Hobby Lobby All-Wood Cessna 172 ARF Review - RC Groups

Hobby Lobby All-Wood Cessna 172 ARF Review

Allan Wright explores this great looking, amazingly scale, all wood scale ARF and finds, "The Hobby-Lobby all-wood Cessna 172 ARF builds into an accurate flying scale model in a minimum amount of time. "



Wing Area:259 sq. in.
Weight:26 oz.
Wing Loading:14.56 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:4 x Hitec HS-55
Transmitter:Royal Evo 12
Receiver:HiTec Micro 05S
Battery:PolyQuest "Twenty" 3S1P 1200 mAh
Motor:AXI 2212/26
ESC:Jeti Advance 18-amp
Manufacturer:Hobby Lobby
Available From:Hobby Lobby

It's true that there are few civilian aircraft that inspire radio control pilots as much as the combat planes -- whether they be World War I, World War II or the more recent combat jets. Among those that do, though, are the Piper Cub, the Douglass DC-3 and the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Maybe the reason why all three spark interest in their civilian livery is because of their military service, such as in the case of the 172, which served as the U.S. Army and Air Force T-41 trainer. Or maybe it's because many of us have flown in them or seen them fly. Whatever the reason, I've always loved Cessnas, and when Hobby-Lobby offered an all-wood Cessna 172, there was no question that I wanted one.

I've owned several Hobby-Lobby scale models in the past, but up to now, all have been made of injected foam construction. While providing good reproduction of lines and markings, it isn't my preferred material for R/C airplanes. Ever since I built my first stick-and-tissue free-flight plane, I've always preferred planes made of balsa. When I saw photos of this 172 on Hobby-Lobby's website, I knew this ARF was going to be a nice representation of the actual aircraft, AND one that was constructed using my favorite medium for model planes -- wood.

With both of these factors in mind, I jumped at the chance to be the RCGroups reviewer for this model.

Kit Contents

There were two things that impressed me when I opened the Cessna's box...

The first was the construction and markings. The attention to detail was fantastic, both in relation to the scale markings and to the construction's level of craftsmanship. Nowhere did I find extra glue, covering fogged from stray CA, or markings applied in anything other than a perfect fashion. All of the striping and numbering was pre-applied iron-on covering -- nothing left to apply. The contours were smooth, and the compound curves were all sheeted, with none of the "starving cow" look that plagues a lot of balsa planes. It's obvious that this plane was designed around an electric power-plant -- light. All of the formers & plywood pieces contained lightening holes and were used only where strength was required.

The second pleasant surprise was the completeness of the hardware. I didn't have to go to my spares box or local hobby store for anything. The kit contained everything right down to the wheel collars, push rods, clevises and control horns. In addition, all the special hardware specific to the kit was not only included, but in many cases was pre-installed, such as the nose-wheel mount and pushrod tubes. Having these things already done saved a lot of time during assembly.

"There were 2 things that impressed me when I opened the Cessna's box:

  1. The attention to detail was fantastic...

  2. The completeness of the hardware...everything right down to the wheel collars...was not only included, but in many cases pre-installed..."

The laser-cut motor mount was provided un-assembled in case a motor other than the recommended one was used. This was a nice touch; I had to cut a pre-assembled motor mount off my last ARF in order to use my own motor.

Hobby-Lobby nearly always offers an "everything you need" package for their offerings; they provided that recommended radio equipment and power system for this review.

This consisted of

  • four Hitec HS-55 servos,
  • a Hitec Micro-05S single-conversion receiver,
  • an Eflight products Lightenna base-loaded antenna,
  • a couple of Hitec servo extensions and a Y-harness for the servo connections,
  • an AXI 2212/26 outrunner motor with firewall mount,
  • a Jeti Advance 18-amp brushless ESC,
  • a PolyQuest "Twenty" 3s1p 1200 mAh Lithium Polymer battery pack,
  • an APC 9"x6" Slowfly propeller, and
  • their recommended accessory package for this ARF, which contained bullet connectors for the motor to ESC connection and a replacement spinner that's smaller than the spinner provided in the kit.

(The only item I did not use included in their package was the Hitec transmitter.)


