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2008 October - Product Lab

Published: September 12, 2008
Revell's Piloto is definitely kid friendly
Product: The Piloto is a small, foam RTF plane that comes with a 2-channel radio/charger. Just pop six AA batteries in the transmitter, plug it into the plane to charge the onboard LiPo, and you're ready to go.

Performance: The simple instruction sheet takes you through the steps to set up the Piloto, but what instructions can never prepare a novice for is that first flight.

There are a couple of things to watch out for with the Piloto. First, when unpacking the plane, make sure the rudder isn't mashed, either from shipping or careless unpacking. It can be straightened if it is, but can also affect flight if left uncorrected.

Second, for the first flight, you should be in a large, uncluttered room. Due to the rotation of the propeller and right rudder prebuilt into the plane, our model had a natural tendency to turn right. So much so, that even keeping the throttle at full power, it would tend to go into a dive whenever we performed a right turn. Left turns and straight flight (with some steering adjustments) weren't any problem at all.

Learning to fly the Piloto takes a little getting used to, and I'm not ashamed to admit ours has weathered a number of crashes - without injury, for the most part. One crash did break off the rudder, but we looked at it as a chance to correct some of the right oversteer and used foam-safe cyanoacrylate (CA) glue to reattach it. With that fix, we're flying figure eights.

Marketing: The Piloto requires no experience to fly and can be flown indoors. It's perfect for kids, since the learning curve is very shallow and the plane is extremely durable.

If you have some open space in the store, you shouldn't have a problem demoing the Piloto, which would go a long way toward selling it.

Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

Product: Piloto
Maker: Revell
Stock No.: RMXA3288 (red); RMXA3289 (blue)
MSRP/Street: $79.99/$49.99
Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

  • Great for kids, age 8+

  • Durable and easily repaired

  • Model may have unique flight characteristics

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    Bring in a younger crowd with Tamiya's battling beetles
    Product: In 2007, Tamiya released the Rhinoceros Beetle and the Stag Beetle remote-control kits under its educational Robocraft Series line. While still available as separate kits, a new, all-in-one Insect Battling Set featuring both beetles and a battle ring mat is now available.

    The beetles in this set differ from their individually released cousins by their new transparent plastic colors and new sheet of decorative stickers.
    The motor-driven gearboxes, crank plates and linkage rods produce the beetles' movements, including the forward/reverse and left/right actions, as well as the claw and head movements. The gearboxes are controlled by two-stick, 2-channel controllers with wire tethers.

    A screwdriver and a small tube of axle grease are included for assembly, but the builder will need to supply a hobby knife, cutting shears and two AA alkaline batteries for each controller.

    Performance: My son Kyle, 12, and I assembled this wild pair of beetles over the course of two nights. While the builds initially looked fairly simple, the combination of the quantity of small pieces, such as screws, washers and pins, and the information-rich assembly instructions made the process a bit tougher than we had expected.

    All of the parts are nicely bagged and are clearly labeled on the instructions. The transparent plastic parts need to be removed from sprues. The stickers are a nice touch, but there aren't a lot of suggestions about where to put them. Then again, isn't the point to make your beetle battler your own anyway?

    We built the stag beetle first. It took about an hour to put together. Kyle enjoyed it more than I thought he would, but by the second night, working on the rhino beetle, he was past the "How does it work?" phase, even though we cut the build time in half. He was much more interested in being done with the building part so we could "battle to the death!" with our beetles.

    Being a model-car builder, I thought my interest would end once we completed the beetles. Not so! Kyle and I spent the better part of an hour battling to the death. It didn't take long to get the hang of how to maneuver the robots, and once we discovered each beetle's unique battle strengths and weaknesses, we just couldn't put them down.

    Although we initially thought the printed battle ring mat would be the perfect place to practice our battling techniques, we found that fighting in the overturned kit box top was much more enjoyable - there's no way to escape!

    Marketing: Tamiya makes quality products, and this remote-controlled insect set is no exception. The price point removes it from the impulse-buy category, but for the money, it's a good deal.

