RCU Review: Exceed RC /NitroPlanes F-4 Phantom EDF ARF

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    Contributed by: Andrew Griffith | Published: January 2009 | Views: 33026 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Exceed-RC Blue Angles F-4 Phantom EDF

    Review by: Andrew Griffith

    Distributed in the US by:
    13240 Amar Rd
    City of Industry, CA 91746
    Phone:(926) 968-9860
    Website: www.nitroplanes.com

    See the Exceed-RC F-4 Phantom in action!

    Dial Up
    Looks awesome.
    Good flying plane.
    Very easy battery access.
    Attracts a lot of attention at the flying field!
    Full flying stabilizer arrangement is a bit flimsy.
    Manual has no suggested control throws listed.

    One of my earliest aviation memories is of four F-4 Phantoms thundering down the runway taking off in formation.  Not only did the ground shake but the air seemed to shake as well as the four blue and gold jets took to the sky.  That was the annual 4th of July air show at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I guess I'm showing my age because the Blue Angels flew the F-4 from 1969 until the end of the 1974 season when they transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk.

    Designed for the Navy as a super sonic fighter/interceptor, the Phantom was the only airframe ever to be used by both the US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunder Birds flight demonstration squadrons.

    The Exceed-RC Phantom is available in several color schemes from Nitroplanes.com so when I was given the choice of which one I wanted for this review it only took a second to make up my mind when I found out the Phantom was available in the Blue Angels colors.

    The Blue Angels were commissioned at the end of World War II by Admiral Chester Nimitz.  In addition to my boyhood connection with the Blue Angels, flight testing on the model will take place just a few miles from NAS Jacksonville Florida.  NAS Jacksonville was the original home base of the Blue Angels, and the location of their first public air show performance.

    An electric ducted fan model has been high on my wish list for a while so lets get started and see how the Exceed-RC Phantom goes together and more importantly, how it flies!

    Kit Name: F-4 Phantom EDF ARF
    Price: $179
    Length: 31" (788mm)
    Wingspan: 21.3" (542mm)
    Weight: 20 oz (540g)
    Motor/Fan Used: 59mm fan and brushless motor combo is supplied and installed
    Radio used: 4 channel FM radio is supplied
    Battery used: Supplied 18C 1300Mah LiPo and Outrage 25C 1300Mah LiPo

    • 8 AA batteries for the transmitter
    • Sharp hobby knife
    • Small Phillips screw driver
    • Low tack masking tape

    Instruction manual
    Kit inventory

    The box arrived with out a scratch. The contents were in perfect condition and packed in individual plastic bags. The first thing I do with any review is sit down and cast a critical eye on the provided instruction manual.  There are several pages of warnings dealing with flying high performance aircraft and instructions on how to safely handle lithium batteries. 

    There was even a paragraph about keeping your hands and clothing away from spinning rotor blades.  Since inadvertently getting your fingers caught in the fan would be nearly impossible, I'm going to assume they mistakenly included that from a helicopter manual.  If you should find any rotor blades however, be sure to stay away from them. 

    The booklet also includes a kit inventory and that inventory matched what came out of the shipping box; so far so good.  The back of the manual even includes some flying and troubleshooting tips.  With all that though, the actual assembly instructions (shown in the above photograph) are a mere single page of pictures and notes.  Since there isn't a lot of work to do, I don't anticipate the assembly taking very long.

    The F-4 Phantom is a very complete kit; all that you need to get in to the air is 8 AA batteries that get installed in the transmitter.  The fan and 25 amp speed controller are pre-installed and both the battery and ESC have standard Deans connectors that are already soldered.  The airplane also comes with an 18C 1300mah motor battery that can be charged from the balance charger that is also included in the kit.

    The overall appearance of the F-4 is very good and the paint doesn't seem too delicate.  Some foam planes end up looking ratty pretty quickly but the paint held up surprisingly well.  I did notice two interesting things when inspecting the parts.  The Blue Angels flew the F-4J Phantom but the mold they used to make all of the Phantom models is a Wild Weasel variant.  The result is a rather large electronics package on top of the vertical stabilizer that isn't on most of the full scale Phantoms.  This can be remedied by a bit of sand paper and some Testors model paint if one wishes. 

    On the plus side, out of curiosity I looked up the tail number that appeared on my Phantom in the US Navy BuNo database and was amazed to find out that they had correctly numbered not only a Phantom, but one that served with the Blue Angels!  The markings, by the way, are the water slide decal variety and appear to be well applied.   

