Home RC Airplane Reviews E-flite Beechcraft Staggerwing Review
E-flite Beechcraft Staggerwing Review Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 06 September 2011 18:23


History
At the height of the Great Depression, aircraft executive Walter H. Beech and airplane designer T. A. "Ted" Wells joined forces to collaborate on a project many considered foolhardy — a large, powerful, and fast biplane built specifically for the business executive. The Beechcraft Model 17, popularly known as the "Staggerwing" was first flown on November 4, 1932, setting the standard for private passenger airplanes for many years to come. It was considered, during its time, to be the premier executive aircraft flying, much as the Gulfstream executive jets are considered in contemporary times.

The Model 17's unusual negative stagger wing configuration (the upper wing staggered behind the lower) and unique shape maximized pilot visibility while minimizing the tendency to stall. The fabric-covered fuselage was faired with wood formers and stringers over a welded, steel tube frame. Construction was complex and took many man-hours to complete. The Staggerwing's retractable conventional landing gear, uncommon at that time, combined with streamlining, light weight, and powerful radial engines helped it perform significantly better than other biplane designs.
In the mid-1930s, Beech began a major redesign of the aircraft, to create the Model D17 Staggerwing. The D17 featured a lengthened fuselage that improved the aircraft's landing characteristics by increasing the leverage generated by the elevator. They relocated the Ailerons to the upper wings, eliminating any interference with the air flow over the flaps. Braking was improved with a foot-operated brake synchronized to the rudder pedals. These modifications enhanced the Staggerwing's performance, which was soon put to the test under wartime conditions.
The Staggerwing held a total of 4 people and 125lbs of baggage. The plane was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-985-An-1 radial engine that produces 450 hp and gave the Staggerwing a top speed of 212 mph.



Intro
It was a long time coming but E-flite has finally released their Beechcraft Staggerwing. The bird was first announced months ago and through various forums it was revealed that the design was actually started in 2006, but was shelved for several years. After a short shipping delay, the plane finally arrived at RC Hobbies two days before Labor Day.


   


Kit Contents
For the review the plane was built using the recommended setup of the E-flite Park 480, servos and a 40amp ESC. The ESC was a Common Sense brand, but it was up to the task of powering the electrical components.

   

There was a gouge on the front of the box, but after pulling everything out I discovered the kit did not sustain any damage. The Staggerwing kit comes with everything needed to build the airplane except all of the electrical components. The kit includes the fuselage, wings, fixed landing gear, elevator, rudder, prop and miscellaneous screws, clevises and control rods to connect everything together. Most importantly the Beechcraft comes with a detailed manual that provides plenty of pictures and instruction on how to assemble the aircraft.

   

Assembly
The E-flite Beechcraft Staggerwing is a fairly easy airplane to assemble, but there are a few quirky things that the designers decided to implement that I am not sure make the plane better just silly.

Assembly starts by installing the one aileron servo on the bottom of the top wing. The servo fits snugly and screws in simply into the plastic. It is important to make sure the servo horn is centered while the ailerons are flush with the trailing edge of the wing so the plane will have a maximum and even amount of throw. After the ailerons are hooked up the next step is to install the flap servo on the top of the bottom wing. The installation is straight forward, but there is not a lot of movement from neutral (no flaps) and down (full flaps) so depending on the type of transmitter you use 2-stage flaps may not be a reality. Once the correct movement and linkage has been dialed into the servo and control arm, put a small dab of foam safe CA on the servo and slap it down into the wing to ensure a tight, solid fit. Don't use too much glue in case you need to take the servo out later.

   

Since the Staggerwing's pneumatic retracts have not yet shipped the bird was flown with the included fixed gear. Once the pneumatics ship this review will be updated with pictures and information. The fixed gear is easy to install but some filing is required on the ends of the struts since they have some burrs from the factory. Be sure to tighten the gear into the wings until there is no play.

   

Moving to the tail of the plane the elevator simply glues into the pre-cut slot using foam safe CA. The rudder is 'optional' which was a bit strange to me. It comes as one unit and needs to be cut and glued back together with CA hinges (not provided) in order to be used. The entire process is a bit goofy and needlessly time consuming in my opinion. I am not sure why E-flite chose this route or why they chose to not include any hinges, nevertheless if you want rudder, it must be done!

   

Before gluing the rudder on top of the elevator I recommend sliding the tail wheel assembly onto the plane and making sure the tail wheel makes a good fit into the slot of the rudder. Once everything has been test fitted the rudder glues into the slot on top of the elevator and the tail wheel can be completed.

Once the tail feathers are completed we have to install the servos that control them! The servo bay is hidden by a magnetic cover. Using E-flite servos the installation was quick and easy. Use a 1/16" drill bit to make pilot holes and the servos can be screwed down in a hurry! After the servos are in, thread the control rods through the tubes, attach each rod to the servo horn and screw on the clevises.

