As we're coming to the end of year 2020 its time for a good flashback from the past spanning around the sweet mid 80's! I still could recall somewhere in December 1986 during big family gathering on Christmas eve in my old shanty grandparent's house i was given by my cousin a completed build of a plastic kit model of an old World War 2 plane. I could recall the smell of that fresh AIRFIX acrylic paint emanating from the silver painted fuselage but i couldn't determine what scale it was somewhere probably between 1:42 or 1:64 scale since it was held well on my small childish hand. I was amazed by the aesthetic details on the aircraft was blown away how much turrets, machine gunner and payload onboard especially the rotating turret dome that reminds me of R2D2 from Star Wars, i didn't even know such plane exist at such level of man made engineering. As a plane lover who knew only just single prop Warbirds or a DeHavilland Twin Otter DHC-6 which exist in my hometown this flying fortress caught me at higher level of curiosity. By mid-night when whole family was sleeping, part of the indoor open area was dimly lit by old gas lantern nearby our sleeping area where we slept on the cold wooden flooring. I would took out the flying fortress under the bed sheet, fiddle around and watch with amazement as i would zoom around in figure 8 with my arms held high as i lay my back on the mattress drowning in my own fantasy flying this plane until i fall asleep. Next Christmas morning as i woke up to my horror the plane was squished to pieces under my body weight because i roll a lot during my sleep. Unlike western kids we asian don't get much Christmas present from our parents, what's underneath our Christmas trees was an empty box of 'fake news' merely a decoration. Throughout my childhood there's only two two best Christmas gift i get...that said Flying Fortress plane and a F-16 'clap and steer' toy plane from my aunt who is my cousin's mother. Never get any Christmas present from my mom let alone any recollection of having a birthday party because elder brother doesn't need any. Well that's life under asian tiger mom. Btw later years i get to know that plane whom accidentally squished during sleep; it was the BOEING B-17 FLYING FORTRESS. ...thank you internet!
After many years later being a manly adult i found myself reunited with the B-17...this time it flies!!! Lucky me i got a good deal from a fresh unused kit from my friend's R/C garage sale at his house who is also member of our R/C flying club. It took a lot of convincing for him to sell it to me and i finally got it for a good price deal. Previously i found the B-17 at Hobbyking.com site which where i got most of my budget foamy R/C planes from but the B-17 was to expensive for my meager budget yet the shipping cost alone would be too much for me to bear. Hobbyking.com known to rebrand their models sourced from other manufacturer so i tracked down suspected it originated from FREEWING branded model which indeed it was . The one i bought had army green color overall on its fuselage but it does come in silver color in other models selection just like the ones i've own during my childhood but i'm happy with the green theme. I can say among all my R/C planes budget splurges at the time of writing the B-17 was the most expensive ones i ever spent at around $180 despite the bargains between friend....well at least i don't have to pay the shipping fees which at that time was considerably expensive and time consuming back in 2011. Despite all that i'm quite happy to own it because the B-17 revived the great childhood memories of the 80's and i was able to relived those moments and best of all flying it!
Specification (as describe by vendor/manufacturer)
Brand name: HOBBY KING (re-branded from original FREEWING brand)
Model name: B-17 Flying Fortress
Release date: Approximately 2011
Ideal battery pack: 11.1v 3s 5000mah 40C Li-po battery or 11.1v 3s 5200mah 40C Li-po battery (Not Included)
Average flight time (normal cruise flight): 8~9 minutes
Fuselage + wing material build: EPO foam (Expanded Polyolefin)
+ Full photo manual
- Your Own 6 Channel TX/RX radio unit
- 11.1v 3s 5000mah 40C Li-po battery or 11.1v 3s 5200mah 40C Li-po battery
Flight level/piloting experience requirement:
+ Piloting level: Advanced
+ Minimum past model experience: Flying at least a warbirds or any mid winged tail dragger.
