but unfortunately they did not continue on the same plane. The lines come down the fuselage from the rear and then angle up from the back of the cowl forward. I admit, I was a little bummed that they were not perfect, but at least the lines between the cowl and fuselage met at the same point. To hold the cowl in place, two screws are inserted through each side of the cowl into the fuselage. I provided the screws used to mount the cowl since I was out of kit provided small screws.

Wing Installation

The wing is held in place on the fuselage with a pair of pins at the front of the wing and two bolts at the back of the wing. The manual mentions the plywood mounting plate but shows to use it as one piece and not to glue it to the wing bottom. I decided to cut the plywood wing mounting plate in half (so the panels could still come apart) and glue it to the bottom of each wing panel so It would remain with the wing permanently and not get lost.

Radio / final Installations

The kit does include some Velcro for battery installation but I decided to use some professional strength Velcro instead. Even with medium sized packs, it holds them in place without issue and without the need for a strap. I covered the area from behind the firewall to the end of the battery tray with Velcro. The ESC sits just behind the firewall and the battery is right behind that. I mounted my receiver just in front of the servos with Velcro as well.

Completion / Notes for Readers First Flights

At this point there were only some minor things left to do to complete the airframe, including adding the spinner and propeller. Note: I decided to pass on the prop that HobbyKing sent because I could get an APC 13x8 prop I had on hand to balance much easier. Normally reaming props wouldn't be too much of an issue but the adapter sent with the motor is 10mm wide, which is bigger than my prop reamer. I carefully reamed out the prop and spinner back plate with some drill bits and a Dremel tools to fit the adapter, which wasn't an easy task. I will be looking for an adapter that requires smaller prop holes in the future because there isn't much material left when creating a 10mm hole in props this size.

Before the maiden flight, I balanced the model inside the suggested C.G. range (closer to 125 because the battery fit well at that location) and adjusted the control surface throws according to the manual. The CG of 125mm noted as within the range in the manual left the plane feeling just slightly tail heavy in my opinion (After first flight). I moved the battery up about 1/2 of an inch after the first flight, which placed the new C.G. point at 120mm. After setting the control throws according to the manual, I felt that the low rate was still too high. Since I have my rates on a 3 position switch I decided to include a lower setting of 16mm for the elevator and 10mm for the ailerons. Before the first flight I ran the power system to see what king of power I would be dealing with. After a bout 10 seconds into a run I was seeing 44 amps and 685 watts. That works out to about 116 watts per pound, which should be enough for great sport aerobatics.

Flying

Taking Off and Landing

Maiden Takeoff ... At the field I went over my usually routine of doing a range check and once again checking the direction of my control throws. After everything was verified, I tried some quick taxi testing. While taxiing, The Estrella showed very good control. It tracked well and showed no signs of ground looping. It also helps that the rudder is very effective. At this point I was convinced I was ready for my maiden so I taxied out onto the runway. Once on the center of the runway, I slowly advanced the throttle and begin to add some up elevator. The 13x8 prop has some great low end pull so the Estrella pulled away rather briskly. At about half throttle the Estrella rolled ever so slightly left and just barely touched the left wing to the ground as it was lifting off. The liftoff was very smooth, but I had a little trimming to do. Once I had gained some altitude I began to trim the Estrella. It needed right aileron trim and just a few clicks of up elevator (Measured later, it needed 2mm up up elevator trim from level, and about 3.5mm of right aileron trim).

Subsequent takeoffs on the Estrella proved to be a non-issue. With the Estrella you can either slowly advance the throttle into a takeoff, or you can just punch it to full throttle and go. The Estrella tracks well during takeoff and does not easily veer off course like some airframes if you go directly to full throttle on takeoff.

Maiden landing ... During the maiden flight, I had seen how well the Estrella flew so I had no reservations about bringing it in for a landing. For the first landing, I wanted to have a long and shallow approach. While pulling the throttle back I slowly began to add in elevator. Even at slower speeds the elevator is effective so I had to make sure not too add too much elevator while setting up for landing. Once I was comfortable with my placement over the runway, I cut the throttle back to idle and used additional elevator to settle the Estrella on the runway. The Estrella touched down on the runway with no bounce at all. Some taildraggers have a tendency to swerve on the runway after touchdown. The Estrella exhibits none of those characteristics.

Subsequent landings on the Estrella also proved to be a non-issue. The Estrella might differ slightly from some other airframes when it comes to landing. With the Estrella, you can either cut the throttle and glide in for landings under idle, or you can work the throttle with a little elevator all the way to touchdown. I prefer the longer shallower approach while working the throttle since the Estrella will slow down easier that way, but I have seen a few pilots that like to dive at the runway ... and the Estrella can handle that as well.