    Included 4 ch radio system
    Included LiPo balance charger
    The nose gets glued on first
    Landing gear installation
    Flying stabilizer installation
    There isn't a whole lot to do on the Phantom so let's get started.  The first thing I did was to put the battery on the supplied charger and let it charge while I was building the model.  After I glued on the nose cone I installed the landing gear.  The pictures show the gear legs to the rear but the holes for the leg on my model were towards the front so I installed them with the legs to the front.  I'm not sure which is "correct" but they work just fine the way I installed them and the CG was spot on.  When I installed the nose gear I just lightly tightened the set screw so that I could make some final adjustments after the radio was powered up.

    The fourth step has apparently lost something in translation.  The caption says "install the rudder" but the picture shows the aileron which is already installed and hinged.  What they actually want you to do is install the aileron control horns.  Make sure you don't crush the foam when you tighten down the control horn screws.

    Since we are supplied with a basic four channel radio there is no dual rate or exponential throw available.  This means that all of the control sensitivity adjustments are made the old fashioned way, by adjusting servo arm and control horn distances.  My first flight was with the pushrod installed in the middle hole of both the control horn.  Since the manual gives no guidance in the form of suggested control throws, I figured I would start in the middle.  Let me tell you, if you're not ready for a roll rate of several rolls per second, start with the servo end closest to the servo and the control horn on the farthest hole and work your way more sensitive from there!  I didn't actually install the pushrods yet, I will do that when I power up the radio and make sure the servos are centered..

    When it came time to install the full flying stabilizer the manual says to "install the horizontal tail wing".  After staring at the parts for a few minutes it dawned on me what they were trying to accomplish.  The first step is to figure out which half of the control rod gets mounted to which stabilizer half. 

    The control rod is two pieces, one gets glued to each elevator half. The two, when overlapped, form a round rod that is held together by two screws.  The half that makes up the bottom half of the rod gets glued to the left elevator half.  Instead of the supplied silicon type adhesive I would recommend medium thickness, foam safe CA here.  I wish they had supplied screws and nut plates similar to the control horns for this step; you will see why later on.  If you use CA, let it sit and dry without using any kicker. 

    Elevator close up
    Elevator push rod
    While the elevator halves are drying, use a sharp knife and cut away any mold flash that might be obstructing the hole where the control rod will pass through the fuselage.  Go ahead and install the control horn and then insert the control rod halves.  If you assembled everything correctly the two screw holes on each half should line up and the elevators should have about a 1mm gap on each side between the fuselage and the elevators.  Leave the pushrod off until we power up the radio and center the servos.

    Dry fit and glue the main wings and the vertical stabilizer in place and allow them to dry.  Don't be stingy on the glue when you install the wings.  Unlike some other kits I've worked on, the glue won't pull the paint off so use enough that a little excess pushes out and wipe it up with a paper towel.

    Though it isn't mentioned in the instructions, your Phantom will look a little strange with no canopy.  Dry fit, trim, and glue the canopy in place.  I  used a little bit of blue painters masking tape to hold the canopy down while the glue dried.  As I mentioned before the paint is well applied and a low tack tape won't pull off any clumps of paint.

    At this point the battery was charged so I went ahead and powered up the radio, centered the trims and installed the battery.  Battery access on the Phantom is simple and convenient.  The battery door actually appears to be a front landing gear door.  I had several people ask me if the little F-4 had retracts installed because of the battery door sitting open on the table.  My transmitter came without the switches set correctly.  The correct switch positions for this model from the left are up, up, up, dn, dn.

    Once I had the servos centered I set the nose wheel to what appeared to be straight and tightened the set screw.  After a few taxi tests around my cul-de-sac I made some final adjustments and used a bit of thread locker on the set screw.

    The aileron servo arms looked well positioned so I went ahead and installed the pushrods and made sure the control surfaces were flush with the wings.  The elevator servo arm needed to be removed and repositioned as shown in the photograph to get proper movement of the elevators.  Install the pushrod, cut off the excess and put a small drop of thread locker on both screws.

    As one of my favorite magazine writers says, "nose heavy airplanes may fly poorly but tail heavy airplanes may fly only once."  With the battery installed I checked the CG against that shown in the instruction manual.  My feeling was that this was a bit far forward given that about 80 percent of the wing was behind it but as this was my first jet I figured I could swap the gear around if flight testing showed it was nose heavy.  The Phantom flew so well at the CG shown I didn't feel the need to adjust it later on.

    That is all there is to do, the Phantom is ready for flight testing!

    When a calm day finally arrived I double checked that the control surfaces were all moving the correct direction and did some high speed taxi tests.  The Phantom seemed to have plenty of power so I put the battery on the charger to top it off and answered questions from the small crowd that had gathered to check out my new toy. 

