Among four and six cylinder experimental aerobatic biplanes, the Skybolt is clearly the gold standard. The Skybolt is capable of extreme, on-the-edge aerobatics, yet it is polite, predictable and forgiving in the air and on the ground. The Skybolt is a straightforward, honest, and absolutely beautiful biplane.
These are quotes taken directly from the Steen-aero website, and describe the Skybolt perfectly. It combines a great airshow performer and an everyday flyer into one package.
When I saw that Seagull Models was releasing their own version of this ‘more than capable’ aircraft, I just had to have one, and the ‘Batman’ trim scheme is taken directly from N250SB – a full scale Skybolt!
Seagull Models introduced this biplane early on in 2015, and SIG mfg. had a pre-production sample at the Toledo Expo. That pre-production sample, is the one you will see assembled in this review! The Steen Super Skybolt is the third in my series of Seagull reviews.
So grab a beverage and a snack, sit back, and have a look at this great looking bipe – it should be one to watch for at your local field.
- All Wood Construction
- Covered in Balck and Gold UltraCote (OraCover)
- Pre-hinged Control Surfaces
- Fiberglass Cowl and Wheel Pants
- Removable Wings for Easy Transport
- Electric Conversion Parts Included
- Pre-applied Decals
- Painted pilot Included
- Sport Scale Model of a Real Aircraft
- Lower Wing Must be Removed for LiPo Battery Change if Using Electric Power
Time Required to Build:
Price: $324.49 (Price at Review Publishing Date)
Stock Number: SEA237B
Wingspan: 61″ (1550mm)
Wing Area: 1023 in² (66 dm²)
Weight: 9-9.5 lbs. (4.1-4.3 kg)
Length: 48.2″ (1224mm)
Center of Gravity (CG): 4.75″ (120mm) from the leading edge where wing meets the fuselage
Radio Used:Hitec Flash 7
Receiver Used:Hitec Optima 9
Servos Used:Hitec HS-485HB Deluxe HD Ball Bearing Standard Servo
Engine Used:RCGF 15cc Gas Engine
Propeller Used:Falcon 15×8 Beech Wood Propeller
Channels Used: 5 total – Aileron, Elevator (x2), Throttle, and Rudder
Control Throws: LOW (Per Manual)
- Elevator, up/down: 10mm
- Ailerons, up/down: 10mm
- Rudder, right/left: 20mm
Control Throws: HIGH (Per Manual)
- Elevator, up/down: 12mm
- Ailerons, up/down: 12mm
- Rudder, right/left: 30mm
Items Needed To Complete:
- Electric Setup:
- 4 Channel Radio (minimum) and Receiver
- 5 Standard Servos
- 5S-6S 5000 mAh LiPo Battery and LiPo Charger
- 1200-1700 Watt Brushless Outrunner Motor (400-650 kV)
- 60-80 Amp ESC
- 2 – 12″ Servo Wire Extensions
- 2 – Y-Harnesses
- Thread Locking Compound, CA, and Epoxy
- Various Shop Tools
- You will need to fabricate a hatch for battery access
- Gas/Glow Engine Setup:
- 4 Channel Radio (minimum), Receiver, and Receiver Battery
- 6 Standard Servos
- .60 2-Stroke Glow Engine OR
- 15cc Gasoline Engine OR
- .90 4-Stroke Glow Engine
- 2 – 12″ Servo Wire Extensions
- 2 – Y-Harnesses
- Glow/Gas Engine Field Accessories
- Thread Locking Compound, CA, and Epoxy
- Various Shop Tools
As I stated in the introduction, the Skybolt you’ll see assembled was a pre-production sample. Therefore, the box had no distinguishing marks on it. Rest assured that if you get this model, it WILL have a colored label with plenty of box art! With the top removed, I found all the pieces bagged and taped to prevent damage during shipping. All parts were accounted for – and believe me, there’s a lot of parts!
I love the level of prefabrication done at the Seagull factory – ALL of the decals had been expertly applied, leaving only the assembly for me! The decal work is beautiful, and emulates the pin striping of the full-scale aircraft. The decals have even been applied to the painted fiberglass cowl! Speaking of the cowl, the front opening is huge – I’m betting there won’t be any cooling issues!
