Manzano Laser Works 37" Skyraider Kit Review - RC Groups

Manzano Laser Works 37" Skyraider Kit Review

Frederic Klein has done Spad lovers a huge favor by designing this 400 sized Skyraider, and thanks to Manzano Laserworks, you too can now buy a beautiful, laser cut short kit.



Wing Area:180 sq. in.
Weight:27.7 oz.
Wing Loading:22 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:HXT900 9g
Transmitter:Spektrum DX7
Receiver:Spektrum 6100E (Rev 1.6)
Battery:Common Sense RC 10C 1650 11.1 Volt lipoly
Motor:Common Sense RC E5-L-10
ESC:Common Sense RC Z-20
Designer:Frederic Klein
Available From:Manzano Laserworks

There was a time when the acronym ARF meant nothing in the world of radio control planes. Those were the glory days of balsa and ply when there were no shortcuts to a finished plane. I have always loved the Skyraider, and it bears the distinction of being one of the last piston driven prop planes to see active duty in a theater of war. It is a large, manly looking plane; a huge fire-breathing, smoke blowing monster of a plane!

Though ARFs have their place in helping those with serious time constraints achieve the dream of flying radio-controlled planes, a full blown kit is still an experience not to be missed. The sense of accomplishment and feeling of pride that build as the plane slowly takes shape from a pile of balsa and light ply is incredibly rewarding. It has been at least a decade since I have experienced these feelings, and undertaking this kit, designed by Fred Klein and made available as a short kit by Charlie of Manzano Laserworks, has been a trip back in time to all night marathon building sessions and the glorious smell of balsa dust heavy on my shop table for me.

Kit Contents

The relatively small size of the package as it arrived on my doorstep amazed me! I could not believe that from this small stack of laser cut balsa and ply sheets, a 37 inch, 400 sized war bird would appear?

Pardon another ARF reference, but I have become accustomed to my planes arriving in much larger boxes! The quality of both the wood and the laser cutting is first class.

Kit includes:

  • Multiple sheets of laser-cut balsa and light ply
  • Clear Lexan canopy
  • Full-size plans (One sheet)
  • Plastic bag with several miscellaneous pieces

Kit requires:

  • Four micro servos
  • Four to Six channel radio system
  • Two three or six inch servo extensions
  • Two twelve inch servo extensions.
  • 1/16 and 1/32 sheeting
  • 3/16 balsa sticks
  • Power system; brushless motor, brushless speed controller and lithium polymer battery
  • Appropriately sized prop
  • Two Pushrod assemblies for the elevator and rudder.
  • Hinges of builders choice
  • Dubro micro or mini control horns
  • Covering or painting materials, depending on builders preference of finishing techniques
  • Subscription to the thread started by Fred Klein HERE on RCGroups that provides an abundance of hints, tips and construction photos

Provided by Common Sense RC for this review:

  • E5-L-10 Brushless Motor (1000 Kv)
  • RC Z-20 Amp ESC
  • 10C 1650 11.1 Volt Lipoly battery


The kit comes with one sheet of full size plans. It is best to build the model right over the top of the plans to assure proper alignment, fit and finish. Building a kit is different than building an ARF; Most ARFs come with assembly manuals that detail every last step that must be taken, but a short kit like this requires you to study the plans and utilize a good bit of gray matter. Hopefully the photos I have included in this review will be of assistance in visualizing the assembly.


The wing is built one half at a time. I keep a fresh supply of X-acto blades on hand to release the parts from the sheets. It takes a deft hand at times, especially with some of the smaller parts like the wing ribs that are out at the tips of the wings. I like to cut out all of the parts that will be needed for each major piece of the kit and lay them out on the plans.

It is necessary to mark the locations for each rib on the sheeting. This is best done before placing the sheeting that will make up the bottom of the wing on the plans. I extended the rib lines on the plans, so I would be able to to properly position each rib. When building the two wing halves, a jig is provided to ensure that a little bit of washout is built into each wing half.

Do not forget to add the pieces that will provide some "meat" for the wing retainer bolts to pass through.