    This set should appeal to boys and girls as young as 7 or 8, but it's not a kit that can be built without adult assistance; even an older child needs some modeling/assembly experience under their belt. It would be great for school science projects or as an alternative to other building sets. Stock it in your educational section, or if you carry only R/C, this set might be a way to branch out and reach a younger demographic.

    Reviewed by Kyle and Mike Soliday

    Product: Insect Dueling Set (2-channel remote control)
    Maker: Tamiya
    Stock No.: 71120
    MSRP: $87

  • Great bonding project

  • Excellent fit and finish

  • A blast to play with!

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    Nine Eagles' Kestrel can fly with the best of them
    Product: Nine Eagles Kestrel 500 is a good-looking, ready-to-fly helicopter for the entry-level pilot. It comes packaged with a 2.4GHz transmitter, a 7.4V LiPo battery and a quick charger. Also included is an extra set of blades. Your customer will need four AA alkaline batteries for the radio.

    Performance: Setup is a breeze. Add batteries to the radio, charge the LiPo battery, plug it into the copter, and away you go.

    The counter-rotating blades and twin 180 motors gently lift the copter and give it ample power to maneuver around a room. The Kestrel 500 could probably be flown outdoors, too, on a calm day.

    The Kestrel's body is a very nice-looking two-piece affair. Getting to the innards, if adjustments need to be made, is as easy as slipping the skids out of their mounting holes and removing two rubber washers. Blinking lights in the nose of the craft help the pilot track the helicopter, even in the dark.

    The transmitter has several nice functions, including a port and switch to allow a "buddy box" to be connected for training purposes. The other switch on the radio is for dual rates; the novice flyer can maneuver at 70% of the throws, and an experienced flyer can flip the switch for 100% control. The sticks on the radio are also convertible to right-hand throttle.

    Flying the helicopter is a pleasure, even for a new pilot. The chopper is easily trimmed with slide switches on all axes; our sample required minimal adjustments. Control is instantaneous and positive; just point the Kestrel in a direction and it goes.

    The Kestrel appears to be fairly durable, surviving several crashes with no damage to the body and only a nick or two on the blades. If the flyer gets in trouble, he can bring it down and prevent major damage with a tail-first landing.

    Marketing: Nine Eagles has packaged the Kestrel in a box with a clear window so the buyer can clearly see what's inside. It has very cool scale looks that other helis in its class do not. And while the tail rotor is completely ornamental, it does spin while flying, and just adds to the overall feel.

    Nine Eagles has adopted 2.4GHz channel-hopping technology, and that's a selling point that you shouldn't overlook. This is especially true since the Kestrel 500 is targeted toward novice R/C flyers, which means there is less chance of a glitch due to interference and one less thing a beginner has to worry about.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Kestrel 500
    Maker: Nine Eagles
    Stock No.: NE R/C 208A
    MSRP/Street: $199.99/$169.99
    Availability: Bob Smith Industries

  • Great scale looks

  • Smooth control with 2.4 GHz controller

  • Novice friendly, but fun for experienced pilots too

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    Midwest's Cellfoam 88 has many uses
    Product: Midwest Products' Cellfoam 88 is one of the most versatile construction products I've come across in a while. It's a closed cell, extruded polystyrene foam with a smooth outer skin that's easy to cut, sand, glue and paint. It's also resistant to acids, water and mild chemical solvents.

    There are innumerable projects that can benefit from Cellfoam 88 , making it useful to a wide cross-section of your customers, including modelers, crafters and even kids doing science fair projects.

    Performance: We used Cellfoam 88 in two different projects. For the first, I was in the process of building a grade crossing for my O-scale model railroad and decided to use Cellfoam 88 for part of the roadway. Cellfoam comes in sheets as large as 11.5 inches x 47 inches, which is nice if customers need large pieces. (Smaller sizes are also available.)

    One of the neat features about Cellfoam is it can be scribed to create various textures, such as brick. Just make sure to use a sharp tool to get good lines; a dull tool will tear the foam.

