The Bowers Fly Baby is a single seat, home built aircraft that first flew in 1962. Its designer, Peter Bowers, probably had no idea at the time that his aircraft would still be being built in 2016! With a relatively low cost to assemble, the Fly Baby still remains popular to this day. Just a few years ago, this aircraft could be assembled in a garage for approximately $10,000! Now that, in my mind, is pretty darn cheap to build a full-scale plane!
Over the years, kits have been produced by a hand full of manufacturers, and with the recent use of Foam, a few ARF/RTF models have been made. But, I haven’t seen any ARFs, as of late, in the .60-.90 glow/10-15cc gas size range. When Seagull Models offered to let me review their new 10-15cc ARF, I gladly took the opportunity to do so. The original was a gentle, forgiving flyer – I’m hoping the Seagull ARF will be the same. With a wingspan just short of 70” and a projected weight of approximately 7.5 pounds, it should be a nice flying plane!
The Seagull Models Bowers Fly Baby 10-15cc is the sixth aircraft in my series of pre-production samples. I’m hoping that, judging by how the previous five have gone, this one will go together well. Let’s get the box up on the bench and dig in!
- Name: Seagull Models Fly Baby 10-15cc ARF Price: $208.99 (Price at review publishing date)
- Stock Number: SEA238 Length: 48.2 in (1225mm)
- Wingspan: 68.9″ (1750mm) Center of Gravity: 2.95 in (75mm) from the wing’s leading edge
- Wing Area: 776.6 sq in (50.1 sq dm) Channels Used: 4 Total – Aileron, Elevator, Throttle, and Rudder
As I stated in the introduction section, the Fly Baby is the sixth in my series of pre-production samples. Because of this, my sample arrived in a plain brown cardboard box. Like all of the others, I can assure you that by the time you read this review the box will have a full-color label with all of the specifications and requirements. All of the parts were individually bagged and taped together to prevent damage during shipping – I pulled all of the parts out of the box, and everything was in perfect shape! Speaking of parts, the Fly Baby has a low part count – hopefully this means it will go together quickly!
One of the first things I noticed was the large top hatch. Two strong magnets hold it securely in place during flight. I will be using an electric setup for this review, so the large hatch will make battery installation/removal very easy! I also like that the cockpit combing is pre-installed and there’s even an instrument panel decal!
The landing gear has several pieces that give it a scale look – I ran into a little trouble with the crossbar after a few flights, but I’ll get to that in more detail a bit later. Like most of the new Seagull aircraft, the Fly Baby has parts for both gas/glow engine installation AND electric power! Nearly everything needed is included, but you will have to provide fuel line for your choice of engine.
I really like all the pre-applied decals as well – Seagull has left nothing to chance! The dark red and yellow color scheme looks pretty close to the original colors used by Mr. Bowers.
The trim scheme is continued on the tail, and looks really nice! Seagull has really done a good job on the fiberglass cowl – the dummy engine adds a nice touch, and the paint matches the UltraCote perfectly. The only plastic parts included are the painted windshield and the pilot figure.
Since I was assembling a pre-production sample, I had only received a rough draft of the manual while assembling the Fly Baby. I did have a chance to talk with Seagull and help edit the manual you will see in the box. As a result, I’m going to have to say that this is one of the better manuals not completely written in the US – there are lots of illustrations, and the instructions can be well-understood! Any intermediate modeler will have no trouble reading through this manual.
Items Used for Completion
- From the ground, I will be using my trusty Hitec Flash 7 Transmitter. This 7-channel transmitter is very quickly becoming one of my favorite! It feels good in-hand, and the sticks and switches are where they should be. A very nice LCD display makes programming a breeze, and shows me telemetry readouts as well!
- I will be using a Hitec Optima 6 receiver in the Fly Baby – The single antenna makes the Optima 6 easy to install nearly anywhere inside a model!
- A Hitec Energy Sport 80 Amp ESC will provide power to the receiver and servos – These new ESCs from Hitec are great, and affordable as well! With a retail price of under $60.00, the Energy Sport ESC gives me peace of mind, knowing my plane is backed by a great company!
- The Fly Baby is a gentle, easy flying plane – any standard servo will work very well in this plane – I’ll be using some no-name standard analog servos for this review. Of course, the Hitec HS-485HB Deluxe servo would be a great choice!
