FlyFly Freebird review
This is my personal review of the FlyFly Freebird rc glider; I'm a big fan of gliders and this one caught my eye when I was window shopping for a new one to have some fun with on my local slope!
The Freebird is a sleek looking glider sold in two versions; electric powered (EP) glider and motorless glider, the one that I opted for. In this form the Freebird is only two channel (aileron and elevator) but I thought I'd do something about that and make it three channel with rudder as well (more on that later).
What's in the Freebird box?
The FlyFly Freebird comes in a box designed for that and another glider, the 'Speedy', and so both are pictured. Packaging around the glider parts was sparse compared to other kits but no transit damage had occurred, which is always a bonus!
The glider parts consist of the fibreglass fuselage, finished in bright red, tailplane and separate wing panels of balsa/ply construction. The hardware is all there and basic instructions and a sheet of decals complete the kit.
As is the case with many ARTFs with heat-shrink covering, there were a number of bad wrinkles in the covering on both surfaces of the wing; a warm iron quickly sorted these out and it was looking like new again.
A quick inspection also revealed the left wing of my FlyFly Freebird to be anything but straight, with a nasty bend to it. Fortunately there was no twisting but aesthetically this wasn't looking too nice - one straight wing panel and one banana! I've since tried straightening the wing in several different ways but the wood has other ideas and is being stubborn, so I have to live with it.
The assembly instructions leave a bit (lot) to be desired but do indicate the necessaries - I think a beginner might come unstuck but anyone with any level of ARF experience wouldn't have too many issues putting the glider together.
My FlyFly Freebird mods
There were two major changes that I wanted to make to my FlyFly Freebird; the first and biggest was to add a rudder (I like stall turns at the end of a run!) and the second was to make the wing a two-piece affair as opposed to the intended one-piece with epoxied joint. Now it's fair to say that I could have bought another glider that already featured these things, but the FlyFly Freebird was just the right size and look that I was after and the price was fair.
The rudder was easily made from a piece of 1/8" balsa, shaped to section and covered in red Solarfilm and attached to the fin with three strips of mylar hinge tape. I took a guess at how big the rudder needed to be and subsequent flights suggest that I guessed right.
A length of plastic 'snake' Bowden cable was used to connect it to the extra micro servo (I bought 4 Etronix 9g micro servos for this glider) and the servo was easily mounted sitting atop the ply strengthener inside the fuselage, below the wing seat. Incidentally the elevator servo sits on the same piece of ply at the rear of the canopy hatch, both servos sit at right angles to the fuselage centre line.
The pic below shows both servos in position (elevator left, rudder right), along with the Spektrum AR6200 receiver that I chose to use:
The supplied elevator linkage was metal Bowden cable in a plastic outer sheath (already in place) but this seemed a very tight fit with way too much friction and so I replaced the inner cable with small gauge metal wire which gave a much freer movement; even though the Etronix 9g servos give 1.6kg torque, there's no need to make them work overtime!
A point to raise here is that of FlyFly's attention to detail, or rather lack of it. While the kit construction itself is of adequate quality (apart from the banana-shaped wing), they really haven't put too much thought in to some areas, notably the height of the servos and the linkages supplied. The linkages are the screw connector type and because of their height (particularly the heavier duty ones supplied, which I changed to small gauge ones) a fair amount of fibreglass removal needed to be done to get any clearance for the laterally mounted servos to operate freely (see the above pic).
A much more sensible option would have been to include standard servo clevises, in fact that's what I had to use on the rudder servo (again, see pic) because any screw connector would foul the underside of the wing.
But after some swearing and cussing at FlyFly's R&D department, both servos were up and running smoothly. Incidentally I forgot to mention that the Freebird tailplane was cyano'd in place and was a nice tight fit in to its slot in the fin, and this had to be done before the rudder was fixed. A small 'V' shape obviously had to be cut in the elevator to accommodate the new rudder and its deflection.
With rudder done and radio gear installed it was time to tackle the wing. The instructions call for the two halves to be epoxied together with a short (6" or so) fibreglass joining piece, but I like to walk to my local hill so carrying a 1.5m one-piece wing wasn't a practical option for me. I much preferred a two-piece wing so a bit of thought was needed here...
My solution was to add a second wing joiner (6mm carbon tubing) rearwards of the main one and glue two locating pins in to the fuselage, either side of the wing bolt hole. These were made from 2mm carbon rod and some suitable tubing was inserted and glued in to the underside of each wing panel to locate on to the pins. Accuracy was key here so that each wing panel sat down on its respective pin precisely, and it worked!
