by William J. Orvis, LUNAR# 309


After watching several Estes Red Squadron X-wingTM Starfighters (the small ones that use 13 mm mini-engines EST 1810) fly, eject a metal bomb into the crowd, and then prang into the ground. I figured that the flight characteristics of this craft were such that we should call a heads-up launch for every Starfighter flight. However, my son and I had the fortune to build one last month for Cub Scouts and it turns out that the dangerous flight characteristics are caused by building the craft without reading the instructions.

The Estes X-wingTM Starfighter is a ready built model that looks like an X-wingTM fighter right out of the movie (hence my son's interest in it). Assembly consists of gluing on four small fins, attaching a streamer, and applying some stickers. Most people could build it without reading the instructions on the back of the package. However, what most people miss is the small piece of paper stuck inside the package with the engine, igniter, and a small hunk of clay. That paper (reproduced here) describes how to break that clay into four small chunks and then to insert those chunks into the four afterburner bays. This clay unbalances the rocket after ejection of the engine pod so that the rocket tumbles to the ground.


It is pretty obvious now why these little rockets prang into the ground. Their builders missed the little paper addition to the instructions and left out the clay.

Heads-Up: When doing RSO duty, be sure to check for the clay in the afterburners before approving an X-wingTM Starfighter for flight. If it's missing, don't let them fly. It might not be a bad idea to mark all X-wingTM Starfighter flights as heads-up flights anyway.

The second problem with X-wingTM Starfighter flights is the flight of the metal tipped engine pod that ejects at the top of the flight path and drops like a bomb into the crowd. Again, the problem is in not reading the instructions carefully. I had one person show me the engine pod after a flight and the streamer had not unrolled at all because it was melted slightly at one spot by the ejection charge. The instructions for attaching the streamer (reproduced here) say to roll all but the last 12 inches of streamer onto the engine pod. The last 12 inches are to be wrapped back and forth on the engine pod instead of around it.


If done this way, at least a foot of streamer will deploy as soon as the engine pod is ejected from the rocket even if it gets melted a little by the ejection charge.

HeadsUp: When doing RSO duty on an X-wingTM Starfighter, check the wrapping of the streamer to be sure it is wrapped back and forth around the engine pod and not wrapped around the pod. Do this by pulling the engine pod out until you can see the edge of the streamer. Don't pull the engine pod all the way out because it is a real pain to get the streamer folded right and inserted back into the rocket.