    I cut the Cellfoam wider than I needed and compressed the edges to simulate the shoulder of the road while leaving the actual roadway higher. I also used some Sculptamold to enhance the terrain. I was concerned it might not stick, but after letting it dry for a day, I found I needn't have worried at all. A few swipes of some dark acrylic paint, a sprinkle of dirt and voila, I had a road and terrain.

    Acrylic craft paint adheres very well to Cellfoam. I used cyanoacrylate adhesive (CA) to glue the material down, but you can also use epoxy, contact cement, 3M Super 77 spray-adhesive or a number of other glues with it. Non-foam-safe CA appears to work fine as long as you are tacking two of the coated outer Cellfoam surfaces together. If you sand into it or are attaching something to the uncoated edge, I'd recommend foam-safe CA.

    For the second project, Paul Daniel decided to build a park flyer out of Cellfoam. Midwest Products has posted a number of airplane plans to its Web site,, specifically for use with Cellfoam 88 that customers can download.

    Paul printed the plans for the One Design, cut out the various pieces and glued them to sheets of Cellfoam using 3M Spray 77. Once the templates had dried, he carefully cut out the pieces for the plane with a sharp hobby knife and followed the diagrams to assemble it, using foam-safe CA. All told, it took about two hours to assemble the One Design. Instead of using paint to cover the plane, Paul decided to use a low-temperature iron-on covering.

    Compared to RTF planes, the price for building the One Design and outfitting it with a motor, ESC and servos, totaled about $150. The difference is that the plane was a project completely built from scratch, and that is in danger of becoming a lost art.

    Marketing: Visit There are a number of craft and hobby projects posted there that can be useful to both you and your customers. Contact Midwest Products and ask permission to download and provide some of these projects to your customers.

    Planes and model railroad scenery are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Cellfoam 88. It can be used for architectural models, dioramas and craft projects, too.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller and Paul Daniel

    Product: 3mm, 5mm and 10mm Cellfoam 88 with One Design plans
    Maker: Midwest Products
    Stock No.: 5902
    MSRP: $12.49
    Other products used for One Design aircraft plan: HS 55 servos (four) available from Hitec; RimFire 28-26-1000 motor, Slo-Flyer 10x4.5 prop, Power Series 11.1V 640mAh LiPo 20C battery, Silver Series SS-12 brushless ESC; available from Great Planes Model Distributors

  • Lightweight and holds its shape

  • Can be cut, carved and sanded

  • Suitable for all ages and hobbies

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    Sapac's Goshawk an easy ace
    Product: Sapac's new T-45 Goshawk comes in foam or composite versions. The composite plane can be purchased with or without the motor, while the foam SKUs come without the motor and are receiver ready. Our sample was the composite T-45 that included a six-blade fan unit and KV3200 brushless motor.

    Two aspects of this model make it a real treat for hobbyists. First are its great performance characteristics. Second is that it is easy on the wallet. Once it's fully assembled, the T-45 can easily fit in the back seat of a midsized car.

    Performance: I estimate that it took me between 15 to 20 hours to assemble the T-45. The only real shortcoming is the plane's instructions. Although they include a lot of pictures, there isn't any text to accompany them, so you're left to decipher what you're supposed to do.

    The fuselage is made of fiberglass, complete with recessed panel lines, which are a nice detail. The wing and flying surfaces are built-up balsa, already covered and ready for installation.

    Your customers should be aware of a couple of things in the build sequence. First, while assembling the fuselage, customers should roughen the surface of the aluminum torque rod with sandpaper before gluing on the left and right stabs. This will ensure a better bond between the wood and metal surfaces.

    The T-45's interior is small, so customers should install all the servo leads and the ESC prior to installing the fan unit and intake liners. Customers should test the electronics at this point as well, since taking anything out will require more work once the ducting is in.

    The intake ducting is comprised of four plastic pieces: a top and bottom for both the starboard and port intakes. Installation takes time, since the pieces must be trimmed and test-fitted before permanently anchored. The interior ducting also required trimming and multiple fitting sessions.

