At the height of the Great Depression, Walter Beech wanted to design a biplane built specifically for the business executive. The Beechcraft Model 17, known as the "Staggerwing", was born.
The Model 17's unusual negative stagger wing and unique shape increased the pilot's line of vision, and provided greater roll stability in a stall. The fabric-covered fuselage was lined with wood formers and stringers over a welded, steel tube frame. The retractable landing gear and powerful radial engine helped it perform much better than other biplanes of the time.
E-flite, distributed by Horizon Hobby, has recently released their own version of this unique, classic biplane. The aircraft is almost completely constructed of Z-Foam, allowing for a very true scale outline, while staying resilient.
I can't wait to get the box open and see what we've got - Let's have a look!
Wingspan: 35 in
(890 mm) Wing Area: 354 sq in (22.9 sq
dm) Weight: 22.0-25.7 Oz (625-730 g)
Length: 35 in (890 mm) Radio Used:Spektrum DX7 motor Used:E-flite Park 480 Brushless Outrunner Channels Used: 6 total - Elevator, Aileron, Throttle, Rudder,
Flaps, and Retracts
Needed To Complete
5-channel (minimum) Radio with Receiver and 4-5 Sub-Micro
The Beech arrived in a nicely adorned box - and packed in foam. The only way this ARF could have been damaged in shipping is if the delivery truck ran it over! There are only a few major parts, so I'm expecting the Staggerwing to assemble quickly.
For a plane made out of foam, there were a lot of features that I liked. The windshield and frame are removable, and double as the battery hatch - there are even seats inside the cabin! The rear section of the fuselage has faux stringers molded into the Z-Foam, and the center section of the lower wing has a cut-out for the flap and retracts servos, along with a mount for the retract air valve. E-flite certainly did their homework with this design!
The one-piece cowl comes out of the box painted, and has a dummy radial engine pre-installed. A nice chrome spinner and a propeller are included, and there are simulated counter-balancers on the elevators. E-flite definitely went over the top on the scale details!
For power, I'll be using E-flite's park 480 brushless outrunner, 40-amp Lite ESC, and a 3S 2100 mAh LiPo battery. Five DS76 digital sub-micro servos and a Spektrum AR6115 Microlite receiver will provide guidance.
I'll also be installing the E-flite 90-degree, pneumatic, micro retracts set - this will really add to the scale-look once the plane is in the air!
The manual is typical of any E-flite plane - First class! The written instructions and illustrations are easy to follow - to the point that a total beginner could put this plane together!
Assembly began with the top wing. The aileron servo was installed per the instructions, and presented no problems. With that, the top wing was complete!
Moving on to the bottom wing, the flap and retract air-valve servos were installed. Make sure to take your time when bending the retract valve pushrod - it must be accurate.
The air valve was then installed and connected to the pushrod. I secured the landing gear leg in the micro retract, and installed the assembly (with a 2" blue air line attached) in the wing.
The small inset picture shows the air lines connected to the valve per the instructions. Before final assembly of all the components, I tested the retracts. Set up per the instructions, the gear went up, but would not come down. I fixed this concern by switching the two air lines on the valve. Once that had been done, everything worked very well - in fact, I was able to cycle the landing gear over 20 times on a single tank of air!
The top wing must be bolted in place In order to install the tail. When satisfied that the stab/wing alignment was correct, I secured the stab using medium CA. The fin and rudder are molded from a single piece of foam, and must be separated and hinged. This was a simple task, and the rudder hinges are held in place with medium CA.
Once the CA had cured on the rudder hinges, the completed fin assembly was glued in place - again using medium CA. Note that I used REGULAR CA - the foam-safe variety is not needed with E-flite's Z-Foam!
The tail wheel was then assembled and installed per the instructions - I really liked that they went the 'extra mile' to make even the tail wheel assembly look scale! There was a single Philips screw that connected the tail wheel wire to the rudder. This made for an easy set-up.
Rudder and Elevator Servo Installation
The elevator and rudder servos were installed next - this was an easy task, thanks to the magnetic access hatch! After installing and connecting the pushrods to the servos, the clevises were twisted on the other ends and adjusted to length.
Motor, Cowl, Prop, and Spinner Installation
Motor installation began by sliding the ESC wiring through the firewall, and securing the park 480 outrunner to the plastic mount. Don't forget to add thread locking compound to the motor mounting bolts!
I then connected the wires to the ESC and attached the motor to the firewall using two more machine screws.
The plastic cowl simply slipped in place. Per the instructions, if the cowl fits tight, just slide it into place. My cowl was a little loose, so I added a small piece of double-sided tape between the foam and the cowl. Nothing will be coming loose now!
I then assembled and installed the plastic propeller and chrome two-piece spinner. She's starting to look really good on the 'business end'!
A piece of the included double-sided tape was used to secure both the ESC and the receiver. Just a little tip - make sure to connect all of the servo wires prior to sticking the receiver in place!
The battery slipped into place easily and was held by a small piece of the included hook n loop tape.
The air tank slid into a molded compartment behind the seats, with the air line sticking out the bottom of the fuselage.
I then removed a small portion of the Stars and Bars decal on both wings for access to the strut mounts, followed by installation of the bottom wing. If you're installing the retracts, make sure to connect the air tank to the air lines before installing the bottom wing.
The struts were then pressed into place, and two machine screws held them in place. I attached the top wing next and glued the plastic antennas in place using medium CA.
I checked the center of gravity (CG) per the manual, but found it hard to balace. The manual stated that the CG is to be set at 2.25 to 2.50 inches back from the leading edge of the bottom wing, on the bottom side of the wing. Being almost impossible to balance the plane this way, I transferred the CG marks to the TOP of the bottom wing and balanced the Beech inverted - this proved to be much easier, and was the correct setting for great flight characteristics!
Unfortunately for me, it was pretty breezy on the day of the maiden flight. It was blowing directly out of the North at about 10 MPH. But the little Staggerwing seemed undaunted by the breeze, so I decided to fly! I noticed right away that taxiing was easy due to the steerable tail wheel, which moved just enough to direct the plane where I pointed it.
The Park 480 motor provided more than enough power as I pushed the throttle forward - the Beech accelerated quickly and was in the air in no time! Climb-out was brisk, and I was 75-80 feet in the air in just a few seconds. I pulled the throttle back to a little more than half, and checked for trim adjustments. No trimming was required - just the way I like it!
I hit the switch to pull up the wheels. The retracts worked perfectly, and I loved the look of this classic aircraft with the gear up.
I then dropped the flaps and checked for low speed flight. I was impressed by how well the Beech hung in the air at slower speeds - usually, biplanes don't like to fly that slowly! Next, I pushed the throttle back to wide open, and I was immediately impressed by how quickly she moved across the sky. Though I didn't break any speed records, the Beech was plenty fast!
Aerobatics are a little out of the norm for a full-scale Staggerwing, but the E-flite version will perform any basic maneuver in the book. She looked very nice doing large loops and Immleman turns, and wing-overs were just 'plane' FUN!
When it came time to land, I lined up on the North-South runway and brought her down. The Beech had to be flown right down to the ground, but that's pretty typical of most biplanes. With the fairly narrow main gear, I did find that the Staggerwing was a little tippy once on the ground - but, it wasn't a huge concern, and it certainly won't keep me from flying the Beech again and again!
Check out the video to
see the Staggerwing 480 ARF in
E-flite has another plane to add to the winner's column. The Staggerwing combines classic lines, a great overall appearance, easy assembly, AND great flight characteristics! What more could a person ask for? This summer, I think I'll be taking this little Beech to the field on every trip!
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.