Home RC Airplane Reviews Hobby King B-17 Memphis Belle RC Airplane Review
Hobby King B-17 Memphis Belle RC Airplane Review Print E-mail
User Rating: / 8
Thursday, 04 August 2011 21:56


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.


After reviewing and owning the “other” Hobby King B-17G bomber I was floored when I saw they were releasing another bomber, only this one was bigger and cheaper! I thought to myself “oh that’s interesting” but then it started to bug me and I was curious how something so massive could be $100 cheaper and still look so good. Then one day the B-17 showed up in the USA warehouse for $.01 shipping so I jumped at the chance to buy it, review it and compare it to the smaller version.


Kit Contents

The kit arrived weeks after I ordered it. I was one of the (un)lucky ones that ordered the bomber right after it appeared on the website and received it 3 weeks later, despite living only a few hours from the warehouse. The chat line was a joke and I never did get a tracking number or an answer as to why it took so long to ship, it just magically showed up one day on my doorstep.


Thankfully the box arrived with no damage and all the parts were well protected inside. As I slowly began unwrapping everything and setting it up on the table I was impressed with the size of the plane. The wings were long, the fuselage was long, even the elevator felt massive! The kit included the airplane, 4 700kv motors, 6 props (2 extra), 4 hard plastic cowls, retracts already installed, 4 20amp ESCs already installed, a manual, random accessories and hardware, glue and plenty of good cheer. Everything was there to put the plane together except for a screwdriver, receiver and transmitter.

Despite the bomber’s large size much of the assembly work was already completed, making my job much easier.



All of the control horns and control rods were already installed when I pulled the plane out of the box, as well as the ESCs and the wiring. These little steps were a nice surprise as it shaved off at least a half an hour of build time.


For the assembly I decided to start with something easy and focused my attention on the rear of the plane. The elevator and rudder make a great connection at the tail of the plane, but to make sure the connection was strong I spent some time sanding the surfaces and scuffing up the foam in all the areas I was going to apply some glue. Before gluing anything I test fitted both the rudder and elevator to be sure things were straight and fit properly. Once everything was looking good I mixed up some 5-minute epoxy in only 30 seconds and generously coated the underside of the elevator where it fit into the fuselage. While the elevator was drying I gooped some more epoxy into the trough-like slot that the rudder fits into and slid the rudder onto the elevator. After 10 minutes of tight pressure the rudder and elevator were finished!



With my 5-minute epoxy still handy I kept it warm while scuffing up the inner connections of the B-17’s massive 73” wings. The wing connection on the bomber is wonderful and fits tight and true. With my lovely assistant’s help, I coated the inside of the wings and then pressed them together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Epoxy was escaping from all of the edges but she was there to catch any residue and assist in keeping the wings tight. I was very pleased with the looks and connection the wings made when we were all done.


At this point the big bomber was looking good. The motors came loose from the wings so they need to be screwed into the mounts. Each motor has two flat spots where the grub screws go so be sure and line those up when installing the motors, otherwise they can rattle loose, and actually they can rattle loose anyways, so be aware of that. The manual clearly shows this but each motor should turn towards the fuselage when spinning. If it is not reverse two motor/esc wires and try again till it does.


After the motors were installed I lined up the cowls and screwed them in. I really like the cowls, they are made out of hard plastic that feels sturdy and the yellow-green scheme makes them pop. Once the cowls were on I threaded two nuts onto the motor shaft, then the prop, after that a washer (I had to buy my own) then a nut to lock it all down and finally the yellow spinners.

While the wings and fuselage were still apart I hooked up all of the wires to a receiver and made sure all the flaps, lights, gear….basically everything was working. At this point I threaded the mass of wires through the pre-cut holes in the wings and fuselage and secured the wings. Don’t forget to install the little ‘nubs’ that slide into the front of the fuselage. The first time I threaded everything through I missed the little black bracket in the accessories bag and had to go back and carefully install it so I didn’t have to rethread all my wires again. Once the wing was together, two metal screws hold it to the fuselage. The plane was nearly done and all that was required to finish it was to glue on the nose, install the ball turret and all of the guns.


The entire assembly took an hour tops, and when it was finished the big bad bomber looked amazing. Perhaps the most astonishing part was after the plane was assembled and I was testing all of the functions I was greeted with an eerie silence. As of late most ARFs that I build will inevitably have a servo or two buzzing at random intervals until I can find the offender and quiet it. The Hobby King Memphis Belle was 100% quiet out of the box, no buzz, no binding…beautiful.


The Hobby King B-17 Memphis Belle features 4-700kv brushless motors driven by 4- 20 amps ESCs. The plane comes with 6-9 gram servos installed and sturdy electric retracts. The foam is EPO and the paint on the foam is really nice with a dark green color highlighted on the cowls with a bright yellow stripe. The cowls themselves are top notch and made out of hard plastic that is not flimsy or prone to break. 

The wheels on the B-17 are large and very capable of rolling on grass. The Memphis Belle also features lights and split flaps that look great when deployed.

Overall I am extremely pleased with the build of the airplane. It went together very easily and feels strong and secure. The wings are impressive and long, but also thick which adds to the stability while in flight. The clevises are a tad on the weak side, but this beast is definitely not pulling any high g maneuvers so they are probably safe from experiencing too much stress.


