Stocking Stuffer - 4 M Challenger or 3 M Mistral? - RC Groups
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Dec 21, 2004, 09:31 PM
flies Like a dog

Stocking Stuffer - 144 inch Challenger or 3 M Mistral?

It has been either too cold or too windy for the last 6 weekends when I have wanted to fly my 2 meter Spririt, so I have decided that it is time to buy a stocking stuffer and get my building season started.

Some background . . . .
1. I've had a lot of fun learning to fly with the Spirit. -- 90% self taught.
2. I have a high start rated for up to 3 meter planes. (I don't mind buying a heavier duty high start and don't have access to a winch)
3. I have moderate building skills. - Repairing leading edges that have bullied trees is fun!
4. I had enough confidence in my flying this year to let my 8 year old have several stints at flying with a buddy box -- Taking back control and recovering when he got the Spirit 75% of the way into an inverted loop at 200 feet of elevation was fun!
5. I have a balsa budget - no fiberglass for me!
6. Thermal is my interest as I don't have nearby access to any slope sites.
7. Bigger is better - poor eyesight 20/50 corrected.

I've narrowed my choices to a 144 inch Challenger from Skybench or the 3 M Mistral from Isthmus Models. I probably would have ordered the Challenger yesterday if Skybench hadn't shut down for the holidays.

Please share any experieces you may have with building or flying either of these models

Does any one know of a build thread for either of these models?
Last edited by NewfGlider; Dec 22, 2004 at 07:42 AM. Reason: corrected inaccurate wingspan
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Dec 22, 2004, 12:32 AM
Born to be free
tommyt's Avatar
Go with the Mistral. A friend of mine used to have one and it was a very sweet sailplane. I doubt that it will be a stocking stuffer this Christmas though. I read every kit is cut to order.

I wanted to order the Skybench - Sky Bird on Monday but didn't find out till I got on the phone that they are on vacation. While licking my wounds I came across the Mistral 3m as an alternative but then I read that they are cut to order. I didn't think anyone made them anymore. Finally, I thought Santa wouldn't be bringing me any toys for Christmas but, I heard he's stoping by the LHS tomorrow to pick up a new JR 9303 for me Now that I think about it... it's going to be a Very Merry Christmas for me.

The Big Bird or Sky Bird would be excellent choices for you as well and there are a few BOT threads in these forums as well.

If you call Isthmus, please let me know what the lead time is to get the kit.

Last edited by tommyt; Dec 22, 2004 at 12:36 AM.
Dec 22, 2004, 07:15 PM
flies Like a dog
Originally Posted by tommyt
If you call Isthmus, please let me know what the lead time is to get the kit.
Thanks for the input.

I probably won't make my mind up until after the holidays, but if I decide on the Mistral I'll definitely post the lead time.

Dec 22, 2004, 07:32 PM
Registered User
Mark Miller's Avatar
Either would be a great sailplane to fly. The Mistral should be an easier build for you. What I was trying to get across was the fact that the kits are made individually by hand. Not mass produced without adequate quality checks. One thing I have always liked about this kit is how well it is made and the quality of the wood. I currently do not have any in stock but can have them drop shipped direct to the customer. Usually shipping and Customs time is 10 to 14 days.


Mark Miller
Isthmus Models
Dec 22, 2004, 10:06 PM
LSF V,LSF Secretary,AMA Lifer
Robglover's Avatar

I'd vote for the Mistral first, then try the Challenger

I have a Challenger kit, and Ray has done a dandy job with it. But it is very aptly named - it is quite a challenge to build. Mine has been mostly gathering dust waiting for me to get in the right mood, maybe after I retire. I've flown them as well, and they are nice flying planes. But they are somewhat more delicate than the Mistral due mainly to their size.

I won a Mistral that Mark Miller was kind enough to donate to the workers raffle at the Nats a few years ago. I had always wanted one because several local guys had them and they fly great. Very serendipitous.