Quality and builds
The B-17 comes almost PNF (Plug-N-Fly) package which have to do simple assembly attaching the engine cowling, propellers, wings, rear elevator, rudders and that's it... almost! Electronics such as motor, ESC, servos, retracts and control surfaces already installed from the factory. It comes with 2x spares of clock wise and counter clockwise 3x bladed props just incase 'oh shit' happens, fortunately the props seems to be very flexible to impact and sturdy unlike typical composite plastic FMS or DURAFLY like prop so unlikely 'shit' happen..*touch wood*. The only remaining task is to supply your own at least 6 channel radio with receiver and ideally a 11.1v 3s 5000mah 40C Li-po battery to power the plane. The whole plane are made from very dense EPO foam material, tougher and felt slightly heavy than the EPO foam found on intermediate level 1600mm glider such as the BIXLER or SKYWALKER. Overall the build quality and details is as good as or similar to branded detailed models such as the FMS and DURAFLY model series. The main landing gear under the wings are retractable made from sturdy metal and also comes with long travel suspension unit to handle the weight of the plane but the rear small steerable tricycle wheel is not retractable however. 4x prop motor cowling are nicely made molded plastic detail revealing aesthetic imitation of B-17 radial engine but in plain black color. This is where i decided to give extra touch up work to put some acrylic paint work adding bronze and silver color to give the engine more revealing appearance. Along the way i've also added some imitation aluminum/metal scratch marks using silver marker and brushes of silver colored acrylic paint along the panel lines to give the aged looking aesthetic on overall fuselage and wings so the plane doesn't looks so blank out of box.
Fuselage and wings installation are straight forward since manual booklet is available to guide the setup. Overall the part attachment mostly via 'screw-in' but some other 'wiggly' parts need extra reinforcement using a dab of hot glue to keep it well in place. Usually i would always worry about motor mount failure but upon checking the motor mounting in this B-17 model seems to be rock solid unlike what i would find on most shady foamy/plastic R/C planes. For precaution all 4x ESC are individually 'throttle' calibrated to make sure all have equal thrust power during throttle stick throw. The good news is all the propeller blades are well 'balanced' and flexible enough to have minor nick should it nose down and hit the ground unlike plastic composite prop that usually comes stock on my warbird planes like my notorious DURAFLY collection where a slight dose down could obliterate the entire prop just to save the stress on the motor mount, duh!.
Although this plane uses internal 5V BEC from multiple ESC to power hefty amount of coreless brushed servos, retracts and radio receiver i had a hunch its going to hit 'brown-out' sooner or later which always been true due in my past experienced with 'overloaded plane'. So i've added 'TURNIGY UBEC 15A' on board to supply 7x servos, 2x retracts and Frsky D8 series radio receiver for bullet proof current supply to make sure that overweight flying monster doesn't fall off from the skies. This plane able to fit recommended 11.1v 3s 5000mah 40C Li-po battery or 11.1v 3s 5200mah 40C Li-po battery which placed on the top of the wings via top fuselage access battery bay. The battery placement exactly balance well on the plane's wing CG point. Wing CG point is located 30% length of the total wing root starting from the leading edge of the front wings (95-105mm from the leading front edge).
Upon completed the assembly the plane really have a huge positive impression on overall physical outlook; "its huge!!!" If you're a plastic modeler of world war 2 plane enthusiast this could be an exciting moments to see such monstrous beautify behold in front of you and it flies!!! It can be awe and mesmerizing to look at for hours! Total build weight without battery is around 2350g (avg) which is super heavy by park flying standard. I would see myself flying in a dedicated airfield or any large open flying field away from public rather than at the park for safety reason.
First maiden was uneventful although it was a very windy day to fly on our club runway the flight was manageable. The flight characteristic is similar to my 1400mm wingspan P-38 LIGHTNING but more docile than my 1600mm wingspan P-51D MUSTANG which is less 'fight' to control for leveled flight. Controlled from my classic TURNIGY 9X controller via FRSKY DJT 2.4ghz transmitter module and D8 series receiver the setup for the flight control stick as follows:
- Aileron, Elevator, Rudder EXPO: +45 (Low sensitivity on the first throw and more movement on the last stick throw)
- Aileron and Elevator EPA: 80%
- Rudder EPA: 100%
- Flaps on CH5
- Gear retracts on CH 6
As usual i never use the DUAL RATE switches to avoid control complexity and keep on flying simple at fixed rate throughout the flight. On average the B-17 need around 15~20 meter of clear runway to take off and need about 30~40 meter to roll due to its inertial take-off and landing momentum weight. However if it windy days into the head winds it can take-off and land short of between 5~10 meter less. I do notice the plane are suited to take-off and land on hard packed soil rather than soft soil because due to its weight and narrow tires it tends to dig in and trapped itself into nose down during take-off or touch down. Unlike single prop warbirds the B-17 doesn't have 'torque roll' issues because all 4 props runs on both counter clock wise and clock wise turning propeller which cancels each others torque roll effect on both opposite of the wing. Although the plane flies docile it not recommended for intermediate pilot to handle it because the plane handled felt quite 'heavy' and you'll need to plan your next intended move ahead of time by few milliseconds and good timing when to throw your aileron, elevator and rudder at the right time because its not as nimble as aerobatic plane or jet plane nor you would expect on big high wing CESSNA like model.
