Estes SR-71 Blackbird

Estes - SR-71 Blackbird {Kit} (7003)

Contributed by Lowell Hamilton

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Diameter: 0.98 inches
Length: 19.00 inches
Manufacturer: Estes
Skill Level: 3
Style: Jet


[Rocket Pciture]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)

[Rocket Pciture]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. :-)




D.S. (January 1, 2001)
I agree with everyone else about the construction of this kit. I found it much more satisfying to upgrade the engine to accommodate a 24mm motor. With just a tad more weight in the tip of the nose, and replacing the parachute with a streamer, it flies like a dream under D-12 power. I had much more fun flying it like this!
C.S (April 1, 2001)
This is a great kit, I am sorry it went by the wayside. I had numerous SR 71's. I added a 24 mm mount to one of mine and some corresponding nose weight and it goes great, out of site flights. Good reviews.
L.Z. (July 1, 2001)
This is one of my favorite rockets to watch fly. I enjoyed building it and flying it, The kit has only one snafu which will reveal it's self over time due to wear and tear. After repeated launches mine started to grab a bit of air where the shroud meets the nose cone. This usually happens on the initial acceleration and will result in slight, (usually less then 1") tear in the shroud. Visual effects can be interesting as the tear can cause the rocket to proceed horizontal shortly after leaving the rod. I have had this happen twice out of a dozen flights. In both cases the rocket still had good chute deployment and recovery. I am still working on a fix.
R.F. (July 1, 2001)
I had this rocket for 7 years and had a lot of launches with it. Tricky to build, but the results were very satisfying with a cool looking rocket. It did like to windcock, but was a fun rocket to launch and watch. It seemed to work best for me with C6-5 engines. One day, though, the 'chute didn't eject and the rocket was a lawn dart. the nose impacted, crushing the front body tube, which spelled the end of my favorite rocket.
M.K. (July 1, 2001)
I love this rocket. It flies straight up in to the air glides of a few seconds then comes back to the ground. The only hard part is making and attaching the wings.
G.M.K. (November 24, 2005)
Good review and many helpful tips. This is a very difficult bird to build but very rewarding when completed! Many people see it and ask if I modified a plastic model to fly. Have had four flights so far with mixed chute deployment. Have noticed that when it doesn't deploy fully the rocket body seems to go horizontal and does a flat spin on the way down. A good streamer may be the best recovery device for this one! I think I am going to try that next flight.

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