RCU Review: Electrifly Sopwith Pup

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    Contributed by: Mathew Kirsch | Published: August 2009 | Views: 33556 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Electrifly Sopwith Pup

    Papa Jeff Ring

    Matt Kirsch

    Ed "EchoBravo" Britton

    Flight Report
    Manufacturer & Distributor Info

    Distributed exclusively by:
    Great Planes
    Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    CHAMPAIGN, IL 61826


    Website: www.greatplanes.com

    • Builds quick and easy.

    • Looks great.

    • Flies like a dream.

    • CA doesn't stick to metal.

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    The name "Sopwith"brings to mind a certain fictional beagle and his never-ending quest to bring down a certain Axis pilot.

    While it isn't the beagle's famous Sopwith Camel, the Sopwith Pup was a respected dogfighter in its own right. It had a relatively long service life in the original Great War (World War I), with production running from 1916 through 1918. It is even rumored that Manfred von Richtoven, the famous Red Baron that our beagle friend relentlessly pursued, commented about the Pup's superiority to Axis aircraft of the same vintage.

    War is a time of great technological advancement, and the Pup didn't retain its superiority for long. By 1917 it had been outclassed by planes like the Fokker Dr.I and replaced with planes such as the Sopwith Triplane and later the Sopwith Camel. Still the Sopwith Pup went on to become the first plane to land aboard a moving ship, and to become the first operational carrier-borne aircraft.

    Electrifly's Sopwith Pup is a stand-way-off-and-cross-your-eyes-scale rendition that offers clever engineering, a quick build, and a gratifying end result.

    Kit Name: Electrifly Sopwith Pup
    $59.99 retail price
    Wing Area:
    332 sq. in.
    Flying Weight as tested:
    Flat Plate
    Electrifly Rimfire 28-22-1380
    Great Planes 8x6 PowerFlow

    Battery used: 2S Electrifly Competition BP300
    ESC used:
    Electrifly Silver Series 8A
    Radio equipment:
    Futaba 9C, R616FFM receiver, S3114 servos

    Tools Required:

    • Square
    • Hobby Knife
    • Ruler
    • Small Phillips screwdriver
    • Foam-safe
    • Foam-safe CA kicker
    • Clear Tape


    Inside, everything is neatly packed and secured to prevent damage without resorting to messy packing peanuts.

    Substitute power system. The plane is so new, the recommended components weren't available.

    Unpacked from the box. Where was all this hiding?

    For a full-bodied foamie, there sure was a lack of foam in the form of packing material. The only foam in the box besides the airframe itself were the wingtip potectors. Each part is individually wrapped in clear plastic and suspended from a cardboard crutch inside the box using clear tape. Everything is efficiently packed to maximize protection and minimize waste.

    The plane is so new that much of the recommended onboard equipment hadn't been released at the time of the review. Great Planes designed the plane to accept alternate power systems, so the recommended (and unavailable) Rimfire 250 motor was replaced by the slightly larger Rimfire 28-22-1380. Electrifly recommends ES80 Pico Micro servos for the Pup, but as these were not available yet, Futaba S3114 servos made excellent substitutes. Electrifly's ?old reliable? Silver Series SS-8 ESC has been available for years.

    A bead of foam safe CA across the leading and trailing edges at the fuselage secure everything.

    The first step is to test fit the bottom wing to the fuselage.

    Even on foamie park flyers, getting the surfaces square is important.

    Once I got all the parts unpacked, laid out, and inventoried, I decided to time myself and see exactly how long it would take to put this plane together. The parts count is relatively low, with excellent fit and finish, so it looked like a relatively easy build. Officially, I started at 8:03PM.

    Everything looks nice and square. Time to glue.

    A tech note on Great Planes' website warned that there may be a gap here. Easy fix.

    Another test fit. This time the fin/stab to the fuselage.

