Dancing Wings 1600mm Stearman PT-17

A semi-scale all balsa and ply ARF of the iconic WWII era PT-17 trainer. In this case it is the N2S US Navy version.

Splash

Introduction

Wingspan: 63" (1600mm)
Length: 47.25" (1200mm)
Flying Weight: 45.9 oz (1300g)
Motor: MO3520 600-900KV
ESC: 80A 4-6S
Prop Size: 15x7 Wood
Battery: 4S-6S 5000-6000mAH Lipo (not included)
Available From: Bitgo Hobby
Price: $659.99

It's great to see an increase in built up balsa and plywood aircraft ARF offerings. While I have a fair number of foam models, I enjoy the feel and look of the built up models. Bitgo Hobbies is offering the new 1600mm Stearman from Dancing Wings as an ARF for either gas or electric. The version that I am reviewing is their electric offering that comes with power system and servos. It included everything that is needed except for the radio system and flight battery. The model arrived in a rather large box with all the contents carefully wrapped and safe from their journey. The first thing that I noticed after unwrapping the main parts was the very nice covering job. It was clean and tight, very neatly done and to make it even better it had a matte finish. There are a lot of screws and swivels and wire, so keeping things organized is important in having a positive build experience. This is something of an old school ARF experience in that it requires more gluing and assembly of sub assemblies than you see with many modern ARF's. This is not a negative in my view, just a reality with this build.

What's in the Box

  • Fuselage
  • Wings
  • Horizontal and vertical stabilizers
  • Metal landing gear with operating suspension
  • Carbon support tube for horizontal stabilizer
  • Carbon support tubes for upper and lower wings
  • 15x7 wooden prop
  • Molded plastic dummy radial motor
  • Vinyl transfer markings
  • Flying wires and hardware
  • Accessory bags
  • Manual

Assembly

The included instruction manual is fairly complete and illustrated. I am not going to go into a step-by-step build in this review. Rather, I am going to concentrate on the steps that I feel were less well explained and see if I can make them simpler to understand. I am also going to go over the slight changes that I made during assembly.

Graphics

I chose to apply the vinyl graphics before assembly. The majority of them are applied to the fuselage and that is easier to manipulate before installing the wings and tails. The graphics come on a backing sheet but without transfer paper. I used blue painters tape for this and it worked well.

Gluing Carbon Joiners into Wing Panels

There are flat carbon joiners that need to be epoxied into the ends of the wing panels. They must be epoxied in at the correct depth so that when the wing is slid onto the joiner tube it is tight against the fuselage (lower wings) or center section (upper wings) and the thumb screws insert properly. On my plane the joiners for the lower wings were a bit too long and this would have been problem had I not caught it before gluing. The entire reason for the tab assembly with thumb screws is to allow for wing removal. In my case this is never going to happen, my vehicle is large enough to accommodate the Stearman assembled.

Cabane Struts

When I went to install the cabane struts on the fuselage, I found that the bottom of the strut was a little too long and would not fit into the area provided. It was a simple matter to file off a bit of the strut with a file for a good fit.

Motor Mount Plate

The motor mount plate has an arrow indicating the orientation of the plate, the arrow points up. There is a hole in the plate that is not centered but offset to the left and top. I mounted the motor centered on this offset hole. The reason for this is that once the required right and down thrust is added the prop shaft will end up centered where it exits the dummy motor. The supplied instructions do call for 2 degrees of right and 2 degrees of down thrust but do not specify how to achieve this. I added small washers to the mounts positioned at the 10, 2 and 4 positions (viewed from the front).

Flying Wires

This is one of the areas that I decided to not follow the instructions. I didn't like the location for the bottom of the wires as indicated in the instructions. It was too far up on the side of the fuselage and too far forward. To make this decision even easier for me was the fact that the preinstalled mounting blocks inside the fuselage were too far forward. On the full scale Stearman the flying wires attach just above the lower wing at the fuselage and just above the landing gear. Changing the location meant that I needed to install new hard points inside the fuselage. Adding the flying wires is not all that difficult but it is fairly time consuming. While they are not functional, they do provide a more scale look both on the ground and in the air. One other addition that I made is that I added the javelins to the flying wires. They were made from lengths of carbon rod with the ends pointed. I tied them to the flying wires with some individual fine strands of wire pulled from some scrap electrical wire. A drop of thin CA finished them off.

