Flyzone Beaver – Unpacking and inspection

Started unpacking and inspecting the Flyzone Beaver.

Pulled all the parts out of the box, removed all the bubble wrap and scanned for damage.  Worst ding is in one of the floats – took a picture or two as I went.

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I guess my hopes were pretty high after reading 185 pages (not finished yet) of the discussion thread on one of the popular RC sites.  So far I’m not overly impressed.

Yes, the flaps and ailerons are actuated in a very scale appearing manner, the overall lines are nice as well and its great to get the nice lighting package already installed.  Having the option to run floats or wheels with both included is wonderful too.  However…

I’m gonna blame the amount of dings/scuffs/scratches etc… on the packing method.  Sure most things are wrapped in some micro-bubble wrap and the inboard ends of the wings where all the linkage and joiners stick out were covered in cardboard… but somehow things managed to vibrate/rub and bang into each other on their way here.  In addition to the ding in one float, the landing gear “fairing” where it meets the body of the plane on one corner is slightly crushed and almost broken off.  The bottom of one wing has a groove in it where something rubbed or pushed up against it and there are a few others similar spots.  Most notably the side windows which bubble out nicely (very cool looking) are both scuffed/scraped up (very not cool looking).

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None of this damage is really bad but it seems to me that if Flyzone had gone one extra step and after bubble wrapping everything simply taped all the pieces to the box (like others do) the chances of damage of this type would have been significantly decreased.  I’ll get over it but when you buy something new it would be nice if it looked new!

In addition there are lots of other small things that add up to my overall feeling of disappointment.  Many places the orange decals were applied to the foam with what appears to be sand grains under it forming small but noticeable protrusions.  The bottom of the horizontal stab has some nasty smears where it appears the black ink/paint ran over the orange and one spot where it looks like the orange dripped on the black.  Luckily its on the bottom so I guess most folks won’t ever see it.  Hard to spot at 50 feet and 50 mph!

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Oh, and the whole front windscreen is loose.  Doesn’t look like it was ever glued in properly and I guarantee the airflow around it would certainly have it coming loose in flight in the first 5 minutes if I don’t re-glue it.  Lucky I’m a modeler!  Speaking of glue, whatever they use it is apparently difficult to get in the right place.  There are many places where glue has been… let’s say “generously applied”, resulting in some sloppy looking glue joints and then others like the windscreen where glue appears to be sadly lacking.  Not sure yet what I’m going to do with the over application areas… trim back… leave alone.  We’ll see.

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Just looking over the plane and realizing that its going to be a job to hook up and route all the wires away where they won’t be obvious and getting the servos to hook up and adjust things through that small top hatch is likely to be a challenge but that wouldn’t be so bad if they had found a better way to attach the wings.  Why not put a servo in each wing for the flaps so we could avoid all that routing of the wire push rods while simultaneously having to get all three (yep, three!) wing joiner tubes to line up correctly?  Seriously, 3 rods??  Countless other wings use 1 wing joiner tube.  Oh, and the struts are apparently held on with screws in plastic so taking them on and off many times seems to me to be problematic at best.  How many times is that going to work before I strip the holes, the screw heads or lose them altogether?  Did I mention the struts appear to be two different lengths?  I don’t think that’s right, is it?

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The result of all this unnecessarily complicated assembly is that taking the wings on and off is going to be a royal PITA which I likely will just forgo.  Luckily I have an SUV and a trailer to haul my airplanes as I can’t see taking these wings on and off on a regular basis.  Oh, and changing  back and forth from wheels to floats… not sure how easy that is going to be and that is exactly what I’m going to want to do!

I just can’t figure out what this airplane wants to be… With all the build issues, minor damage, etc… it just doesn’t measure up as a scale bird for me.  On the other hand, with the limited utility of the wings being essentially fixed and a bit of an upscale price (for a small foamy) it doesn’t seem to fit into the “everyday, keep it in the trunk and just fly it” category either and that is a bit disappointing to me.  I was hoping for something a bit “prettier” than my Parkzone T28 that would be as easy to “just go fly”.  That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

The Beaver would make a great scale project… strip it down and fix all the issues, re-paint and add details to your hearts content.  Maybe that is the real niche for this plane.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t really looking for a big project!

I’m just hoping once I get it all done I’ll enjoy the flying qualities and especially the float flying capabilities so much I can overlook the drawbacks.  Perhaps as I progress, I will see some more positive attributes, find out things are better than I think and generally learn to love the Beaver.  Updates soon.

