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Hobby King B-17G Review Print E-mail
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Friday, 10 June 2011 23:26


History

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the then-United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors and more than met the Air Corps' expectations. Although Boeing lost the contract because the prototype crashed, the Air Corps was so impressed with Boeing's design that they ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances.

The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force based at Thorpe Abbotts airfield in England and the Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy complemented the RAF Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing in Operation Pointblank to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for Operation Overlord. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.

From its pre-war inception, the USAAC (later USAAF) touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a potent, high-flying, long-range bomber that was able to defend itself, and to return home despite extensive battle damage. It quickly took on mythic proportions, and widely circulated stories and photos of B-17s surviving battle damage increased its iconic status. With a service ceiling greater than any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 established itself as an effective weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II. Of the 1.5 million metric tons of bombs dropped on Germany by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.

The B-17 held a crew of 10 and was powered by 4 Wright R-1820-97 radial engines which produced 1,200 hp each. The maximum speed was 287 mph with a service ceiling of 35,600 feet.


Intro

I wasn’t looking for anything epic that particular spring evening, maybe some new servos or a speed controller. I was on Hobby King’s website going through various products when I came across a big, beautiful B-17 bomber listed on one of the pages. The plane came nearly Ready-To-Fly and it was under $300 (before shipping)!! I couldn’t believe it. I sat on it for a day and I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I finally bit the bullet and decided to go for it. With a few simple clicks the B-17 Flying Fortress was slowly making its way to my front door.

Kit Contents

In an effort to save money I chose not to use Hobby King’s fairly quick EMS Shipping, but instead opted for regular International Shipping. This meant a $20 savings but nearly doubled the time the plane was in transit. (Un)Patiently I waited, until the Friday before Memorial Day weekend when the big white box from Hong Kong finally arrived.

   

The box appeared to be in good order so I was hopeful that the B17 was intact within. The insides were protected with lots of Chinese air, bubble wrap and all of the contents were individually wrapped to protect the paint. After unwrapping the various parts I noticed there were a few areas of minor damage to a wing and the gear doors, but most everything seemed to be ok.

   

The Hobby King B-17 comes as a Plug-n-Play airplane so all of the motors, ESCs, servos and wires were pre-installed. The plane includes a decal sheet, guns and bombs, an instruction booklet, props and a few random accessories. For a plane that sports 4 motors there is little to do in the way of assembly.

   

Assembly

The B-17 comes as a Plug-and-fly model and although most of the plane comes pre-built, there are a few steps before the plane is ready to fly. As with most planes, the first step I do is to secure the control horns onto the appropriate surfaces; in the case of the B-17 the ailerons and flaps are the only surfaces that have control horns. The package comes with only enough screws to use 2 per control horn. This is fine for flaps, but with the ailerons I wanted more security. I scrounged around my toolbox until I found screws that would fit the control horn. The elevator and rudder are slick since all of their control surfaces are hidden inside of the plane. The elevators connect to a thin wire coming from the elevator servo. Once the elevator is connect and glued into place, the rudder sits on top. The rudder has a metal "L" shaped rod that sets into a slot buried in the tail of the plane. The slot is connected to the rudder/tail wheel servo. It is extremely important to make sure the "L" rod sits down inside of the slot; otherwise you may have no rudder control!

   

After the rear of the plane was completed I moved onto the wings. The wings are in two separate halves and must be glued together. This is perhaps one of the most difficult steps in putting together the Hobby King B-17. It isn't rocket science, but the wings do not make a solid fit and it takes a lot of strength to get them together. After epoxying both sides of the wing and sticking the wing joiner (a small piece of balsa wood) in one wing I pressed the two wings together. I held one end and my lovely assistant held the other. After 7 minutes of muscles burning, we relaxed our grips and surveyed the job we had done. As it turns out, I am much stronger than my assistant and so my side (the trailing edge) had a better fit than her side. We were frustrated as there was a gap on the front edge of the two halves. To remedy the problem I put some Gorilla Glue into the slot and pressed the front halves together. In the end there was a slight gap, but the Gorilla Glue has stood the test of time and held firm.