The assembly of the Hobby-Lobby Cessna 172 was very similar to many ARFs so I'm not going to detail every step; rather I'll concentrate where the assembly was different than most ARFs or where I deviated from the instructions, and why.

One note -- to join the wing halves, I used polyurethane glue instead of the epoxy called for in the instructions. I find that the foaming effect of this glue allows for a superior bond when joining wing halves.

Landing Gear and Wheel Pants

The main and nose landing gear came pre-bent from the factory. I found that attaching the wheels and wheel pants to the main gear was straight forward, but attaching the wheel pant to the forward gear was impossible due to the way the gear leg was angled before the final bend that supported the wheel. Since most of the Cessna 172s I've seen do not use wheel pants on the forward gear leg, I chose to leave the pant off of the forward landing gear. After contacting Hobby-Lobby about this issue, I've been informed that they will be contacting the factory to arrange to have the forward gear leg bent differently to allow the wheel pant to be more easily attached.

Additionally when installing the forward gear I was careful to install it so that the gear provided the most amount of prop clearance allowed by the provided hardware.

For the main gear, the instructions called for attaching a filler piece for the fuselage with epoxy, to cover up the mounting area. I attached the filler piece with clear tape, in case adjustment or replacement of the gear was necessary. This choice payed dividends, which I will describe later. The main gear also came with filler strips to give the gear a more finished appearance than just plain wire. The completed look was quite striking.

Motor, Cowling and Spinner

The kit came with a laser-cut motor mount that attached to the firewall using a tongue and groove attachment, which augments the adhesive used. Again here I diverged from the instructions, using polyurethane glue instead of epoxy. For those considering using a motor other than the recommended AXI motor, I'd highly recommend reconsidering. The AXI proved a perfect match, and the kit's mount was even pre-drilled for the AXI, which made things easy during assembly.

The provided cowling fit over the power system perfectly, after I used my rotary tool with the sanding drum attachment to slightly enlarge the center hole to clear the motor's attached prop adapter. While the kit included an adequate spinner, the Hobby-Lobby accessory package provided an optional spinner, which I used, that has a much more realistic, scale size. As you can see from the photos below this spinner matched the shape of the cowling perfectly.

Radio Installation & CG

I had to do some hand bending of the forward landing gear steering control pushrod to allow the rudder servo to actuate the nose gear without binding, although the bending wasn't difficult too do.

Upon installing the battery in the recommended location, I found the model significantly tail heavy, so I opted to install a small mounting plate further forward in the nose for the battery. The photo below shows the battery in the recommended location. My final installation located the battery further in the nose, with Velcro holding the battery in place. Even with this battery location I ended up attaching about half an ounce of lead to the motor mount inside the cowling to achieve the recommended CG. One solution to eliminate adding lead: use PolyQuest 1800 pack instead of the recommended 1200 pack.


The final details left were to attach the plastic windows to the aircraft and to fit the wing support struts. I attached the windows with clear tape rather than using canopy cement as I'm terrible at using the canopy cement. Either method would work fine with the model.

The provided wing support struts had metal ends that fit into pre-installed mount points on the wing and fuselage. The struts can be used in flight for those who want a little more realism. My struts fit a little loosely and I was worried about losing them in flight, so I initially used them for static display only. I've since thickened the metal ends with some epoxy, and they now fit snugly. I no longer worry about them falling off in flight.

With the Cessna 172 finished I headed out to into my yard for the photos shown below. The fit and finish of this ARF really showed off with the model in profile. There's no mistaking that this is a Cessna 172.

I would just like to note that missing from the build section of this article is any mention of applying any of the markings. That's because all of the markings shown came expertly pre-installed from the factory. For someone like me who sometimes struggles with kit stickers and decals, this was a very welcome feature.

Maiden Flight

There were two things that I noticed during my maiden flights. First off the provided power system was very strong; this model had no trouble with loops and takeoffs. Climbs of 45 degrees were the norm throughout most of the battery's life. The second thing that I noticed was that takeoffs from our rough grass runway were difficult, if not almost impossible, with the stock prop clearance. Nonetheless here you can see me after the successful maiden, quite happy with the model.