I opted to use aileron stock instead of using the piece that gets cut out of the trailing edge of the wing. You may decide to go ahead and mount your aileron servo at this juncture or you may instead go ahead and fully sheet the wing and cut a hole for the servo later. If you elect to take the latter road as I did, it is necessary to install a pull string for routing the aileron servo lead to the center of the wing.

The wing tips are made by gluing several thick pieces of balsa together and then attaching this balsa block to the wing tip. Grab a fresh piece of sandpaper and have at it until the wing tip profile matches the plans.

Once you have completed both wing halves, you can glue them together using epoxy. I use a bamboo skewer as the leading edge dowel that indexes the wing into the former and doubler in the fuselage. The two anchoring screws at the trailing edge of the wing thread into blind nuts that I installed in the fuselage.


The fuselage is composed mainly of a crutch and formers with balsa sheeting overlaying it. This design makes it easy to build a straight and true fuselage. You simply slide each former over the crutch and use the plans to properly position it. A little CA and kicker on each former, and you have the skeleton of a fuselage.

There are a few sub panels that provide some rigidity to the sides of the fuselage. A few pieces of balsa get overlaid on top of these to serve as fuselage sides. The turtle deck runs the length of the top of the fuselage and also serves as the basis for a scoop on the front of the fuselage.

It is necessary to fill in the gaps between the turtle deck and the fuselage sides with balsa sheeting. After sheeting the fuselage, get out the lightweight spackle and fill in any cracks, dents or divots. Spackle and sand, spackle and sand!

The cowl for the Skyraider is constructed in a very unique fashion. There is a two piece temporary crutch that the cowl is built around. Several concentric rings of decreasing diameter are glued together. A piece of very lite ply is wrapped around the perimeter of these rings and glued. Have at this rough cowl assembly with the sandpaper, and in no time you will have a nice, round cowl.

There is a ply firewall that mounts to the front of the cowl. This firewall comes with pre-drilled motor mounting holes and the Common Sense motor bolted right up to the firewall using these holes. Nice!

More balsa sheeting is glued to fill the gap from the front of the fuselage sides to the rear of the cowl... and more spackling and sanding.

Before sheeting the bottom of the fuselage, I installed a pair of flexible pushrod sleeves for the rudder and elevator.


A few stringers run the length of the fuselage and get pulled together and glued at the rear. The horizontal stabilizer gets glued to the top of these stringers. Scrap balsa is used to make a saddle for it to attach to. The entire empennage is composed of solid balsa. It is easier to round the leading edges of the vertical and horizontal stabilizers before they are glued to the fuselage.

It is necessary to build up the profile of the vertical stabilizer and blend it into the turtle deck and the fuselage. I used small pieces of balsa sheeting to accomplish this step. And then, yes, more spackling and sanding!

I used tiny Robart hinge points to attach all control surfaces.

Radio and Power System Installation

As I began to get close to completing this project, I moved it to the top of my computer kiosk so that I could admire it and keep myself motivated to finish it, but a fortuitous fall from where it sat to the floor resulted in a refining of the motor mounting.

Previously, I had mounted the motor to the ply plate that attached to the front of the cowl. The motor was mounted behind this piece, with only the shaft protruding. I utilized three sets of rare earth magnets to retain the cowl.

During initial power run ups, I noticed that the whole cowl/motor assembly had a tendency to get pulled right off the front of the fuselage, despite the amazing holding power of the magnets, so a return to the drawing board resulted in the construction of a more typical motor mounting arrangement. I flush cut the crutch so it no longer protruded into the cowl area. I then built a motor mount out of balsa and lite ply and mounted the motor to it. All in all, I was much more happy with this revision to the motor mounting system. The magnets now have only to hold the lighter weight of the cowl to the fuselage.

I opened up a hole in the previous motor mount at the front of the cowl. This served the dual purposes of allowing the motor shaft to protrude and also to allow cooling air into the fuselage. What goes in must come out, so I also cut a trapezoidal shaped hole in the bottom of the fuselage just aft of the trailing edge of the wing.

I used the plans to determine where to cut into the wing to place the dual aileron servos. The pull strings previously installed were used to pull the servo leads to the center of the wing and out a small hole cut in each half. The aileron servos were secured with hot glue.

Two pieces of hardwood were glued into the fuselage to serve as mounting rails for the elevator and rudder servos. The Spektrum 6100e receiver was hot glued to the internal crutch.