The kit is one of the nicest I've built, and I've built a lot. Usually I beef spars up with carbon and pretty much redo a bunch of any wood plane I build, but with the Mistral I stayed very close to box stock. I did change out the pushrods to cf pultrusions, but that's the only change I made. Oh - I also put the spoiler servos in the wings, I think that was also a change from stock.

It flies wery nice. The plane penetrates better than any other woody I ever had, the Ava will outrun it but it's in another category.

All in all I'd highly recommend it. I severly planted mine last week after launching with the switch off. I was (and am) tempted to get another one, but I opted for the Mirage this time. It will get me a nostalgia legal plane and give me a chance to try something new. But I do miss the red and yellow Mistral...
Dec 23, 2004, 02:33 AM
Registered User
erich's Avatar

Challenger vs. Mistral

Purchased a Challenger from Ray about a week ago. Been studying the plans every chance I get, trying to build it in my mind (probably not a good place for construction). Had the plans duplicated, got my building board ready, and assembled all my tools. So hope to start sometime in the next few days.

At first glance it looked rather daunting, but after going over the plans (especially the fuselage) more carefully it looks a lot more doable. The hardest part seemed to be, how to start on the fuselage, which I think I've finally gotten a handle on. All in all it looks to be a slow but fun build. The way everything fits together seems to have been very, very, thoroughly thought out. Everywhere on the plans I see clever and ingenious ways of doing things.

As for the wings, they're double tapered which should make them (at least in my eyes) gorgeous to look at, while in flight (reminds me of the Dodgson Windsong). My only deviation from the plans is to, NOT, couple the flaps to the spoilers, in fact I intend NOT to install spoilers. The plan is to use the flaps as ailerons (guess they'd be flaperons). The wing has a sort of Phillips Entry so it should penetrate fairly well. Hard to believe this plane was designed in the 70's.

Hope to post pics of the build on "Nostalgia fever--Any pics" thread.

Beautiful kit: Ray Hayes, Great design: Otto Heithecker.

Dec 23, 2004, 07:00 AM
Registered User
The Challenger is one of my favorite sailplanes to fly, the design incorporates very long flaps that enable the pilot to reflex them and without adding ballast scoot around the sky in very windy conditions. Few if any of the guys on this forum ever saw Otto fly his Challenger in 25 MPH winds during contests held at Dayton, Plymonth, MI, SOAR NATS, where he would follow a thermal down wind to the edge of site and then in his pateinted manuever, raise the flaps while still circling until the Challenger was really moving fast and then head direct in to the wind heading for home. It was an awesome show of design and piloting skill. No computer radios in those days and Otto's coupled flaps to spoilers worked like a charm.

We have Barney Lipold, now deceased, to thank for motivating me to laser cut the Challenger and provide it as a kit. Barney and I were club members in Michigan and he announced to me that he was going to build a Challenger. Barney had the use of one arm/hand due to a stroke he suffered. One day he took me aside at the flying field to show all the Challenger parts he had made, they were awesome, as accurate as my laser parts are, he was a master builder. When he started flying his Challenger he asked me to fly it, this was my first flight with a Challenger. He had it set up with flaperons and mechanically coupled the spoilers. How easy can it get I thought as Otto's design easily thermalled to a spec. The landing also opened my eyes and I laughed at how easy it was to put it on the spot, we all thought Otto was magical with his consistant high point landings, but it is his design that is magical. About three years ago at the NOS nats I bumped out Don Harris who was flying in my same flight group after we both maxed with a 98 point landing with my Challenger, Otto was timing for me and at the end of the flight he said, flys pretty good doesn't it.

The old song in building a woody is does it build fast........ I know plenty of guys that enjoy the building as much as the flying and I'm one of them.

Pic is Tom Scully's Challenger

Happy Holidays

Ray Hayes
Home of Wood Crafters
Dec 23, 2004, 12:44 PM
flies Like a dog
Thanks for all of the input. It is definitely giving me more to think about as I make this decision on my next sailplane.

