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Reviews >>

Estes - Phoenix (-Undefined-) [1982-1998]

Construction Rating:
Flight Rating:
Overall Rating:

Contributed by Tom Bell

- by Tom Bell 

The Estes' Phoenix is a challenging scale model kit of a US air-to-air missile. It is gun to build and fly and an excellent introduction to mid-power rocketry. 

The instructions were illustrated and easy to follow. No special tools were needed.

This rocket is not easy to build, due to the large amount of lumber it carries. It has eight very large balsa fins, so it is not recommended for the first-time builder. Fortunately, the fins are all one-piece design, so you don't have to glue the fins together from many pieces as you do with some other Estes' kits.

All the parts were included in my kit. Estes has a toll-free number you can call if there are any missing parts, and they also have a limited warrantee.

Alignment is a bit of a challenge for the fins because you want to get the forward fins aligned exactly with the rear ones. Besides carefully using the body tube marking guide, make sure to align these "by eye" before the glue sets up.

Estes recommends a lot of sanding on the forward fins to give them a knife edge for that scale look. If you're building this for contest, go for it. Otherwise, I would advise against sanding too much wood off this bird, or you will have balsa splinters all over the place when it lands hard. . . which it will. Give the fins many coats of strong filleting.

This is a good quality kit and is pretty sturdy, given the amount of wood hanging from it. I've had the rear fins pop off at times and one of the front fins has a hairline crack, but these are easily fixed. It is surprising that there hasn't been more damage, given the amount of balsa on this rocket.

This rocket looks sharp, even after several launches and some battering. The white color is not range-friendly and gets dirty fast.

The decals were something of a disappointment. Although they were complete and seemed accurate, they were soak-in-water type and were difficult to apply. Several other Phoenix builders noted this to me. You may want to look for a decal fixative solution that goes into the water soak to improve decal adhesion. Also recommended is several coats of clear spray after the decals are applied.

Even with the clear spray, my decals have started to chip and peel after many flights. I may repaint my Phoenix in a dull gray color and use only a few decals on it, to give it extra life.

This rocket flies surprisingly straight for the amount of wood hanging on it. The only disappointment is that it is a bit heavy for a D12-3. Do NOT fly this rocket with a D12-5. The extra two seconds of delay can be fatal to the airframe. You can either turn it into a lawn dart or may have late ejection, which can easily cause zippering.

Make sure you have installed the nose weight clay, or this rocket may be unstable.

Most popular engine for the Estes Phoenix is the Aerotech 24mm reload. You may have to file down the forward end of the engine clip to allow the forward end closure of the reload to fit. But this motor provides ample power to get the Phoenix up in the air.

Because of reliability problems with Copperhead igniters, I have begun using Estes North Coast igniters with the Aerotech 24 mm reload to good effect. They are less likely to short out than the Copperheads, although Estes did go cheap on the pyrogen on the igniter tips.

Recovery is usually excellent. You may want to consider replacing the stock 24" plastic chute with a nylon one, as they are more sturdy and reliable. Plastic chutes have a nasty tendency to stick or tangle, which makes for a hard landing.

I give this rocket 4 points. It is an excellent scale model, although the decals may cause some cussing. It is a bit underpowered with a "D" motor, although you can upgrade to Aerotech's with it. It is also an excellent introduction to mid-power rocketry and composite motors.

Although this may seem heretical to the accomplished rocket builder, this is one kit that may have actually benefited from plastic fins instead of all the lumber it carries. This may have reduced the weight enough to improve performance on the "D" engine. If you are into plastic fin fabrication, you may want to consider this option.  

Estes has a winner with this kit. . . if they were smart, they'd build a larger version under their North Coast label. For now, if you want a bigger Phoenix, you can get the THOY model with a 4" diameter tube, which will handle high-power motors.

(by Nick Hills) 

Specifications: Length: 30" Diameter: 2. 6" Motor Mount: 24MM 

[Rocket Pic]The instructions for the Phoenix are written very well. On one of the steps for the rocket, they tell you to put the motor mount in so the motor hook is even with the end of the body tube, make sure to do this! You WILL want to coat the end of the body tube were the motor mount is with epoxy so the tube does not get burnt from the motor! Also they give you diagrams for every step! The tools needed for construction are: sanding sealer, sandpaper, rule, pencil, X-Acto knife, scissors, glue, masking tape and epoxy.

All parts fit well! But putting the fins on does take time sense there are 8 of them!! Also you may want to build the rocket so you can fly Aerotech E and F motors in it. I just coated the centering rings with epoxy and put balsa strips on them too! And built the rest of the rocket with epoxy. Another thing is you will want to put good fillets of epoxy on all of the fin/body tube joints!

