I bought the StarMax Gripen JAS-39 from Hobby Lobby as a RTF package. My hope was to get in the air with my first EDF using a plane I hadn't spent hours building in case things should end suddenly
. To that end the Gripen has been fantastic. To be fair the Gripen was not the first EDF RTF I bought for this purpose. The first EDF plane I got was a huge disapointment, so when the Gripen was still on the way I researched the model here on Wattflyer. The search function didn't produce any threads, so I posted one in the EDF fourm. (See that orignal thread here - http://www.wattflyer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=39270
The plane arrived in good order, boxed in the standard Hobby Lobby fashion of a heavy outer box protecting the inner. I tossed the box before thinking to write this review, so unfortunately I don't have any pic's of the parts "in situ" in the box. Everything was well packaged though, and none of the included parts had been damaged in shipping. During this initial inspection the plane was found have a few minor issues, however. The canopy was missing, and the included 11.1v 1300mAh battery was wired to it's Deans connector in reverse. I placed a call to Hobby Lobby who rectified the issues right away (I will touch on this again at the end of the review). They mailed a canopy to me, and they allowed me to re-wire the battery - with the understanding that if I damaged it in the attempt they would replace it. The battery repair was straight forward, and the canopy parts bag included a spare nose cone- BONUS.
Really there wasn't much in the way of building , as it should be with a RTF. The instructions were a high quality book, that really could have consisted of just the one page that covered actual assembly. I made some changes based on what I learned from fellow Wattflyer bhatch21, and to my tastes.
I'm a big fan of GWS glue, and use it when ever I want things really light, so the wings were glued on with that. Thanks to bhatch21 I turned the main landing gear around so they are farther forward.
Set up this way it needs the battery in the hatch to keep the nose gear on the ground, but it rotates nicely for take off. The nosewheel was installed 180* out, so I had to remove it and turn it round.
I removed the hard plastic conduit from the bottom of the plane. My reasons were that A) it seriously restricted airflow over the speed controller and B) I felt it detracted from the way the plane looked. I glued a thin birch ply cover over the R/X, taped down the wire leads and taped/rubberbanded down the speed controller.
I also lined the thrust tube with a thin glossy hard paper tube I made. Everything I had researched stated that smooth is best, and the stock area aft of the fan was very rough stryo. I was very careful not to change the shape or size of the thrust tube, just line it. I probably didn't do anything other than add weight, but it made me feel better
The elevons were given a full 1/4" up reflex (or trim) for the first flights. Set this way the plane is nice and stable with little or no tendency to drop the nose.
The water slide decals that were included worked really well, and were a welcome relief from the more common stickers.
The included battery charger was redundant for me as I use a Hobbico, but for the purpose of this review I've used it a few times. It seems to work nicely, although a it is a bit slower then I'm used to.
The T/X is on par with a P/Z or similar item, maybe a bit nicer even.
I was pleased with the advice I got from bhatch21 and Angler-Hi about the maiden. Waited for a dead calm day as I always ry to do for a maiden flight. I was able to put a few batteries through the plane, as I have a bunch of 25/30C 1300mAh 11.1's. The roll outs did require a long runway area, and the JAS-39 needs to be flown off the ground. Don't expect to punch the throttle and watch the Gripen climb out like some models do, you have to lift it off. Provided you have the room that's not a problem though, and infact the models manners are very nice.
It is not a very fast jet, in fact most of my prop planes would smoke it. But as a first EDF I was OK with that, and I found the low speed manners invited experimentation (like my second time flying the Gripen
) For once I found that everything in the Hobby Lobby video was stuff I could make the model do (not that those guys are misleading, just that they can FLY).
To my mind a RTF package really lessens the heartbreak when you stuff something into the ground when learning something new. I find where most find E-flight confusing, they find EDF's pure voodoo. Granted this JAS-39 is no ball of fire, but thats not the point is it? It is a stable, decent quality package at a fair price from a reputable vendor. I have to address Hobby Lobby's staff at this point. The first EDF RTF I bought was a disaster. H/B put it right and sent me the StarMax. When the Gripen was missing those few bits I was sure they would write me off as a cronic complainer. They didn't, and they were pure professionals from start to finish. I feel I owed it to them to state that.
Quaility kit with a realistic 2 hour box to air time.
Stable in flight manners, slows very well.
Good size, and pretty easy to track in the air for a jet.
Easy intro to EDF's.
Foam quality is good, but could be better.
Not very fast out of the box if thats what your expecting.