   

At this point the plane is nearly finished. Moving to the nose of the Staggerwing we find a very easy assembly of the motor and motor mount. The Beechcraft calls for a Park 480 and it fits perfectly on the plane. Be sure to get the motor mount nice and tight on the front of the plane to avoid any nasty vibrations. Once the motor was installed I assembled the propeller and spinner and ran into another E-flite anomaly. The included spinner and propeller used with the recommended motor do not fit! The shaft is too short to be used with the snub nosed spinner. So lame! Upon further investigation it was revealed that a longer shaft can be purchased from E-flite for the 480 so the prop/spinner combo of the plane can be used. I found it poor taste that they did not highlight this fact in the manual. Since it was late and I did not have the longer shaft I assembled the propeller without the spinner and it still looked pretty good.

   

After the propeller is on, screw the wings onto the plane with the provided hardware and wing struts.

She looks great!

Features
The E-flite Staggerwing features scale lines and a beautiful 2-tone paint job that contrasts well while up in the sky. The foam is smooth, but prone to damage should any tape come in contact with it.  The plane can be made a very simple model with the option of only using ailerons and elevators or a more scale flyer by adding in flaps, retracts, steerable tail wheel and rudder. The Beechcraft's wings spread out to 35" and the fuselage is a stout 30”. With the E-flite motor and stock prop the plane pulls 31 amps and 360 watts.

First Flight
The sun was shining hot the day I brought the E-flite Staggerwing out to the field. I thankfully ran through my list of pre-flight checks and found that half of my surfaces were moving in the wrong direction. After fixing the issues I stuffed in a 3S 2200mah battery, checked the CG, set the small Staggerwing on the tarmac and throttle her up.

   

The little plane took off with relative ease and climbed out smoothly. The elevators needed some serious up trim as the Beechcraft wanted to dive like a whale in the sea. Once trimmed out the plane flew straight and true. The elevator was very touchy but the ailerons felt very dull which gave the bird funky flight characteristics. The wind picked up and since the model is light it did toss the Staggerwing around a bit, but nothing too extreme or uncontrollable.

The flight was uneventful and even though the flaps look like they don't move enough to be effective, they definitely slow the Beechcraft down. The biplane came in smoothly and floated down to the ground for a bouncy landing.

Landing the plane in one piece is always a success!

Flight Characteristics
The E-flite Beechcraft Staggerwing is an easy flying machine. The roll rate is docile and tame. With the stock setup the airplane feels a touch tail heavy even though the CG falls within the recommended 2.25 to 2.50 inch range. The biplane flies inverted with no heavy down trim needed to remain level. The little airplane crawls with the flaps down and the throttle off. Stalls are wide and open turns that float towards the ground. With a 480 motor under the hood the Staggerwing has impressive performance and climbing ability. Overall the design of the airplane is very stable, but given its size any wind in the air affects it while flying.


Takeoffs and Landings
On the ground the Beechcraft’s tail wheel is a bit sensitive. Being a tail dragger a small amount of right rudder is important to apply while the throttle is increased to keep the plane tracking straight down the runway. The tail wheel won’t be in contact for long as the E-flite Staggerwing needs only 25-30 feet to get airborne. I never blasted the throttle on takeoff, but given the power to weight ratio I am sure the Beechcraft could take off in a much shorter distance.

   

A landing with the flaps deployed makes the job much easier. The plane floats like a feather with the flaps down and the throttle off. A little flair before touchdown softens the landing and is very scale like. Be careful with the elevator input especially if the plane balances a little tail heavy like mine did. The fixed gear on the craft has a tendency to bounce the plane if the landing is less than perfect so be aware of that. In addition after only two landings (as seen in the video) I could tell that the plastic piece the gear screw into was loose and coming away from the wing of the plane. Hopefully the pneumatic retracts will help strengthen everything, but it might not be a bad idea to add some CA around the edges of the gear to shore up the area.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

Even though the E-flite Staggerwing can be built with very basic options, I would not recommend it to beginner. It is not a difficult plane to fly, but being a tail dragger and possessing a smaller wing area the plane is not as forgiving as a large trainer would be. Save this for the 2nd plane.

Conclusion

The E-flite Staggerwing is a sweet looking plane that captures the feel of the original. Building the bird to recommended specs it has plenty of power and mild maneuverability. There are some design qualities that are a little ‘different’ but overall the plane does what it is supposed to. The foam on the craft is very smooth and forgiving should any mishaps happen. The landing gear could be a bit beefier but it will be interesting to see how the plane flies with pneumatic retracts installed. The E-flite Beechcraft is a scale flying bird that accomplishes what it set out to do. It is sleek and smooth on the ground as it is in the air.


GRADE: B

Pros

  • Nice Foam
  • Beautiful Paint Scheme/Contrasting colors
  • Detailed Instructions
  • Semi-simple build


Neutrals

  • Side windows are loose and easy to poke in, need CA



Cons

  • Motor shaft is too short using the recommended setup!
  • Landing gear is a bit weak, not sure how much abuse it can take


Media and FLIGHT Time!

   

   

   

   

   

   


Thanks to RC Hobbies on Halsey Street!


 
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