With both wings in place I carefully drilled through for the wing bolt and used the supplied captive nut on the underside of the fibreglass of the wing seat; I actually epoxied some balsa and 1/32" ply in place first to create a thicker and flatter surface for the nut to bite in to, as the underside of the fibreglass was anything but flat where the nut had to go.
The system works well and with the wing panels bolted firmly down there is little movement, and my FlyFly Freebird has already stood up to some good flights.
Above left: the 2nd wing joiner and right, the carbon locating pins
Aileron servo installation was straightforward other than needing to purchase two 300mm extension leads; I had to remove the outer sheath of the extension connectors because FlyFly only made the holes in the ribs big enough to pass a standard connector through. No biggie though, I used electrical insulating tape to secure servo lead to extension and the modified connector passed through the ribs easily using the length of string that FlyFly had thoughtfully put in place during manufacture.
Each aileron servo is attached to a plastic cover that is then screwed in place to the underside of each wing. The linkage to the aileron is short and direct, a nice set-up although those black control horns would have been better white!
FlyFly Freebird flight report
With everything installed and mods done it was time to check the CG. I had had my suspicions that it would be tail heavy since this was the non-motor version but still shared the same CG position as the EP version. Add my addition of a rudder and associated bits and I wasn't doing the balance any favours!
My suspicions were justified and it took nearly 3oz (85g) of lead in the nose to get the Freebird to balance on its foremost point, 56mm back from the leading edge of the wing. The rearward position was only 4mm behind that.
The addition of a switch harness in the cockpit, after finding the Rx battery pack lead too fiddly to repeatedly connect and disconnect to and from the Rx, led me to remove some of the lead, but of course this didn't change the overall flying weight of the glider of 24oz (680g) - quite a bit over the recommended 20oz/590g! This extra weight didn't turn out to be a bad thing though because the Freebird likes a stronger breeze anyway - as it happens I've even made a ballast box to make it heavier if needs be.
So the first flight was on my local slope behind the house; I tested the air first with my small Valentino glider in a steady 15mph wind. All seemed good so time to try the FlyFly Freebird...
A hefty throw was given and to my relief the new glider immediately climbed on the wind, showing no vices from launch. I could tell right away though that penetration in to even a 15mph wind was poor, but good enough for a test flight. I did some crosswind passes with stall turns at each end, reinforcing the thought that adding the rudder was a good idea! Then I added some altitude by holding the Freebird into wind and performed some loops and rolls - a bit untidy but unsurprising given the lower airspeed going in to them; definitely a stronger wind and more ballast was needed to improve performance.
The landing was uneventful; I had set up the ailerons as spoilerons (easily done on the Spektrum DX6i) and made use of those to kill the lift - otherwise the glider was heading out over the slope face again. It settled in to the long grass and I breathed the obligatory sigh of relief knowing that the maiden was under my belt!
Freebird crash report
Well, not so much a crash as a bad landing! My second outing with my FlyFly Freebird only lasted one flight; the wind was better, blowing at a steady 20mph and gusting to 25 and straight up the steepest part of the slope. Two minutes in to a careful flight the wind suddenly died and the glider began to struggle badly. A couple of recoverable stalls later it was evident that this flight was over and all I could do was to turn into the slope and head for long grass - the left wingtip hit first and snapped the main joiner and the root ribs.
With the Freebird suddenly out of action the wind picked up again and even increased in strength; if only I'd waited 5 minutes!....
As yet I've not been able to do a flight video but here's one I found on YouTube...
So to sum up, the FlyFly Freebird is an 'OK' rc glider if you're looking for something in the 'middle' size bracket. Adding a rudder is by no means essential but worth doing in my opinion. I imagine the EP version to be a nice little hotliner capable of good performance, but I can only give the glider version a thumbs up from experience.
I think FlyFly could have done a few things better, this is by no means an outstanding quality ARTF glider but value for money it is perfectly adequate.
Foam FlyFly Freebird wing update
I decided to have some foam veneer wing panels made up to replace the balsa ones and got a great service from Barry of foamwings.co.uk.
The panels were sent to me as blanks and of course it was down to me to sort out the ailerons, servo cutouts, root ribs and joining method. I got everything done over a few days and am very pleased with the end result. The foam wings do increase the overall weight of the glider, but it's performed very well in the right conditions.
If anyone is thinking of this upgrade, get in touch with Barry because he should now have all the wing data on file.
Above: the new foam core / obechi veneer wing panels for the FlyFly Freebird, together with the 1/8" ply root ribs and carbon joiners, and the ally and brass tubing to go in the wings.
I opted to retain my two-piece wing outfit and found some suitably sized aluminium and brass tubing along with round carbon to use for the joiners. I glued the tubing in to the foam using Gorilla Glue and also used GG to glue the root ribs in place.