Banana Hobby / Starmax F-18C ….. 7-20-11

f18 land fix

See a detailed guide for Making your Starmax F-18 fly! Watch a full instructional video Demonstrating the installation of a landing gear system that will allow you to fly your Starmax F-18 on grass!


Here is the introduction video for making changes to the Starmax F-18:


This video demonstrates the proper components and installation of a landing gear system suitable for Grass operations:


This video moves the Main gear forward which makes the takeoff rotation less abrubt:


Installing Flaps on the Starmax F-18 makes takeoffs easy:


How to install a metal fan in the Starmax F-18:


Give your metal Fan a boost with the 2100KV 6s Extreme motor from EDF Hobbies:


Yank and Bank with confidence… Install Carbon fiber spars in the tail of your Starmax F-18 90mm:


Keep your fan hatch cover from blowing off with this simple latch system:



STARMAX F-18C 90MM Version 2 from Banana Hobby

Post Date: 7-20-11

Last updated: 7-20-11

Review Status: In progress, not complete, more to come.

Left click on any picture to have it appear in a new window. Click on that picture to get more detail.


C.G. : 95-105 mm aft of leading edge where wing meets the fuselage. Mine balanced and flew well at 98mm

Control Throws:


Empty Weight: (no battery):  1810 grams, 63.85oz,  3.992 lbs

Flying weight: (with Zippy 6s 5000 40c battery) 2587 grams, 91.25 oz, 5.7 lbs

Speed: 95 mph


Welcome to the first model profile on the RCINFORMER website. I chose this plane to launch the site with because I think it defines and gives a real purpose for this site. It is a plane that has been mass produced, purchased by many, and plagued with complaints. It has been advertised as “Suitable for beginners, but recommended for intermediate and advanced pilots.”  While NOT for beginners, its ease of assembly and good flying characteristics do make it suitable for an intermediate to advanced builder/flyer!

I have found that this plane is one of the best jets on the market! It has a very scale appearance and goes fast! It is has everything you want in a good basic sport jet, 3-axis of control, a throttle, and retractable landing gear. What you get with this plane is a rocket fast, very scale jet without all the complexity and expense!

For me, this type of plane is an R/C dream realized. It is the equivalent of a 50 to 60 sized glow model with no prop, no fuel, and no high cost. Gone are the days when you had to settle for a prop-jet/ducted fan jet or invest thousands to fly a R/C turbine jet, now for only a few hundred dollars, anyone can build and fly a good sized high performance jet. You just have to get accustomed to the fact that it is made of foam and requires a bit of getting used to. Building, handling, and repairing foam planes is just different than many of us are used to. For me, learning all the idiosyncrasies of foam models is well worth it and very affordable without sacrificing performance.

Turn and burn! That’s what is written all over this thing. Primarily foam construction, this jet will get lots of attention at the flying field due to the fact that it is reasonably big, fast, and fly’s with authority. I was cautious when assembling and flying this “receiver ready” plane due to the numerous complaints I have herd about bad landing gear, exploding fans, smoking speed controllers and poor customer service (CS), I simply did not find this the case… well… we’ll get to the C.S. issues later. That being said, there are several things that need to be done to this plane before it is ready to fly…

A thorough pre-building inspection is the key to making this and any plane fly well!



Quality seemed very good for a foam plane. Most parts seemed well made and true. One cheesy looking item I noticed is all the tape that was used to hold in the numerous external servo wires… unfortunately it is required to keep the wires in place, but it would be nice to see a nicer looking tape job.

(1)After inspecting the model I noticed the right aileron had a severe upward warp due to the outboard hinge being glued in off center. Also, I hooked up all the electronics tested the fan, landing gear, and all servos before assembly. I found most worked well.

(2)The fan however had a severe vibration which needed to be balanced or it would have destroyed itself and the airframe.



(3)In addition, the wood fan mount was coming unglued, had stripped threads, and was a poor quality wood.

(4)The fan housing had a significant crack in it.

(5)Another major issue was that the main gear did not have a positive down lock due to a lot of play in the system and servos that moved a bit in their foam trays. In addition, the main gear servos buzzed even when the linkage was disconnected?

(6) One wing servo and one rudder servo were loose in their respective foam trays.

