Air Hogs F-14 Tomcat
Street Price: $34.99 US
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 10
Our recommended age range: 10-12
Primary use: Outdoors
Top speed: n/a
Controller / charger
2x spare propellers
I picked up this Air Hogs F-14 Tomcat from Toys R Us. Part of the "Replica Series," this is a pretty realistic-looking, officially-licensed version of the iconic US Navy fighter. It's powered by two small electric motors with propellers mounted on the rear edges of the wings. The wings are fixed in their fully spread-out position, unlike the real F-14 which is well known for its variable sweep wing design. Easy to install landing gear are included to allow you to take off and land from smooth surfaces.
We tested the Air Hogs F-14 at a school field on a day with very little wind. It took a few tries to get it airborne from hand launches as it needs to begin its flight perfectly straight. Once it was in the air under its own power, it flew very smoothly, but a frustrating problem popped up almost immediately. Like with the A-10 Warthog, the controls were not very responsive, especially for turning. Often we'd hold the right controller stick all the way to one side for four to five seconds before the plane actually turned in that direction. Sometimes once it started turning one way, it would do a full 360 degree loop before it would straighten out or turn the opposite direction, no matter what we told it to do. Because of these badly laggy controls, flying the Air Hogs F-14 Tomcat required quite a lot of space, and even at that, there were times when we just had to cut the throttle and crash land it because it would not turn back towards us in time to avoid flying completely out of the field. Two very good things we learned from this experience were that the radio range is excellent, and the plane itself is very durable. We crashed it into grass and dirt quite a number of times and into asphalt a few times as well, with not a hint of damage to the airframe.
When the plane is flying with some success, it is very stable in the air and will maintain altitude at about 1/2 throttle with no "porpoising" (pitching up & down like a dolphin). Like with all 2-channel RC airplanes, the Air Hogs F-14 does lose some altitude automatically when it turns, but it's a reasonable amount and as long as you stay at least 10 feet off the ground, it's not hard to keep it airborne. Though we didn't get it on camera, we were able to get a couple of good takeoffs from the ground, and the landing gear do their job well even on a surface that's not 100% smooth.
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The Air Hogs F-14 Tomcat looks great both on the ground and in the air. Unfortunately, it only flies well half of the time; in the other half, it goes straight when you're telling it to turn, then continues to turn when you want it to straighten up or go the other way. If you have a huge open space with no obstructions and a perfectly wind-free environment, you can keep this plane under control and within range. I won't give it more than a passing grade, though, because there are just too many other aircraft Air Hogs has made that fly significantly better, for the same cost. I would gladly sacrifice a little bit of scale realism for a plane that handles much better and doesn't require an indoor football field for completely free, continuous, worry-free flight.