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Estes - Star Wars X-Wing Fighter Maxi Brute {Kit}

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Estes released the Star Wars fleet model rockets in 1978 following the very successful Star Wars movie on the big screen. The Estes Maxi-Brute X-Wing Fighter kit is a full scale replica used by the special effects team of Lucas Film in the making of the first movie. The Maxi-Brute X-Wing is a single stage model designed to be powered by a single D12-3 and recovered via twin 18" plastic parachutes. Back in the early 1980's while at some hobby shop in Louisiana (I think in Baton Rouge, but can't really remember), I happened upon a number of soon to be OOP kits and snapped up as many as I could afford at the time. Included in this acquisition I got two of the Maxi-Brute X-Wings. But in 1982 due to a career change, I was unable to devote any time to the hobby and went on an extended "leave" that lasted until late 2003. After rejoing the NAR, I once again resumed my desire for NAR sanctioned competition. The NASA/Houston Rocket Club had the Gulf Coast Regional Meet coming up in the fall of 2005 and one event on the schedule was Science Fiction/Future Scale. Time to take one of the X-Wing out of storage and get to building. Since by this time I was doing a beta test of QuickBurst's Hot Shot igniters, I knew what I was going to do to my X-Wing build to get those maximum points.

Even though the model has a fully blow molded plastic fuselage/nosecone and other plastic pieces, this model is a Skill Level 4 kit. The parts list is very extensive:

  • Fuselage
  • Fuselage Nose Extension
  • Fuselage Front Cap
  • Fuselage Rear Cap
  • Right Top Wing Saddle
  • Left Top Wing Saddle
  • Right Bottom Wing Saddle
  • Left Bottom Wing Saddle
  • 4 Laser Raditors
  • 4 Laser Caps
  • 4 Barrel Couplers
  • 4 Laser Probes
  • 4 Probe Couplers
  • 4 Engine Inlets
  • 4 Engine Rear Caps
  • 4 Afterburner Couplers
  • 4 Afterburner Nozzles
  • 4 Barrel Extension Tubes (type BT-2XW)
  • 4 Laser Barrel Tubes (type BT-3H)
  • 4 Laser Body Tubes (type BT-30XW)
  • 4 Engine Tubes (type BT-60XW)
  • 4 Afterburner Tubes (type BT-50T)
  • Fuselage Body Tube (type BT-50XW)
  • Retainer Tube (type BT-52AG)
  • Engine Block (type AR-2050)
  • Engine Holder (type EH-2)
  • Engine Casing (type EC-6)
  • 2 Balsa Wing Sheets (type BF-1302A)
  • Balsa Fin Sheet (type BF-1302B)
  • Launch Lug (type LL-MXW)
  • 2 Parachutes (type PK-18A)
  • 2 Shroud Liness (type SLT-108)
  • 2 Tape Discs (type TD-3F)
  • Shock Cord (type SC-2MJ)
  • Printed Wing Cover & Shock Cord Mount
  • Decal Sheet
  • Dowel
  • Sheet of Engine Wrappers
  • Gluing Template
  • Clay Weight
  • Display Stand.

I also, due to some modifications I was planning, included four short pieces of BT-5's and balsa standoffs.

The instructions runs eight pages and has about 30 steps total for construction. I began building this model about four months prior to the Gulf Coast Regional, as I wanted to make sure I did a good job. The materials needed to complete this model included:

  • modeling knife with sharp blade
  • fine (#320 - #400 grit) sandpaper
  • tube-type plastic model cement
  • (A note is given not to substitute liquid plastic cement for this.)
  • household "white glue" for gluing wood or all porous materials
  • flat white spray enamel
  • small bottle of light blue enamel
  • small (#0 - #1) brush
  • masking tape
  • balsa sanding sealer.