(7) The battery compartment latch broke immediately. All my Starmax latches seem to do this.

(8)It seemed that there was no thought put into how the battery was to be secured. While they supplied a battery strap it was obvious I was on my own. My plan was to use a 2 pound battery….. so a good battery harness was a necessity and required some work.

(9) After my initial taxi tests the nose gear plastic housing loosened from the little amount of glue that was holding it in place.

Wow, sounds like a lot! Some items are an easy fix… some need some real engineering that I will detail shortly.



This plane is very easy to assemble. Essentially the instructions were correct in the overall basic assembly and therefore there is no need for a complete build of this plane. The included instructions, which are not the greatest, do cover the assembly of the main components correctly. The pictures are good but the Chinese/English or “Chinglish” translation does not read so easily. Fortunately a picture is worth a thousand words and it is relatively easy to figure out what goes where.

The next paragraph summarizes the general build, but I will primarily be focusing on the details of the model that need revision…. the areas that the instructions do not cover.

The front half of the fuselage has a top and bottom that I epoxied together. Then the front and aft half of the fuselage glued together. Then 2 composite spars were glued to one wing. This wing/spar assembly passes completely thru the fuselage while being glued to the fuselage.  (Note: many speculate that the main wing spars cause a major airflow issue because they pass directly in front of the fan…. After dozens of flights, so far mine do not seem to cause an issue… remember that the fan is not a compressor as it is in a real jet, it is essentially a small propeller/impeller.) Then the other wing is glued to the fuselage and the spars that are sticking out of the other side…. This is really a great design… this all fits together well… there is a lot of interlocking foam and lots of surface area for glue to bond. IMPORTANT: When gluing on the last wing I had to shorten the spars on that side a bit or the wing would not fully seat. Lastly the vertical stabilizers and horizontal stabilizers are glued in their respective slots in the fuselage.  I LIGHTLY SANDED ALL GLUE CONTACT AREAS AND USED 2 PART EPOXY ON ALL THE ABOVE STRUCTURAL COMPONENTS. I EVEN LIGHTLY SANDED THE MAIN SPARS TO GET A BETTER BOND WITH THE EPOXY. I epoxied the nose cone on (contact cement or CA would have been fine). I used contact cement to glue the wing tip missiles on because I sometimes scrape them on the runway and need to replace a missle… contact cement is easier to remove than epoxy. The canopy was glued on with RC-56 canopy glue. Before gluing on the canopy, be sure to drill a vertical hole from the cockpit area to the wheel well… this allows the canopy to vent and the glue will be allowed to completely dry. That’s it for the basic construction.



There were 9 previously discussed issues I needed to correct before flying the plane. If I had slapped this plane together with out addressing these items, this plane would not have gotten off the ground! However, once these items were corrected, I found myself flying a hot rod fighter plane! It was well worth the extra time.

Please keep in mind that not all kits are the same… the issues my plane had may not be the same as the ones yours has.

(1) Off center Aileron Hinge:

This picture shows the factory defect in the right wing aileron. Normally a little of this “off center hinging” is acceptable and somewhat expected in foam planes( although they should be on center!). However, The left wing was perfect and I did not want to have a roll asymmetry in such a high speed model. The right wing aileron was warped up at the tip which would have caused a significant roll to the right requiring left aileron trim to correct. This would cause more drag and slow the plane down a bit. To correct this, with great care, I carefully pushed the hinge downward towards the bottom of the wing. This compressed the foam between the top of the hinge and the top of the aileron, and created a void between bottom of the hinge and the lower surface of the aileron. The aileron was no longer warped and the hinge was now in the center.

I then filled the void by inserting a micro dropper with thin “foam safe” CA. I pushed the dropper deep enough to get the glue deep in the hinge hole. I used thin CA because I wanted the glue to flow around the hinge and fully glue the hinge to the foam. I was very careful not to get CA in the hinge… this would have permanently frozen the aileron in place… and that would be bad!



(2) Out of balance fan:

The picture to the left shows the weight I had to add to the fan to get it to balance. I used a normal magnetic prop balancer, added some lead weight, and used CA to hold it in place… the solution is that simple! In addition, I was very careful to keep the spinner in the same place while balancing. The spinner alone could have been out of balance even after I balanced the rotor.