Basic Flight / Basic Aerobatics

On the maiden flight, I flew the Estrella “a few mistakes high” to get used to how the airframe handled and reacted to control inputs. It didn’t take long at all to feel comfortable behind the sticks while flying the Estrella, but I had been flying a lot of electric jets of late so it took a lap or two to get into sport plane mode. The Estrella tracks well and remains positive in control even when flying very slowly, but this isn’t a jet or pattern plane so it doesn’t necessarily fly “like it’s on rails”. The Estrella does however track as well as any sport plane I have ever flown and I have flown quite a few in the past 22 years. Even on my personal low rate setting (lower than the manual recommended low), it still felt very controllable. On the recommended high rate it was a little twitchy for my taste. As you might expect, reaction to control happens much quicker on high rates but it also looks much less smooth in flight. The recommended low rate in the manual would be a great starting point for a maiden and then adjust to your personal taste. I would not recommend a maiden on high rates.

Basic aerobatic maneuvers with the Estrella are easily executed and the Turnigy G46 motor pulls the Estrella along well, but it does not have unlimited vertical ability with the recommended power system. The Estrella flies incredibly well inverted. As you can see in the video, I like to fly inverted with this airframe and also enter other aerobatic maneuvers while inverted as well. The Estrella rolls fairly axial and very little elevator compensation is needed while inverted even on lower rates. Loops with the Estrella can be very large, but not unlimited. They Estrella shows no tendency to fall out at the top even under lower power because of its light wing loading and the ease at which it flies inverted. The Estrella will do some very smooth stall turns as well with only the smallest amount of shimmy every once in a while entering the down line. On high rates, the rudder will kick the tail of the airplane over very quickly and can even over rotate fairly easily. I have managed to try a few stalls with the Estrella but all were on somewhat windy days, so the wind was either helping or hurting a great deal. In any case the stall was fairly straight forward and always very easy to recover from. I was impressed with how slow the Estrella can fly.

Special Flight Performance / Aerobatics

The Estrella does very well at basic flight and basic aerobatics but can also do well with more advanced sport aerobatics. The rudder is fairly effective on high rates and the ailerons are very effective on high rates so I was interested in trying a few snap rolls. With a good head of speed I pulled vertical and tried a snap roll. My first reaction was wow, that’s fairly violent and my second reaction was to second guess my decision to go strapless on my battery pack. The Pack held in just fine and I was off to try the same maneuver on low rates. On low rates, the snap is obviously less violent but it is much more graceful in that it resembles a tumble more than a snap. The Estrella is not a 3D machine or precision aerobat so you will notice small things like some over-rotation with maneuvers like snap rolls or point rolls. Speaking of point rolls, the Estrella does them very well but again, you will notice it doesn’t stop with extreme precision on the points of the roll. With enough rudder input the Estrella will easily hold a knife edge as well, but does tuck toward the gear so some up elevator must also be used to keep it straight. The Estrella will easily handle four channel sport aerobatics. Loops, rolls, split-s turns, stall turns, Cuban eights, and snaps were all easily executed.

Is This For a Beginner?

The Estrella is not for a true beginner, although it could be a great choice for someone who is looking to make that next step to a sport plane after they have mastered their trainer.

Flight Video

HobbyKing Estrella 50E - RCGroups Flight Demo (5 min 56 sec)

Conclusion

I never disputed HobbyKing's claim that the Estrella was a sport plane with classic lines. I really like the way it looks. Although some might argue against the covering scheme, I personally like that as well. What I had yet to figure out at the beginning of this review was whether or not it would have the claimed "great flying performance". At the end of the review I can easily tell you that it does! The Estrella flies sport aerobatics with ease and grace and should keep the stress level low when it's time to land. The airframe is fairly light for its size and the light wing loading contributes to its ease of flight which makes it a good candidate for an everyday flier. There were a few small snags along the way with the build as noted above, but there was nothing that I couldn't tackle rather easily. I started this project hoping to have an everyday sport electric aircraft, and after all was built and flown, I have exactly that. So, at this point I agree! "If you're looking for a sport plane with classic lines and looks as well as great flying performance then the Estrella Sport 50E is for you."