Parkzone 44″ WS T28 Trojan

I believe the ParkZone T28 Trojan is one of the best (maybe “The best”) park flyer/small field flyer/ electric/ foamy airplane built.  At least I have never flown anything that combines all the positive qualities the T28 has.  Let me try to list what I like about it here, in no particular order.

It is recognizable as a real airplane… above and beyond looking like an airplane in general, it actually captures the look of the real Trojan.

It can be flown off any reasonably maintained flying field.  Wheels work well on “most” grass fields or you can leave them behind and it flies even a bit better without the extra weight of landing gear.  Belly landings on grass don’t hurt a thing.

It has sufficient power to climb rapidly and handle winds very well.  In fact I love flying it in 10-20 mph winds.

It is reasonably rugged.  I managed to break the nose off my first T28 (on number 2 now) but abrupt dives and full throttle into the ground will do that!  Even then I could have repaired it but I decided all the accumulated nicks and cuts and dings called for replacement.

It is capable of most maneuvers one would fly “on the wing”  i.e. no hovering or other full 3D aerobatics.  But very respectable climb rates, point rolls, loops, snaps, inverted flight, knife edge and more are easily done.

Flying on floats is quite enjoyable if set up correctly…  (more on that later)

Batteries (3 cell LiPo) from 1300 to 2200mah seem to work just fine so if you fly any electrics now, you may already have some appropriately sized spare batteries.  1800s will get you anywhere from 10-18 minutes depending on how much throttle you use and how low you want to push the battery!

Parts are readily available.  I have helped to rebuild several T28s.  I think I’ve re-installed/replaced everything that makes up one of these birds at one point or another!

Without modification it is a fairly sedate and easy to fly airplane.  Bound to a high quality radio with rates, expo, mixing, etc… and some control linkage adjustments and you can make it a lot more nimble or even easier to fly as you wish.

The electronics supplied with the bird are really pretty nice.  I’ve put several hundred flights on one motor, only replaced speed controllers after dunking them in water (not recommended) and servos are adequate and inexpensive to replace.  Is a servo failure after 100+ flights a bad thing if I can get a replacement for $12+/-?  And the failure is twitching/centering… not a complete smoke job.

Can you tell the T28 is on my “Try not to be without one… buy another if crashed” list?

I mentioned flying off floats is possible.  In fact it works pretty well.  You have to find some appropriate sized floats (mine are kit built from Sig/Herr) and then modify the bird for at least one more attach point.  I installed a wood block with a groove (similar to a lot of trainers LG mounting method) and then created a mounting system from light wire that I can insert (I’ll put a picture or two here soon). With that near the nose and the main gear wires I have a solid mount mechanism that takes less than 15 minutes to accomplish.  With the stock power it will come up off the water in 10 feet or so if you setup the floats correctly.

One thing I highly recommend if you are going to fly off of water is to waterproof your speed control (I used some antenna sealant tape to enclose both ends of the speed control shrink warp) and a baggie around the receiver rubber banded around the servo leads is not a bad idea either.  Learning to fly on floats will likely involve dunking a few times so save yourself some money!  Speed controls and receivers (at least the ones I prefer) aren’t cheap!  Don’t worry about this limiting the airflow… the motor only draws about 14A the best I can tell and the controller is rated for 30.  I’ve never had issues as a result and I don’t ever take off my waterproofing for regular flying either.

Anyway, the T28 from ParkZone is a big hit as far as I’m concerned.  Anyone who can fly a trainer will have no issue with it and its still fun for those mid and upper level flyers as long as you don’t need to hover to have fun.

I would recommend the red and white “Navy” pattern as the air force gray and blue is much harder to keep a good visual orientation.  I added some 1″ wide white stripes on mine just inside of the blue wing tips to make it somewhat better but the visibility of the red and white is far superior.

A couple years ago at the Joe Nall, I was one of 72 pilots who took the T28 up for a mass fly (to show how well Spektrum radios work) so I will always have a soft spot for the T28.  Mine came back safe and sound after 9 minutes or so of very intensive flying!  About 60 of them were the stock red and white scheme (mine included) and I’m often asked how I kept track of the one I was flying.  My answer is always the same.  “Don’t ever look away from the plane… and don’t blink”!

 

Aeroworks Extra 260 Electric

 My Aeroworks Extra 260 EP-3D ready to fly… not much more than a static model at this point!