    Customers will need extensions for the wing servos, which are threaded through each wing's ribs. To help with this task, I tied ¼-inch hexnut to some fishing line, dropped it into the servo opening and jiggled the wing until the nut dropped out of the center section. I then taped the servo extension to the other end of the fishing line and pulled it through.

    I found that the magnets needed to attach the hatch to the fuselage are too small. Stronger magnets or a hatch latch setup works well.

    There are two ways to get the T-45 in the air: bungee launch, or leave the wheels on and take off from the ground. Do not attempt to hand-launch this plane!

    I chose to leave the wheels on. My takeoff roll over grass was about 75 feet. Once the T-45 got in the air, it was really quick. I found the control throws a bit soft, so I increased them by about 20% on the second flight. The T-45 goes wherever you point it. It will even do knife-edge flight. Since it has a thin wing, a longer approach on landing is needed to bleed off speed. I've discovered you can pull completely back on power and glide the plane in for a landing.

    Marketing: Play up the T-45's scale looks, composite construction and overall maneuverability. While the T-45 is a small plane, don't be fooled. It's no park flyer. It requires a minimum flight area the size of two football fields, and should be handled by pilots who are used to flying fast planes.
    The Goshawk would make a great first ducted-fan model, and won't break the bank in the process.

    Reviewed by Paul Daniel

    Product: T-45 Goshawk, composite with motor
    Maker: Sapac America
    Stock No.: SAP11700
    MSRP/Street: $415/$224.99
    Availability: Contact Sapac America at 800-976-7004

  • 15-20-hour build time

  • Sketchy instructions

  • For intermediate/advanced flyers

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    Explore and conquer ancient Egypt with Mayfair Games' Horus
    Product: Looking to explore and subjugate the lands of ancient Egypt? That's what Horus, the latest offering from Mayfair Games, is all about. The game is for two to four players, ages 10 and older.

    Designed by H. Jean Vanaise (creator of Shark), Horus is a clever strategy game and comes with 120 game tiles, 80 wooden tokens, 54 cards and a cloth bag to hold the tiles. It also includes a storage box and an 8-page rule booklet. The game can be played in less than an hour.

    Performance: Horus features the typical good-quality glossy cardboard and wood components you'd expect in a Mayfair game. The game's color rulebook is easy to follow and provides great examples for many of the more complex aspects of play.

    Once I'd punched out all the tiles and organized them, I taught myself the game in about 30 minutes, and the game mechanics are so easy that they can be taught to new players in five minutes or less.

    The basics of the game involve the players exploring the Nile River in ancient Egypt and discovering new lands along its banks. The players place one of four types of land tiles on their turns to create these new regions. The wealth of a region (its point value) depends upon how the tiles that make it up have been grouped.

    As regions are created, the players may attempt to gain control of the best lands by placing their influence tokens on those tiles or by thwarting their opponents' plans for expansion by changing the course of the river.

    The game ends when any two types of tiles have been exhausted. The player that influences the most land tiles wins.

    Horus features moderately paced play, and the strategies differ depending upon the number of players in the game. The game has a mix of random and player-controlled elements, so neither tends to overpower the final outcome. However, watchful players can be rewarded if they pay attention. Since the game board is made up of individual tiles, no two games of Horus are ever the same.

    Marketing: Horus comes in a colorful box that is easy to display. Like many games, the box is much larger than the pieces, but it does include a plastic insert for keeping the cards and tiles separate when stored.

    Horus' simple play and game variation can make it a good entry-level game for new game-players. This also makes Horus an excellent starting point for stores thinking about carrying games or that stock a smattering of games that appeal to casual players. The rules aren't hard to learn, and therefore, teaching one or two employees to demo Horus won't be difficult.

    Also, play up the perceived value of the game. Horus can provide hours of family entertainment. While the rules stay the same, every game is different and that means more meaningful hours of play. The game is highly portable and can be taken on trips and played wherever there's a table. Finally, the components are sturdy and resistant to wear.

