Review: Flight A10 FM - Not ready to fly with the big boys

Veritas99

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Several months ago, I was made aware of Flight's limited edition 10th anniversary models, which represented a step up for Flight in price ($1200) and approach (single “master“ luthier vs standard production). I had only heard good things about Flight and really liked the look of the faded blue solid maple version. It wasn't long after a glowing summary from SUS that I reached out to Uke Republic about pre-ordering. Around the same time, Got a Ukulele did a review of the quilted maple version and gave it high praise. As a result, I had high hopes for Flight's first steps into the market occupied by the entry-level solid koa models of the Hawaiian K brands. Unfortunately, my optimism was misplaced.

After 3 months, the ukulele arrived in the US, and Uke Republic installed a MiSi and wound low G before sending it on to me. I made a NUD post here before my excitement turned to disappointment. As shown in the photos below, when I received it the bridge had lifted off in one of the corners and was not firmly adhered to the soundboard the whole way around. Of the near 30 ukuleles in my house, none had ever come with the bridge not securely glued to the ukulele. (I should note that the uke came de-tuned from Uke Republic so there was minimal tension during transit). If it had stopped there, I would have chalked it up to bad luck and maybe an extra hot delivery truck, but that's not the only flaw I found.

As you can see from the photos, the builder also cut into the sound board in several places while fitting the pieces of abalone into the rosette (photo is closeup of one side but it's the same all the way around). This does not appear to be an isolated incident either, as SUS's first listing for this model identified the same issues on the A10 FM they were selling. I have no idea how this happens to a ukulele at this price point. Neither the mass-produced Ohanas nor the handmade Kamakas in my house have issues with their abalone rosettes. Flight really has no excuse for letting their top of the line ukuleles leave the building with cut marks that suggest the rosette was fitted by a kid in shop class with a dremel.

Additionally, the fretboard markers have minor issues, both cosmetically and in terms of playability. Flight doesn't say, but they appear to be blue-dyed maple. Setting aside the fact that they are matte (for now), not all of the markers are dyed properly. As you can see from the example in the photos, there are several where the natural wood is showing through on the edges or where the dye seems to have bled out onto the fretboard. If you had told me that my 5 year old had colored them in with a blue marker, I would have no reason to disbelieve you. From a playability standpoint, given the matte, dark blue color and off-center positioning, the markers are nearly invisible and useless when playing. Fortunately, the side markers are white and easily visible, but these are the little details that Flight should have done right, especially in what is supposed to be a special model.

Despite all these issues, I was tempted to keep it had the initial repairs done by Uke Republic held. To Flight's credit, the ukulele sounded great and was easy to play. There was good note separation when picking and strumming resulted in a full sound with nice overtones. What Baz said about the quilted maple's sound held true for the faded maple I received. The neck was a little chunky but had a silk feel that was easy to use. Unfortunately, the first bridge repair did not hold and the same corner lifted up again shortly after receiving it back. At that point, the joy in owning this lovely sounding uke was gone and I returned it for good. There have been a few recent posts about bad experiences with dealers and new ukes with damage or defectives. I'm happy to report that Uke Republic did everything right in this situation. I was given a full refund without any question and my understanding from talking with Mike is that the defective uke was sent back to Flight.

Overall, even assuming my situation with the bridge was just bad luck, I cannot recommend this ukulele. Flight created a ukulele that looks and sounds great to honor its 10th anniversary, but the build quality and lack of attention to details do not justify the premium price. At that price, there are, in my opinion, better options.
 

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rainbow21

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That is a lot of issues with this uke. Sorry it was not what it could have been but glad you were able to return it.

At the same price points, an uke would have to be real special to consider over the three Ks. I think aNueNue meets this standard and maybe Kiwaya. After that, it would require some convincing. Thanks for sharing.
 