Flying

When it came time for my maiden flight with the Stearman I checked the CG after installing a 6S 5000mAh pack as far forward in the battery bay as possible. The CG was at the aft end of the range but still within a range that I felt comfortable with.

Take Offs

Ground handling was solid and easy to control. I pointed the nose into the breeze and smoothly added power, the plane rose off the ground after a short roll and climbed out with good power.

Basics

I needed to add nearly all of the down trim to keep from constantly climbing. After getting it in better trim the model flew well, but I felt that it was acting a bit tail heavy, not dangerously so, but not as locked in as I felt it should be. I did a few stall tests at altitude, the model dropped a wing but recovered quickly. I decided that I needed to move the CG forward, so I landed the model without incident. I added a spare 4S 2200 pack alongside of the flight battery for additional nose weight. This pack weighed about 221g (7.8oz). The subsequent flights were greatly improved in stability and were a joy. The airplane has a lovely presence in the air with many of my fellow club members commenting on how good it looked flying by. The color scheme is very easy to see in the air, maintaining orientation is not a problem at all.

Aerobatics

The Stearman is aerobatic in the basic sense, capable of anything that its full size counterpart is capable of. Rolls were fairly slow and scale like. Big barrel rolls look great. Hammerhead stall turns were fun and easy to pull off. The vertical line is limited as speed drops off fairly quickly going up. Inverted required some down elevator but is stable. The airplane will do crisp snap rolls in either direction and ended with a crisp recovery to level flight. As mentioned earlier, the airplane can be stalled but it is flying fairly slow when this happens.

Landings

Setting up for a landing is a simple affair and the approach can be fairly high. When the power is reduced the model slows and sinks fairly quickly probably due to the drag of being a biplane with numerous flying wires blowing in the wind. My landings were a mix of wheel landings and 3 point landings with each easy to accomplish. If 3 pointing make sure that you are completely near touch down before flaring. Flaring too soon can lead to a stall before you are down. The roll out is short and it is not difficult to maintain a line and avoid the dreaded wing drag.

Flight Times

With a 5000mAh 6S pack my flight times averaged about 7 minutes. Longer is possible with lower power settings and a scale like approach to the flights. If the entire flight is hard core with aggressive throttle the flight times should be reduced to the 5-6 minute range.

Beginners?

This is not a model for beginners, the assembly steps are beyond the skills of a novice and any mistakes in assembly and setup could very easily result is a poor outcome. The actual flying of this aircraft when properly setup is within the ability of most pilots with a couple of models under their belt. The simplicity of no retracts and no flaps make this a very basic model.

Video

Flying Photos

Conclusion

This is a good sized model with semi-scale looks that are attractive in the air. Probably best suited for the modeler that has some previous balsa and ply model building experience and is comfortable gluing pin hinges and fitting and gluing strut mounts and the like. None of it was all that difficult but could prove a challenge to someone not understanding the steps involved. I am a fan of scale model aircraft and plan to add some additional scale details to my N2S. I wouldn't even consider doing this if the model wasn't such a good flier. The Stearman flies very well as it is and I don't expect that my additions will improve that any, it will just have a better presence on the flight line. For those who want a good looking and great flying model, this is one to consider adding to your fleet. It should be accompanying me to the flying field often in the coming months.

Link

Visit the Bitgo Hobby PT-17 Stearman Webpage Here

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Last edited by Jason Cole; Jan 06, 2022 at 10:40 AM..
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Jan 06, 2022, 10:57 AM
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Jason Cole's Avatar
Don't miss Mike's Adding scale detail to the Dancing Wings Stearman Article here https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...Wings-Stearman
Jan 10, 2022, 09:00 AM
Registered User

Helpful information


Thanks much! I bought the kit when it came out but it is still in the box. Iíve been intimidated by the build. Not so much the Ďhow toí as Iíve assembled ARF planes but the length of time Iíve seen some folks say it takes to build. One said out took him and his wife 38 hours to build it. I just havenít had that kind of time lately. How long did it take you build your plane? Also, Iím not sure I understand your Motor Mount Plate part of the build but Iíll keep this info and use it when I get to that point. Iím sure it will become clear when the time comes. Thanks again for taking the time to provide the information in the post.
Jan 11, 2022, 06:55 PM
Registered User
bipecrazy's Avatar
Super NICE.. thanks for the article and video. Nice to see some wood planes being available..


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