This is my AW Extra 260.  Vital stats as follows:

  • Power is a Super Tigre Electric 400 Speed 950kV with an APC 10×4.7
  • Weight 14-15 ounces with battery
  • Battery is a 3 cell Thunder Power 1350 3S LiPo rated at 25C
  • Speed Control is Castle Creations Pheonix 25
  • Servos are all E-flight S75s
  • Radio gear is a Spektrum DX8 and 6 channel Orange RX and JR remote DSM2 system

I created the motor mount (just a light aluminum plate with some holes drilled) as I didn’t want to spend the $80 for the motor that was recommended and this one (at around $20) used a Y shaped bolt pattern as opposed to X-mount that was provided for the high dollar motor so modification was in order.  At this point “flying” has been limited to hold it pointed to the ceiling in the garage and throttle up until I can let it go and quickly grab it again before it wants to hit the ceiling.  That is seemingly happening with about 50-60% throttle so power won’t be an issue.

The last few days have ranged from 15 above to a few degrees below (Fahrenheit) and I am fond of 75 degrees, sunny and no wind so it will likely be a few weeks before it gets a proper test flight!

Well in all honesty I did fly it once early on with an over sized battery (hard to find anything large enough that fits the slot cut for it) right before the cold winter weather set in but that was limited to just confirming it flew, nothing fell off and everything responded to control inputs properly.  It was to windy and cool to make a proper assessment that day so while nothing catastrophic to report I can’t say if it flies well or not yet.

I may move it over to a new Spektrum 4 channel receiver before my next chance to fly.  Dropping the remote will save a bit of weight and I’d rather have a Spektrum brand receiver than a knock off anyway.  I’ll feel more confident about flying it way out and up and with the new receivers being only $30 or so I don’t mind paying for the Spektrum name.  Besides I’m only using 4 channels and this way I can get closer to having all of my fleet on DSMX.

 

Parkzone Mini Vapor – lesser relation to the Night Vapor

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The PZ Mini Vapor – A bit less than the Night Vapor in almost every way

I have so much fun flying my Night Vapor that when the Mini was announced I went to my local hobby shop and put one on back order.  It was a few weeks before it became available but it came in shortly after we fired up the indoor season in these parts so all worked out well enough.

I took the Mini out of the box as soon as I arrived home, took a best guess as to battery placement and quickly shut off the ceiling fans.  A short take-off run down the kitchen island and I was flying… sort of.  OK, so balance was a wee bit nose heavy and it took a few seconds to remember that I had forgotten to do my usual rudder to aileron mix (the rudder is set up to respond to aileron input… which is fine when your expecting it!).  Luckily, the wall is 4 feet away from the kitchen island/runway and not 3!  Once I got the balance straightened out and the mix set up, I was back in the air and decided flying in my living room was probably not a fair place to test out this little airplane.  It seemed a bit quicker than I had imagined and the living room walls seemed to come up quick!  Maybe after a few trim flights in the gym and I could be happily tooling around in my living room like in the video!

So for the next couple indoor flying sessions I did some trimming and balance tests and flew with the stock battery (30mah I think) as well as the 70mah from the Night Vapor.  In the long run, what I figured out was that the Mini Vapor just isn’t (for me at least) up to speed compared to the Night Vapor.  I can fly the Night Vapor in the same space and at the same apparent minimum speed as the Mini.  Also, the Mini doesn’t seem to have quite the power to weight ratio as the Night Vapor… loops are harder to do, max climb is a bit slower and as one would expect, at 1/3rd the weight, the Mini can’t handle wind at all.

So is the mini such a terrible little plane?  Not at all.  It’s a nice little plane in it’s own right and capable of flying in a small space with some practice.  Just the fact that we can go out and pick up a production airplane that is so small and light and flies this well is pretty amazing.  It just isn’t what I wanted and expected.  I’ll still fly it (in the gym) but probably only when the Night Vapor batteries are all on charge!

Parkzone Ultra Micro J3 Cub

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My ParkZone J3 Cub with Prop/Save and Wheels from RC Funlab

This was my ParkZone Cub.  I recently passed it on to a fellow flyer who simply enjoyed it so much I gave it to him!  A month or so ago at one of the indoor flight sessions I let him have a couple flights with it and he immediately started doing touch and go passes and just generally running around in ovals and having a ball.  He’s the younger brother to one of our best young 3D fliers at my home club (Indy RC Modelers) and he’s had a few little indoor planes so I knew he would have no trouble with it.  When I got home I realized that I had done pretty much all I ever wanted to do with it.  I didn’t need it any more so I fixed up a minor crack that it had earned that night and boxed it up until I saw the young man again.

