RCU Review: Skyshark RC Christian Eagle

More On This Product

  • Research Airplanes
  • Research Boats
  • Research Cars
  • Research Helicopters
  • Research Engines & Motors
  • Research Radio Equipment
    Contributed by: Mike Buzzeo | Published: October 2005 | Views: 41866 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon

    Review by: Mike Buzzeo (MinnFlyer) Email Me

    Skyshark R/C Corporation
    1924 N. Pima Dr.
    Lake Havasu City, Arizona 86403
    Toll Free: 1-866-854-6100
    Phone: (928) 854-6100
    Fax: (928) 854-6111
    Email: service@skysharkrc.com Website: www.skysharkrc.com

    Window Media Player
    Miss America P-51 ARF

    Hardware:  N/A
    Ease of Assembly:
    Completeness of Kit:
    Covering Quality:
    Basic Flight:
    Advanced Flight:
    Stall Characteristics:

    • Aluminum Spinner Included
    • Ultracote Covering
    • Beautiful Pre-applied Vinyl Graphics
    • Prepainted Fiberglass Cowl, Wheel Pants, and Gear Boots
    • Prepainted Canopy
    • Beautifully Detailed Instrument Panel

    • Problems with Top Wing Allignment (See Text).
    • Forward, Top Wing bolt too short.

    Skyshark R/C
    Christen Eagle

    Price: $349.95
    Wingspan: 64.8 in (Top) 62" (Bottom)
    Wing area: 1371 sq in
    Weight per Mfg:
    Total: 13 - 16 lb
    Actual Flying Weight:
    Total: 15.1 lb
    Skill level: Semi Advanced
    Radio Used: Futaba Sky Sport Transmitter
    Futaba R127DF FM Rx
    (5) Futaba S-3004 Servos for Ailerons (4), Throttle
    (3) Hitec 5475 Servos for Elevator (2), Rudder

    Channels Used: 5 total - Elevator, Aileron, Rudder, Throttle, Smoke
    Battery Used:
    1 NoBS 4.8V 1250 Mah NiMH

    Prop Used: APC 16 x 8

    Required to Complete:

    • 4-channel radio with 6 or 8 Servos
    • Servo Wire Extensions
    • CA glue
    • 30-Min epoxy
    • Loctite thread lock
    • 1.00 - 1.60 2-stroke, 1.20 - 1.80 4-stroke, lightweight 26cc - 40cc gas , and Propeller
    • Standard building tools

    Note: The SkyShark Christen Eagle comes with no Control Hardware (I.E. Control Horns, Pushrods, Clevises etc.)

    I like Bipes. I'm not talking about SE-5's or Sopwith Camels(Although they're great too); I'm talking Ultimates - Pitts Specials - Skybolts and the like. I've always had a fascination with seeing two wings roaring through the sky at break-neck speed, spinning and tumbling like there's no tomorrow. Add a stream of smoke, and I'm drooling!

    Now I am also big into looks, and while there are some outstanding Bipes on the market, I was never thrilled with the pointy Fin of an Ultimate, and while I truly appreciate the "Golden Era" look, in my mind it doesn't fit the profile of an extreme aerobat. So the rounded tail of a Pitts or Skybolt rudder seems out of place to me.

    A Full Scale Christen Eagle Prepares for touch down.

    So a while back, when I was surfing the Internet, I came across Skyshark R/C's ad for their upcoming new ARF - A Christen Eagle! This plane seemed to have everything - Nice lines, good aerobatic capability, and a color scheme that not only fits its name, but that is one of the most beautiful and recognizable in the industry.

    I like the size too. Skyshark says it takes a Saito 150 - not too big, and not too small (And as a bonus, I HAVE a Saito 150!).

    A question I had about some info on their website lead to several emails between Mike Grey (The owner of Skyshark R/C) and me. I have heard that Mike has a great reputation for customer service, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find just how friendly and helpful he really is. Aside from answering my questions about the Christen Eagle, he also provided me with some insight into Skyshark R/C.

    Here's what Mike had to say:

    I started in R/C airplanes in 1996. I had always wanted to fly RC planes but never had the money or knowledge about how to begin because there were never any hobby shops close to my town (Menomonie, Wisconsin). One day I saw an article in the local newspaper about a local RC club. I called the president the next day and he took me out to the field and let me fly his trainer on a buddy box - I was hooked! He encouraged me to build a trainer rather than buy an ARF - I took his advice and cobbled one together. I had that trainer un-crashed for 5 years then finally sold it.