I also used this as an opportunity to check the tightness of the set screws holding the fan adapter on the motor shaft and the screws that hold the motor to the fan casing. After I put everything back together, I slowly spun up the motor and checked that it did not vibrate as I advanced the throttle. This simple balancing of the rotor will fix the exploding fan issue that so many have had.

This plane has been labeled a “piece of junk” and other colorful metaphors due to this exploding fan problem. I hate to see such a good plane get a bad reputation for such a simple problem. The manufacturer should have balanced this rotor and run it up before packaging this plane. For whatever reason they did not. Some have been lucky and received a balanced unit, while many have not. The unit is easy enough to disassemble and check its balance.

(3) Fan Mount:

This picture shows the new installed motor mounts. I epoxied them in place. The old ones were barely being held in place by weak contact cement. The old mounts are in the center of the picture. I simply used the old mounts as a pattern and cut them out of hard plywood. The fan can now be installed on good mounts and the screws threaded into solid wood. After screwing in the fan, I unscrewed it and hardened the holes with foam safe CA.






(4) Crack in fan housing:

Here is a crack that I found in the fan housing when I removed the motor. The crack runs from the front to the back of the fan housing. Notice how the crack follows the curvature (camber) of the stator blade on the opposite side of the plastic. This is a good place to inspect all fan units for cracks. A bit of vibration could cause structural failure of this fan destroying the model. Banana Hobby promptly replaced the fan with a new one.





(5) Main landing gear:

Here is how I tested the entire model prior to assembly. The fan, gear and all servos can be tested this way prior to gluing anything. I use the Airtronics RDS-8000 radio on most of my high speed models… it is super reliable and the most bang for the buck on the retail market!

Here is the stock gear setup. The primary problem with this setup is that the gear swings backwards and ALL of the takeoff and landing load is directly transferred to the plastic locking slider. The gear itself is good but there is a lot of play in the system which can cause the gear to unlock and collapse on the runway. The stock system can be made to work well but I chose to change them out with electric units with a more positive metal lock. Note: I had added a piece of brass tubing at the base of the trunion to prevent the plastic from splitting… I did this before I decided to switch to electric retracts… the brass tubeing is a good idea if you want to stick with the stock gear. The second picture shows the stock servos removed. There was little glue holding them in place…. this was where a lot of the play was coming from. My gear would have certainly collapsed on the runway when these servos shifted in their foam trays.

Here is the electric gear unit I used. About $7 plus shipping from Hobby King. It proved to be a better option than using new servos with the old system. I used a custom fabricated aluminum plate so I could use the existing mounting holes. Notice that I used plywood shims to keep the gear unit from bottoming out in the well. Also, 2 trenches were cut with a rotary tool to accommodate the plastic bulge on both sides of the mechanism. Also, slight rotary tool trimming of the plastic was required to accommodate the motor portion of the retract unit. Note the flat spot that was cut in the 3mm strut that can also be seen in the next picture. A flat spot can be used in both sides with 2 set screws. These are necessary to keep the shaft from rotating.



Here is a good tip for all models. Here is a close up of the flat spots I cut. The following 2 photos show how to keep this shaft from rotating.


The beveled edge of the set screw is good for holding on wheel collars or where a good bite on the shaft is needed. Use a rotary tool to file it flat. This finished flat head set screw contacting a flat spot on the above mentioned shaft will resist rotation better that a beveled edge set screw. Caution: This is a steel set screw going into aluminum. I was careful not to file the flat spot to much as to affect the threads; a sharp edge on the steel threads will destroy the threads on the aluminum strut. I CHECKED FOR FLAT SPOTS ON ALL SHAFTS AND USED A FLAT-HEAD SET SCREW WHERE ROTATION WAS A CONCERN AND A BEVELED EDGE SET SCREW ON SHAFTS REQUIRING A BITE, SUCH AS A WHEEL COLLAR.


The completed gear assembly mounted. The connector was tack glued down in the servo tray where the servo was removed.