Small Adjustments

When I arrived home after my first flying session with the Cessna, I noticed that the landing gear had moved due to my less-than-perfect landings. It became clear that the wire was turning in the two brackets. My solution was to add an additional screw where indicated in the photo. Since the installation of this screw, I have had no additional problems with the landing gear moving. The installation this screw was made all that much easier by my use of tape earlier to secure the filler block for the landing gear.

I also replaced the original 1.25" nose wheel with a 1.75" nose wheel. This extra half inch provides the model with ample prop clearance even on our very rough grass runway. I now can ROG and do touch and goes with the confidence that I won't catch the prop in the grass. The movie in the gallery for this review shows the models performance on our rough grass runway with the larger nose wheel. If our runway was paved I would have had no reason to replace the provided nose wheel.

One final adjustment that I made was to reflex each aileron up about 1mm, which provided the model with some wing wash-out which proved to make stalls very tame. This also increased the comfortable speed range, and allowed me to make approaches at a slower airspeed without worrying about tip-stalls.


As I've already stated, the power-plant recommended for this model gave the Cessna plenty of power to do whatever maneuvers you would normally wish to do with a scale model such as repeated loops, stall turns and wingovers. Since the model has scale-sized ailerons rolls are something that I only attempt at higher altitudes which provided me with a large margin of error. Expert pilots would probably find the roll rate acceptable for low-altitude rolls.

The nose-wheel steering made ground handling a pleasure, especially when leaving and returning from the pitts. The Cessna 172 could climb quickly at an angle of about 45 degrees and consecutive loops were no problem. As you can see in the video, which was taken on a fairly windy day, the model had the speed and power to handle much more wind than a typical parkflyer. On the other hand, this really isn't a parkflyer -- it flies too fast for the average park setting, save this plane for flying at your club field or larger venues.

Is This For a Beginner?

I would recommend this model to experienced R/C pilots who are new to scale modeling, as the ARF made creating an accurate scale representation of the Cessna 172 a breeze for modelers new to scale models. Because the model had a moderately fast stall speed for such a small plane, so I wouldn't consider it a good model for beginning pilots. Intermediate or experienced pilots would appreciate the responsiveness in the controls, the ability for the plane to handle moderate wind and the wide speed envelope.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery



The Hobby-Lobby all-wood Cessna 172 ARF builds into an accurate flying scale model in a minimum amount of time. The wide speed range and ample power of the recommended power system made this model a pleasure to fly for intermediate and experienced pilots. The ability for the model to handle moderate winds means it will get a lot of use when other small models, especially parkflyers are grounded. On the other hand, this model is too large and too fast for typical parkflyer sites. I would recommend this model highly to anyone looking for a nice civilian scale model.


  • Exceptional scale detail
  • Exceptionally complete package with quality hardware
  • Lots of pre-fabrication, even markings are pre-applied covering!
  • Excellent flight performance
  • Great wind penetration
  • Recommended Axi is an excellent match
  • Included laser cut mount isn't pre-applied
  • Scale spinner a part of the "everything you need" package


  • Gear rotated without 3rd screw
  • Needed taller nose gear to ROG off grass
  • Nose gear wheel pant wouldn't fit over bend (being addressed by HL)
  • Stock battery location would've required significant nose weight
  • Wing struts' metals ends fit a bit sloppy
Last edited by Allan Wright; Nov 21, 2006 at 10:15 AM..
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Nov 23, 2006, 10:02 AM
Suspended Account
scratchandbash's Avatar
I'm a builder, but I almost hit the order button at HL's website the other day, just because of the great price. One of the best deals I've ever seen for a very nice plane. For anyone just above the beginner point, who won't crash it, I'd trade in a high wing foamy for that beautiful balsa plane any day. I'm sure it flies great and only requires novice skill, as a trainer.

Nov 23, 2006, 11:34 AM
Registered User
AmpAce's Avatar
Well-done writeup, and nice looking model!

However, flight characteristics are more like a jet than a Cessna. It's just too heavy to look realistic in flight, if that matters.