- An Electrifly Rimfire .80 Brushless Outrunner Motor (5055 500kV) will be mounted inside the cowl. The Rimfire .80 should provide ample power to pull the Fly Baby ARF around!
- Finishing out the front end is a Falcon 15×6 Electric Beechwood Propeller. These props not only perform very well, but they look great as well!
I started assembly by installing the ailerons. They are pre-hinged, but the hinges need to be secured. After inserting a T-pin through the center of each hinge, they were installed between the wing and aileron. A few drops of thin CA secure the hinges to the wing and aileron. A small batch of epoxy was mixed up to secure the elevator joiner wire into the elevator halves.
Once the epoxy had cured, the elevator assembly was attached to the horizontal stabilizer using CA hinges and thin CA. All of the fiberglass control horns were installed using another batch of epoxy – I really like these control horns – they do not flex, and install quick and easily!
Moving on to the fuselage, the motor box and Electrifly Rimfire .80 brushless outrunner motor were installed. The motor box is adjustable, depending on the motor being used, but for the Rimfire .80 it had to be set to the maximum length. I added a few DuBro servo screws to the adjustable face of the motor mount in addition to the epoxy and tri-stock. While it’s probably not necessary, it adds a little ‘peace of mind’ that the motor isn’t going anywhere without the plane.
The Hitec Energy Sport 80 Amp ESC will get attached to the side of the motor box, but first an elongated hole had to be cut/drilled in the firewall. This allowed the ESC to sit nearly flush agains the firewall without stressing the battery wires. I attached the cowl to the fuselage with four screws. Though not shown, the tape and cardstock (tag board) method was used to attach the cowl.
I cut a large hole in the front face of the right side dummy engine to allow airflow over the ESC – the bottom of the cowl was then opened up. Between the two openings, the ESC should have PLENTY of cooling! A Falcon 15×6 electric Beechwood propeller was added to complete the nose of the Fly Baby.
Moving on to the main landing gear, I started by attaching the two aluminum gear legs to the fuselage. The spreader bar was then threaded onto the inside ends of the axles. On the outer side of the axles, a washer and nut secured each axle to the gear leg. The wheel was then installed with a wheel collar on each side to secure it. Reviewer’s Note: After the 5th or 6th flight, the spreader bar pulled loose from one of the axles. To remedy this, I removed the axles and spreader bar, and replaced them with a single length of 5/32” music wire and a few extra wheel collars. The music wire has held up very well for several more flights, and shows no signs of issues. I sent images of my fix to Seagull, and I believe it will be incorporated into the new Fly Baby ARF.
Back to the wing, I attached the aileron servo to its hatch. Because of the depth of the hatch, I recommend using a long servo arm. A standard length arm will work, but it makes installing and adjusting the pushrods a little more difficult. If you have longer arms, use them. An 18” servo extension wire was secured to the servo before pulling the wire through the wing using the pre-installed pull-string. The servo hatch was then installed using four wood screws.
I assembled the aileron pushrod and attached the clevis to the control horn. The aileron and servo were both centered, and the pushrod was bent and cut at the correct length. A snap keeper secured the pushrod to the servo arm.
I temporarily attached the wings to the fuselage and slid the horizontal stabilizer into its slot to check the wing/stab alignment. The alignment was perfect!
While the stab was in place, I traced the fuselage’s outline onto the stabilizer – this was done on both the top and the bottom of the stab. The covering was CAREFULLY cut and removed just inside the traced lines. The stabilizer was then slid back into place so I could mark the vertical stabilizer. Again, being very careful, I cut and removed the covering from the fin.
Because I had previously verified the fit of both the stab and fin. I was able to install both with a single batch of 15-minute epoxy. If you are not 100% sure you can do this quickly and correctly, I highly recommend attaching the stab and fin individually with two batches of epoxy. Masking tape held the stab and fin while the epoxy cured. Once the epoxy had cured, the rudder was installed using CA hinges and thin CA. The elevator and rudder pushrods were assembled and slid into their respective guide tubes. The elevator and rudder servos were then installed and the pushrods were connected with snap keepers.
I started installing the tail wires by loosely attaching the aluminum brackets to the stab halves, fin and fuselage. I had to bend a few of these brackets to get them to fit nicely, but this was simple using a large pliars. If you need to adjust the bracket(s), you’ll want to remove it(them) from the tail. With all of the brackets now adjusted correctly, one end of each of the four the wires were permanently attached to the tail, and the other with a quick connector.