    It's always a good idea to review the instructions ahead of time, and check the manufacturer's website to make sure there aren't any technical bulletins. I'm glad I did. There was one tech note for the Pup regarding a gap between the lower rudder and the rear of the fuselage. The fix is to use a hobby knife and straightedge to trim the top sheeting on the fuselage to move the stab/fin assembly forward and close the gap.

    Since this review was originally written, another tech bulletin has been issued by Great Planes regarding the motor and servo substitutions described earlier. Neither of the tech notes is a big deal, and an experienced modeler would be able to recognize and correct these issues in stride.

    The rudder horn glued in place, with the pushrod installed. Notice the simulated ?axe handle? tail skid.

    Elevator control horn is now in place.

    The servo compartment is right behind the firewall. Scale WWI models need all the nose weight they can get.

    Wings that are joined by aluminum or carbon fiber tubes are miracles of modern technology in my humble opinion. Joining wing panels using epoxy and wooden dihedral braces is my least favorite job in assembling ARFs. The Pup has two one-piece wings, so that isn't a problem here.

    My second least-favorite job is running pushrod tubes. This task can often turn into a frustrating game of hide-and-seek as the pushrod tube wiggles and flops around inside the rear of the fuselage like a pool noodle as you fish around trying to line up with the exit hole. Here, the pushrod tubes, and even the pushrods themselves are already installed, with Z-bends! I immediately went out and bought a lottery ticket.

    The two control horns are made from thin plywood stained to match all the other woodwork on the plane, and must be glued into precut slots in the elevator and rudder. Be sure to test fit the control horns before adding CA. I needed to widen the slots in both surfaces. Also be sure to install the control horn on the Z-bend before gluing them in for good. The alternative isn't pretty.

    Two S3114 servos are all this plane needs. I'm not used to things being this easy.

    There are two sets of holes for mounting motors. Electrifly's 28-22-1380 mounts on the larger pattern.

    A second smaller set of holes fit the more compact Rimfire 280 motor, coming soon.

    Installing things in the right order makes all the difference in the world. Electrifly suggests loading the electronics next, and the timing is perfect. There's enough structure to the airframe to stabilize it, but not so much as to make it unwieldy and prone to ?hangar rash,? those dings and dents all airplanes receive during handling in the shop.

    Futaba S3114 servos are slightly larger than the upcoming ES40 servos, so the slots need to be expanded ever so slightly in each direction. This is easily accomplished with a fresh blade in a hobby knife, because the servo tray appears to be hard balsa. When securing the servos, don't drill pilot holes and thread the screws in carefully so they don't strip. They will hold up fine against the tiny forces imparted on them by this little plane. To make them extra secure, remove the screws and add a small drop of thin CA, but be careful not to drip or it will eat the foam structure.

    A patch of hook-and-loop material holds the ESC in place on the left of the motor box, and the receiver on the right.

    The cabane struts interlock with the inner structure through precut slots in the plastic skin.

    Hanging the top wing and gluing the interplane struts in place took mere seconds.

    My first try at bonding the wood gear fairings to the wire gear with CA. It didn't hold.

    After 3-4 layers of CA and kicker, a sort of built up around the wire. It's holding just fine.

    One hour and fifty-nine minutes in, these are the only parts left.

    Looking at the plane at this point, one would think that there are miles left to go. Assembly goes quick, though. The cabane struts interlock with the fuselage frame, and the top wing keys on to the cabane struts. Pop the interplane struts into their indentations and secure with foam-safe CA, and it's time to flip the plane on its top to install the landing gear.

    Here's where I ran into the only fault I can find with the plane. Thirteen years of building airplanes has taught me that CA glues wood to wood, skin to skin, or wood to skin. CA will glue anything you DON'T want glued together, permanently. Unfortunately, CA doesn't glue anything to metal, at least not very well. It took several tries to build up enough CA on the wooden gear leg fairings to keep them stuck to the steel landing gear wires.

