HobbyKing Phoenix 1600 Glider Build & Review

Today I’m taking a look at the Phoenix 1600mm EPO/Composite glider from HobbyKing. Electric powered gliders offer a thermal soaring experience combined with the convenience of an electric motor. The HobbyKing Phoenix is available in 1600mm and 2000mm wingspans, which both use a similar blow-moulded nylon fuselage.

Phoenix 1600 RC plane.

Here I am reviewing the 1600mm plug and fly (PNF) version purchased from HobbyKing UK, which includes an electronic speed controller (ESC), servos, brushless motor and folding propeller. It is also available in a kit version which does not include these accessories. At the time of writing, I paid £50.49 for the PNF version not including postage costs

Specifications

With the PNF version of the Phoenix the power train is included, so all that is required is the addition of a 1300 to 1800 mAh battery and radio control system. The HobbyKing product page states to use 2S LiPo batteries, but this would appear to be a typographical error - many owners on the HobbyKing website and popular forums report using 3S LiPo batteries without issue.

This Phoenix glider has a wingspan of 1600 mm, a length of 1045 mm and a flying weight of 950 grams. The completed plane as reviewed had the following specifications:

  • 1x Unbranded brushless 2815 size 1050 KV motor (included with PNF version)
  • 1x Unbranded 10x6 folding propeller (included with PNF version)
  • 1x Unbranded 30A brushless ESC (included with PNF version)
  • 4x Unbranded 9g servos (included with PNF version)
  • 1x Turnigy NanoTech 1800 mAh 3S LiPo Pack (via HobbyKing)
  • 1x Hitec Optima 7 2.4GHz radio receiver (via local dealer)

Unboxing

The Phoenix 1600 was delivered promptly from the HobbyKing UK warehouse, arriving the day after ordering. Removing the shipping material, the plane was packaged in a retail box with a large photo and information printed on the outside. The box shows a radio control transmitter and the manual refers to its use, however HobbyKing do not currently sell the Phoenix 1600 in a ready to fly (RTF) version.

Phoenix 1600 retail box.

Opening the box I was disappointed to see that the wing sections were loose inside and the tie-wrap intended to restrain the fuselage during shipping was not fastened down, allowing much of the box contents to move around freely during shipping. There was some light scuffing on the fuselage where it had obviously been moving around. Luckily apart from this minor cosmetic issue, everything seemed to have arrived in one piece.

Phoenix 1600 retail box (opened).

In addition to the fuselage and wing sections, a comprehensive accessory pack is provided, with the screws and fixtures required to complete the assembly. This included a Philips screwdriver, a spare propeller spinner, spare control horns and spare servo rod connectors. A black and white A4 manual and large adhesive-backed decal sheet was folded in half at the bottom of the box. The model is designed to be assembled exclusively using screws, so there is no glue included.

Phoenix 1600 retail box (opened, closeup).

There is no documentation provided (or available from the HobbyKing product page) on how to program the included no-name ESC, which is a shame as the ESC did not have brake mode enabled. Brake mode means the ESC will stop the propeller from ‘free wheeling’ when gliding with power off, which improves glide performance.

Phoenix 1600 fuselage and wing sections. Phoenix 1600 parts kit.

Design & Assembly

The build process is, at face value, reasonably simple - apply the decals, screw the tail pieces to the fuselage, install the receiver and screw together the main wing. HobbyKing claim on their website that this model can be assembled in 15 minutes. Taking my time to decipher the assembly instructions and deal with various issues it took about 90 minutes to complete. If I built one again, 20 minutes might be achievable but 15 minutes is very optimistic.

Unfortunately the assembly of the Phoenix 1600 was plagued with issues making this perhaps the least enjoyable aircraft build I’ve ever undertaken. The instruction manual is poorly written (badly translated from Chinese), with small low resolution black and white photographs. The manual starts by explaining the basic concepts of model flying including safety. There are then four pages of assembly instructions followed by pages on how to recharge batteries and use the transmitter included in the RTF package.

Phoenix 1600 instruction manual.

I started by applying the included decals to the wing surfaces. The decals are exceptionally thin and tear very easily. Even taking great care I still ruined two of the decals. I then installed the horizontal stabilizer piece on the fuselage. This is attached by a plastic retainer which is held in place with screws entering the underside of the fuselage. This is where the assembly problems continued. The model includes five different sizes of screws - however the manual does not include any detail on which are for what purpose, and the illustrations are too small to be of any help. I had to partially assemble and disassemble much of the plane using different screws to try to figure out where they should go.

Phoenix 1600 decal sheets. Phoenix 1600 assembly.