The wheel pants are also pre-painted fiberglass, and even they have some decal work pre-applied. The center cabanes are pre-painted aluminum, and feel plenty sturdy to handle a good load. Both wings also have aluminum wing joiner tubes – gone are the days of laminated plywood for wing joiners.
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!
A Hitec Optima 9 will be installed in the Super Skybolt – I really like these receivers, as they give me lots of options for channels and servo configuration. I have come to like splitting my elevator servos into separate channels, as it gives me the opportunity to ‘fine tune’ my control surfaces.
Speaking of control surfaces, I will be using Hitec HS-485HB deluxe standard servos. These are great servos, and available at very reasonable prices. With a ball bearing on the output shaft and 83 oz-in of torque (@ 6.0 V) these servos are great for aircraft up to 12 pounds!
An RCGF 15cc gasoline engine will be at the heart of the beast – with plenty of power on tap, this engine should help the Super Skybolt perform well!
Finishing out the front end is a Falcon 16×8 Beechwood electric propeller. These props not only perform very well, but they look great as well!
A DuBro Fill It Fueling system will be installed to make fueling/defueling the plane easier – this is one product that gets installed in all of my liquid fueled sircraft!
Since I was assembling one of the pre-production samples, I didn’t have the manual while assembling the Skybolt. But, 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.
Wing assembly began with attaching the ailerons to the lower wings. T-Pins were inserted into each of the three hinges, and the hinges were slid into the aileron and the wing. I removed the T-Pins, pushed the aileron tight to the wing, and secured the hinges with thin CA.
A small batch of 5-minute epoxy was mixed up and used to install the fiberglass aileron control horns. A pre-cut slot in the aileron made this an easy task! While the epoxy was curing, I attached the Hitec HS-485HB Standard Deluxe servos to their hatches. A 12″ servo extension, secured to the servo wire, was pulled through the wing using the pre-installed string.
The aileron pushrods were then assembled and connected to the servo arm and control horn.
After test fitting the shorter aluminum joiner tube into each lower wing half, I coated the tube and both wing roots with 5-minute epoxy and assembled the lower wing. A few pieces of masking tape held the two wing halves together while the epoxy cured.
The ailerons were attached to the upper wing in the same manner as the lower wings. I then assembled the upper wing by sliding the long wing tube into the right wing section, followed by the center section and the left wing. A small machine screw and washer secure the outer wing sections to the center.
Moving on to the tail, I started by temporarily installing the lower wing and setting the horizontal stabilizer in place. After a quick check to see that the wing and stab were parallel, I cut and removed the covering on the top and bottom of the stabilizer.
Because I knew that the stab fit perfectly, I was able to attach it to the fuselage using 5-minute epoxy. If you are not an experienced modeler, I suggest you use 30-minute epoxy, as it will give you much more time to make sure the stabilizer and fuselage are properly aligned. When the epoxy had cured, I mixed up another batch of epoxy to install the vertical stabilizer.
With the fuselage now set aside, I installed the control horns in the two elevator halves and the rudder. Once the epoxy had cured, the elevator halves were attached to the horizontal stabilizer using CA hinges and thin CA.
The rudder was then attached to the vertical stabilizer using CA hinges and thin CA, followed by assembling and installing the three pushrods.
Landing Gear Installation
I attached the tiller arm to the bottom of the rudder with two wood screws. The two holes had to be drilled prior to installation, and a couple of drops of thin CA hardened the newly drilled holes. Since the tail wheel bracket is pre-assembled, it was simply attached to the bottom of the fuselage using a pair of machine screws and washers. I did add a drop of blue thread locker to each screw to help keep them tight. The steering springs were bent to the correct length and installed.
