Estes Firebird

Estes - Firebird {Kit} (2138) [1997-1998]

Contributed by Ken Tsai

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Manufacturer: Estes
- by Mike Goss

The Estes Firebird is your basic four-fins-and-a-nose-cone sport rocket. It stands almost two feet tall and uses a BT-55 (about 1.3") diameter body tube.

Rocket Pic

Construction Rating: 5 out of 5(Simple and straightforward)

The Firebird came in the usual plastic bag with the colorful graphics on the front. (Note to Estes: Why do you print on the back of the bag so we can't see inside to see if the parts are in good condition?) Inside were the 11 by 17 instructions and all of the pieces in good condition. The kit is the basic 4F&NC rocket, so there is a plastic nose cone, body tube, Balsa Fins and the required motor mount, and 18" parachute.

The instructions are printed on one large 11x17 sheet. They follow the usual Estes highly detailed copious level of illustrations that we all know and love. The shock cord mount is printed on the launch instructions page so the instructions remain in one piece, a nice touch.

The Kit is rated as a "Beta Series" but I would call it a beginner level. There were no fit or alignment issues that I had with this kit, all of the parts fit together nicely. The body tube is slotted to allow the fins to attach to the motor mount as well as the body tube. This makes an exceptionally strong mount and strong fins that will stand up to lots of abuse.

There are no special tools or methods needed to build this kit, you will want to test fit the fins and the motor mount before assembly. The gap that is shown in figure 5 of the instructions is the thickness of the body tube, something that was neglected in the instructions.

I finished the rocket in a basic high-visibility orange paint scheme, as I thought the recommended pattern was rather hokey. One regret that I have is that I did not fill the body tube spiral seams before I painted the 'bird, as the spirals show up rather well in the orange paint. The decals are not the nicer water transfer type, but the self-adhesive variety. I do not particularly like the thickness of these decals. One tip in using these decals, Get a good straight edge and a sharp knife blade and cut as close to the color as possible, that way there is as little of the clear carrier showing when you apply the decals. The results are a rocket that is sturdy and, well, looks like four fins and a nose cone, your basic rocket.

Flight Recovery Rating: 4 out of 5

The shock cord mount is standard folded paper Estes, with an elastic cord (much better than the old rubber bands...) that ties off on the nose cone. Included in the kit is an 18" parachute, I found this too big for the 'bird, but more on that later. The parachute packs easily into the large body tube with plenty of room for wadding, and the shock cord.

The recommended motors are the: A8-3, B4-4, B6-4, C6-5, and C6-7.

The motor is held in place by the bent metal engine retainer, along with a motor block for good measure. (If you bend the engine hook slightly the rocket will stand on all four fins for display.) I have used the A8-3, B6-4 and C6-5 engines in this model. All of the engines work well, and the C6 takes it pretty high but not out of sight. On the first flight I used the parachute as supplied. The rocket is too light for that parachute, and it floated for what seemed to be an eternity. So the next flight I cut out the Estes logo in the chute. That flight took what seemed to be a longer time to reach the ground, at one point it seemed to be suspended in mid-air, not moving down at all. Well after that, I fixed the problem. The 18" parachute now has a 16" hole in the middle. Basically it is a 2" ring of plastic. Now the rocket will return in a reasonable length of time, and it still floats down slow enough for a safe recovery. I have launched the Firebird in calm and 15-20 Mph winds, and it remained stable and predictable in all launches.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Everything considered, this an inexpensive (approx $11) basic sturdy model. Not flashy, and not exotic, but a solid stable reliable performer. This is the rocket I would use to start a demonstration, or to recommend to a newcomer as a first rocket.

It is very similar to the "Big Bertha" but the through-the-wall fin attachment makes it a much more sturdy design. But do yourself a favor and either swap out to a 12" parachute or cut a big hole in the one that comes with the kit, or you might loose the 'bird on the wind.

Other Reviews
  • Estes Firebird By Ken Tsai (April 14, 2010)

    Brief: This is a father/son dual build. Up to this point, I've been helping him build his rockets. We started with me doing most of the building, and him as an extra pair of hands. Over the course of 3-4 builds, he's been doing more and more, and the roles are reversing where I'm becoming the extra hands. I found a couple of Firebirds for relatively cheap, and so we're building these in ...


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