The original Top Flite Contender was introduced over 40 years ago. Throughout the decades, this aircraft has remained very popular - so much so that Top Flite has created a smaller, electrified version!
Spanning a scant 36", the new Mini Contender EP is the perfect size for park flying. Tipping the scales at just 27-30 ounces, the wing loading is roughly 12 ounces per square foot! She's light and nimble in the air - just like the original .60 sized Contender was!
When I saw that Top Flight was re-introducing this classic as a new mini-EP, I knew I just had to have one. So when it came up for review, I grabbed it and ran! Let's get the box open and see what's inside!
4-channel (minimum) Radio with Receiver and 4 Micro Servos
25 Amp Speed Control
3S 1800-2100 mAh LiPo Battery
6 Minute Epoxy and Thin CA
One 6" Y-Harness
Four 6" Servo Extensions
9x6 Electric Propeller
Various Standard Shop Tools
LiPo Compatible Battery Charger
Control Throws: LOW
Elevator, up/down: 1/4" (6mm) 7°
Ailerons, up/down: 3/8" (10mm) 14°
Rudder, right/left: 3/4" (19mm) 14°
Control Throws: HIGH
Elevator, up/down: 3/8" (10mm) 11°
Ailerons, up/down: 5/8" (16mm) 25°
Rudder, right/left: 3/4" (19mm) 14°
The Mini Contender arrived in a colorful box with all the specifications and requirements listed on the side. The contents were well protected - both bagged and taped in place to prevent shifting during shipping. The Mini Contender has a low parts count, so I'm hoping it will go together quickly!
There were several items on the Mini Contender that I really liked. The large canopy/battery hatch makes battery changes easy, the painted ABS cowl has the great looks of the original .60 sized plane, and the 36" one-piece wing is easy to transport!
Other notable items are the inlaid main gear mounts, the pre-hinged rudder/fin assembly, and the large decal sheet. There are two sets of decals included, so you have your choice of Navy and Air Force.
Powering my Mini Contender are the Great Planes Rimfire .10 brushless outrunner motor, Electrifly Silver Series 25A ESC, and an Electrifly 1800 mAh 11.1v 30C LiPo battery.
Control will be taken care of by Futaba - four S3114 micro high-torque servos, an R617FS FASST receiver, four 6" servo extensions, and one 6" Y-harness.
The manual lives up to the Top Flite's namesake. The instructions are easy to read, and the illustrations are clear and easy to follow.
After securing the 6" extensions to the servos, they were pulled through the wing using the pre-installed string. The servos were then attached using the screws included with the Contender, followed by installation of the control horns and pushrods.
The wing dowels were glued in their respective holes in the leading edge of the wing. I then installed the main landing gear wires, followed by the wheel collars and wheels.
I slid the horizontal stabilizer and elevator joiner wire through the fuselage, checked the stab's alignment with the mounted wing, and epoxied the stab in place. The fin/rudder assembly was then secured using more epoxy, and a CA hinge was installed in the bottom portion of the rudder.
The lower fin was installed using thin CA to complete the fin/rudder assembly. Six CA hinges were used to attach the elevator halves to the stab - a T-pin through the center of each hinge kept them aligned correctly. Once the elevator halves were installed, I removed the T-pins, tightened the hinge gap, and applied thin CA to both sides of all six hinges.
I really liked the two-piece pushrod setup! I connected the control horns to the pushrods, slid the rods into their respective guide-tubes, and then installed the elevator and rudder horns. The two short ends were then installed and secured to the servo arm and pushrods using two wheel collars and a drop of thread locking compound. Well thought out, Top Flite!
The nose gear was installed next, and it was easy! After securing the nylon mount to the firewall, a wheel collar was slid onto the wire gear. I then slid the wire gear leg though the mount, and the steering arm was installed WHILE sliding the steering pushrod into the guide-tube. The pushrod was connected to the servo arm using the same technique as I did for the rudder and elevator.
Two more wheel collars secured the nose wheel. One thing I forgot to mention earlier is that all three gear wires have a flat spot pre-ground on them for the outside wheel collar.
The motor was attached to the motor plate using the four machine screws included with the airplane, and then bolted to its mount. I then secured the battery using the included hook-n-loop strap and tape, connected the servos and ESC to the Futaba receiver, and placed the receiver and ESC in their compartment. Installing the door and latch finished up this step.
The cowl was attached per the instructions after opening up the front end of the cowl for the propeller adapter. As the cowl came, the hole was too small for the adapter, so I increased the size of the hole using my rotary tool and a sanding wheel. After fitting the cowl correctly, the spinner and propeller were secured.
Decals and balancing were all that remained! I applied the decals per the box graphics, and balanced the completed airframe. I was able to get the Mini Contender to the correct Center of Gravity (CG) by shifting the battery back approximately 2-1/2". I glued the original hook-n-loop strap in place, so I added another one to secure the battery in its new location.
The day for the maiden flight arrived, and the weather was cooperating perfectly! Winds were light and variable, but blowing no more than 10 MPH. The sun was shining brightly as well, so it was time to fly!
As I taxied out onto the runway, I was pleased by the nose wheel's authority. I had no trouble keeping the Contender pointed in the right direction. Once in position, I pushed the throttle stick forward and the Rimfire .10 outrunner came to life! The recommended power setup is more than capable of pulling this little plane around! Climb-out was brisk and presented no problems.
When the Contender had reached a safe altitude, I adjusted the trim - she needed a few clicks of down elevator trim, but that was it. With that out of the way, I tried some high and low speed flight. No trim changes were needed for any throttle setting, which is always a good thing!
With the Rimfire .10 and the recommended 9x6 prop, the Contender is quick and nimble. With that said, she won't get too far ahead of low-time pilots. Slow flight was great, and the Contender remained stable and under control at a mere crawl!
Aerobatics were next on the list, and this was where the Contender shined! There was no maneuver I could throw at her that she couldn't do. My favorite maneuvers are Cuban eights, Immelman turns, and split S's, and the Contender made me look like a professional pilot! Stall turns are a little difficult on the suggested low control rates, but with a flick of the switch, she came alive! On high rates, everything happened very quickly! Rolls were blazingly fast, loops were more like tumbles, and I had a lot of fun just flipping the control sticks!
At the 8 minute mark, I decided I'd better bring her down - I was amazed at how slow the Contender came in to land! I also found that touching the durable landing gear down in the grass, at the threshold of the runway, really helped for 'spot' landings. I tried several landings, both on the runway and in the grass, and they were equally as fun! Landing in the grass brought the little plane to a halt in a matter of a few feet, whereas landing on the runway could be drawn out over a long distance.
I checked the battery when I got back to the pits, and found that an 8 minute flight used approximately 75 percent of the 1800 mAh battery pack. Now I won't say that I was hard on the throttle the entire flight, but I definitely put the Contender through its paces.
Check out the video to see the Mini Contender EP ARF in action!
Top Flite has another winner on their hands. The mini Contender EP is as good as the original, but it also combines today's electric ease and a great park flyer size into one small package. With a wingspan of just 36 inches, this plane will fit into all but the smallest of cars fully assembled. The mini Contender was quick and easy to assemble, and a lot of fun to fly. Like the original and re-released Contenders that preceded this newest addition, I can recommend this one as a good second or a great third plane. My hat goes off to the guys and gals at Top Flite for bringing the new mini Contender to our flight lines!
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.