   

With the wings together I attached the control rods for the ailerons and flaps. At this point the bomber started to resemble a plane rather than pieces of one. Before the wings are attached to the fuselage, great patience is required to thread the receiver and all of the wiring into the center of the wing. It is important to make sure none of the small receiver wires are sticking out so the wings can make a good fit when it is connected. With the wing secured the propellers were ready to be assembled. Using the provided hardware, there was no problem securing the blades to the central hubs. Make sure and get the screw on the back of the hub TIGHT so there is no extra play in the blades.

   

The plane balances perfectly on two 3S 2200mah batteries running in parallel. I cannot emphasize how well the parallel setup fits and works inside the plane. A single 3S 3200mah will fit in the nose of the plane, but there is not enough weight to balance it out. Be smart and make a parallel plug or get one from Heads up RC for a few bucks. With the two 3S batteries in the nose, the plane balances around the 92-95mm range. This is drastically different from what the manual calls for. The listed CG of 115mm is too far back and the plane will be tail heavy. Make sure the weight is shifted forward! I also installed my own magnets for the canopy as the stock setup did not make a good fit and I feared I would lose the pilot in flight.

   



Aside from the decals and guns; the plane was finished and looked awesome.

There are a few issues to watch out for during assembly, read farther down in the article for the tips.

Features

The Hobby King B-17 is a beautiful beast. The plane features four 1600kv motors that are powered by four 30amp ESCs with BEC. The plane also comes with sturdy electric retracts for the main gear and tail wheel that sport large rubber wheels. Perhaps the coolest feature of the plane is the working bomb bay door that not only drops the 4 included bombs, but just about anything else you can stick in the compartment. The plane comes with all the guns, a rare camo paintjob and strong servos all around. Although I had some trouble with the rudder (see below), I do like the design of having all of the control surfaces hidden within the plane for a much more realistic. The B-17 draws 56 amps which pulls 619 watts, and is plenty to send the bomber through the air.

   

First Flight

I brought the Flying Fortress out the field on a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and as luck would have it, the wing was gusting. I figured I would fly the beast in a steady wind, but there was nothing steady about the wind that day so after an hour of waiting around I decided to pack it up and head home.

 

In the early evening hours I received a call from Crazy Thumbs that the weather at the field was perfect. The sun was getting closer to the horizon so I made the decision and went back out to the field.

After about 386 pre-flight checks I brought the plane out to the runway. I set her down on the tarmac and did two more pre-flight checks (388 total). I slowly throttled up and watched as the plane began a slow roll, increasing throttle the plane veered to the left and hit the grass. This minor mishap successfully dislodged one of the main retracts and loosened the other one. In a race to beat the sunset, I put the plane on the stand, glued the gear and held them tightly until they were dry.

 

With the gear secure I took the plane out, throttle up with more authority and kept a strong amount of right rudder on the stick. The plane roared down the runway and with only a little elevator it jumped to the sky. I could feel the plane wanted to dive a little so I gave it some up elevator and things leveled out beautifully.

The B17 flew like a champ and felt very stable through the air. I kept the flight as scale as possible and I was rewarded with a beautiful plane putting around the sky during the setting sun. With the 4 motors buzzing on the front of the wing the Flying Fortress has plenty of power to cut through the air, and flies quite well at only half throttle. During the first flight I never turned the throttle much past the halfway point because she as flying so well at that speed!

After 4 minutes of flight time I brought the HK B-17 around for the final turn and started a long, shallow approach to the runway. While slowly backing off of the throttle the fortress gently descended towards the earth in a serene, predictable manner. When the plane was about 6 inches off the ground I gave a small flair and she literally touched down to the tarmac with a perfect landing. That was until the bump in the middle of the runway bounced the plane back into the sky. After the bump she settled back down and stopped right before the end of the runway.

Success!

Flight Characteristics

The Hobby King B17 has very docile flight characteristics. The large wingspan and powerful motors provide a wonderful, scale flying experience. The bomber flies almost like a trainer, in fact after completing several banked turns I noticed the plane began to right itself. At full power the plane has plenty of juice to loop or roll, although I personally would not do high G maneuvers in the fortress. There is some flex in the wings and I would love to see a longer carbon rod installed in future versions. With the flaps down the plane slows to a crawl which is joyous for those low, slow bombing runs.