Both main gear completed and fully retracted. Notice that there is a slight angle in the aluminum plates which allows the struts to run straight down the well without the wheel sticking out of the side of the fuselage. I had to cut the aluminum this way because the plastic box was glued surprisingly very well in the foam and could not be removed. There have been dozens of landings on this setup before this photo was taken. Note the grease on the olio struts. Without any lubrication, my struts would sometimes stick in the compressed position and would not retract in the wheel well… the grease fixes this. Note: There is a small piece of Velcro to the left of the speed controller that I use as a camera pad.


After only a few taxi tests the wheel hub was disintegrating from friction on the bend in the wheel axle. This would last only a few flights before the wheel was destroyed. I used a washer and a piece of fuel tube to hold it in place…. gravity and a little solder fixed the problem. I sanded the washer and the contact surfaces of the axle before soldering so the solder would flow better. I removed the fuel tube when the solder job was done.The finished assembly will not destroy the wheel hub. This will last for many takeoffs and landings. I used some oil or grease on the wheel shaft to keep the friction down.



(6) Loose servos:

Two of my servos were loose in their foam trays. Again disaster was avoided. I did a good inspection of the model and removed the loose servos, scraped off the old glue, and re-glued them in with contact adhesive. The servos were easily removed because not enough glue was used to install them. It is a good idea to wiggle all servos, especially ones that are glued into foam…. You will often find a loose one that needs re-gluing… this simple step could save your entire model from destruction or better yet a possible injury!



(7) Broken latch:

The latch pin was repaired by filing down the pin so it would fit in the hole in the latch bolt better. Then some epoxy steel was mixed and applied to the latch pin and the hole in the bolt. JB weld would also work well, but this stuff from Hobby King seems to bond well…it just stinks real bad!

I held back the bolt/spring with a knife and put the latch pin in…. it’s done. I used caution as this epoxy will dissolve foam.





This step must be done before gluing the front and aft half of the fuselage together. Again no thought was done by the manufacturer as to how to secure a battery in this plane… they provided a strap, but no method for installing anything. I secured the battery by first fabricating a sub floor in which a battery strap would go around. I used plywood for this.


I beveled the edges so the wood would not cut into and break the strap during those high speed inverted passes.


Its time to make a tool! I glued a hobby knife blade to a stick with some CA.


I used this blade to make 2 cuts on either side of the battery compartment in which the strap would go through.


The sub floor was then glued in using small wood blocks to hold the sub-floor in position.







Using a strip of sandpaper, I inserted it into the 2 holes and lightly sanded the area. I had to do some creative jockeying to feed this through the 2 holes.




I carefully ran the battery strap through the 2 holes. This is the finished product with the battery strap running all the way around the wood sub-floor which is beneath the foam floor. I use that rubbery stuff that is used to line the bottom of shelves to keep the battery from sliding around.

This is my battery installed with the strap and foam block to help keep the battery from shifting. The battery is immobilized and secure.

(9) Nose gear:



Where’s the glue? Very little glue was used to keep this housing in place. They used some kind of hot glue that was very ineffective. After a few taxi tests the nose strut began to move back and forth. Fortunately it did not collapse on me. I was able to enhance the design and re-glue it before the first flight with very little modification. The following pictures illustrate how I did it.


First I removed all remaining hot glue from both the foam gear well and the plastic gear well.



Using a razor knife, I removed the foam where the 4 gear screws went into.


I then replaced the foam areas with 2 fabricated hardwood blocks. I then doubled them up with 2 long pieces of 1/64” plywood. This arrangement allows the gear mechanism to be screwed into wood not plastic and drastically increased the glueing area. This set up distributes the landing loads and twisting loads throughout a larger surface area and decreases the chance that the unit will fail again. I used a mere 1/64” ply to minimize the foam modification, keep the weight down, and to tighten the fit of the plastic gear housing in the well. The sheer strength of wood is excellent…. so I figured a thicker doubler was not necessary.



Before gluing, I cut off the already fractured plastic threads from the plastic gear housing. The screws were now going to go into wood and these were no longer needed. I sanded the unit with a heavy grit sandpaper and used the razor knife at the angle shown above to cut channels or “barbs” if you will… kinda like the way a fishing hook will not pull out once it sticks in something. This makes for a super strong bond with the epoxy.



