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Friday, February 19, 2016

[Review] Vagabond XL from Hacker Model


One year after releasing the successful VTPR EPP glider Vagabond, Hacker Model decided to create a revisited and larger version with a wingspan of 2 meters. When I saw first the specs, I told to myself, will this version still be a VTPR plane (Voltige très près du relief), which means "aerobatic maneuvers very near the ground")? What is the benefit is a larger wingspan? This is what I propose to discover in this review.

What is different?

Apart the wingspan, the length of the fuselage is the same. Comparing the fuselage shape side by side, the XL version has a bigger lateral area, a bigger fin and rudder. The elevator servo that was located at the front moved to the rear boom, close to the tails. This is a bit of deception, because first specs and pictures where displaying a pulley. I don’t know why this has been abandoned to be replaced by a more conventional control command. The wing features the same airfoil, with the wing tip extended to 2m. Ailerons are nearly 50% of the chord at the tip end! Finally, the Vagabond XL only exists in covered version unlike his little brother.

Kit Overview 

As expected with Hacker Model, the top quality is here and the kit is complete! First the wings are almost finished, covered with laminate film, just needing the servos, control horn and linkage installation. The fuselage arrives uncovered and needs some work: insert the carbon rods for the stiffness, the sleeves for the rudder and elevator control rods, the servos tray, the root section in the middle of the fuselage, the fin and the tails. It now has a tunnel in the boom for the elevator servo wire to reach the front servo tray where will be located the receiver. The tail re-uses the same principle, is still not removable, with some minor difference on the control horn. Overall, apart the elevator servo, the rest is the same, and the assembly is similar, but why change a well thought design?

Google photos album: Kit Overview

A quick assembly ...

The assembly is very similar to the Vagabond. Given that the fuselage needs more work, I started with it, by inserting and gluing in place some carbon rods to stiffen the boom. The fuselage must stay straight during this operation. The root rib is positioned carefully at the exact center of the fuselage line before to be glued with cyano. There is an additional plywood part on top of the rib that provides guiding to the locking inverted U part. The servo tray is then glued in place. I used an old 15mm metal gear servo for the rudder. I also glued additional small pieces of wood around the receiver to immobilize it well. I did a small support for the on/off switch.
On the tail, this time, I have been lazy and just glued the 2 halves together without making it removable. It is carefully glued together on a perfectly flat table with the center part, the control horn in place. Once finished, the tail is fixed on the fuselage with Cyano, then the fin.
The elevator servo is a digital 9gr and metal gear in order to provide speed and accuracy. The control rod is made from a piano wire. I glued the servo in place with cyano. The elevator servo mount would have been better secured I think with a small servo tray.
Let’s switch to the wings. This time, given the control surface area, I used strong 15mm servos, metal gear, even if they are not completely inserted in the wing thickness. As I had still some big and robust servo arms, I didn’t need to use the one provided in the kit.
At the opposite of the Vagabond, the XL accommodates itself very well with a 4 cells 2000mAh Eneloop battery which will give you plenty of flying time!
Final weight is at 830 grs, which is a bit above the indicated weight, but still light for this plane.

Flying the Vagabond XL

End of the summer and fall has been pretty nice for flying in the French Alps so I could fly it often, and compare it with the standard version of the Vagabond.
To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the larger wingspan combined with the same fuselage length. From the very first minutes my doubts have flown away. The Vagabond XL is still very agile, but need a little bit higher speed to perform like the small version, this is normal.
In light conditions, the Vagabond XL shows better capabilities than his small brother, but compared to the SKG Swift from the same manufacturer, we can say that it is still not a marginal-lift flyer.
It performs best in vertical lift and light to medium breeze when it can chain all manoeuvers easily, carve along the slope edge, and fly inverted for ages. Wings are not bending thanks to the spar.
Vertical manoeuvers have a bit more amplitude. Knife edge flight is better and easier thanks to the larger lateral area of the fuselage. The flip is still not possible, the tail movement being limited by the servo maximum rotation.

Overall, I would say that the Vagabond XL has a larger flying envelop than the standard version, but at the opposite is a bit less VTPR or in other words “in-your-face” flying. This said, finally, I prefer the XL version over the standard Vagabond.

Google photos album: Flying the Vagabond XL

In conclusion

Finally, Hacker didn’t replace the Vagabond, but added a new plane to its product range, with little differences in term of flying performance. The kit quality is without any surprise. I only regret that the tail is not removable and that there is no pulley. Now it remains that this Vagabond XL is still very addictive and delivers tons of fun and pleasure. I often like to land my F3F competition planes to fly the Vagabond and “relax” …


  • Wingspan 2010mm 
  • Lenght: 990mm
  • Weight: 830gr
  • manufacturer: Hacker Model 
  • Price: from 150 euros 

My Settings :

  • CG: 100mm (92 to 100mm)
  • Ailerons : 40 mm up, 30 mm down
  • Rudder : + / - 60 mm
  • Elevator :  + / - 70 mm (Exponential mandatory)

Again, better than 1000 words, here are 2 videos filmed this autumn that will give you a good and unbiased idea of its flying capabilities.

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