A return to model building and flying. Part 57

Feb 2009

Yipee !

After the mind-numbing experience of having my flat repainted, I can now actually get into my workspace and, SEE, the work top. I hope this means I can finally get some model building done. Getting some new spec's so I can actually see stuff has also helped.

I have a project incubating that involves carrier models, but I want to keep that under wraps for the time being and get this Phantom finished, it's become a bit of an albatross around my neck, and I want to see it flying. I even have a reasonable media-card camcorder now, so hopefully the results will be recorded for posterity.


I was asked last year to evaluate a kit for Blackhawk Models, with a view to marketing it in the UK/Europe/Australia, with the words, 'We must get it right for this market.' Those words might come back to haunt....!

Most importantly, so I don't forget, here is the link for the manufacturer Blackhawk Models, and this one for UK supplier Den's Model Supplies

PLEASE NOTE: This kit was a pre-production kit for evaluation, some of the problems will have been sorted out by the time you read this. And some won't, as you will find as you read.

phantom labelThe box label was the first thing that caught my eye. Note the, Speed Model, and, Engines .15 to .19

Now, anyone remotely familiar with the original KeilKraft Phantoms will know there where two, the Phantom, and a Phantom Mite. The Phantom was a powered by the likes of a Mills 1.3 (cc that is). and the Mite which was smaller, 0.75-0.8cc. Neither where what could be described as speed models. Although no doubt someone tried to make them go faster at the time.

In the UK there are existing classes for using Phantoms for team race. A fact that was known. So suspicions are beginning to creep in as to who this kit is actually aimed at.

Blackhawk models are known for their (US) 1/2A sized CL models, so this is a departure into something bigger: but what? It didn't take long to realise that it can only be aimed at the US Perky Speed Class. OK, nothing wrong with that; but what happened to the, aimed at the Brits etc.

And herein lies the problem. as far as marketing goes, I don't give a tinkers cuss who it is aimed at, or what it's end use is intended to be. But think on this: the mere name, is evocative of the original KeilKraft kit, and I bet a pound to a penny that most will be bought by old modellers wanting to relive their past and by those in the UK that might want to adapt it for team race or invent a speed class for it. So it had better cater for them as well as the Perky boys.

pantom parts

The parts are laser cut, and for the most part of reasonable quality wood. I just wish I could get those  wheels at the local model shop! 

phantom plan

Even a plan, so you can build another if you are mad enough.

For copyright reasons, this is not a remake of the original KK Phantom; a lot of details are different, but in spirit it is a Phantom, and this also starts to show the questionable wisdom of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot. 

The first thing I had to forcefully speak out on was, how the Hell! is anyone supposed to get a .20 into the airframe. Maybe, just maybe, with a lot of work, a vintage .19 or something like, but the average .20 (Not many 19's made these days, when was the last time you saw one?) I think not! eventually the point was conceded that unless the whole thing was redesigned it was better to stick with .15's. A bit of basic engaging of the grey cells first would have prevented that blunder. Unless we look at this in terms of a triumph of advertising over common sense. if it is? then I for one am not impressed.

The model on the whole, went together in a straightforward manner, and the iron work is of high quality. The only mod I would suggest is to bend the ends of the the bellcrank to clear the pushrod at extreme movements to prevent jamming.

phantom bellcrank

I also prefer flexible leadouts as you can see, but the solid ones should be fine.  This is one of many modifications I made to tailor it to my needs, and no doubt make it take twice as long to build as it should. The principal one, is to have the cowl and top decking come off together to allow access to the fuel tank, because as sure as eggs are eggs, if I don't, the tank will leak, block up, be the wrong size, and have anything else that could possibly go wrong with it, happen.

And this brings us to the vexing question of a tank? Blackhawk Models attitude is, "Well anyone can buy a tank and fit what they want." I am afraid I beg to differ. The only type of tank that will fit comfortably in the model is an old style rectangular teamrace tank about 15cc maximum by my rough measurements, unless you make a T shaped one that fits every nook and cranny. Now again; when was the last time you saw one of the old style Mercury or Keil Kraft  team race tanks for sale?

Those of us that know how, can make our own, or know where to get something suitable. The only place I know off hand is Hallam Models in the UK, but they have no web presence so finding them would be difficult. So what about the RC flier that saw the kit and decides to re-live his youth. Much rubbing of hands and glee, until the final piece needed to get the thing to fly. I can just imagine the response in the local model shop, anything from,  if he is lucky enough not to be met with a blank stare, " Why would you want a metal tank when we have plenty of clunk tanks?", or, "What's a control line model?" if he isn't. 