    Reviewed by David Popp

    Product: Horus
    Maker: Mayfair Games
    Stock No.: 4101
    MSRP: $35
    Availability: Contact

  • High-quality components

  • Easy to learn

  • No two games are ever alike

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    No. 6121
    No. 6122
    No. 6123
    Carousel 1 delivers detail and accuracy with P-36A Hawks
    Product: The Curtiss P-36 Hawk is not the most famous aircraft from World War II, but it has an interesting history, was one of the first modern monoplanes after WWI and was the precursor to the highly successful P-40.

    A contemporary of the Hawker Hurricane and Spitfire, the P-36 was developed in the mid-1930s and was at the end of its usefulness as WWII began. In fact, many were destroyed sitting on the ground at Wheeler Field in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One of Carousel 1's three die-cast models replicates one of four P-36s that survived the initial attack and shot down a Japanese Zero in a counterattack.

    The P-36A was not a well-armed fighter, with machine guns mounted only in the aircraft's nose, but the P-36C version, built after early 1939, also boasted two .30-caliber machine guns in the wings. That version could also generate 311 hp from its with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine that gave it a range of 600 miles and service ceiling of 33,700 feet. The plane's stability and maneuverability made it a great aircraft for training new pilots, its main use after Pearl Harbor.

    Performance: These hefty Carousel 1 models are solidly cast, with sharp detailing, from fuselage and wing panel lines to the stout landing gear. Each propeller is free-spinning and there's nice detailing to the engine's front, its propeller and the frog-eye machine gun mounts that rise off the nose on both the A and C versions. Correctly, the C also has the wing-mounted guns.

    The black wheels are rubber and easily roll, while the landing gear can be posed in either a raised or lowered position. There's even a tail wheel. If you want to pose the plane on its stand with wheels up, there are covers for the retractable gear and small plugs that can be inserted to hide two screws that hold the model together.

    As with all Carousel 1 products, the markings are well-researched and historically accurate, including the pilot's name just in front of the cockpit. Inside, you can place the well-decorated pilot figure or leave him out so that you can see the high-quality cockpit with detailed gauges and controls. The clear canopy also can easily be removed if you want to peer inside.

    These three planes each come from different groups. Number 6121 is a P-36A that represents the plane flown by Lt. Phillip Rasmussen in the 46th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, stationed at Wheeler Field on that fateful morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Rasmussen and four others took flight to run off several Japanese aircraft, including two bombers. He scored one kill before suffering severe damage and was forced to land back at Wheeler. He later had two other kills in other aircraft.

    The P-36C version (No. 6122) is the camouflaged version flown by Maj. Willis Taylor, squadron commander of the 27th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, as flown in the Cleveland National Air Races in September of 1939. Number 6123 is the P-36A flown by Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Kenneth Walker. He was group commander of the 18th Pursuit Group based at Wheeler. He died leading a low-altitude mission to escort B-17s on an attack of Rabaul, the most heavily defended Japanese garrison in the Pacific.

    Marketing: As with Carousel 1's Indy race cars, its historic aircraft are large (1:48 scale), hefty and well-executed. They come in colorful yellow and brown boxes trimmed with various nations' military insignias and include large windows to give potential buyers a good look at exactly what they're getting for $69.95. Buyers could display the planes in the box, after some simple minor assembly, or group them in a display case.

    You should display one or two out of the box in a case and offer to let customers hold a plane to see how solid they are, spin the prop and feel the rubber tires. These are for your premium product collectors: those with a keen eye and fine sense of history.

    Check with your local Navy or Air Force recruiters for any extra aircraft or service posters you might put up in your model aviation section or store window. Various government agencies also sell similar items you could use to draw attention to all your plane models, plastic or die-cast.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: P-36A/C Hawk
    Maker: Carousel 1
    Scale: 1:48
    Stock Nos.: 6121, 6122, 6123
    MSRP: $69.95 each

  • Excellent detail for price

  • Authentic paint, markings

  • Uniqueness and heft

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    Pow! Bam! Mattel's Batmobile replica is a knockout
    Product: Holy septuagenarian! Batman is nearly 70 years old, but people remain fascinated with the character. Debuting in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939, the caped crusader has since appeared in books, radio dramas, TV and films.