    Back on the runway I slowly advanced the throttle and at just over half throttle the Phantom jumped off the runway.  I took it up for a few circuits around the field and it needed a little up trim and that was about it.  I had three things come to mind during that first flight.  The ailerons are very sensitive, the elevator is sluggish, and the plane becomes very small very quickly.

    I took it up, pointed the nose into the wind and started backing off the throttle to see how the Phantom reacted as it stalled.  The Phantom is so light it doesn't do anything silly but the controls become completely ineffective before the plane drops it's nose and keeps flying.  A little power is all it took to recover.  The Phantom flies around at just over half power and will zip right along at full power. 

    After about 3 minutes I set up for my first landing approach.  I was a little generous with the power and the plane sailed right on past me.  You have to get the nose up to slow the plane down enough to land.  The problem was I ran out of elevator and bounced down the runway on the second try.

    Back on the bench I played with the control linkages to slow down the ailerons and get more elevator response.  I also put the battery on the charger and gave the plane a complete post flight inspection.  The access door on the bottom of the plane that I thought was glued in had worked it's way loose and was within a few seconds of departing the aircraft in flight.  The solution to this is regular clear tape around the perimeter of the hatch.  If the hatch needs to be removed to service the fan or speed controller simply cut the tape with a sharp razor and apply the new tape over top to avoid pulling the paint off.

    I'm not one to wait on batteries to charge at the field so I contacted Bobby Smith at RReModels to see what he had on hand that might fit the Phantom.  Bobby sent me an Outrage 1300mah 25C battery that was identical in size and weight to the stock battery.  After a few cycles I could tell a moderate difference in flight as the motor seemed to have a little more top end and a little more kick.

    It took me a few flights to get used to the Phantom but it wasn't long before I was having a ball.  The Phantom will do all of the standard maneuvers that you would expect from such an aircraft.  The only exception is that slow rolls aren't all that slow because there is no rudder.  Nice long take off runs are accomplished by using a bit of down elevator.  Scale looking, nose high landings are no problem as soon as the pilot gets the feel for the relationship between angle of attack and the proper power setting.

    I was a little worried about the elevator installation and this proved correct on the 6th flight.  I did a split-s into a fast down wind run and the left elevator departed the airplane.  After a spectacular crash I walked up to the airplane and was surprised to find that with the exception of a little road rash the Phantom was in good shape.  A little glue and a little paint and it was in the air again the following weekend.

    See the Exceed-RC F-4 Phantom in action!

    Dial Up


    The Exceed-RC Phantom is a fun little airplane.  I had been looking for a small electric ducted fan jet so it came along at exactly the right time.  The plane assembles quickly and you could easily be in the air in the time that it takes the glue to dry and the battery to charge.

    The only issue I had during assembly was figuring out how the elevator went together.  I would recommend beefing up the elevator control rod attachment or using medium CA or even epoxy to attach the elevator halves to the control rod.

    The flight performance exceeds that of many of the electric ducted fan jets I've seen at our field with the exception of the higher end (and much more expensive) ones.  Some adjustability in the radio would be nice but when you consider what you get for the cost, the overall value is very high.

    I flew my Phantom with the supplied landing gear but if you're flying off of a grass field the Phantom has a finger hold on the bottom of the plane for hand launching.  With full power applied I'm pretty sure the Phantom will fly out of your hand with nothing more than a gentle toss towards the horizon.  Belly landings in grass should not pose a problem either and the little jet would probably look even better in flight without the landing gear hanging down for the entire flight.  I did confirm that the Phantom will take off and land with no problems with the landing gear installed on a grass field that is in good shape.

    Overall I'm very pleased with the Exceed-RC F-4 Phantom and I'm hopeful that I will get to try some of their other EDF offerings.

    Distributed  by:
    13240 Amar Rd
    City of Industry, CA 91746
    Support: (926) 968-9860
    Website: http://www.nitroplanes.com
    email: support@nitroplanes.com

    Outrage RC
    Sold by:
    1260 N. Nova Road
    Daytona Beach, FL 32117                                                                                                                        Phone: (382) 212-5100
    Web Site: www.rremodels.com
    E-mail: sales@rremodels.com
    Product used: Outrage 3S 25C 1300Mah LiPo Battery

    Comments on RCU Review: Exceed RC /NitroPlanes F-4 Phantom EDF ARF

    Posted by: cwilde on 02/04/2009
    What happened at the end of the video?
    Posted by: JohnVH on 03/05/2009
    Did I miss the landing??
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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