Another response from Mr Blackhawk. "It would put the price of the kit up by X$." That X$, happens to be less than the cost of the time that would be spent by me trying of finding a supplier, purchasing said item, and paying the postage. The argument does not hold water. These things may be readily available in the US (which I doubt), but this aint the US! it's the sodding UK where things are never readily available as far as control line is concerned, or tend to disappear soon after if they are.

In my opinion, for what it's worth, this omission will leave this kit a reasonably good one; whereas it should have been a great one.

And whilst I  am on my war horse: the undercarriage. One look will tell anyone with experience that this wire with supplied wheels will not take more than a couple of rough landings on grass before it is bent beyond recognition; it needs to be of thicker wire. Response, "We have no plans to in change the U/C."Oh! so everyone has the luxury of access to nice flat tarmac runways to fly their models do they? I certainly don't! Having examined some Phantom half kits here in the UK, I noted they had thicker wire. I rest my case.

The dihedral braces were of the softest balsa wood imaginable: maybe I just had bad ones, but when asking for ply ones, the response was, "Not necessary. Braces are only used for aligment." OK, but HARD balsa PLEASE! these would beak at the slightest touch of inexperienced hands, even I was struggling, and as such they were useless as alignment guides.

The progress so far can be seen in the pictures below. Mk17? well it seemed in the spirit of the model, and I have been looking for something to use it in for a long time.

Phantom engine

Cowling, top deck, and canopy, will all come off as one unit.

Phantom unpainted

As a footnote to that written above, a conversation I had with a fellow club member that had purchased one of the production kits, and had not read this review, not only bore out most of my criticisms, but also added a couple more.

Apart for a certain amount of derisive comment about the advertising on the box 'STILL' stating that it will take a .19 (which it patently can't!) and the thin wire undercarriage; it was pointed out that the supplied wheels would also be much too small a diameter for a grass field flying. This was a point I am well aware of but had omitted to mention myself. Just a note about this wheel size difference on the plan would be sufficient to avoid potential unpleasantness if you happen to be stuck with flying on a grass site. 

Our circles vary between waterlogged, bone hard, long grass, short grass, sheep shit, and holes dug by various nocturnal creatures. All my club type racing models have braced undercarriages, as well as using 3.5 mm thick wire legs. This is the same gauge as used on my carrier models, and is the only thing I have found to stand up to the punishment. Small models (Mini Goodyear size); don't even bother with an undercarriage on grass, they are more trouble than they are worth. Only exception to this is with bigger models that have some form of glide, then the bracing can be dispensed with.

This kit also came supplied with a small Brodak rectangular tank; at least one step in the right direction! The vents are non standard outside diameter, which means standard fuel tubing will not fit. This means soldering (or otherwise adapting) a bigger diameter pipe over the feed and vents to be able to use them, at the risk of having the tank fall apart when heated up..

This seems to have also born out my thoughts on the availability of old style teamrace tanks in the US. The addition of the tank is a positive step, I suspect instigated by Dens Models, but unfortunately needs some urgent information adding with the kit to prevent potential problems for unsuspecting newbies; or even experienced modellers for that matter! 

The above statement in italics is patently untrue. Hands up, I was wrong! Brodak, do, actually supply tanks that would be suitable for that purpose, And Den's Models is trying hard to make the model complete  by adding a Brodak tank, and are presently trying to find a solution to the small pipe diameter problem, Dens Models are unfortunately caught in the middle of all this, so I would like to take the opportunity apologise for any misinterpretation on my part.

This does illustrate the importance of thinking through the design of a kit (or any design) from the ground up. Failure to do so can result in a mess, in more ways than one! Most of the old kit's where complete, probably for that reason. To reproduce one now is not just a question of copying the flying bits, but taking into consideration everything, from who is likely to buy one, to what engines are likely to be used, and what hardware is actually available. Supply it, and few problems, leave it to chance and let the end user fend for themselves? Not so good. With half kits, you expect to fend for yourself, just to make myself clear.

Take a look a Hallam Models designs if you ever have the chance, not vintage, but simple basic well thought out models  produced I suspect on shoestring.  They have most angles covered and give a lot fun for your money; apart from the lack of a website and online ordering! I would be first in queue if they had.

So until next months thrilling episode, I had better tear my other-self away from rebuilding and tuning a boat in Second Life (notice the nice lack of dust and mess involved in this process), and find the time to finish the Phantom. :))

sl boat

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