The Common Sense ESC was mounted just aft of the fuselage firewall using double-sided tape and ty-wraps. The Common Sense 1650 3S lipoly was Velcroed to the fuselage crutch, with a piece of thick foam wedged on top of it providing additional retention security.


Once I had sheeted the remainder of the Spad, it was time to figure out the best way to finish it. The complete lack of any "open" structure had me leaning towards a paint based finish instead of an iron-on covering solution. Several coats of water based polyurethane were brushed on, with a light sanding in between coats. This not only seals the wood in preparation for painting but also helps fill any subtle imperfections not covered by the numerous spacklings.

A light coat or two of automotive gray primer was next applied. When finishing an electric plane, you have to keep telling your forefinger to go easy on the rattle can push button. It is all too easy to lay the paint on too thick, and you can quickly add excess weight to the finished project if not careful.

The final finish was then laid down via rattle cans, with an off-white going on the bottom and a gull gray on the top.

Weathering and detailing are just not my forte, but thanks to the published efforts of many notable builders here on RCGroups, I was inspired. If you have not already noticed their work here, take the time to search up threads by John Morgan, Keith Sparks, Pat Tritle and Jerry Hall. These are just a few of the many talented folks you will find here on RCGroups, and they all gladly share their methods and techniques. The final outcome of their builds will blow your mind!

Using three view drawings, I applied panel lines with sharp #2 pencils and masking tape. I next used chalk to highlight and blend the lines. My finger served to blur and smudge the chalk into more subtle shades. The trademark engine exhaust stains were created with indelible black Sharpies. Various shades of gray chalk were used to diffuse the sharp edges into gradient textures. I am not 100 % happy with my efforts, but for me, the Skyraiderís finish was a milestone accomplishment!

If you have not yet heard of or seen the decals created by Callie at Callie Graphics , you are missing out on one of the best resources for making your kits look awesome! Just ask any of the aforementioned builders. Callie can create ANYTHING you need or want when it comes to decals. She does excellent custom work or you can do as I did and order a set that she has already created for somebody else.

She maintains a complete archive which contains many stunning sets of decals custom ordered by some of the best builders out there. I applied the decals graciously supplied by Callie for this project and in no time at all, the appearance of the Skyraider went from "not too bad" to "DYNAMITE"! Thanks Callie!

In order to prevent the decals from peeling and the chalk from being further smudged, I applied several light coats of Testors Matte finish clear coat to seal it all in. It did react with the chalks a little, causing the subtle shading to become a little too garish for my liking.

Finally, you will probably want to get into contact with Keith Sparks. He is the amazing maker of all things plastic. He sells a complete line of armaments that will look great hanging under the wings of the Spad. He also sells numerous pilots, dummy engines, etc. They are available through Dare Design.

Sparky graciously sent along a Priority Mail box stuffed to the seams with bombs, rockets, engines and pilots. I am still working on getting the armaments finished and plan to post more photos and video when I have my flying dump truck fully loaded!

I really like using a prop with the correct number of blades when it comes to war birds. In its full scale, the Spad uses a large four blade. Vario makes some very scale looking variable pitch multi-blade prop sets. I hope to eventually obtain one for this project. In the interim, I used the very affordable GWS 10X8 four blade prop.

As you may know, they are available in any color you prefer, as long as it is orange. With a little white paint, a thick black marker and a thin red Sharpie, I was able to convert the GWS prop into a semi-convincing rendition of the real deal.


As mentioned earlier in the review, it has been a long time since I have made the commitment to build a full blown kit. The mere thought of flying the Sandy made me feel as if there was a wholesale migration of Monarchs taking place in my stomach! But the moment of truth had arrived at last, and there would be no more delays. One final check of the CG, verification of the correct direction of throw on all control surfaces and a run up to full throttle and it was time!

I set up low and high rates to my best intuition. Low rates were set for a very modest amount of deflection, while highs were pretty much set for maximum throw available. Expos were set at 40% all the way around. My last minute decision to go with high rates all the way around for the maiden would almost prove to be "fatal".