Dohle

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That's really unfortunate. To be honest, even when the Flight anniversary models were introduced I noticed some of these issues despite my enthusiasm. The abalone rosette in particular was and still is confusing. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be cut the way it is but for it to leave cuts on the soundboard is not good. I'll agree on the fretmarkers as well. I don't think any manufacturer should use abalone for the fretmarkers in general. I have a KoAloha soprano and while I'm sure the abalone fretmarkers on that aren't nearly as bad as on the Flight they can still be hard to see in certain kinds of lighting.

The bridge issue pretty much makes this uke defective. The other flaws wouldn't probably be major issues for me but I would never be comfortable playing a uke where the bridge is separating from the soundboard. Glad you got a full refund in the end.
 

Veritas99

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That is a lot of issues with this uke. Sorry it was not what it could have been but glad you were able to return it.

At the same price points, an uke would have to be real special to consider over the three Ks. I think aNueNue meets this standard and maybe Kiwaya. After that, it would require some convincing. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks. It was frustrating because the potential was there, but I agree that if I didn’t have other nice ukes, I would be hard pressed to go with the Flight over a K brand or aNueNue (I haven’t tried a Kiwaya yet).

That's really unfortunate. To be honest, even when the Flight anniversary models were introduced I noticed some of these issues despite my enthusiasm. The abalone rosette in particular was and still is confusing. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be cut the way it is but for it to leave cuts on the soundboard is not good. I'll agree on the fretmarkers as well. I don't think any manufacturer should use abalone for the fretmarkers in general. I have a KoAloha soprano and while I'm sure the abalone fretmarkers on that aren't nearly as bad as on the Flight they can still be hard to see in certain kinds of lighting.

The bridge issue pretty much makes this uke defective. The other flaws wouldn't probably be major issues for me but I would never be comfortable playing a uke where the bridge is separating from the soundboard. Glad you got a full refund in the end.
Yeah, I probably would have overlooked the more cosmetic issues too, but my fear that the bridge might come up again was too much to risk it.
 

Sporky

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Oh no! That bridge would've made me very uncomfortable... Enough to return it certainly, in disappointment but understanding that it may have happened from some warehouse/shipping issues.
But those rosette cuts into the soundboard are an extra slap in the face because it's just plain sloppy work and right in the front too. Sorry you were let down, but glad to hear Uke Republic did everything right. Better luck on your next instrument!

Edit: and yes, I agree that it has to be very special to contend with a K brand. Ideally the extra luxury touches might do the trick but only if the rest is also on par...
 

bazmaz

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Glad you got it sorted. Mistakes do slip through though and it wouldn't be right to assume every K brand is perfect. I once received a Koaloha which was, frankly, shocking.... No matter - good service and it was replaced.

Have seen some shoddy finishing on Kamaka ukes on occasion too.
 

Veritas99

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Were you also refunded the return shipping charges?
No need. Mike at Uke Republic emailed me pre-paid return labels both times so I never had to pay shipping out of pocket. Like I said, the situation sucked, but Mike could not have handled it better.
 
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Veritas99

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Wow, that's pretty bad shop work. Thanks for alerting us.
Yeah, I know that anecdotes are not data, but given that the sliced soundboard seems to have occurred on 2 already and you can really only pre-order them sight unseen, I wanted to share.
 

Veritas99

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Glad you got it sorted. Mistakes do slip through though and it wouldn't be right to assume every K brand is perfect. I once received a Koaloha which was, frankly, shocking.... No matter - good service and it was replaced.

Have seen some shoddy finishing on Kamaka ukes on occasion too.
Thanks, I don't doubt that things slip through on all the brands. I debated even posting, but since these models are pre-order only in the US right now and mine is the second soundboard with cut marks, I thought I should share.
 

bazmaz

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Thanks, I don't doubt that things slip through on all the brands. I debated even posting, but since these models are pre-order only in the US right now and mine is the second soundboard with cut marks, I thought I should share.
No fair enough - had a review model landed with me I would have mentioned them too. What I think matters when these things happen is the after sales service. It's a PITA of course, but i'd rather a dealer / store / brand working with me to get it resolved than being left dissatisfied.