AUTHOR: Mark Fuess
The Super Skybolt has a long history and it's an icon in the Great planes long list of airplanes they have produced over the years. I was very pleased to see the Skybolt come out in an ARF. I built the kit version many years ago and it was a magnificent aircraft. The Great Planes ARF version is about a pound lighter and has fiberglass cowling & wheelpants. These componernts were optional for the kit and expensive. Here is Great Planes video: Video 1 (16.6 MB)
There are more reviews and videos (on the internet) about this airplane than you can shake a stick at! So I'm not going to bother adding another one. I will however, tell you my experience with the ARF version of the Super Skybolt and how it compares to the original kit. I will also concentrate more on the problems and how to correct them.
My Skybolt was packed nicely but it did have some issues. The engine mount was placed in the engine cowling but not secured. My cowling had lots of spiderweb cracks in the gelcoat. You could see where the engine mount was dinging the cowling on the inside during transportation. While this wasn't all that bad, it certianly could have been avoided! The good news is Great Planes replaced it with no hassel. My covering was the loosest I have encountered on an ARF to date but easily tightened up with an iron. I'm OK with loose fitting covering as this gives me the opportunity to set it to my liking.
The fit and finish is excellent. The trim is the best I've encountered in an ARF and it was nicely ironed down. The components were striaght and easy to assemble. The biggest upgrade in the ARF is the interplane connectors which are knurled aluminum knobs. You have only one per surface and they are the most efficient way to assemble/disassemble your aircraft as needed. The cabanes are another story though. Once you manage to get the cabanes in the fuselage you then have to pass screws through the side of the fuselage to anchor them down. This doesn't work too well with the provided screws. I used 4-40 Allenhead capscrews to solve the problem. Another problem is the T-nuts that hold the cabanes inside the fuselage. They are merely pressed in( not pressed & glued). I had one fall out in the front, and it was a major job to get it back in place. Fortunately you won't likely need to remove the cabanes once there are in place. I locked mine in place with LocTite Red. I would like to have seen the cockit area already painted but again no big deal. I do like the tabs they have for anchoring the canopy in place. Another nice feature that sets GP apart from the other ARF makers.
I've been modeling since the 60's and witnessed the introduction of ARF's. Back then, no self-respecting modeler would be caught dead with an ARF in their hangar. They were at best, piles of garbage hot glued together. Today's ARF's are supreme airplanes and certainly affordable. But I'm here to tell you that ARF's are not all created equal. While all of today's ARF's may look great, when it comes to durability, repairability, and replacement parts, the boys get separated from the men. Great Planes has always taken care of the modeler regardless what they needed. You also get to talk to a "real" english speaking person who's job it is, is to take care of the caller. That is worth its weight in gold!
Great Planes ARF's are covered in Top Flite Monokote. This is (in my 37 years experience) the best of the best. It's readily available at any hobby shop and it's easy to use. Their are others, and I've used them all. 21st Century is excellent as is Ultrakote. You will find that many of the imported ARF's are covered in sub-standard polyester film that isn't readily available and it doesn't hold up at all well.
My GP Super Skybolt went together nicely. The toughest part of the assembly was the cabane installation through the fuselage. I corrected this by using allenhead capscrews. During the assembling I was thinking about which engine to use. Although it's called a 60 size aircraft it can easily handle larger engines. I selected a Saito 1.00 and it fit nicely. However, the Skybolt ended up being tail heavy. I didn't want to add dead-weight to the airplane so a removed the Saito and installed an engine that was substancially bigger.
I ended up putting an OS 1.20 two stroke with a Pitts style muffler in it. The Skybolt balanced perfectly without adding weight. The 1.20 is a potent engine having 3.10 horsepower and spinning a 16x8 prop at 9250 RPM. The Skybolt handled it beautifully. The prop clearance is a little close but OK. The wheel pants are the best I've seen yet. They simply slip on and anchor with two 4-40 screws
The main gear is rock solid. The wide base is strong and held in place with lots of wood screws.
. The tail wheel assembly is unique and installed easy, it functions well too. My favorite part of the Skybolt is the fancy Interplane strut assembilies. They use thumb-wheels to attach them. The spinner is better than the one's GP has used in the past. This one is actually worthy of keeping! I did have to re-cut it for the bigger prop, but that was expected.
These thumb-wheels make installation & removal effortless and the wing incidence is always correct. The cabane attaching is a little tougher though. It uses two allenhead cap screws and they are close to the wing making them a little tough to insert & tighten. But all in all, they work well.
My Great Planes Super Skybolt came in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces with a tank of fuel in it. That's incredable considering it has an OS 1.20 engine with a Pitts muffler under the cowling. The engine pulls 16.84 pounds of thrust, that's about double the weight of the biplane! Needless to say it will fly aggressively.
The Super Skybolt is a sharp looking biplane! Its sleek lines and colorful trim blend nicely together. The "traditional" rounded tips make it look finished and gives it that classic look. Great Planes really did a fine job on this airplane. My only complaint is those foam tires! I just don't like them. Never have, never will.
The maiden flight happened as planned.
For the benefit of those that fly off of a grass field (like I do) I found putting 3" wheels on really makes a difference. The 3" wheels fit perfectly in the pants without modification.
* * * UPDATE * * *
My Super Skybolt made its 175th flight receintly and the airplane flies as good today, as it did on its first flight. The airplane is accumulating some hanger rash here and there, but it still looks great!
Since this review was published, many people have e-mailed me stating that they "LOVE" their Super Skybolt. That is no surprise to me. The Skybolt is the friendliest biplane ever built! This is probably the only biplane I would recommend to the novice pilot.