Taking Off and Landing

Like many park flyer sized planes, leaving the landing gear off helped keep the Spad light. Fred Klein did not actually even design this model to have gear, which is perfect for me as I often choose to leave them off even when a kit includes them. So, hand launches and landings on its belly are the norm for this war bird.

As mentioned, I had elected to switch to high rates for the maiden flight. For some reason I have a morbid fear of not having enough deflection on my control surfaces. I always assume it is better to have a little to much and to just fly the plane with good skills if it is too sensitive. I went to around 80% throttle and my assistant gave it a perfect toss. Well, it was as if the gate had just been swung open at the rodeo! The bull came out plenty mad, kicking and twisting! It seemed like an eternity but it was probably only 5-10 seconds; the Skyraider was all over the sky, rolling and bobbing. I felt as if I had no control and that something must be all wrong. Was she tail heavy? Was the thrust offset on the motor missing or in the wrong direction?

Somehow, I got her climbing and as I did, I pulled the throttle back and went to low rates. Instantly, she settled down and was all of a sudden quite tame. Hindsight being as clear as it is, I think the torque (P-factor) generated by the four blade prop coupled with the evidently excessive control surface deflection had turned her into a monster. Subsequent launches made at around half throttle and on low rates went off very smoothly.

Landing was as simple as easing the throttle back on final and settling her in. In the video, you will notice we are flying in a hay field. It was my intent to fly her right off the bat with the four blade prop. However, I do not think you can really get away with landing such a setup on its belly in normal length grass. I am confident the prop will catch in the grass and probably do bad things to the motor mount and airframe, thus, the reason for flying in a field full of knee high grass. The landings went as hoped for, with the tall, soft grass inhibiting the Skyraider from finding the real terra firma.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

This is a war bird and a tough as nails one at that. It is capable of rolls and loops, and thanks to the presence of a rudder, stall turns and such. As a scale project, I was not very interested in pushing the envelope very much with this plane. I am happy to say that the Common Sense power system and large four blade prop helps the Skyraider fly along at a somewhat convincingly scale speed. It is well behaved and will not bite you if you keep the control deflections down and the speed up. I found it very happy growling along at around half throttle with an occasional full power climb out. This type of flying saw the battery come down barely warm to the touch.

Is This For a Beginner?

As is the case with most low wing planes, this one is not for the rank beginner. In the winds of 10-12 MPH I was flying it in, it was necessary to make constant corrections to keep it right side up. The wing does have a slight bit of dihedral but not the usual amount found in trainer type airframes. The speed it flies at on the power system used is not excessive and in that sense, you are not pressured to think too far ahead as you fly it.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery



Take my word for it. You will never fully experience the pride and sense of achievement that can be yours in this hobby by building only ARFs. They certainly have their place in our busy society, but the sense of fulfillment that you get from starting from scratch with a box of sticks is usually lacking. Taking on a longer term project like the Skyraider brought back many great memories of my early days in radio control planes. I wholeheartedly recommend that you build one of these kits, or any of the many others that Manzano Laserworks carries. Doing so will teach you many good building and finishing skills, and you will end up with a beautiful plane that you will find yourself stealing regular glances at as it sits there in the corner of your shop.

When it finally takes to the skies, truly a caterpillar that has slowly metamorphosed into a butterfly, you will grin uncontrollably and beam with pride.


  • Excellent Laser Cut parts
  • Very reasonable price
  • Canopy is included
  • Full size plans
  • Very scale appearance and flight performance
  • Perfect platform for graphics from Callie


  • Requires you to stop and think as you build ... but then that is a GOOD thing, right?!

Last edited by Angela H; Apr 17, 2008 at 09:02 PM..
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Apr 17, 2008, 09:12 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
Wow, that's quite the kit. Seems like the effort is worth it though. Thanks!
Apr 17, 2008, 09:21 PM
Registered User
kevin's Avatar
great job Jon....i didnt realize anyone made kits anymore
Apr 17, 2008, 09:24 PM
Registered User


would there be any chance to add retracts on this thing?
Apr 17, 2008, 09:38 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Super job Jon! Charlie makes a great kit but you took it even higher with your excellent covering and finishing job with the help of your friend. Really inspires me when I see such an excellent result. I hope you enjoy the plane for years to come. Mike Heer
Apr 17, 2008, 09:42 PM
Registered User
portablevcb's Avatar
I had started to add retracts on my second build. The Alfa ones are the only ones thin enough to fit in the wings. Also, since they are not rotating they do not go back in the scale manner. I had set them up to retract inward and angled them forward so the wheel axles were even with the LE.

