Air Hogs Skywinder
Street Price: $39.99 US
Manufacturer: Spin Master
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 10+
Our recommended age range: none
Primary use: Outdoors
- Assembled airplane
- Charging station
- Decal sheet
- Extra propellers
- 6 AA batteries for the transmitter
- 8 D batteries for the charger
The Skywinder was one of the earlier planes in the Air Hogs series, and also one of the largest. What it brings to the skies that the others don't is the abilityto do actual stunts!
The controller features a single joystick that allows left/right turns as well as up & down movement. Unlike most low-cost RC planes, this one does not rely on simply increasing the speed of the propellers to increase altitude and slowing them down to come back. It actually has a 3rd radio channel that controls a real, working elevator (a moving horizontal surface on the tail just like a real airplane). You can control the speed of the motors with two buttons labelled "Thrust" (for takeoff and higher speed maneuvers) and "Land" (to ease the Skywinder down into a landing).
Preparing to Fly
Most low-cost RC planes let you charge them directly from the controller. Not so with the Air Hogs Skywinder. The motors are so powerful and the battery so large that you need to use a dedicated charging station, included in the box. What's really a pain is that the charger requires eight (8) D batteries; expensive and very, very heavy to carry around. On the flip side, what's nice is that the charging station has a flap that pops up for mounding the plane, and it doubles as a simulation platform to practice the controls. When you're not charging the plane, you can actually turn it on and "fly" it in place to become familiar with how the buttons and joystick cause the plane to respond.
I found that the elevator trim was off, as the tail wanted to stay all the way down, making the plane want to go up. There's an adjustment screw on the top of the plane that lets you fix this.
The Sky Winder needs to be launched by hand, as it has no wheels or skids. You turn on the plane, taking care to avoid the propellers, then when you turn on the controller, the motors immediately rev up and the propellers spin at normal speed. Holding the Thrust button will give you extra power to get up to speed quickly. You want to launch the plane swiftly and straight, at a slight angle upward. Too much up angle and it will stall and fall back to the ground.
My first flight didn't last long -- the plane rolled gently to the right and started to dive towards the ground. I pulled back on the joystick, and it immediately went vertical, then came all the way around. It was a full loop, just like it's supposed to be able to do! The only problem was, I was too close to the ground, and at the bottom of the loop it crashed. When you crash, you have to turn off the controller quickly to stop the motors. There was no damage, thanks to the durable and flexible foam construction of the plane. To make it not turn right, I bent the rudder to the left a little.
The next set of flight attempts were about the same length, but less spectacular. I tried to get the Sky Winder to just fly straight , but it seemed to want to either go down slowly or go up quickly. I eventually got the trim to where it would try to go pretty straight and level, but then when I wanted to turn, it would lose altitude pretty quickly and end up crashing. The instructions tell you to get far up into the air before you start turning to avoid this type of crash, but the medium-sized open field I was flying in just didn't have enough space, as the Skywinder was very slow to gain altitude reliably, and it was moderately fast, so it fairly quickly got too far away to see well. I tried different settings & tactics to do just a basic "here to there and back" flight, but just kept crashing. Worse still, each the battery charge only lasted about 5 minutes, and it took over a half-hour to charge. Very frustrating!
The Air Hogs Skywinder is a big & hefty plane that promises to be very fun, but in reality, it simply isn't. It takes too long to charge on its unnecessarily heavy charging station, doesn't get enough altitude or turn fast enough to even attempt a normal flight in a reasonable area, and gives you very little time to practice with its fast-discharging battery. Fortunately it doesn't break easily when it crashes, because crashing is all I was able to accomplish. To make matters even worse still, the Skywinder has been recalled for a burn hazard. Evidently the charger has faulty a safety circuit and can overcharge the plane, causing the battery to overheat badly or even vent the toxic chemicals inside.