Flying this plane is like driving a truck with a long heavy trailer attached at the back...if you wanted to steer you have to remember you have a long load behind you. As for B-17 it is a 'heavy' plane to fly where i would experience control lag, surface control deflection is slow. For example if need to avoid hitting a tree i need to do it milliseconds early pull on the flight control to make a turn in advance than normal light weighted plane. The plane also have the tendency to bank to its side making it looks like its doing a stall but fortunately due full airflow from twin propeller power per-wings it has massive thrust not to fall into stall. As shown from previous video clip attached in this page the plane does have enough thrust power to make a big vertical roller coaster style loop which first must travel at full speed from horizontal position before pulling elevator into vertical looping. However it does poorly on fully aileron stick control 'aileron roll' which is too slow to make a complete 360 spin on either left or right side which should be avoided if you're new with B-17 unless you have to fly higher enough to get safe ground clearance to do such aerobatics. I also did another funky 'cobra' movement which i execute full vertical half way up thrust until it almost stall then recover back to horizontal more like "S" maneuver! Cool!.....that one massive thrust power on 4x props, yeah see those on one of those clips and i did it by accident. Does it handle heavy wind? Yes it does handled extremely well in windy days thanks to its heavy inertia force moving forward due to it mass weight. Its a good plane to fly on bad windy weather, it ate the gusts like morning breakfast! The recommended cruise throttle is between 70~80% throttle stick throw while trying to execute the big loop stunts would need 90~100% max. Take-off thrust would need 90~100% full stick throw especially if the runway fell short. At very long club runways with 90% thrust would take 20~30 meters to take off. This plane have flight time on average between 8 to 9 minutes on 11.1v 3s 5000mah 40C Li-po battery and about 10 minutes on 11.1v 3s 5200mah 40C Li-po battery at 70% cruise throttle. If i'm doing some big loops and stunts that would put at 7 minutes before the li-po alarm starts beeping at 3.6V per-cell.
As for the flight impression i would say this is a plane dedicated for flyer who appreciate and love the aesthetic of classic WW2 planes during fly by...you just fly to admire the scale beauty rather than being a fun toss around plane like you would on jet, aerobatics or even a Piper Cub. I can see why its not popular among casual flyer because it doesn't fly fast, its hard to move around, sluggish due to its size and felt heavy on the controls. Just saying; people like super cars but the B-17 is just another long haul truck. If you're the type of people who fly YAK54, Pitts Special, Cessna, Bi-planes, F-16, F-18, P-51D Mustang, F4U Corsairs or even as simple yet fun 3D profile plane the the B-17 is like other world where time slows down a bit with its back attached to a brick. On the positive side the B-17 still a huge head turner at the field due to its immense size, 4x propeller attraction, stable yet steady linear scale pace flying and have a great visibility in all direction. This is the plane if you want to feel that "I have the biggest banana among all you monkeys"....you feel me?...hehehe!
My moments of flying the B-17 is mesmerizing and awesome!...but on the flip side transporting the plane can be a pain in the ass which comes seconds place after my 1600mm FMS P-51D MUSTANGs. Their wing took huge amount of space just try to fit inside the rear seat of standard 5 door sedan. The weight also can be overwhelming too especially if you're trying to make sure it doesn't shift about at the back of the car causing other nearby R/C plane models to get squished and roll over it. It took more energy and sweats to transport the B-17 than just to enjoy flying it which is why this plane seldom go out for the show which explain less post about my B-17 featured on my social media or Youtube whenever i go outdoors.