I was originally attracted to the petite little Cub because it’s a pretty decent looking semi-scale bird…. considering it’s an indoor electric molded from foam!  With some panel lines, a fake engine and with the edition of some “sorta-tundra” tires it looked and flew pretty nice.  My only immediate disappointment was I actually expected it to fly a bit slower.  Isn’t that how Cubs fly?  It seems to need a bit more speed than I would have expected but I adapted to that fairly quickly.  I enjoyed it for a while but over time I realized it flew…. well… like a Cub!  Actually like a model Cub, which is to say stable with better than scale power but limited to the normal things that a 3 channel, micro electric can do.

Over the course of 6 months or so I got a bit bored and soon gravitated toward other, more interesting airframes like the Night Vapor and SBach. The Cub only got flown when nothing else was available or conditions were such that I wanted to fly something “disposable”.  It just wasn’t all that much fun for me anymore.  Don’t misunderstand, I had my fun and felt like I got my money out of it.  It’s still one of the better looking examples I’ve seen and my young flying buddy sports a big smile when he is at the controls.

In summary, I would recommend the Cub as long as you understand what you are getting.  This is not a plane to fly in the house and of course outdoors in mild wind is OK but no more.  Maneuverability and power are reasonable but this is obviously no aerobat!

I would suggest the prop saver option as these are well known for breaking prop shafts (right at the back edge of the prop so you have to replace prop and shaft!) in the case of any nose down landing.  Otherwise, it’s a quality little airplane right out of the box.

 

 

Parkzone Night Vapor… Indoor or light wind flyer

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My Night Vapor – showing some wear and tear but still flying great.

The Night Vapor is a sub-one ounce, 3 channel indoor flyer from Parkzone.  I’ve been flying one for about a year and a half and probably have 150 flights on this little aircraft.  I think it is one of the best values in RC, at least for those who are flying DSM2 or DSMX radios.  I bought mine Bind N Fly and have flown it on the JR x9303 as well as (most recently) my Spektrum DX8 and have great fun every time.

The Vapor has a fairly large flight envelope, ranging from medium-slow to extremely slow high alpha, almost hover, which can be sustained for as long as you feel like holding the elevator back and correcting ever so slightly with the rudder (even if it is on the aileron stick) and some very mild jockeying with the throttle.  Fast it will never be, at least in level flight and I don’t recommend high throttle dives.  If you try to go fast, be aware that there seems to be some tendency to warp the wing/tail and everything else in a full throttle dive that may result in some unintended maneuvers.  Buy this plane to go slow and enjoy exploring the low end of the envelope… that is where this bird shines.  Low wind… maybe up to a bit less than 10mph??? is OK but in a gym with no wind or blowers on at all is ideal.

In the gym, doing carrier landings on a standard 6′ table, using the same table as a limbo or even tempting the gods with some “through the rafter” flying is all very possible and a heck of a lot of fun… just don’t expect anyone to climb up there or come up with a cherry picker to retrieve your airplane!

A few tips based on my experience with the Night Vapor.  Once you figure out the proper location of the battery for balance (the whole carrier slides on the fuselage “stick” for adjustment) and get accustomed to the flight envelope of the normal setup you are ready to make a few adjustments to get the most out of this airplane.  That should take about 4 flights as the Night Vapor is really easy to fly, but take 10… it’s all fun!  Save the full throttle setting for fast climbs, loops and the like and stick with the 70mah battery for a while so the balance is consistent and the airplane remains light.  Slow and light is where she shines.

Assuming you have a better transmitter than the little “video game controller” quality that comes with the RTF model (Not saying they aren’t usable but they don’t have the features I’d like) go back and make a few adjustments.  First, move the linkages in on the control surfaces as far as they will go to get maximum throws available.  Then go into the radio and put in appropriate endpoints so that the elevator and rudder can’t bind together when both are at extreme throws.  Add some expo or at least some dual rates and start experimenting.  What looks a lot like a flat spin, the aforementioned “near” hover, tight loops and other interesting maneuvers become much easier at this point.  Try bigger batteries like a 120mah for longer flights but expect to give up just a little vertical and of course low speed, high alpha takes a bit more throttle.  I prefer to stick with the 70mah and 12-15 minute flights are easily attained with it so I see no point in anything larger unless it’s all you have handy!