Pluses:

  • Excellent flight characteristics. Can easily be that low stress everyday flier. Easy to land.
  • Good fit and finish. Light airframe for its size. No wrinkles in the covering. Easy to see color scheme.
  • Nice fiberglass parts.
  • High level of prefabrication. Most of the hard work is done at the factory.
  • Two piece plug in wing panels.
  • Easy access to the flight battery. Canopy / Hatch system.
  • Included spinner.
  • Designed for glow or electric propulsion. Easy to use electric motor standoffs.
  • Easy to follow instruction manual.
  • Good power on the recommended setup. Advanced fliers might want a little more power.

Neutral:

  • There is a slight change in the slope of the paint lines from the fuselage to the cowl.
  • It would be nice if some spare covering material was provided to cover the elevator and rudder control horn installation.

Minuses:

  • The openings in the aileron servo hatches needed to be enlarged in order to clear the addition of the recommended and included servo control horn extension.
  • Some hinge slots were cut off of the center line.
  • If you hinge all of the factory cut hinge slots you will end up one hinge short. Note: The manual does not match the actual airframe in this area.
  • Not enough small screws provided to complete all of the called for steps.
  • The screws provided with the servos were a bit soft. The heads came off of two during assembly.

Thanks to HobbyKing for the opportunity to review the Estrella and to Mike Magnacca and Mike Redenshek for their video and photo services.

Last edited by Matt Gunn; Jul 26, 2016 at 10:18 AM..
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Jul 26, 2016, 11:03 AM
Chef Pilot: Planes vs Butter
ChinoDiablo's Avatar
My guess is that the G46 motor with only 670kv would be happier on 5s than 4s.
Not enough revs and thus not unlimited verticals as one would hope with a sport plane.
Jul 26, 2016, 06:44 PM
Registered User
Many thanks for including the print out of the manual. I hope other reviewers will take note and do likewise.

Although this seems like a very attractive choice, it is disconcerting to find so many supplied parts in need of modification along with instances of poor quality and/or missing parts. Hobby King should be ashamed!
Jul 26, 2016, 07:38 PM
Registered User
kevin's Avatar
At some point I plan to try a 5cell pack, but all of my current 5 cell packs are 5300 or larger. I will report back if I do. I think a 5 cell pack and maybe a 12x8 would work well.

There were some modifications needed as noted but I dont feel there is anything too outrageous to keep from making the purchase if you are inclined. I try to stay out of threads that pertain to a review plane I am currently reviewing, but I havnt noticed anyone else saying they were missing parts.

This plane flies very well. The end result will have almost anyone forgetting the few bumps along the way.
Jul 26, 2016, 11:00 PM
I just want to go fly!
walter3rd's Avatar
i was thinking 5s as well.
Jul 27, 2016, 05:31 AM
Registered User
I flew my H9 Tango with the Power 46 with same kv on 4S and it had unlimited vertical and then some, but I used a 14X10 prop.
Jul 27, 2016, 04:27 PM
Registered User
tailskid2's Avatar
Kevin, Very good review!
Jul 28, 2016, 09:57 AM
Registered User
Ken Myers's Avatar
"They Estrella shows no tendency to fall out at the top even under lower power because of its light wing loading and the ease at which it flies inverted."

And what is the wing area and wing loading at the RTF weight?

The general shape reminds me of the Vermont Belle without a turtledeck, which I thought was a great looking sport plane.
Last edited by Ken Myers; Jul 30, 2016 at 05:20 AM.
Jul 29, 2016, 09:02 AM
Registered User
kevin's Avatar
94 oz. rtf
632 sq. inches
21.42oz./sq.ft.
Jul 29, 2016, 10:38 AM
Registered User
Ken Myers's Avatar
Thanks so much.
Jul 29, 2016, 05:07 PM
DFS#000178
Rampage's Avatar
It's a really great looking plane. That Spitfire-esque wing is just gorgeous. This plane really gives the Pulse-series a run for their money as far as fantastic-looking sport planes go, at a fraction of the price.

I may need to get one.
Jul 31, 2016, 02:01 AM
Registered User
Beautiful flying plane.

Looking closer, the wings and tail look like a P47's.
Aug 03, 2016, 03:44 PM
Registered User
I like the Estrella airframe.
I don't like the color combination that the Asian manufacturers use. At least, they didn't throw in pink as well. I would prefer some solid up-down difference colors.
Aug 04, 2016, 10:07 AM
Registered User

Motor/Battery cooling


I'm in the final stages of getting mine ready to fly and was wondering what anyone else has done for cooling openings in the cowling for the motor or thru the fuse for the batts and ESC.

Dave Hickey
Aug 04, 2016, 09:42 PM
Registered User
kevin's Avatar
The stock power system doesn't seem to get too warm to worry about overheating anything, at least the way I have been flying it...which is fairly aggressive with some slow cool down passes.


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