I attached the two main landing gear pieces to the fuselage using a pair of machine screws and locking washers on each half – a little dab of blue thread locker on each machine screw will make sure they stay tight. The axle (center) hole was pre-drilled, but without a manual, I had to figure out how to attach the wheel pants to the main gear. I decided to attach the wheel pants with a pair of screws, which we’ll get to in a minute. The axle was secured to the main gear with a washer and nut on each side of the gear leg. I once again used a couple drops of blue thread locker to make sure the axles stay tight.
The wheel was secured to the axle with a pair of wheel collars.
I decided the easiest way to attach the wheel pants was epoxy a small piece of light ply inside the mounting area of the pant. After the epoxy had cured, I drilled a hole in the wheel pant and cut the remaining slot with my rotary tool. The wheel pant now freely slipped over the wheel and axle. With the plane sitting in my stand, I marked and drilled two small holes for the attachment screws (marked by the red dots and arrows in the center photo). With the holes drilled in both wheel pants, they were then installed.
RCGF 15cc Gas Engine Installation
One of the many reasons I like the Skybolt is its large firewall – there’s plenty of room to install any engine or motor without any trouble! In this case, I mounted an RCGF 15cc gasoline engine that I had purchased from www.ibcnyourc.com. Mike, the owner of ibcnyou, is a stand out guy and a real pleasure to work with!
I started by mounting the engine to its composite mount and then fabricating a template. With the template taped to the firewall, I was able to drill the four holes for the blind nuts, followed by installing the engine and mount.
There was plenty of room below the firewall to secure the electronic ignition module. I used a piece of DuBro 1 / 4″ foam rubber to isolate the ignition from the airframe. A DuBro 2-56 threaded pushrod and 2-56 ball link made a great choke rod – this will make it easy to open/close the choke from the front of the cowl. A 30″ 2-56 pushrod and 2-56 ball link, also from DuBro were used in place of the metric pushrod included with the ARF. There’s nothing wrong with the one provided – I just like to use ball links on my carburetor pushrods.
I assembled the fuel tank per the instructions using Tygon gasoline fuel line (not included, but required for gas engines), and marked the three tank outlets. There wasn’t enough room to get my camera in to show the fuel tank installation, but believe me, it’s in there. The fuel line to the carburetor was run through the hole in the firewall and connected to the carburetor.
The cowl has now been trimmed to allow plenty of air through – the large opening in the front required a lot of exit holes! I like the diagonal pattern as it looks a little more unique than straight cuts in the cowl.
I added four 1/2″ hardwood blocks to the front of the sub-firewall – there isn’t much wood at this location to attach the cowl. They were attached using epoxy and a wood screw. Small strips of card stock and masking tape were used to locate the hardwood blocks for cowl mounting.
With the cowl now secured to the fuselage, I added the included plastic spinner and a 15×8 Falcon Beech wood propeller. I love these props – they look great and perform even better!
Fuselage Servo Installation
The four servos inside the fuselage were installed next. The two outer servos are for the elevator halves, the central rear servo is for the rudder, and the front servo operates the throttle. I always use DuBro servo screws to keep my servos in place.
With the elevator halves and rudder centered, I connected the pushrods to the centered servos. The throttle pushrod was also connected to its respective servo.
We’re getting close to complete! Wing attachment began with installing the center cabanes. This involved removing the covering from the four holes (two on each side of the fuselage) to allow access to the cabane mounts. The covering was slit on the top of the fuselage in four spots as well. The cabanes were then slid into the top of the fuselage and secured with machine screws through the holes in the sides of the fuselage.
The lower wing was then attached to the fuselage with two nylon machine screws and the belly pan was epoxied in place – mine required a little bit of trimming to get a perfect fit. I then attached the upper wing to the lower wing using the outer struts and machine screws.
With the outer struts in place, it was easy to secure the center section of the upper wing with machine screws, washers, and locking nuts. To my surprise, attaching the wings was very quick and easy!
The painted pilot figure was attached to the cockpit floor using epoxy, and the aileron connecting rods were assembled and installed.
Lastly, I trimmed and secured the canopy. This task requires a special glue – I have always used Formula ‘560’ canopy glue, and it has never let me down! Formula ‘560’ canopy glue is available from ZAP and Frank Tiano Enterprises.