    Some fans prefer Batman as a conflicted, brooding character. Others favor the campy one. But almost all will agree, the 1966 Batmobile is one cool car. Mattel/Hot Wheels recently released a 1:18 die-cast model that will interest fans of pop culture as well as collectors of iconic vehicles.

    Start with a couple of sea creatures, finish off with a bit of nocturnal winged mouse and voilà! The distinctive look of the Batmobile is born.
    According to the Original 1966 Batmobile Web site (, the vehicle began as the 1955 Lincoln Futura, a concept car designed by William M. Schmidt, who was inspired by the sleek lines of the manta ray and mako shark.

    When the producers of the Batman TV show hired customizer George Barris in September 1965, they gave him just three weeks to create the Batmobile. Recognizing the bat-like qualities inherent in the Futura, Barris made a few modifications to put together a vehicle that continues to strike a chord with car lovers today.

    Performance: Our Mattel/Hot Wheels' Elite Collection replica sample features a good deal of Bat-gadgetry, including Bat Radar on the hood, the Mobile Crime Computer in the trunk, the Batphone and the fire-extinguishing system. Among the details are opening doors, hood and trunk; seatbelts with Bat Buckles; and a rear license plate that reads "2F-3567 Gotham 1966." The replica feels solid and sturdy. Now, if only flames shot out the rear …

    Marketing: Cash in on Batman's timeless appeal by displaying the 1966 Batmobile with other bat-products, like comic books and action figures. Just make sure you give this car center stage; the model is truly Bat-tastic.

    Reviewed by Sue Brettingen

    Product: 1966 TV Series Batmobile
    Maker: Mattel/Hot Wheels
    Scale: 1:18
    Stock No.: MATL7130
    MSRP: $99.95
    Availability: Replicarz

  • Aesthetic piece of pop culture

  • Loaded with details

  • Solid, sturdy replica

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    Proxxon's Micromot 50/EF a handy, reliable tool for many tasks
    Product: Proxxon's Micromot 50/EF rotary tool is equipped with a keyless chuck that can accommodate shanks ranging from 1/64-1/8 inch in diameter.
    A narrow grip area is placed directly behind the chuck and is covered with a soft, rubber material. At the far end of the 50/EF is a dial where the user can choose continuously variable speeds from 5,000 to 20,000 rpm.

    Proxxon's NG 2/S transformer is required to power the 50/EF. It comes with a heat-resistant case, folding tool rest and 12 holes to hold the bits a modeler uses most.

    Performance: The 50/EF is very quiet and has extremely smooth operation, even at 5,000 rpm, where one would expect a rotary tool to be a bit rough. The wand is easy to maneuver and control when held like a pen, or reversed as a carving knife. Making the transformer a separate unit reduces the 50/EF's overall weight, when compared to other similar rotary tools, and therefore lessens hand fatigue.

    Changing bits couldn't be simpler. Just loosen the chuck, switch out and tighten. This feature in itself makes the 50/EF worthwhile.
    While it lightens the tool's weight, I'm not especially fond of the NG 2/S transformer. It takes up workbench space, which, for many modelers, is at a premium.

    And since there aren't foot pads on the bottom, it does tend to travel if there is any tension on the 50/EF's power cord. However, the folding tool rest is a nice touch, as are the holes to keep bits sorted and close at hand.

    Marketing: The 50/EF is a reliable, versatile tool that can be used for a variety of hobby tasks. It's affordable and would make a great first rotary tool. As a modeler's needs grow, the NG 2/S transformer can be used to power all of Proxxon's 12V devices, such as the orbital sander or jigsaw, making the system expandable.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Micromot 50/EF
    Maker: Proxxon
    Stock No.: 28512
    MSRP: $46.50
    Other products used: NG 2/S AC adapter (No. 38706, $21.80), 13-piece Model Builder's Set (No. 28910, $16.90)
    Availability: Call 877-Proxxon, e-mail or visit

  • Quiet and reliable

  • Easy keyless chuck

  • Expandable with other 12V tools

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