Two things about the Outlaw immediately stand out—literally. (Hint: they stick out about 2 inches from both sides of the fuselage on a carbon-fiber rod, and they point forward.) The sleuths among you may have figured out that I refer to the twin 180-size direct-drive motors. These motors represent three firsts for a Firebird: the first twin, the first non-pusher, and the first time a Firebird uses differential thrust for control. This is easily the biggest departure from the established Firebird formula, and I was eager to see how the Outlaw would stack up.
BREAKING OUT THE OUTLAW
That should take you about as long as it did to read this far. I laughed because the instruction manual is 27 pages long, but only three pages actually deal with assembly! The rest offers useful information for first-time fliers about troubleshooting, field selection and basic flight technique, supplemented by a nifty video CD that will play on any computer with Windows Media Player installed. A basic wall charger for recharging the drive battery rounds out
My only grudge is with the name; a plane called “Outlaw” ought to be a little, well, ornery in the air. This one behaves like a saint! Maybe the name is a veiled reference to the fact that it is an absolute steal at $55. If anything, it is more durable than its forebears, thanks to the same sturdy design, lighter weight and lack of control surfaces to get bruised. Occasionally, it shows hints of its humble differential-thrust beginnings (especially in transitions), but the effects are minor, infrequent and easy to compensate for. I hesitate to call any plane the “perfect” first park flyer, but the Outlaw’s combination of tidy handling, excellent durability and unbelievable price makes a convincing case. It flies as well as many planes that cost three times as much, and for $55, nothing else even comes close. A HobbyZone; distributed by Horizon Hobby, Inc. (800) 338-4639; hobbyzonesports.com.
This Outlaw is far more “Gentleman Bandit” than “Billy the Kid,” and from the first pitch, it was far more entle and composed than I expected. Don’t fly it in winds of more than 5 or 6mph, but given its small size, I doubt most people would even try that. A baseball outfield affords beginners (the Outlaw’s target audience) enough room to fly comfortably.
CLIMB PERFORMANCE. It isn’t a rocket ship, but it has enough thrust at full throttle to get you up and away without drama. The lack of elevator makes it hard to stall, so as long as you pitch it level and don’t turn until you have some altitude, you should get it right every time.
FLIGHT STABILITY. The Outlaw’s level of stability is amazing given its small size and thrust arrangement. It is more than gentle enough for first-time pilots. It transitions into and out of turns a bit more slowly than a rudder-controlled craft, but the behavior is very consistent and predictable, so even newbies will get the hang quickly. Interestingly, the transition speed does not reduce how sharply the Outlaw can turn—only how quickly it happens.
PILOT RECOMMENDATIONS. Because the Outlaw transitions more slowly, the tendency is to hold the “rudder” (right) stick longer, which can result in rotation past the intended path. Get used to pulsing the right stick through the turn, and even try a flick or two of countersteer (opposite direction rudder) to clean up the exit and get the plane headed straight faster. Also, avoid the temptation to hold too much throttle in turns; with a differential-thrust arrangement, you won’t gain much additional airspeed, and it will take more countersteer to pull out of the turn.
PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT. Composure is the Outlaw’s performance highlight. The controls are well proportioned and very progressive—perfect for inexperienced pilots. It is never twitchy or abrupt, but it remains reassuringly responsive. That they managed to get this much feel into a plane with a 27-inch wingspan and costing 55 bucks is a miracle!