Attaching the tail wheel bracket started by securing the tiller arm to the bottom of the rudder with a pair of wood screws. A pair of machine screws attached the tail wheel bracket to the fuselage, followed by installing the steering springs. The springs must be bent at the correct lengths, but was accomplished easily with a needle nosed pliers. Only slight tension is required on these springs.
I installed the Hitec Optima 6 receiver in front of the elevator and rudder servos, and secured the wing wire brackets to the fuselage with epoxy. The Optima 6’s antenna was mounted in a spacious area next to the receiver.
The wings were once again installed on the fuselage and the servo wires were inserted through a hole behind the aluminum wing tube.
With each wing half in place, a machine screw is inserted through the fiberglass tab (outlined in red in the first photo) and into a blind nut in the fuselage floor. These screws secured the wings to the fuselage. A few more brackets and springs attach the wing wires to the wing halves and fuselage sides. These wires are added solely for a scale look, and are not functional wires – but they do add a nice aesthetic appeal!
I didn’t have to wait but a few days for the right weather to maiden the Fly Baby. Although the sky was overcast, the day of the maiden flight was otherwise quite nice. The temperature was in the low 70’s with a 5-10 MPH wind.
Because the Fly Baby has large wheels, I was able to taxi the plane out to the runway through the grass. Ground handling was nice, thanks to the steerable tail wheel.
Once lined up on the runway centerline, I advanced the throttle. The Electrifly Rimfire .80 was turning the Falcon 15×6 Beech wood electric prop with ease! The Fly Baby started moving, and with just a slight veer to the left, took off easily. It became very clear that the power setup was more than adequate, as she left the ground at under three-quarter throttle – the Fly Baby climbed out with authority!
When she had reached a safe altitude, I checked for trim adjustments. A few clicks of up elevator and right aileron had the Fly Baby on the level at half throttle. Just a few trips around the field later, I was feeling comfortable with the plane and starting to really enjoy its laid back flight characteristics!
High and low speed flight were tested next. With the lower kV motor and 6-inch pitch on the Falcon prop, the Fly Baby was definitely not going get ahead of me, but it clipped along at a really nice pace. Slow speed testing was next, and she proved to be a real winner here – the Fly Baby appeared to nearly stop all forward movement before stalling, though as it approached stall speed, I had to pull back on the elevator. The flying wires do add some drag, but the scale appeal overrides the little drag they cause.
Though I’m sure the original Fly Baby wasn’t intended for aerobatics, this model of the original will do basic aerobatics. The power system provided plenty of power for graceful loops and straight vertical climbs. The ailerons had to be ‘turned up’ from the recommended throws to get a decent roll rate, but was easily fixed by adding dual rates. The rudder provided more than enough control for stall turns as well!
I had set the flight timer on my Hitec Flash 7 for 8 minutes – when it went off, I brought the Fly Baby back to the ground. During the maiden flight, the wind switched and was nearly a straight cross wind from the North. The Fly Baby did weathervane a little on final approach, but was easily corrected with a touch of left rudder. With just a slight brush of the wheels in the grass at the end of the runway, the Fly Baby touched down a few feet later. The main gear is a little narrow, so when I turned the plane to keep her on the fabric runway a wing tip rubbed on the ground. This was my fault, as I had tried to turn the plane when she was still moving too fast. Subsequent landings were done in the grass without any trouble, as the grass bled off the speed much more quickly.
Back at the pits, I checked the 5S 4500mAh LiPo battery. The 8 minute flight used 65% of the battery. More flight testing showed that a 10 minute flight was just perfect, and left enough reserve for a ‘go-around’ if needed.
The Fly Baby’s maiden flight was performed back in June of 2015. Since then, she has been flown a lot! The Fly Baby was flown at the 41 st SIG fly in several times, and made an appearance at WATTS over Owatonna as well! I also flew it several more times at my local field, and I’ve really enjoyed every flight! The only concern I ran into after a whole season of flying was the spreader bar between the axles came loose – one end stripped out of the axle threads. I came up with the fix I talked about in the assembly section, and she’s been doing well since!
I really love my Seagull Models Fly Baby. For a pre-production sample, it went together really well, looked awesome, and flew great. If you’re looking for a good looking model of the Bowers Fly Baby, and you don’t want one made of foam (and don’t have the time to build a kit), look no further than this one! Mine will be staying in my hangar for many years to come. Seagull got another one right on the money!
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