Sturdiness: The rocket would be a LOT better if they gave you thicker body tubes! The decals they give you are water sensitive. Which I like better then the self adhesive ones sense they are easier to work with. You will want to clear coat the rocket when you have all the decals on to protect the decals and finish! When done it looks GREAT!

For the first flight of my Phoenix I used a Aerotech E15-4 White Lightning. Rocket had a great boost and had a little bit of spin at motor burn out. And then ejection charge fired and rocket cam back without any damage! NOTE: Make sure to add the nose weight they give you or your rocket will not be stable!

I would give this rocket 4 points. It would get 5 points if they gave you thicker body tubes and a longer shock cord ( you will want to replace the one they give you). Other wise this is a great rocket!

    Flight Log

    DateRocket NameMotor(s)AltitudeNotes
    1984-07-19Casey Smith's Estes PhoenixD12-7- This was my first rocket. I wrote about it for a school report. Great flight, too long of a delay.
    1992-07-18Rick Barnes's PhoenixD12-5- First flight. Went horizontal when wind unexpected stopped. Too much delay, took core sample of ...
    1993-06-16Rick Barnes's PhoenixD12-3- Good launch, but popped a fin on landing.
    1996-07-05Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Delay too long. 1/2 zipper rip.
    1996-07-05Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good first flight
    1996-08-03Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Delay TOO long. Should have learned from the first flight!
    1996-10-19Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-3-
    1999-06-12John Busacca's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Good flight, rocket turned into wind. Going to build up the fins and fly it on a E15 or E30
    2000-03-02Brian Kain's Estes PhoenixC6-3- My 29mm phoenix. Not enough nose weight. The wind pushed it over at about 40'. Lets just say I'm ...
    2000-03-20Brian Kain's Estes PhoenixC6-3- Same flight as before and it keeps breaking the back fin off.
    2000-04-09David Kneble's Estes PhoenixD12-3- First flight and maybe last. Great looking rocket, not worth losing, waiting for NARAM 43 and ...
    2000-05-22David Kneble's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Second flight and maybe last(changed my mind). Great looking rocket, not worth losing, waiting for ...
    2001-01-27Michael Mangieri's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight. Landed in "sticker" bush near trees. Only 4 feet from the ground, but those thorns ...
    2001-02-18Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight. Wind caught chute after safe landing and dragged it across the field breaking off ...
    2001-05-30Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Beautiful first flight. Used 24 inch chute which worked fairly well. Plan to use a 36 inch nylon ...
    2001-06-09Daniel Cutteridge's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Gust of wind right at lift off caused rocket to arch over. Recovered intact,no damage. Very nice ...
    2001-07-10Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-3- OK
    2001-08-04Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixE9-6- A little under powered and went horizontal into the wind at about 100 ft.
    2001-08-20John Busacca's Estes PhoenixE15-4- First E flight, had to go to 30 Deg into wind,Fins were built up for this flight. Rocket leeped ...
    2001-09-23Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight. Cracked fin after landing on short grass. Repaired easily with slow setting CyA. Used ...
    2001-10-22Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight. Quite a bit of weathercocking. Recovered damage free to to a good catching attempt by ...
    2001-11-04John Storey's Estes PhoenixG35-7- 14 inch payload section added, otherwise stock except for epoxy fillets
    2001-11-16Tony Fragge's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Used 22 nylon chute. Worked well.
    2001-11-22Michael Doherty's Estes PhoenixD12-3- First flight for this kit & my first D flight in 25 years. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!! Lots of ...
    2001-12-01Michael Mangieri's Estes PhoenixD12-3- A slight wooble on the way up, but still impressive. Bottom fin broke off on landing.
    2002-01-17Jason Vennard's Estes PhoenixD12-3- First flight, straight boost, good deployment and recovery, one bottom fin knocked off on landing.
    2002-01-20Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Perfect flight. No damage.
    2002-01-26Jason Vennard's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight, very cold out, plastic chute didn't deploy, hard landing, knocked off two bottom ...
    2002-03-26Jason Vennard's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Great flight and recovery, 18 chute a little small for this one maybe, knocked off two more bottom ...
    2002-04-27Michael Mangieri's Estes PhoenixC11-3- Nice flight on this new motor from Estes
    2002-05-11Michael Mangieri's Estes PhoenixC11-3- Beautiful and slow. Rear fin broke off, again :(
    2002-05-12Randy Trotter's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Pretty Launch, but VERY under powered!!!! I was worried it was not going to eject before hitting ...
    2002-05-12Randy Trotter's Estes PhoenixE30-4- 2nd flight, MUCH better motor for this kit than the este D12-5!!!! It had great power. It came ...
    2002-05-25Michael Mangieri's Estes PhoenixD9-4- My first attempt at using RMS motors. Motor fired great; unfortunately the Phoenix tipped-off 30 ...
