HobbyKing Decathlon EP 48.9 ARF Review

Now that I mastered my precious Graupner Bellanca I got into the unknown again by ordering (and receiving by know) a new Decathlon kit. This time I got me the cheap HobbyKing Decathlon EP 48.9 ARF.

It looks very nice on the website and now that I received my kit I can say that it isn’t too bad. It has issues and compared with the Graupner version isn’t that good at all. You get what you pay for and for this airplane you won’t have to pay much. That says it all.
This one does come with a manual, even with pictures in it. The manual is quite decent. It’s not perfect and for me the hardest point was to get what screws go where. It reminded me of the HK 450 heli kit I one bought, that one didn’t have a manual.
The specifications are very similar to these of the Graupner version. Below an image from what was on the box. It lists a 450 class motor. I would go for something bigger :). Check the NTM motors for a good and affordable match. 
If you are  looking for scale both kits have pro’s and cons. The Graupner version for instance has the right color scheme of an actual existing full scale model. It does come with stickers though so that’s less decent as the stars and details created with cover on the HK model. Also the HK model has a top window in between the wings. That is more scale like than the Graupner version that has the 2 wings joining on top, hence no top window.  
Like with most kits you still need to cut the windows. Most kits include the windows though. This kit didn’t come with any plastic for the windows! I guess that is one of the reasons it can be sold cheaper.
On this picture I replaced the stock wheels with some larger wheels since I will be flying from grass and dirt instead of pavement.
The kit has a nice tailwheel included. This is all stock. The spring is bent already. You only need to make the 90 degree turn and I added some spacer so everything would just fit like that. I didn’t find any clear instructions on tail assembly in the manual. So it has a manual but still isn’t complete.

The main landing gear wheels included were much smaller. Also the wheel caps aren’t cut yet. I never applied them.

The cowl doesn’t have any openings for cooling. I would advice opening up at least the scoop on the bottom. I prefer the Graupner cowl anyway. It already has openings and it overlaps the balsa fuselage better.  That way you can adjust the length according to the motor shaft/length.

This one fits well but it only comes over the fuselage just a tiny bit and you can’t push it over any further because of the shape of both the cowl and the fuse. Because of that you can’t adjust it properly according to you motor combination. Not a big deal since the motor mount is crap and needs rebuilding anyway so you can fix that right away.

The tail pieces like they were packed in the box. No damage after a long trip from the international warehouse to Europe. At least they know how to ship these things.

I already mentioned the wings are differently mounted on this model. I prefer the Graupner model where I can join the 2 wings and then secure them on top of the bellance with only 2 plastic screws. This HK version is different. Instead it has a plastic clear window (included :-)) on top that is secured with 4 bolts. That is in the way to (un)mount the wings. So far for easy transport. If you remove that top window you can undo 2 larger screws that hold the wings. The problem with these is that they aren’t very accessible. Even if you removed the top window they are hard to reach. 

I don’t mount any struts (and it doesn’t need them). If you do you’ll have to remove these too. This is more one of these models you keep in one piece. All the electronics are easy to reach by removing the front window. That window is attached with magnets and once removed you can access everything you need.

And this is an image of the internals. Very light and still very rigid. I crashed it nose down into the ground once already and except for that same nose nothing was damaged.

And here you can see the motor mount. It looks very weak and it is very weak. From the factory it’s even not glued well. Check the second picture where I can push the parts apart. This was the first part (and until now the only part) that I broke so far. I needed to rebuild it because of the motor fit anyway.

A detail of some part that wasn’t properly cut and just glued in like that. These little things and the work that is required before you can get it airborne make the biggest difference for me with the more expensive Graupner version. The Graupner really is ARF. These chinese models are nothing close to ARF. They need a lot of rebuilding and work. Even the covering wasn’t properly on so I had to finish that also.

So if you really want to pay less and do have time to fix all that is broken out of the box you can go for one of these. I believe I will get it to fly properly one day. For now it’s on the building table since I crashed it on the maiden. It went up very well but once I started to throttle up more it got out of control. I believe it was due to some electronic failure. Like the BEC that wasn’t able to provide enough power to all servo’s for instance. 
It spiraled down from up high right into a corn field. Once I found it (yes for once I didn’t have the lost plane finder mounted :p) it was standing up on it’s nose or at least what was left of the nose. Luckily for me only the nose broke. Fuselage and wings are just fine. I also notice an elevator being loose so that might be the cause of the crash as well. It would explain the spiral down movement since only one of the 2 elevator halves was off.
Anyway it will stay on the building table to get a new nose now. I don’t have much time at the moment so it might stay there for a long time. And the spare moments I do have I get my Graupner up in the air and enjoy how everything just works. 

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