Nov 27, 2006, 09:32 AM
Gambler-AG DLG Designer
Allan Wright's Avatar
The movie was taken on a windy day. I needed to keep the speed up to fight the wind. It slows down pretty well. Because of its small size it does fly a bit faster than scale, but not nearly as fast as the video shows.
Nov 30, 2006, 05:40 PM
High Roller designer
Impact's Avatar
I'm not able to watch the video but I't doesn't matter because I shot the video when Allan was flying it. I was able to take a turn flying it and it flew well, it had been in the air for a while when I noticed that it would no longer climb anymore so quickly I came in and landed. That was a good test at flying with less than enough power and it did well.......Impact
Dec 01, 2006, 09:18 AM
Gambler-AG DLG Designer
Allan Wright's Avatar
Always give your 'buddies' a dead-stick plane. Great way to keep friends.

Impact did a good job of recovering when I did that!
Dec 01, 2006, 09:17 PM
Registered User
I've had my eye on this model for awhile. Thanks for the great review!
Only thing I'd want to add to this model are flaps to add to the scale appearance and decrease the landing speed.
Thanks again!
Dec 02, 2006, 06:28 AM
Registered User
At our local swapp meet there was 3 of these for sale, all 50 and under, I got one and I'm REALY glad I didn't pay full price.

It looks pretty good for an ARF though.
Dec 06, 2006, 08:48 AM
Registered User
BenBail's Avatar
Awaiting arrival of my order of the aircraft.
What is the approx scale of the Cessna 172.
Would like to find scale pilots to complete the model. Also instrament panel if available.
Jan 05, 2007, 05:10 PM
Registered User
tsecrist's Avatar
Just received my kit and am wondering about the mounting of the servos on the wings. The pictures are not the greatest! Does anyone have a picture of that part of assembly. I noticed that the review ignored that part of the process. thanks in advance, Tim
Jan 06, 2007, 12:12 AM
Registered User

The Red DHL truck delivered my 172 today. I need to ask... Did yours have a hinge at the lower portion of the rudder? Mine has three ca type hinges already cemented in place. Two on the main area of the rudder and one on the extreme lowest portion of the rudder. The only problem is that the hinge on the lower portion of the rudder is not on the same angle as the two on the main rudder. Having built one yourself you know what I mean. Did yours come with the lower hinge? There is no way it would work to adhere the lower being on a different angel it would bind. Furthermore, with the off angle of the lower rudder, I think that's were the control horn for the rudder mounts. It seems that it makes for od geometry. Please give me your thoughts.

Jan 08, 2007, 08:33 AM
Gambler-AG DLG Designer
Allan Wright's Avatar
tsecrist: My HS-55 servos dropped right in the holes and I secured them with the kit-provided screws. I'm sorry I didn't take any photos, I thought it was pretty basic stuff and we've been asked to keep the build sections shorter, removing the routine parts of the assembly.

Mine only had 2 hinges on the top portion. I'd cut your lower hinge.
Feb 11, 2007, 07:13 PM
Registered User

3rd Rudder Hinge

My C-172 also came with the 3rd hinge. I glued it in but I don't like it. It's at a very awkward angle and the whole verticle fin flexes quite a bit with rudder throw. Anyone else figured this out?
Feb 12, 2007, 01:12 AM
Registered User
SiGuy2, You must cut that third low hing. No way will it work with it in place. Just use the two on the main angle on the rudder.

Originally Posted by SiGuy2
My C-172 also came with the 3rd hinge. I glued it in but I don't like it. It's at a very awkward angle and the whole verticle fin flexes quite a bit with rudder throw. Anyone else figured this out?
Mar 07, 2007, 12:09 AM
Registered User
Okay Allan,

I finally got around to assmbling the Cessna. I must visit with you again on the geometry of the rudder. The location of the control horn is too far away from the hing line and at such a different angle from the hing line that the push rod just binds. The control horn has about 1 inch of side to side movement instead of for/aft as the push rod can provide. I think you know what I'm talking about. I can't believe you got more than 3/8 inch throw out of your rudder without binding because it appears to be of the same angle and distance from the hinge line as mine. Can you tell me how if at all you overcame the bad geometry of the horn location on the rudder. I have a feeling you only have about 1/2 the desired throw??
Thanks again for any feedback.


Originally Posted by Allan Wright
Mine only had 2 hinges on the top portion. I'd cut your lower hinge.

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