The Estes SR-71 Blackbird kit is a model of the famous spy/recon plane retired from service a few years ago. This rocket is skill level 3, and difficult to build, as slight misalignments make the rocket spin or turn.
The rocket came in good condition with all parts in good shape and the balsa fins cut well.The instructions were well-made for the complexity of the kit and templates for aligning the fins were included.
The construction of the rocket was in several stages -first the outside wings came in 2 odd-shaped pieces and had to be glued together and lots of care must be taken to get these pefectly straight or gluing them to the engine pods becomes very difficult.Then the part of the wing that attaches the engine pods to the fuselage is glued on using the included jigs to make sure they are horizontal.
Then, 2 pieces of thin cardboard need to be curved over the fuselage tube and onto the inner wings to make the shape, and this is extremely difficult to make the shape look decent.The cardboard comes with small tabs that are to be wrapped over the ends of the balsa inner-wings, but I cut those off as it proved to be too difficult to keep them in place.
After the shaping cardboard is on, the engine pods are glued on.These are simple to attach, but I suggest CA-ing them on and reinforcing them with epoxy as one good landing will most likely rip one off.Then the top, bottom, and side fins are attached to the engine pods using the included templates to get the angle right. Much care must be taken to get these straight as any misalignment tends to make the rocket turn a little, and if the outside wings are slightly misaligned the rocket spins (although misaligning them on purpose makes for great excitement!)... and construction is finished. Rating: 4 points (time consuming)
First flight I used a B6-5 and flight was smooth with about 180 degrees of roll although not very high.A C6-5 proved to be much better and the flight was beautiful. Get ready to run though, because flight can be interesting and the rocket can bank and turn if there is wind, and end up a couple fields down.For even more fun launce it at a sharp angle with a small A engine and watch it fly, showing the characteristics of the bird it is modeled after=) Rating: 5 points
Recovery is with a 12" plastic chute, and it's a mission to get it cramed into the body tube with the wadding and get the nosecone on.The actual main-body tube is about an inch inside the cardboard skin of the rocket, so the nosecone just barely reaches the body tube. The parachute fits tight and it's VERY hard to get the shroud lines in and the nosecone on without tangling things up or putting the nosecone on pinching a line and making the nosecone too tight.For my flights it takes about 5 minutes to prepare the recovery, but it's worth it because a bad landing pops off fins and can knock off the engine pods and break some balsa.If the inner wing breaks from a hard hit, the rocket is gone - not even a gallon of CA will fix it. Rating: 3 points
This rocket really soars and looks impressive on the gound and in flight, but lots of care must be taken if you want to get it back.For those that want their rockets looking awesome before liftoff, there is a lot of wood on this rocket that needs to be sanded/primered to smooth out, or the numerous tiny decals won't stick well.Overall this rocket gets 4 points from me, there are a few things that could be better, like the outside wings being in one piece so it looks better, but it's inexpensive so if you mess up, get another one. :-)