Next I installed the vertical stabilizer which is intended to be held in place with two small screws. I opted to use Deluxe Materials “Foam-2-Foam” glue between the plastic retainer and foam piece to add strength. I then took the opportunity to add some 3M Blenderm tape to the elevator and rudder surface hinges, something I highly recommend on all foam models to stop the hinge from breaking apart easily. This turned out to be a good idea, as after a couple of flights the base of the rudder hinge which was not covered by the tape split away from the main section.

The wing is comprised of two halves which are joined together with a 5mm carbon rod and a plastic bracket. The plastic piece has four screw holes for attaching the wing to the fuselage while simultaneously holding the wing together. This means that the wing can be disassembled in to two halves for storage. After putting the wing on the plane it did not seem very robust at all, so I decided to make some modifications. I used super glue to fix the carbon rod in one of the wings, Foam-2-Foam to glue the plastic bracket to the two wing halves, and glass tape along the underside of the wing join and edges of the plastic bracket. This meant that the wing is now permanently one piece, but is stronger and easier to fit to the plane at the field.

Phoenix 1600 wing assembly.

Flaps can be installed simply by making one cut to the wing to release the flap control surface and adding two 9g micro servos to the spare servo recesses.

The aileron, elevator and rudder servos are glued in to the foam sections at the factory, however it was necessary to add control horns to the aileron servos and attach all control rods and horns during assembly. The rudder servo horn was not installed in the centred position so this needed to be adjusted.

Phoenix 1600 wing underside.

I then checked the pre-installed motor and ESC were correctly fitted at the factory. The three motor wires were loose inside the fuselage and very close to the outrunner motor case. This is bad news because the wire insulation can be worn down and cause a motor failure during flight - as has been reported on the HobbyKing website by several pilots. To solve this I added some glass tape to fix the wires down to fuselage. At this stage I also checked my batteries fitted and installed a Hitec Optima 2.4GHz radio receiver, completing the build. Finally I attached the included folding propeller using the included propeller adapter.

When powering up the plane on the bench another problem became apparent - the elevator servo horn was catching on the side of the fuselage. It was so severe that the servo repeatedly got stuck in a fully extended position, definitely something check for. I had to spend some time with a craft knife carefully shaving plastic away from the inside of the fuselage to allow the servo to move freely. The blow moulded fuselage was surprisingly difficult to cut with a sharp knife.

Phoenix 1600 tail servos.

The fuselage has generous equipment and battery compartments, helped by the relatively thin thickness of the nylon material compared to foam. There is just about enough space to fit inside an FPV or autopilot system - I have read of one pilot fitting a Cyclops Storm autopilot with 5.8GHz FPV. The completely hollow interior from nose to tail will also make life easier when installing such accessories.

The battery compartment has a good quality plywood board pre-installed to secure the flight battery with the included self-adhesive Velcro. Using a NanoTech 1800mAh 3S battery leaves plenty of space around the battery and upgrading to using the ubiquitous 2200mAh 3S size battery poses no issues. A Velcro battery strap and self-adhesive Velcro pads are included with the plywood board. Tail and elevator servos are mounted on another pre-installed plywood board housed further back, directly underneath the main wing.

Phoenix 1600 electronics bay.

It should be noted that there is a counterweight factory installed in the nose of the fuselage. This can be removed to adjust the CoG if you want to fit larger flight batteries or additional electronics.

Flight Performance

After a less than stellar assembly experience, I was pleased to discover the Phoenix 1600 glider flies very well. Climb out performance from the 2812 motor was good, with more than adequate power for take off. The glider is well behaved with predictable stall behaviour and good resistance to sudden wind gusts. Relaxing to fly at lower speeds, it would be well suited for use as a beginners aircraft or thermal trainer. Thermal performance is respectable, allowing for flight times in excess of 30 minutes in the right conditions.

Loops and rolls are certainly achievable with this model, although the small motor is likely to become hot with more acrobatic flying styles and should be carefully monitored. I would recommend adding an opening near the front of the fuselage to improve airflow around the motor and ESC to improve cooling.

I did not install the optional flaps, but these would certainly further enhance the strong flight characteristics, improving gliding and allowing for more accurate landings. To get more performance from this airframe, upgrading the motor and ESC components is easily done. After reviewing this glider I upgraded the motor to an NTM Prop Drive 2826 1100kv motor and HobbyKing 40A ESC for added reliability.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a good mid-sized glider which flies very well, but is let down by quality issues. More experienced hobbyists will not find the build a challenge, but do plan for it to take considerably longer than HobbyKing’s claimed 15 minutes. Beginners may want to seriously consider alternatives such as the ParkZone Radian Pro, if your budget allows it. Given the low cost of the glider, the less than perfect assembly process can be overlooked to an extent.

The blow moulded fuselage is certainly very durable and a nice feature. After several rough flights, knocks and unexpected landings it is still in great shape. Another positive point is that HobbyKing list a selection of spare parts on their website.

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