    2002-05-27Jason Vennard's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Winds little over 5mph. Good flight although it cocked a little into the wind. Daughter popped one ...
    2002-08-02Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Beautiful straight flight. Perfect recovery due to me catching the rocket just before touchdown. ...
    2002-08-10Larry Zeilmann's Estes PhoenixE9-4- This was modified with a linear baffle and flown prior to painting. Perfect straight boost with ...
    2002-09-07Bill Haley's Estes PhoenixD12-3- AWESOME ROCKET - 3 Launches today - First time to fly the Phoenix - Underpowered, weathercocks a ...
    2002-10-26Larry Zeilmann's Estes PhoenixE9-4- AGF straight boost
    2002-11-30Alan King's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Late afternoon, cold and breezy about 5 mph. Left the launch pad with very realistic takeoff. ...
    2002-12-26Donald Sharps's Estes PhoenixD12-3- 1 oz clay in nose per instructions, but at 50 ft alt, it turned sideways. We launched a missle! No ...
    2003-01-26Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Perfect flight. Short recovery. I love the way this rocket lumbers off the pad. No damage.
    2003-04-26Larry Zeilmann's Estes PhoenixE9-4- AGF
    2003-05-29Jon Revelle's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Perfect flight. Broke fin off on landing. Called Estes on 6-30 and said would look into problem.
    2003-07-13Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Nice flight, ejected right at apogee even though the motor fired its ejection charge after 1 1/2 ...
    2003-10-19Mark Hayes's Estes Phoenix3xD12-5- weather cocked, but perfectly straight after that
    2004-04-04Jason Vennard's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Our Phoenix is cursed. Another very nice flight, recovery fine under 22 nylon chute but once again ...
    2004-04-11Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Very nice flight with some spin and arcing. Suffered a stripped chute at ejection and came down ...
    2004-07-20Frank DiMatteo's Estes PhoenixD12-3- The D12 is an underpowered motor for this rocket but it flies great. The back fin keeps coming ...
    2004-08-14Mark Van+Luvender's Estes PhoenixE18-4- Great, fast boost! Flew straight and fast, recovered close. Excellent engine for this rocket!
    2004-08-15Andrew Grippo's Estes PhoenixD12-3- 2nd flight of day for this rocket and went same as the first - Great!
    2004-11-18Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Very nice and straight flight, absolutely no weathercocking at all. Nice recovery except the chute ...
    2005-02-05Todd Shero's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Rocket way underpowered as stated by many. Must fly again soon with something bigger. Just getting ...
    2005-03-18Andrew Grippo's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Good flight and recovery. This rocket looks great sitting on the pad and flies very well.
    2005-05-14Todd Shero's Estes PhoenixE30-7- Launch lug let loose as rocket came off the pad. Not a pretty flight. Chute melted from ejection ...
    2005-05-14Todd Shero's Estes PhoenixE30-7- Second flight after repairs and a new chute. Perfect flight with the perfect motor for this ...
    2005-05-28Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Very nice flight, boosts very nicely up to about 300-350 feet on the D12-3. Moderate drift on ...
    2005-05-29Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Third flight of the day and it almost lands in water again but just makes land.
    2005-05-29Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-3- First flight good alhough not too straight on a D12-3. One chute line is shorted than rest making ...
    2005-05-29Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Better flight but lands on weeds sticking out of swamp water. Was able to retrieve w/o damage or ...
    2005-07-04Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Went way of course, almost horizontal and chute ejected in trees. Nosecone/chute in upper ...
    2006-04-30Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-7- Second flight of the day a little straighter. Seven second delay kept it from drifting into woods.
    2006-04-30Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-7- After recovering this rocket from being in a tree all year, it flies again! A little whobblely but ...
    2006-05-07Rick Mchenry's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Maiden flight,decent height and perfect recovery
    2006-07-16Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Kind of wobbelly mid flight but went OK and lands close.
    2006-07-30Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD12-5- First flight of the day for this rocket went well.
    2006-07-30Joe Cacciatore's Estes PhoenixD11-9- OK, so 9 seconds is too long. Rocket became a lawn dart. Top part of body tube destroyed. Nose ...
    2006-09-02Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Very nice flight, I really love the magestic low and slow flight profile of this bird. No damage.
    2006-09-08Gary Drebit's Estes PhoenixD12-3302 feet Perfect flight
    2007-01-01Todd Shero's Estes PhoenixE9-6- Lengthened motor mount to alow using the E9. Great motor for this rocket, although the 6 sec. ...
    2007-03-30Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-2- A great flight -- always liked this very large Estes rocket. Landed a little hard on the bottom ...