I aborted that build so did not have a chance to test them in flight.

I also thought about those micro spring-airs, but, I felt they were a bit on the weak side for this one.

If you want to look for other retracts, the wing is just over 1/2" thick where the mechanism needs to go.

Apr 17, 2008, 09:49 PM
Bajora's Avatar
Mike, actually there is not even one square inch of covering on it! It is all balsa sheeting, finished with WBPU and then primered and painted.

Retracts would be cool and probably doable but as Charlie mentions, the real plane has rotating mains that turn 90 degrees and rotate straight backwards up into the wing. I am not sure anybody makes such a set?

Oops, as always, I want to thank Terry "Blueskyrider" Riley for all of the excellent help he provided me on this review. I literally couldn't have done it without him! Unless I grew another set of eyes and two more arms and hands!

Hey, can I ask you folks what you think of the video?
Latest blog entry: My Blade 200S
Apr 17, 2008, 10:15 PM
Retired and Lovin' it!
TPfingston's Avatar
Jon, the video is fantastic and that big four blade prop up front shows up great. It really adds to the realism of the plane. The only problem is the file size. Even with DSL the download is a little long but probably worth it. If someone is on dial-up, its definitely going to be a long wait.

On another matter, I was curious about your use of the term "P=factor". It is my understanding that p-factor is not synonymous with torque. P-factor is caused by the down rotating prop blade grabbing a bigger bite of air than the up rotating blade, such as when the tail comes up during takeoff in a taildragger, causing a turn to the left. It is corrected by using right rudder during the takeoff roll.

That, at least, has always been my understanding.

Apr 17, 2008, 10:19 PM
Registered User
D-Rock's Avatar
Very sharp! Great video, liked the sound effects in the begining.

Apr 17, 2008, 10:43 PM
Fokker Ace's Avatar
Nice! Something to be proud of.

Since you asked for comments on the vid, I will say I like to see a takeoff (launch in this case) and a landing. Those always help me when trying to judge how something handles. But it's a nice job overall.

The vid is over 100mb. Hope everyone has high speed.
Last edited by Fokker Ace; Apr 17, 2008 at 10:49 PM.
Apr 17, 2008, 11:42 PM
ARF Hater Club
tommyeflight89's Avatar
Nice review! I am proud to say that I have purchased one ARF during my 8 years in RC, and it crashed on the 4th flight due to an elevator servo porblem... If it's not a kit or plans, it's just not the same.
I really like the looks of this one and will consider it for a pre summer build. How exactly did you get Callie to make the graphics? Is it possible to get a copy of your art files or did you get them somewhere?
Apr 17, 2008, 11:58 PM
Registered User
Raptorhawk's Avatar
Looks and flies very NICE! The video is awesome Great job!

Apr 18, 2008, 12:09 AM
Registered User
portablevcb's Avatar
Callie came up with the graphics for another build of the same plane about a year ago. She does the graphics herself so 'owns' them. Just give her a call (or email) and she can cut a set for you too I already have a set for my next one.

And, if you want a different scheme, like an AF jungle camo version, just send her a picture of the one you want.

Apr 18, 2008, 12:14 AM
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EDF30's Avatar
looks nice Jon. I've always wanted a Skyraider of about that size. Thought about getting that kit in the past. Nice to see your rendition of it.
I did a Guillows rubber band job a few years back and thought of converting it, but it's certainly nothing like this one.

Apr 18, 2008, 12:50 AM
ARF Hater Club
tommyeflight89's Avatar
Originally Posted by portablevcb
Callie came up with the graphics for another build of the same plane about a year ago. She does the graphics herself so 'owns' them. Just give her a call (or email) and she can cut a set for you too I already have a set for my next one.

And, if you want a different scheme, like an AF jungle camo version, just send her a picture of the one you want.

Thanks Charlie,
I didn't know it was that easy. I figured I would have to come up with the proper art files with Photoshop or something. I'll start hunting for some schemes.

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