Ah!! Can't argue the B-17 definitely a looker and mega head turner. If you browse around my hangar gallery its obvious this plane belong to in the living room hanging on the wall where guest view its awesomeness as they walked passes by rather than sitting inside the hangar collected dust hidden from eye of the enthusiast. It makes my living room a living aircraft museum. Not far ahead on the same wall was a German's Messerschmitt BF-110 to compliment beside the B-17..super cool room decorations! Ironically there's someone between them, lol! (You'll do the guess work if you're a good detective) . Anyways even if i don't fly the B-17 as often as other plane model being an object of wall decoration was worthy enough to own one expecially from an ex-plastic model enthusiast point of view because it looks far better than me buying, assemble and paint 'static' plastic models kit B-17 at plate size. The sheer size of the plane speakes louder than tiny AIRFIX models! For your information i was a plastic modeler enthusiast spanning my 8 years until i graduated. Since R/C models aesthetic has improved over decades with foam injection molding technique its time to ditch the tiny un-flyable plastic for good! ..hey i still love plastic kit Gundam and Macross FYI...hehehe!
Here are sample of video of i posted on my Youtube channel contain fun flying my FREEWING B-17 Flying Fortress
- Product gallery (mixed with my other planes): FREEWING B-17 Flying Fortress - 1600mm
Here are list of reputable vendor/seller which i bought from and also verified by community forum discussion groups. Also i've experienced buying from these places that have good support and services:
1. Seller HobbyKing.com: B-17 Flying Fortress (olive) Super Detail 1600mm (PNF) *(discontinued production model)
1. Seller HobbyKing.com: B-17 Flying Fortress (silver) Super Detail 1600mm (PNF) *(discontinued production model)
2. Seller Banggood.com: QTMODEL B-17 Bomber 1830mm Wingspan Airplane EPO Warbird RC Aircraft KIT/PNP - Green Frame Kit *(bigger wingspan)
Places where you can find help and resources related to this product:
RCgroups discussion group - Hobbyking 1600mm B-17 is available! thread: https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?1433642-Hobbyking-1600mm-B-17-is-available!
RCgroups discussion group - Freewing B-17G 1600mm Build thread: https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?2045799-Freewing-B-17G-1600mm-Build-thread
Actual real aircraft information 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_B-17_Flying_Fortress
Actual real aircraft information 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-17_Flying_Fortress_units_of_the_United_States_Army_Air_Forces
Actual real aircraft information 3: https://www.boeing.com/history/products/b-17-flying-fortress.page
In dedicated community the Hobby King/FreeWing B-17 Flying Fortress is very popular and a must have among hardcore WW2 warbirds enthusiast. The B-17 is there because my childhood grows within in me evoke great memories that still carry on throughout many years. Its not a great plane for any intermediate level R/C pilot because it need experiences to handle the heavy, sluggish and high inertial mass characteristic of the B-17. However for those who have flown it, a pride of smile forever etched into their sweet experience will give a great joy having to know they have been there to witness the 'awesomeness' just flew above them...."i've been there and i've flown it". For those B-17 R/C pilot the best words to describe was; "I have the best banana ever!". If you wanted to stand out from the crowds; "I have the biggest banana!". Its the plane that constantly will win people attention too.
As for my enthusiasm on B-17 it comes second after the 1600mm P-51D Mustang...i love my Mustang yet i'm glad i flew the awesomeness B-17 too, its a keeper! However due lack access to bigger flying field, the sheer size to transport and heavy weight it can be hassle to keep up enjoying the B-17 since i lived in urban area. On average i only flew the B-17 at max 2x times in a month only if have time to drive about 30 minutes to a big open space where its big enough to take-off, fly and land safely without any public hazard during flight. I don't feel safe flying over 2kg of models over wide open public beaches as long there's people walking and living around, so i remain ethical when flying it. That's why when you see gallery snapshots of me flying the B-17 you don't see public spectator other than R/C flying member hanging around in remotely open field.
Although i didn't fly the B-17 as often as would on my other weekend planes it still a worthy plane to have because it i really enjoy the aesthetic looks (*as plastic modeler enthusiast) and seeing a pieces history of my past flying by before my eyes was a breath taking view to behold. Looks like my childhood days are well fulfilled! Awesome!!