First Flight

After some extensive testing on the motors I was feeling fairly confident for the first flight. The website says the plane should be run on a 3S battery but after doing a watt test I discovered the 4 motors only pulled 415 watts on 37 amps. The reading didn’t instill me with a whole heap of confidence considering the smaller Hobby King B-17 pulled more watts than this bird! After talking with others in the online threads it was discovered that the Memphis Belle could be safely flown on a 4S battery. With a 4S battery under the canopy the big bomber pulled 726 watts on 52 amps.  This reading gave me ease that the plane would fly with no issue.


In order to get the massive bomber out to the field I needed to take the wing off. Fortunately this is a simple process that is accomplished by removing the two wing screws and carefully holding the wing and fuselage together. If you’re not too jerky on the wing the whole mess of wires will stay connected and the plane can be transported without having to disconnect, or reconnect anything.

At the field I screwed the wings back into the body and checked all the functions of the craft to make sure she was working properly. With the preflight checks out of the way I taxied on the grass towards the runway and centered her for a victorious flight. I slowly rolled on the throttle and the motors came to life with increasing veracity and velocity. The huge bomber lumbered down the runway and in less than 30 feet she was airborne. The climb out was slow and labored but she was able to get up to cruising altitude.

I circled the field to trim out the plane but other than a few clicks of up elevator the Memphis Belle was flying straight, true and slow. I felt like she was at the edge of a stall so I pushed the throttle stick forward to coax some more power out of her. It was at this very moment that I broke into a cold sweat.  The plane looked like the tail was dragging and she needed a bit more speed to stay in the air with authority but when I pushed the throttle I discovered it was already wide open!

Scotty’s voice from Star Trek was suddenly in my head “I can’t do it cap’n, I dooon’t have the POWA!”

My flying instantly took on a whole new set of characteristics. Instead of trying to push the limits of the craft like most reviews I was doing my best to take it easy, fly the plane flat and scale and not pile drive it into the ground.

After a few minutes of flying ‘on the edge’ of control I decided to bring in the Hobby King Memphis Belle and was able to land her fairly soft. It was then I realized I had not taken a breath in 3 minutes. Whew!

Flight Characteristics

Where do I begin? The first few flights with this beauty were a hair raising experience! The bomber does actually have enough power to fly, but the problem is in the props. The props are very flimsy and have very little pitch to them so while in the air much of the power from the motors is lost on the edges of the prop.

Shortly after takeoff the B-17 felt like it had good power but it seemed to make matters worse anytime I increased the throttle. The plane felt like it was flying in mashed potatoes and the more gravy I gave it the more bogged down it flew!

Aside from the lack of power the actual roll rate, rudder control, and stability were excellent! I believe the plane was really near stall speed the entire flight, but it never tipped or rocked and continued to sail through the air slowly and predictably. The large wingspan is probably what kept it in the air.

The Hobby King Memphis Belle is a truly scale flyer. The 2nd, 3rd and subsequent flights were better as I knew what to expect and did my best to keep it scale. No loops, rolls or knife edges will be done with this plane no matter your intentions are. The CG on my bomber was about an inch forward from what is recommended in the manual. The plane balanced well at that point.

Takeoffs and Landings

Taking off is easy with the 4 motored plane. Despite the flying characteristics, there is plenty of power to get off the ground. Once the motors fire up, the bomber barrels down the track straight and true. The steerable rear wheel has quite a bit of movement in it, so not much is needed to correct the plane while taxiing.

Landing is best done with a long and shallow approach although as seen in the video, the plane came down very quickly when backed off the throttle. Keep some power to the props and slowly back off the juice to start a scale descent. The big bird has flaps, but they were not needed or used since the B-17 was already flying plenty slowly.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

No, beginners should actually fly something with MORE power (I never thought I would say that). This bomber is beautiful and quite a handful, it wouldn’t take long to end up looking like a ‘bombee’ rather than a bomber.

Need More Power Captain!

As stated earlier the plane needs more power, or perhaps not more power but better props. The props do not transfer the power efficiently and unfortunately the plane really suffers for this. I don’t want a bomber that flies like an F-16, but it is preferable to have a plane that doesn’t need full power just to stay in the air, it doesn’t leave much room for error. Several have reported that MAS 9x7x3 props fit well and provide a much needed boost in thrust as do the Airfield B-25 props found on Nitroplanes.com. The B-25 props fit the shaft well, are much stiffer and have a higher pitch than the stock B-17 props. I am in the process of ordering new props so I hope to have an answer as to what works best on the plane.


Some have experimented with putting a small piece of carbon fiber behind the blade near the center hub to help stiffen the propeller and this has actually helped create more thrust. Whatever you do make sure you do it for each prop and do it as evenly as possible.


The Hobby King B-17 Memphis Belle is a monster of an airplane that looks great in the air and on the ground. The bomber is lumbering and slow in the air and suffers from thrust issues when using the stock propellers. This is most unfortunate because the plane would have been a grand slam otherwise. The retracts feel strong and it is nice to have wheels that can handle grass. The airplane is loaded with features and is really a steal for $219, but be aware that some modding may be needed to make the plane fly a bit better and make your life more relaxing. Even with the issues it is exciting to see more bombers on the market at affordable prices!



  • Excellent Price Point
  • Strong foam and nice paint scheme
  • Loaded with features
  • Included manual is actually more helpful than many coming from China
  • Quick and easy build, can be finished in about an hour
  • Nice ball turret


  • Tail wheel not retractable
  • Deep grooves on the nose of the plane are a bit silly


  • Atrocious shipping time + no communication = bad Hobby King
  • Stock props are thin, bendy and lack the pitch needed to properly power the bomber


Media and FLIGHT TIME!





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