The instructions steps were very well presented as they were logical, along with the illustrations and templates (you'll really need those). The major change I made was adding BT-5's in the afterburner tubes, using a balsa standoff. This is where I was going to supplement the D12's power with four additional A10's. Because of the steps needed to prep the model, the four plastic afterburner nozzles were not glued to the afterburner tubes; instead, they were simply friction fitted (the fit was very tight anyway!). No engine holder clips were needed for the A10's, they're easily secured using masking tape.

Other than that, the model as a whole was assembled without any real issues using the steps as given in the instructions. Due to the increased weight of the added A10's, I added one additional clay nose weight in the plastic nose cone.

Finishing was pretty easy due to the large size of this beautiful model, however, it took a number of coats of sanding sealer (with sanding in between) to get the balsa wing surfaces smooth. It took even more thin coats of the white enamel to get an even color match of the wings with the fuselage's finish. I did have to lightly sand the painted wing surfaces several times and respray the white enamel before I was satisfied of the finish.

The decals were another issue. Due to the 20+ years they had been sitting in the box packaging, they had started to become a little brittle. Using special care, I was able to get all of the decals on. The final result is a model that looks incredibly good using the special display stand thats included. Estes did a terrific job with a quality kit like this!

Construction Rating: 5 out of 5

Finally, the moment of truth arrived with the Gulf Coast Regional Meet held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX (November 19 - 20, 2005). I attended only on the second day of the meet, but nevertheless, the other entries for the Science Fiction/Future Scale were outstanding.

After the usual static judging, the model was returned to me for prepping for that always important qualification flight. I had already pre-packed the recovery system (twin 18" plastic parachutes) with the recovery wadding at home before I headed to JSC. All I needed to do was install the five engines with the QuickBurst Hot Shot igniters and four plastic afterburner nozzles. The model was ready to go.

What I liked about using the QuickBurst Hot Shot is that they eliminated the need for cluster clipwhips. The proper wires can just be twisted together so that only two microclips are needed. See my product review of QuickBurst's Hot Shot here at EMRR for more details.

One question mark I had was the choice I'd made in using the D12-5 for the core engine instead of the D12-3 with the four A10-PT's providing much additional thrust to supplement the D12's, I'd figured the model's mass and momentum would allow a good coast period with the recovery system deploying with sufficent altitude.

Following the five second countdown, all five engines roared to life for a picture perfect liftoff. Following the D12's burnout, the Maxi-Brute X-Wing was not as high as I'd expected. I had forgot to take into account the word "drag". The shape of the four wing saddles would definitely provide plenty of drag and I certainly hadn't thought of this when making the selection of the D12-5 over the D12-3.

est_mbrute_xwing_onwardnupwardThe X-Wing went about maybe 200 feet maximum (the Estes catalog says 300 feet on a single D12) and started a frightening descent toward the asphalt pavement launch area at JSC. At about 35 - 40 feet, the ejection charge blew and the two 18" parachute's popped out. But the fast falling fighter was just too close to the ground for the twin chutes to have any chance of deploying. The right side of the X-Wing made hard contact with the asphalt, shattering the balsa wings. Otherwise most all of the big model remained intact. Even the laser pads survived, perfectly intact!

I and several others gathered up all the pieces we could find and within a few days I was able to piece together the broken pieces to fully repair the model. Now one can't even tell the trial and tribulation this model went through!

Since that flight (BTW, the X-Wing won first place at the Gulf Coast Regional), I've not been able to fly it again due to the ATF restrictions on the QuickBurst (Hot Shot) igniters. Hopefully in time, the restrictions will be lifted and the mighty X-Wing will take to the skies once again.

Flight Rating: 5 out of 5

An overall superb kit by the Estes of yesterday, one I wish was still available today. A challenge to build and fun to fly. The next time I fly this model I will be certain to use the D12-3.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5


    Flight Log

    DateRocket NameMotor(s)AltitudeNotes
    2005-11-20David Montgomery's Estes Star Wars X-Wing Fighter Maxi BruteD12-5+4xA10-P150 feet First flight for this model; used QuickBurst Hot Shot igniters for successful ignition of all five ...

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