    In 2001, I owned a tool-importing corporation, which I had run for 10 years previous. I was disappointed with the quality of the ARFs that were available at the time and had always wanted a Christen Eagle. I decided that I would make one into a good quality ARF and sell it as a side/hobby business. I called Aviat for permission to do the plane, which they happily gave me. They also assisted me with all the 3-view drawings, color schemes, etc. I went to work on the design. After a couple months work and not being able to find a competent manufacturer, I decided to call Great Planes and ask them if them would manufacture the kit and private label it for me. At first, they seemed very interested so I gave them dimensions, specs, etc. After a while, they stopped returning my phone calls and a few months later, I discovered that they were working on a Christen Eagle the same size that I wanted. Just about that time, I located a quality manufacturer and sent them my downsized plans for a quote. Everything came back satisfactory so I had them make the prototype. In the meantime, I was trying to locate a FW190 kit to build and noticed that Heritage R/C had one. I called them to order it and found that they were no longer in business. This gave me an idea to make mid sized warbird ARFs that were very high quality. I sent an email to Heritage asking if I could buy their designs. Well, I ended up buying the designs and all the kit making equipment. That is how I got into kit manufacturing. I decided to put the Warbird ARFs on hold for a while after seeing the quality of the kits that were made by Heritage. I figured kits of this quality along with top-notch service would be an excellent way to make myself know in the marketplace.

    In 2002, I was getting really tired of the Midwest weather and various employee problems and decided it was time to sell my company and move to a warmer climate. That brought me to AZ. All that time, I was still working on getting a quality Christen Eagle. Finally, in September 2003 I received the first prototype. I flew it for a few months and made a few minor changes here and there - heavier fiberglass, larger wheels, sliding firewall, servos in the tail, wing strut mounts, etc. Overall, it flew great. Once all the changes were made, I ok'd production. Once production started, there were a lot of problems keeping the fuselage straight, making the decals correctly, installing them without bubbles etc. It took about 6 months to iron out all the problems - the color scheme being the most difficult of all. I'm still not completely satisfied with the decals but I don't think they could be mass-produced any other way - at least not without costing more than the plane itself!

    I was just notified by my manufacturer that they are having too many problems producing and installing the decals for this color scheme so we only have one more shipment of planes in this scheme. After that, there will be no more. We will be changing the color scheme to the Black version and maybe the Yellow also. The new color scheme will be produced from cut vinyl - since the colors are different, we can find pre-printed vinyl to match. I have quite a few decal sets here and I am pulling a bunch of kits out of stock for myself so replacement parts will be no problem.

    Being that this is our first ARF, we have learned a lot about the manufacturers and the entire RC industry in general. We found that in order to make a really good quality, flight-tested ARF, it takes a long, long time. It tells you something when manufactures come out with new ARFs every month! We currently have about 6 other ARF projects in the works and the quality will be as good or better than the Eagle.

    So, without further ado, let's tear into this thing and find out how this new Christen Eagle is!

    First impressions mean a lot, and I was impressed right off the bat. The covering was in great shape, and the decals looked terrific. The fiberglass work is top-notch, and as if that weren't enough, all of the cowl holes are pre-cut! Among the other goodies, is an Aluminum Spinner - Nice touch!


    The Manual is rather intriquing. I've gotten used to the fact that some manuals are lacking in detail, but Skyshark states that the Christen Eagle Manual intentionally leaves out steps to discourage novices from building this kit. That said, I think they could have added a little more info for the "experienced builder" as well. The Eagle is not difficult to assemble, but it is a bit time consuming, and can be tedious at times, and in my opinion, the "intentional" lack of direction can make things more confusing than they need to be.


    The first steps are pretty conventional, however, the wing joiner had enough play in it's slot, that I was easily able to add a sheet of scrap 1/32" plywood to the joiner to snug things up a bit.

    With the plywood in place, each set of wings are epoxied together.

    Once the epoxy had set, the holes were drillrd for the lower wing dowels. After that, the servo blocks were installed, and the servo hatches were screwed in place. I decided to go with a 4-servo wing, and since the manual states that with 4 servos, standard servos will work, I used 4 Futaba S3004's for each aileron.

    Next, it was time to add the Belly Pan. Covering is removed, balsa formers are added to the front and rear, and the Belly Pan gets epoxied in place. I was a little concerned by the fact that the front of the Belly Pan was lower than the fuse.

    In checking with some other RCU members, I found that this problem was sporatic - two other members I spoke with say their's was the same, but several others said they did not encounter this problem. Further checking showed that the lower Wing Incidence was -1 degree (Minus One) and according to Skyshark, the lower Wing should be 0 degrees (Zero). I'll discuss this more later.



    The Tail Feathers were a piece of cake. Trim off the covering, and epoxy in place, a few shims got everything in line, and it was good to go!


    Holes are then drilled to allow access to the pre-installed blind nuts to support the End Struts.



    Now it was time to mount the Top Wing. Here is an area where I really started to run into some problems. Again, I want to point out that, like the bottom wing, this problem was experienced by some people, and not by others.

    With the Top Wing mounted to the Struts, the Cabane did not line up. Between this, and the problem with the lower wing, I decided to contact Skyshark.

    Skyshark owner Mike Grey was very helpful, in that he told me HOW things should line up (I.E., the front and rear Cabane struts should be vertical, and the LE should be even with the Firewall - My struts were slanted several degrees forward and the LE was about ¾" forward of the Firewall), but no matter how I shifted things, either the struts or the cabane was wrong.

