E-Flite Leader 480 ARF Review
Review by Adrian Apodaca, RealRCReviews Owner
- Leader 480 ARF
- Eflite Park 480 motor
- 4 Eflite D76 servos
- Eflite aluminum spinner
- 12x6E APC propeller
- Easy to build
- Great flyer
- Beautiful design
- Good looks
- Steerable tricycle landing gear
- Smallish rudder
When I first got started in this hobby almost 5 years ago, I started with a few little Parkzone micros. I swore to the fellas at the hobby shop that I would NEVER buy anything parksized. I had to eat those words because a few weeks later, I bought my first larger parkflyers. When I did that, I swore I’d NEVER fly balsa, because, well, when you crash foam, you glue it back together, you crash a balsa plane, and, well, you end up with kindling.
Having started flying by myself, I was happy when I found out there were tons of guys in my area that enjoyed this hobby. Many had their share of foamies while some of the others had balsa planes. One particular guy, and now long time friend, encouraged me to move into balsa planes. He saw that I hadn’t destroyed any of my foamies and told assured me that I likely wouldn’t crash anything if I moved into the balsa world. We perused the offerings at Horizon Hobby and figured I was way passed needing a trainer. I still didn’t want to go overboard on cost, so I was looking for something about the size of a parkflyer. It also had to look cool. If not a scale replica, at least something “sexy”. That’s when I noticed the Leader 480. It was cheap $109 for the ARF (almost ready to fly… a few hours of assembly and you need to buy electronics separately). I took advice from a forum and went with an Eflite Power 10 motor, the suggested servos for ailerons, and standard size servos for rudder and elevator and 3 inch tires. I didn’t build my own plane since I was new to the game and lacked confidence in building. Looking back, I don’t know how this plane flew as well as it did with so much added weight on it.
FASTFORWARD a few years. As my planes got larger and larger, I ended up selling my trusty Leader 480. A few months went by, and I started to feel a little empty. I bought a Hangar 9 Meridian to build myself (for my first ARF build), but decided I should practice on something smaller. Since I missed my Leader 480 so much, I figured I’d build that… and that I’d do it my way… the way suggested in the manual.
I got the recommended equipment Eflite Park 480 motor, and 4 Eflite DS76 servos. I used a dynam 40a esc, so that is the one place I deviated from the manual. I also added the Eflite aluminum spinner for that extra sexy look. So as nervous as I was about doing my first ARF, I really gained some confidence with this one.
Out of the box, the plane needed very minimal ironing. I’m not a huge fan of heat guns for covering, so I used my Hangar 9 iron with the sock thingy on it to smooth out the parts that needed it. The Eflite servos fit snugly into their slots in the wings and in the fuselage. A word of warning if this is your first build, not all micro servos are the same size, so you may have to open the slots a bit if you aren’t using the recommended servos. I tried a spare T-Pro 9gram servo and had I decided to use them, I would have had to do a little cutting.
Everything else went together very easily including the motor installation and the landing gear. The only part of any ARF build that I absolutely hate, is adding the horizontal stabilizer. Honestly, I wish more manufacturers predrilled some holes and added bolts to the vertical fin to slide right in. That would take away some of the guesswork and obsessive measuring one has to do when centering the horizontal stabilizer with the wingtips. Eflite did this with the Alpha 480, so not sure why it’s not done in other models at this level. That said, I got it done fairly quickly and was ready for my maiden flight. Again, since this setup was drastically different from my first Leader, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Some folks had held strong that a Power 10 motor was a necessity.
After balancing the model and checking over, I taxied out and took off. The plane had plenty of power and plenty of zip with the Park 480 motor. Not sure why so many people feel the need to over power models, especially lightweight sport flyers like the Leader 480. The lighter feel the stock set up has is really nice. I find it still battles wind pretty nicely and the maneuvers feel a little smoother since it’s not trying to move so much weight. Landing is a breeze with the Leader 480 because the ample wing surface allows relatively slow flight on approach and the stable nature of the plane allows you to line it up and have a smooth landing.
The movements of the Leader 480 are crisp, clean and precise with zero bad habits. Speed is also nice with the Leader 480. Not sure it is really going that fast, but it’s shape and elegant look make it look like it’s zipping over the deck on low passes. The only thing that slightly disappointed me was the smallish rudder that didn’t allow for knife-edge. Other than that, the fun to be had zipping around with this beautiful bird is immense. I will never ever sell this puppy. Now that I do fly larger aircraft, I do with they made a much larger version of the Leader 480.
With my first Leader 480, I learned to fly and land on pavement, learned to fly inverted, learned to fly in windy conditions, and learned some basic maneuvers. With the second one, I learned a little about building, patience, balancing and the benefits of lighter weight equipment.
The Leader 480 is a FANTASTIC first step into balsa after having a foamie or two under your belt. It’s low parts count also make it an ideal first ARF build. The Leader 480 is a gateway plane in that it will build your confidence and make you crave bigger planes. At the same time, it’s decent size can also make it the star of your hangar if you decide this is as big as you want to go. It should also be a plane you never part with. Even if you move into something larger, it is a great plane that can be transported fully assembled and flown as a warm up or just a beater plane (don’t beat it though)! That said, the Leader 480 has my endorsement as one heck of a plane at a bargain price point. You can’t go wrong with this choice. I love it and I think you will too.