Using 30min epoxy, I brushed all contacting surfaces and fit it all together at one time. Foam blocks and a scrap of wood were used to hold the doublers in place while the glue dried. The wood block was necessary on the front end of the housing because there was a tendency for the sides to squeeze inward due to lack of structure. The aft half had support, so I made a scrap of wood that fit nicely in the back half of the housing and just slid it forward. This kept the plastic sides parallel. Just re-install the stock gear and your good to go! Again, this configuration of the wood takes advantage of the great sheer strength that even a small piece of wood has.

Why not use an electric retract for the nose? Good Question. The struts on this model are strong…. It is the locking mechanism that is marginal with a poor servo mounted in a foam tray. But the nose gear is different, it retracts forward, so all the load during takeoff and landing is NOT pounding on the plastic locking slider as it was with the main gears. In addition, the nose retract servo they provided was a different brand than the servos provided for the main gears. There was no play, no buzzing, good metal gears, and it was mounted in wood. The unit has so far functioned flawlessly for me.


I also added a Turnigy servo speed regulator to slow down the nose strut. There are many brands out there, this one was about $7.


Miscellaneous items

Hinge Tape:

I ran a 1” piece of “3M Blenderm” (hinge tape) down all six flight control surfaces to seal the gaps…. as you can see it blends in…. it is very hard to see. With a high speed model, this helps to prevent flutter. It has turned out to be a safety device for me. After about a dozen flights, the hinge glue had failed and two of the three hinges on this elevator pulled out…  fortunately, I did not even know it until I conducted my usual post flight inspection and found the loose hinges…. The tape held the elevator on the airplane and I maintained positive aircraft control. This  probably saved the entire aircraft. I was able to remove the old tape, re-glue the hinges, re-tape it, and fly another day.


As with all my Starmax models, they never seem to include long enough screws for the front half of the aileron horns. This is where the aileron is at its thickest. Any 12mm long 2mm thick screw seems to work ok.


Here is my stock fan/motor setup (mounted solidly in good plywood mounts) with the addition of a Maxx Products 36mm heatsink. This motor does get hot and this heat sink no doubt helps dissipate the heat. It is a deal at $4.50.  I used 3mm bolts and nylon locking bolts to keep it in place. Just bolt it on and go!


More cheap insurance! Tube it or loose it… I always say! Thanks to all the cool electric planes out there, many that are new to the hobby missed out on the knowledge that glow powered models provided. I always add a small piece of fuel tubing around all clevises to prevent them from coming off in flight.


Here are 2 fuselage reinforcements I added to help keep the front and aft half of the fuselage joined. By adding these 2 thin layers of ply, the sheer strength of the wood is used to increase the rigidity of the fuselage. The fuselage should now be able to tolerate a higher “G” loading.



Flying the F-18 is a lot of fun. Although not the fastest plane out there it moves along nicely for a stock setup. It flies very smoothly and precisely. It is very predictable for a jet and the stability is excellent. Another big advantage is that this plane will fly off well maintained grass. Many grass fields are simply to harsh for small jet wheels. Best of all, this plane flyes with authority and makes some serious thunder for an electric jet….. i can often hear a loud echo off the trees at my field that intensifies the effect.



During takeoffs care must be taken when steering this plane because of the ample play in the nose gear steering mechanism. This combined with the slightly narrow main gear, can cause the plane to come up on 2 wheels and scrape a missile on the runway.  In addition, the man gear is significantly aft of the CG. This is a benefit in one regard because it keeps the plane solidly on the ground until it is at a safe flying speed and also keeps the plane from flying again after you have landed. On the other hand, it tends to make the takeoff rotation abrupt instead of achieving a smooth rotation and liftoff. To avoid the nose from jumping in the air. I allow the airplane to get to a fairly high speed before beginning my rotation. I use smooth and deliberate pressure to minimize the tendency of the plane to leap in the air.