    Installing the wheels is a two stage process. First, the wheel goes on the axle with a keeper.

    Second, the hub cap is carefully glued in place.


    Behold, the finished product. It's 10:13PM, and I'm ready to go flying. Rats, too dark.

    This is the only place where I deviated from the instructions. I found the recommended method of attaching the cowl using clear tape frustrating. The cowl is slightly larger than the fuselage, and is forced out of shape when taped down. It doesn't take long for the cowl to spring back into its original shape, peeling the tape off the fuselage in the process. Instead, I cut three small 1/4? square pieces of self-stick hook-and-loop material and hung the cowl using these. The hook-and-loop is just thick enough to take up the difference between the fuse and cowl. Plus, the cowl is now easily removeable to make adjustments to the electronics.

    The completed Pup balanced perfectly on the middle balance points cut into the cabane struts.

    The Sopwith Pup is intended as an indoor or calm wind flyer. In May, in Rochester, NY, nobody's flying indoors, and dead air is tough to come by. It took three full weeks and several fruitless trips to the flying field to find a calm night for the Pup's first flights.

    When the stars finally aligned properly, I set the plane in the short grass and spooled up the prop. As I suspected, the Pup needs a smooth surface to ROG. My second attempt was a hand launch. I don't think there's an English translation for the word I uttered as the little Pup left my hand. What I do know is that it had 27 letters, no vowels, and was an expression of pure wonder and joy.

    In still air, the Pup is rock solid. It will cruise at as little as 1/3 throttle with the 28-22-1380 motor and 8x6 prop. Low and slow is the Pup's bread and butter.

    The Pup flies slow, the Pup flies (sorta) fast. It's just as stable and smooth at full throttle as 1/3; the only difference is a seriously shortened flight time. You'll want to throttle back and maximize all 300mAh from the battery.

    Between the heavily undercambered airfoil and lack of ailerons, aerobatic ability is limited to stall turns and what I like to call ?barnstormer loops.? This wasn't designed to be an aerobatic plane, though.

    As with takeoffs, landings on grass are typical of a plane meant for a smooth gymnasium floor. Regardless of how smooth and slow you bring it in, the grass grabs the light little wheels and flips the poor plane on its lid! It's so light, though, that even after several ?exciting? landings it doesn't have a single scratch.

    With the maneuverability and slow speed, the Pup should make a great indoor flyer in a moderately-sized gymnasium.

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    The Electrifly Sopwith Pup is the perfect airplane for the last flight (or two) (or ten) of the day. Diving into battle out of the setting sun like a Royal Air Force Lieutenant after an imaginary Axis triplane is just plain cool. Assembly couldn't be easier; even with my clumsy foam-mangling meat hooks I was able to assemble the entire aircraft without dinging, bending, or breaking a single thing. Assembly couldn't be faster; I spent a whopping two hours and ten minutes, including taking pictures for this review.

    Electrifly and Futaba
    Distributed exclusively by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. BOX 9021
    CHAMPAIGN, IL 61826
    Phone: (800) 637-7660
    Sales Phone: (800)338-4639
    Website: www.electrifly.com
    email: productsupport@greatplanes.com

    Comments on RCU Review: Electrifly Sopwith Pup

    Posted by: webdr on 08/20/2009
    I saw one of these fly last night at an indoor aircraft hangar fly-in. great handling aircraft and turns well too. Floats around easily in a small indoor space.
    Posted by: MinnFlyer on 08/20/2009
    Tell Eddie to shut up when he's video taping :)
    Posted by: Matt Kirsch on 08/20/2009
    Don't worry Mike, I talked all through his videos too.
    Posted by: 1derdad on 10/19/2010
    I found the humor in your review very funny... excellent write-up from the historical lesson to the Field review. This was an excellent commentary. I plan to buy this plane with anticipation of a fun filled build and peaceful flight experience. Thanks Mathew!
    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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