If I choose to build the challenger, I may be a little radio challenged.

I have a JR421EX (5 channel) radio.

My setup options for the flight controls could be

Option 1
Spoiler on retract channel (either deployed or stowed)
Flaps on throttle channel (full adjustable)

Option 2
Flapperons (aileron and retract channel) - no partially deployed flaps here.
Spoiler on throttle channel

Option 3
RES no flaps

Option 4
New radio

I see option 2 as a "recipe" for disaster! I see option 3 a boring. Option 4 is not in the current budget. Any thoughts on radio configuration for the 421EX and the Challenger?

I really wouldn't have the above issues with the 3 M Mistral -- I like that 3 piece wing. . .

But I like the looks and nostalgic "lineage" of the Challenger -- Despite the radio dilema.
Dec 23, 2004, 01:31 PM
LSF V,LSF Secretary,AMA Lifer
Robglover's Avatar
Such a dilemma - no way to go wrong with either plane. Given the choices you've outlined, I'd get the Mistral and build it asap. Then get the Challenger, start building, and save for a new radio. At the rat I build I could get a few radios before I was finished with the Challenger. Lots of sticks to glue together.
Dec 23, 2004, 01:53 PM
Here Comes the Sun
Either way, you're going to need a bigger stocking...
Dec 23, 2004, 03:20 PM
Hot Dawg Glider Pilot
schrederman's Avatar
Since my hopes of a Kestrel in my stocking have been dashed by Ray the Grinch, maybe you'd consider buidling the Mistral and stuffing MY stocking with the Challenger. I ain't afraid of a little building...

Seriously, I'll be ordering a Challenger, soon...

Jack Womack
Dec 26, 2004, 09:26 AM
LSF V,LSF Secretary,AMA Lifer
Robglover's Avatar
Originally Posted by schrederman
Since my hopes of a Kestrel in my stocking have been dashed by Ray the Grinch, maybe you'd consider buidling the Mistral and stuffing MY stocking with the Challenger. I ain't afraid of a little building...

Seriously, I'll be ordering a Challenger, soon...

Jack Womack
Jack - when you say "stuff a Challenger" it sends cold chills down my spine. Waaay too much work to contemplate stuffage. Think about all those rolls of monokote ruined. Oh the humanity!
Dec 26, 2004, 03:00 PM
Hot Dawg Glider Pilot
schrederman's Avatar
Stuffing a big woodie is probably the sickest sound I've ever heard - other that AK-47 rounds breaking the sound barrier past my ear... oooooohhh!!!!

Gotta go down and start cleaning the guitar shop up and converting back to the sailplane shop. I have lots for building to do between now and May.

Dec 28, 2004, 04:08 PM
[intentionally blank]
fprintf's Avatar
I honestly cannot see the attraction for the Challenger. It may be nostalgia but that fuse looks so big and cumbersome. It must fly better than it looks... maybe the ground repels its ugliness?

It is one of the things I dislike about my Marauder and I like about some of the more modern designs like the Mistral and Majestic: compact fuselages built for today's standard and mini sized radio gear.
Dec 28, 2004, 09:31 PM
flies Like a dog
Originally Posted by fprintf
... maybe the ground repels its ugliness?
How dare you mention Challenger and the word "ugly" in the same post?

Blasphemy I say!

There is no part of any nostalgia class woody sailplane that is ugly . . . with the minor exception of plastic canopies that also appear on planes with more modern designs -- the Mistral, Magestic or even current ARF sailplanes . . .

Seriously - Bigger is better. (Ask any women and she'll agree !) I like the shear size of the Challenger with it's built up structural fuselage. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I look forward to the process of this build.

Now if only Ray (aka the Grinch per Jack's posts) were to be able take an order before the 6th. . . . My build project would start much sooner.

Thanks to Erich for starting a Challenger build thread!

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