    Soon afterward, Skyshark sent a replacement lower wing, with a Manual Addendum stating that the lower wing Dihedral needed to be set lower than the angle made by mating the center ribs. So I assembled the new lower wing with the lessened dihedral.

    It didn't help.

    I then decided to modify the Lower Wing Saddle to achieve the desired "0-Degree" incidence that Skyshark mentioned. I thought that by raising the front of the wing, it would bring the top of the struts back to where they should be.

    It still didn't help.

    My End Struts were still not right. However, without the End Struts, the Cabane lined up perfectly. Between this, and the lower wing incidence problem, I decided to make some temporary End Struts from 4-40 wire and clevises so I could adjust them for any changes I might need to make. Once everything is set correctly, I made a new set of struts.

    One other minor problem I had was that, while the two Top Wing bolts were the same length, the rear bolt goes through the Wing and two Cabane struts, while the Forward bolt has to go through 4 Cabane struts. The bolt was long enough to get a nut threaded on to it, but not long enough to engage the Nylon locking part of the nut (Note: I replaced the screw before flying).



    For the Engine box, I tack-glued a square piece of plywood to the firewall to hold the slidable box at 90 degrees. This seemed a more reliable way of holding it straight.

    Once the box was positioned, it was secured with 30-minute epoxy, and braced with the supplied materials, however, I opted to glue the square stock to the outside of the box as opposed to the inside due to the fact that there were formers on the top that would interfere.


    The wheel pants are made from good, sturdy fiberglass, not the thin stuff most manufacturers use. And their scale appearance is very good. The holes for the wheels had to be opened considerably, but a Dremel Tool made short work of that.

    Once the Pants were mounted to the Struts, the boots are added and the Gear is bolted to the Fuse. Then the boots are secured with a flexible adhesive to give them some shock-absorbing properties. I used "Goop" from the local discount store which worked very well.


    The Cowl comes ready to install - No flashing to remove, no holes to cut - All in all, a big time saver, and it looks great too!

    After aligning and drilling the mounting holes, I enlarged the holes in the mounting blocks to 1/8" and glued some inner pushrod pieces into each one. This allows for constant removal and replacement of screws without damaging the mounting blocks.

    Grommets are supplied to keep the cowl holes from deforming too.


    The Instrument Panel is really a thing of beauty that consists of three pieces - A sheet of paper with printed instruments, a sheet of clear plastic with vacu-formed "Lenses", and the Dashboard which is made from a heavy, textured black plastic.


    Now the Tail Wheel gets assembled as many do, by inserting the wire throught a nylon bushing and bending it 90 degrees. The Bushing is then inserted into the rear of the Fuse, and with a coating of epoxy on the wire it is inserted into the Rudder. At the same time, CA Hinges are installed.


    I used a Du-Bro Pull-Pull setup on the Rudder. Although I felt the Horns I got were too big, so I cut them down to a more usable size. With the Rudder Servo in place, the Pull-Pull wires were easily attached as per the package instructions.


    For the Throttle, I used a standard mini servo attached to the Engine Box. The Elevator required 2 servos - one of which needs to be reversed - so Hitec 5475s were used. Then I used standard DuBro 4-40 rods and clevises to connect the Elevators and Ailerons.

    I also added a DuBro Switch/Charging Jack, and a Remote Safety Igniter for the Glow Plug. And as you can see, there's more than ample room inside the radio compartment for whatever else you may choose to add.


    The Aileron Servo Wires for the Top Wing were soldered together, and simply run through a hole I cut in the top of the Fuse.

    Finally, the cowl was mounted, and I added a DuBro "Fill It" for easy fueling.

    After dodging the weather, the big day finally arrived. In no time, the Eagle was fueled up and ready to go.

    Takeoff was relatively uneventful, but it was soon apparent that I needed a considerable amount of Down Trim. The Eagle climbed like there was no tomorrow. Control response was smooth, but anything over ½ throttle resulted in excessive altitude gain, and inverted flight required more down elevator than I though appropriate.

    Back at the shop, I added the smoke system that I had originally intended to put in it. I figured the added nose weight would be welcomed.

    The extra weight helped a bit, but still the Eagle climbed at an excessive rate. I tried changing the Top Wing incidence from +1 degree to -1 Degree since that's how most of the Bipes I've had were set up, but that made the Eagle almost uncontrollable.

    As a last resort, I put both wings back to where they originally were (+1 on Top and -1 on bottom). At this configuration, the Eagle flew well, but still required a fair amount of down trim.

    It took a few flights to get a feel for it, during which I had at least one experience with the dreaded "Got airborne before she was ready" syndrome, which is something the Manual warns against. I can attest to the fact that you DON'T want to get this thing off the ground before she's ready! (I can laugh about it now, but I was doin' some serious Stick wigglin' on THAT takeoff!). I think the Saito 150 flys it well, but personally, I would like a lot more power. I later tried a 32cc gasser and thought it did quite well.

    Skyshark 27% Christen Eagle ARF
    with Saito 150

    Windows Media Player Format