Finally, you may have noticed this bird has lights on it for night flying!!  I would recommend you get used to day flying first as trying to get used to a new airplane AND trying to stay oriented would be a bit challenging… please don’t ask how I know.  Once you are comfortable this is just about the best thing every built for cruising around the night sky, (not too far away) making touch and goes off the top of your camper or other nearby “landing strip” and just generally having a good time out of doors after the sun goes down.

In my book, the Night Vapor is an airplane I would likely replace immediately if something untoward occurred.  Of the 14 or so flyable airplanes I own… few fit in that category.

Spektrum Telemetry – Altitude and Flight Voltage in a Glider

I have recently been exploring the Spektrum telemetry system a bit.  I have fairly full house Telemetry install in my 50cc size Mustang but it has limited flight time at this point and getting it out in the snow wasn’t feasible so I started with a smaller testbed to do a little experimentation.

I installed a TM1000 Telemetry receiver into my Parkzone Radian glider.  I had recently replaced the original receiver in that bird with one of the new, low cost 4 channel DSMx receivers which just so happens to be telemetry compatible so by just running the standard wiring from the data/bind port on the receiver to the TM1000 I had a working system.  I then added the Altimeter sensor and created a little wiring harness to tap into the balance plug on the 11.1V, 1300mah LiPo flight pack and I had access to a fair amount of information.  I could see fades, frame loss and hold on each antenna as well as receiver voltage and the pack voltage plus the altitude.  I went out to my test area (known as the side yard) and made a short glider flight.  Here is what the display on my iPad looked like when I downloaded the data afterwords.  The red line is the battery voltage (note the drop in voltage when I was climbing/running the motor).  Green is altitude.

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While examining the data after the fact on the iPad was interesting and informative the best part was what the system allowed me to accomplish while I was flying.  During the flight I had the display up on my DX8 showing altitude and while having the motor shut down was able to get into some lift that I believe was coming off a neighbors roof heated by the sun.  I noticed a bobble that I thought might indicate some lift but couldn’t tell whether I was getting into a lift area or not… the bird was already at 500+ feet altitude and a couple hundred yards away at the time and I just couldn’t tell visually whether I was gaining altitude or not.  By peeking at the display from time to time and circling around the suspect area I was able to figure out when and where I was gaining altitude and was able to verify where to position the Radian to gain some altitude.  I spent about a minute continually peeking at the altimeter readout and circling back to the lift area and gained about 150′.  While I’m sure others could do much better and probably do so without any need for instrumentation, for me this was ground breaking stuff.  It was the first truly useful example of what these tools can add to the game that I’ve seen and it convinced me that adding telemetry could give me more than just some cool factor!  I’m already thinking about other ways to make use of some of the other available Spektrum Telemetry sensors.

Next time I’ll talk about my first experiment with the GPS sensor at our New Years day “freeze fly”.

Parkzone UMS Sbach 342 3D

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My Sbach – A fast but stable aerobat thanks to AS3X

I’ve had the little E-flight AS3X equipped Sbach for a couple months now and the first thing I’ll say is it isn’t what I’d consider a great indoor plane. It seems to fly better fast and I personally don’t enjoy spending all my time just “missing the walls”! However the stabilization system really makes it fly more like a larger model… Maybe akin to what you’d expect from a 40-60 power model. It’s quite impressive. Though I’m not much of a 3D enthusiast I have been trying out hovering a bit with it and it seems to be doable as power is not a problem.

As an outdoor airplane it flys very well with sustained knife edge, (use the side force generators from the beginning) crisp feeling 4 point rolls, loops small or large, stall turns, snaps and more within its repertoire. Landing takes a bit of work as it needs to carry a bit of speed for anything resembling a normal landing. The best thing is it can do all that in 10 to perhaps 15 mph winds if you remember to correct your flight line with judicious use of rudder! That’s impressive for a sub 3 ounce aircraft.

All in all, I enjoy the little Sbach. While the AS3X system does make for some seeming “resistance” to smaller control inputs, it also makes the plane track great even in high winds that other micros can’t handle. Flights don’t seem to be to short so the little 180 mah battery seems to be about right. It’s unfortunate it has a different connector than anything else I’ve owned before, there is a little adapter cable from horizon that adapts it to most balancing chargers so if you don’t get the model with the charger or want another option there is a fix out there.