That was nearly it – all that remained was checking the balance. The manual stated to set the Center of Gravity (CG) at 120mm behind the leading edge of the top wing. This measurement proved to be spot on when test flying the Super Skybolt.
The day for the maiden finally arrived after a mishap and a couple of months of waiting. I had just finished the Skybolt and was getting ready to load it up for the trip to the SIG field for the 41st Annual SIG fly in. As I was walking out to my garage with the Skybolt, I tripped and ended up falling while carrying the plane. Down we both went, my focus on keeping the bipe from hitting the ground. Unfortunately, I ended up with an aggravated fracture in my ankle, and the Skybolt hit harder than I wanted it to. In the end, I had a trip to urgent care for X-Rays and a braced ankle and the plane suffered from a broken lower wing. To say the least, this day was NOT the highlight of my summer.
Because my Skybolt was a pre-production sample, it was the only one in the US at the time. Luckily, SIG had ordered several of the model, and they were in a container on their way! As soon as they arrived, SIG shipped me the new parts and I was able to complete the Skybolt – again…
So, fast forward to a freshly reassembled airplane. I loaded the Skybolt and a few other planes in my truck and trailer and headed for the field!
I filled the fuel tank and readied the plane for its maiden flight. The RCGF 15cc gasser started easily and was given a few minutes to warm up. The Skybolt was taken off the starting stand and set on the ground. I taxied the plane out and lined her up on the runway. The throttle was advanced, and the RCGF 15cc engine started snorting like a racehorse ready to run.
The maiden take off was fairly straight down the runway, and uneventful. The 15cc gasser proved to be plenty of power for the Skybolt, and had the plane was airborne in a matter of 40 feet. The climb out was kept shallow to avoid any chance of stalling the plane.
At altitude, I checked the Skybolt for any needed trim. Slight down elevator trim was the only correction needed to provide straight and level flight at half throttle. With the trim set, it was time to see what the Skybolt could do!
First up was high speed testing. The RCGF 15cc gasser and 15×8 Falcon prop proved to be the right combination for this bipe – she crossed the field quickly at full throttle but never felt ‘too fast’. I listened intently for any hint of flutter as she raced by the pilot’s station, but was relieved to not hear anything but the engine.
Slow flight came next, and was much more impressive that I had hoped for. The Skybolt stayed in the air and fully controllable at one-quarter throttle – pretty impressive for an aerobatic biplane! Once again at a high altitude, I tested the stall – the Skybolt got very sluggish before finally dropping the nose into a full on stall. If you’re even half awake at the sticks, you’ll see a stall long before it happens!
Moving on to my favorite part, I tried some aerobatics. Again, I was impressed! The Super Skybolt handled every sport aerobatic maneuver I threw at it, and it looked beautiful throughout! I was more than pleased with the plane’s ability to perform aerobatics.
We’re down to one final item on the flight test – the landing. I kept the speed up for the first landing attempt, because, well, you’re supposed to with a biplane. The first attempt ended up as a ‘go-around’ because she came in too fast. So for the second attempt, I throttled back a little more and came in – still a little too hot. The third and final attempt was just right. The throttle was pulled back to just above idle on the downwind turn, and I kept the glide slope shallow. The wheels brushed the tips of the grass at the end of the runway before touching down – MUCH slower than originally anticipated!
With that, the maiden flight was complete, and I was a happy pilot. The Steen Super Skybolt performed flawlessly throughout and showed no bad habits! How often can that be said of an aerobatic biplane?!?! I’d also like to point out that even though the ‘Batman’ scheme has a lot of black UltraCote, it was easy to keep orientation of the plane while flying!
Well, there you have it. The Super Skybolt has been assembled, broken, and reassembled before its first flight. Assembly (and reassembly) were straight forward without a manual, so I can only imagine it’ll be easier with instructions at hand! The plane flew great without any bad tendencies – I can’t help but to give this plane a nearly perfect score! The RCGF 15cc gas engine and Falcon 15×8 prop performed well and provided ample power for the Skybolt. This combination is outstanding!
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