Takeoffs and Landings

The B-17 can takeoff within 30-40 feet and even less if you jump on the throttle. The 4 motors do produce some torque so right rudder is advised to keep the RC airplane tracking straight and true. The tail wheel will pop off the ground within 20 feet and once the tail wheel is up, the plane is ready to take to the skies! The B17 looks best when taking off in a slow, steady climb, but if time is of the essence or you’re about to run out of space, the plane responds surprisingly well to fast input.

Landings are best done with long, shallow approaches. The plane can slow down quickly with the flaps deployed, but be aware of ‘ballooning’ when they come down. Landing with power is key; you don’t want to stall this baby 10 feet above the runway. Keep gentle power on the motors and the plane will settle in for a soft landing. A small flair at the end of a long, slow approach will set the plane down nearly perfectly.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

The B-17 is best suited for someone with previous flight experience even though it is a docile flying machine. Plus with 4 motors, retracts, flaps..etc. there are a lot of things that could go wrong and a beginning pilot would be better suited with something more simplistic.

Loose Parts, Broken Parts, Small Assembly Issues, Motor Downthrust
 Overall the plane went together very easily, with that said there are several issues to be aware of when assembling or checking out the B-17. First off, make sure and double check the connectors that sit on top off the rudder/steering horn. These connectors were very loose on my plane and they were not even held on with any lock-tite. It is advised to take them off and lock 'em down so there is less play in them . Secondly, the bomb doors came all busted up on my plane. It was not a huge deal, and an easy fix, but make sure that the hinges are secure before a door dangles on the maiden flight.

   

   

Also be aware that the motors have a surprising amount of down thrust built into them, but this is necessary to keep the nose of the plane down. Compare the motors to one another and see that they are all near the same angle. I would not advise taking the thrust angle out. I also spent a fair amount of time at the hardware store getting small nuts and washers for the motor shafts and the props. There are several random nuts and washers placed on the motor shaft from the factory. I took my time making sure each prop was evenly spaced with the other props. They setup I used is as follows:

Screw a nut all the way on to the motor shaft so that it is tight against the end of the shaft. Screw a 2nd nut tight with the first nut. Place the prop on. Then a washer. Then a nut to tighten everything down. I also (now this was overkill) placed a nut with a rubber insert on the end of the shaft. Then slide on the spinner and tighten it all down with a nut! That's a lot of nuts, but I didn't want something coming loose during flight and causing me to crash.

Please make sure and re-glue the landing gear with epoxy or something just as strong. The glue from the factory is not strong enough and will fail with the slightest bump to the gear. That maybe not be a big deal when taxiing, but you would hate to have them fail on a landing.

The rudder on the B-17 also has issues. Despite my caution and concentration I am not sure if the “L” shaped rod slotted perfectly within the slot buried in the tail section. Something in the rudder is slipping and therefore the rudder seems to work sporadically. The tail section of the plane is secured with glue so I have yet to take it apart and see if I can find the problem. I suspect either the slot broke, or it doesn’t make a good fit, allowing the “L” rod to slip out. Flying without the rudder is very doable, although it is nice to have for those flat turns and for approaches on the landing strip when there is a cross wind.

Taking your time and looking over these small issues will definitely save you from major headaches and/or crashes later on.

Conclusion

The Hobby King B-17G Flying Fortress is an impressive airplane. The aircraft is designed well and she flies so smooth you’d think her wings were coated with butter. Even though the plane might need a little tweaking out of the box, considering what comes inside the box makes this an incredible buy. The EPO foam looks great with the paint job and the bomb doors put a smile on everyone’s face at the field. The whine and whoosh of the 4 motors cutting through the air is a great feeling as the bomber passed overhead. If you’re an intermediate pilot that loves WWII bombers, do yourself a favor and snatch up Hobby King’s B-17. I don’t know of any other bomber on the market that is loaded with this many features that sells for less than $325 after shipping.

GRADE: A

Pros

  • Loaded with features
  • Good power w/o sacrificing too much battery juice
  • Fun and easy to fly
  • Looks amazing
  • Bomb drop compartment able to hold a variety of things
  • Makes me look cool when I fly it

Neutrals

  • Retracts need to be held in by stronger glue
  • Hinges for bomb doors came unglued

Cons

  • Rudder Design needs some work
  • Slight damage in shipping
  • Does not drop actual exploding bombs

 

Media and Flight Time!

   

    

   

   

   

   






 
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