    2007-04-22Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Previous flight with 36 X chute hit the ground hard. Tried a 36 round chute this time and it hit ...
    2007-05-20Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- The first time this rocket has flown and no fins were lost upon landing! Great flight - lumbered ...
    2007-07-22Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- All the fins stayed on -- a great flight and landing.
    2007-08-12Mark Van+Luvender's Estes PhoenixF24-7- Nice flight, but a late ejection. Needs a bigger 'chute - cracked fillet on landing.
    2007-08-19Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- First flight was great, second flight (this one) was a couple seconds longer delay. Gotta love the ...
    2007-08-19Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- A great flight. Grass was about a foot tall so no fins broke off upon landing with 36 inch round ...
    2007-09-01William Beggs's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Perfect flight and recovery.
    2007-09-16Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixE9-4- This was the first flight with an E motor. The E9 lumbered off the pad but it kept on climbing.
    2007-10-13Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Rocket left the pad and at about 25 feet up made a 90 degree turn over the crowd and only made it ...
    2007-11-04Ron Mahinske's Estes PhoenixD15-4- Went up maybe 300', landed on a nearby cabin roof. Broke off a lower fin, but easily repaired.
    2008-02-23Andrew Grippo's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Nominal Flight
    2008-03-02Russell Garcia's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Kit bash model, put too small of a parachute in it, landed hard and broke two fins off, will fly ...
    2008-03-08William Beggs's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Great flight. No damage.
    2008-03-08Russell Garcia's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight, no damage upon landing, 3 second delay is just perfect
    2008-03-08Russell Garcia's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Good flight, even with a little bit of wind this rocket turns into the wind, five second delay way ...
    2008-03-29Russell Garcia's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Good flight, good deployment of parachute.
    2008-06-21Les Bradshaw's Estes PhoenixE9-4- Good flight. Landed close to launch area
    2008-10-11Ron Mahinske's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Broke a fin on landing, easily repaired
    2008-10-11Ron Mahinske's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Broke a fin on landing, easily repaired.
    2008-11-23John Bergsmith's Estes PhoenixE18-4- Straight boost, very fast leaving the pad. The Phoenix is very impressive on this motor. Recovered ...
    2008-12-21Donald Besaw's Estes PhoenixE9-4- Beautiful flight, first time I've flown this on an E9. Nice straight boost to maybe 500-600 feet. ...
    2009-01-17Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Perfect flight for an old Estes. Minor fin damage on one bottom fin; what else is new for a ...
    2009-02-14William Beggs's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Great flight. The parachute got a little twisted but the rocket was not damaged.
    2009-03-14Kathy Miller's Estes PhoenixD12-5-
    2009-03-21John Bergsmith's Estes PhoenixE28-4- Fast stable boost, perfect ejection. Nice flight, with no damage.
    2009-03-21Russell Garcia's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Good Flight.
    2009-05-02Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- Grass was tall enough to prevent any damage to the lower fins -- nice, but unusual.
    2009-05-09Darren Morton's Estes PhoenixE9-4- first flight in 5 years. windy, broke fin. easy fix.
    2009-09-06Howie Druckerman's Estes PhoenixD12-3- No fin damage
    2009-10-12 Matt Gillard's Estes PhoenixD12-5- wrong motor choice, still recovered fine with no damage
    2009-10-25Leon Oknats's Estes PhoenixE9-4- Windy day but sent it up anyways. Weather cocked badly, and the delay charge blew the baffle ...
    2009-10-25Leon Oknats's Estes PhoenixF20-4- Weather cocked and was flying horizontal at about 400ft and then went about another 800-1000. ...
    2010-03-21Matt Gillard's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Good flight.
    2010-05-15Leon Oknats's Estes PhoenixF20-4- Windy Day, weathercocked, but always fun. Cracked a lower fin on landing even with 36 inch Nylon. ...
    2010-07-13Leon Oknats's Estes PhoenixF12-5-
    2010-07-13Leon Oknats's Estes PhoenixG38-7- Balsa and wood glue, 29mm Mount, Baffle, and 30 inch X-Type Top Flight Chute. Landed 800 Feet From ...
    2010-10-31Mark Thompson's Estes PhoenixD12-5- Another flight for the venerable Phoenix. As per usual it cracked a fin loose. Sturdier build and ...
    2011-01-01 Mark H's PhoenixE18-4- Blew the dust off this one. Way up there. Good combo.
    2011-01-29Andrew Grippo's Estes PhoenixD12-5-
    2012-07-07Jason Sargent's Estes PhoenixAT E1-j700 feet FINALLY got this load to light! Not the straightest flight ever - I think that the J is not quite ...
    2014-08-16 Erik Czerwin's PhoenixEstes D12-3- Rough flight. Hung up on the launch rod, not enough power, sticky rod. arced horizontal, 'chute ...
    2014-10-05Rick Barnes's PhoenixD12-3- Rocket arced over and flew near horizontal during delay, recovered downrange a ways. One rear fin ...

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