This is where the fun begins! Turn and burn is what this model is best at. Aggresive maneuvering is not a problem for this plane. It will do a tight turn at a high angle of attack without departing from controlled flight. Roll rate is excellent as well.  Many at my flying field cant believe this is a foam jet when they see the the wide flight envelope that it has. It will slow nicely to a high, scale deck angle…. open the throttle, the nose drops and it accelerates with a thunderous charge. Inverted flight is very stable and only needs minimal down elevator for level flight

Approach and Landing:


The key to any good landing is a stabilized approach especially in a jet aircraft. Although this plane is electric, make no mistake, it fly’s the same as a real jet. The F-18 lands like any other jet plane. The best part is that it will fly well even when it is slowed way down. The nose will rise to a nice, very scale, high angle of attack. Care should be taken to have a stabilized approach. You want to be on speed with a constant glide path. I have found that pitching this plane to much on final makes it squirrely. In addition, I use the rudder very cautiously, it can cause the plane to roll more than you want it to if used to abruptly. In either case, if you have the reserve battery power, it is better to go around for a better approach.

Important to note: My plane tends to come in HOT and can be challenging to slow down. This is because I have not added any missiles or bombs. I did not want to have the extra drag because it does slow down the plane. Not loading up the plane with bombs and missiles is advantageous because I get more flight time and a higher speed out of the plane. However, it can make the landing more difficult because it is harder to slow the plane down! I must plan ahead and be sure to slow the plane down earlier. The landing gear on this plane is thin and creates little drag. I have found that when on final and descending I need little to NO power to maintain speed. With the plane set up clean like this, I carry only a small amount of power on final approach with the thrust mostly closed at touchdown.



Very scale appearance and flys fast.

Easy to fly for a jet.

Very good airframe design and builds easily.

Great price, around $160 for the airframe and $250 for the receiver ready.

Big battery compartment allows for a wide range of battery options.



Landing gear needs improvement.

This type of foam construction damages easily and plastic parts will melt in direct sun light.

Not really reciever ready, lots of tweaking to fix Q.C. issues is required to get this plane ready to fly.

Horizontal stabilizer has no spar.

Banana Hobby customer support needs to be better than it is.


Notes to Starmax and Banana Hobby:

This airframe is top notch, it looks great and flys great. It is an excellent design… it is one of the best built foam jets available. Its bad reputation comes from issues with the landing gear system and the lack of quality control on the assembly line (everything listed above). All the QC issues can be resolved with some work by the modeler. With some effort the gear can be tweaked to function well… but many modelers do not want to hassle with it. This is why many have converted the plane to a hand launch model which it is not well suited for.

The landing gear could be redesigned with little effort. First, the gear should be electric so it will be hassle free and easier to install on the assembly line. The main gear really needs a trailing link type suspension like the freewing 90mm F-18. With the model weight at nearly 6 lbs with the battery, it really needs 4mm or 5 mm wires for all 3 gear instead of 3mm legs. The main gear should be shifted forward a little closer to the C.G. to make takeoffs smoother.  The nose strut steering mechanism with the servo on the strut works very well and I like this design, but there is way to much rotational play in between the two halves of the strut. This makes steering on the ground challenging. All 3 plastic gear wells are well made but should have a larger gluing surface area similar to the plywood tray I constructed for the nose gear.

One additional feature I would like to see on this plane is a horizontal stabilizer spar. Only one thin fiberglass or carbon fiber rod is all that is needed to greatly increase the strength of the tail and will make the plane safer. The tail has no support and flexes a bit. It could run completely through the fuselage just as the main spars do without any issues.

Flaps would be a nice feature to help slow this plane down… but it is not a necessity.

In conclusion: This plane is a real winner. A new landing gear system would completely re-invent this plane and probably boost sales and put this plane in high demand. In addition, while Banana Hobby has some of the best Models on the market their reputation is plagued by both the previously  mentioned QC issues and a lack of knowledgeable and timely product support. Phone support at BH is good in that they do their best to send replacement parts but they often require a portfolio of pictures and an act of congress to get action on some replacement parts. It took me 6 months from the date I ordered this plane to get it flying due to the bureaucracy of their customer service. Ultimately they came through for me and I got all the replacement parts I needed.

Hats off to Pete and his film crew for having some of the best videos around (I Wish I had his camera guys). If the level of their Q.C. and Customer service matched the quality of their videos, there would be no stopping Starmax and Banana Hobby.



VIDEOS: more coming soon!

Here is how well the Starmax F-18 flys! This is one of the first flights filmed on a cell phone.

One of the first key chain camera videos…. decent video for a $7 Hobby King camera!



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