Comparison – Night Vapor versus UMX Night Vapor

I have owned a Parkzone Night Vapor since not long after they first shipped.

ParkZone Night Vapor RTF [PKZU1100] | Airplanes - AMain ...

I’m not saying I’ve only owned one in all that time… I’m guessing 3-5 have passed through my hands.  One tried to fly just a little higher than a hovering helicopter, another had an unfortunate incident getting hung up in the net of an indoor soccer field and was heavily damaged during retrieval…  And one just  eventually had so much tape and added glue on it that it just flew like a brick.  Parts of that one still survive in my parts drawer to this day.

The Night Vapor was a fun, super floater that almost anyone could fly or even learn how to fly on.  A year or two into my run of Night Vapors (that doesn’t sound fun??) we discovered that the motor from the Parkzone Cub fit into this airplane and gave it a nice boost in power allowing for prop hangs, awesome slow high alpha and great climb rates with only a minor penalty in flight duration…. so that is the setup I’ve been flying ever since.  The only drawback to this seemed to be that you could stress the airframe enough to make it twist and become a bit erratic if you used to much speed/power… especially in a dive.  That is a very minor issue and easily avoided.

My current iteration of the Night Vapor is less than a year old but when I found out that Horizon had decide to do a “respin” on the Night Vapor I quickly decided I had to get one.  Here they are on my bench side by side.

  So here are the differences in the two in a static comparison.

  1.  The new NV is obviously done up in a different color scheme.  As far as covering material, wing area, tail area, etc… they appear to be sized and constructed identically aside from the color and frame differences noted below.
  2. The frame of each is identical with the following exceptions.  Most of the parts look to be interchangeable.
    1. The new UMX has wire main landing gear legs instead of the CF on the old.
    2. The new UMX has additional bracing from the body to the first rib on each side, near both the leading edge and trailing edge of the wing.  You can see these here.
    3. There is a larger frame/plate to hold the new receiver/servo “brick” in the UMX
    4. The new aircraft weighs .73 ounces versus the old aircraft at .57

Other differences of note:

The old PZ had 6 LEDs.  3 on the front of the wing, two on the back and one further back on the bottom of the tail boom area.  The new UMX NV has one in front, two wing tip lights and one on the tail boom.  The LEDs on the new airplane allows for some programming of the lights for different color combinations (White, Red, Purple, Blue, Green or Yellow) on the front and back lights, each independent of the other.  You can also have each solid on or a slow strobing affect.   This is easily accomplished from your transmitter.  The wing tip lights are green starboard and red to port with no adjustment available.  They are synchronized in a blink-blink-off pattern which also is not adjustable.

Flight wise the new airplane does fly just a bit heavier than the old plane.  To me it is noticeable but not offensive.  All up with a battery the difference is around 20-25% heavier for the new plane so it makes sense that it would be but the new plane is still very much a floater and the AS3X definitely helps around those pesky air vents, prop wash from other airplanes, etc…  and the extra wing bracing helps limit twist and flex in the wing when you stress the airframe a bit with those high power dives or speed bursts that are bound to happen!

I like the new landing gear as well.  The wire springs back nicely and doesn’t have a tendency to shatter like I’ve seen happen often (only once to me) and having the front and back lights be customizable is a nice touch.

In my opinion AS3X and SAFE are obviously a bit of overkill on an airplane like this but the telemetry feedback is really nice to have and has me wondering how many less batteries I might purchase over the next couple years if I actually pay attention to the warnings I have programmed!  Not sure how likely that is though as I never want to land this airplane except to show off my hand catch skills (don’t tell AMA) so I will probably continue to run most of my batteries to exhaustion.

The plane does do some pulsing of the motor as you fly the battery down to around 3.3V so you don’t have to rely on telemetry warnings.  Shut down comes at around 3.1V and once it has occured there is no restarting the motor until the battery is unplugged and replaced (presumably with a charged specimen!) .

After flying it stock a few flights I have now swapped in the motor from my old NV which is really the old cub motor I mentioned earlier.   I hope it will do for this new UMX NV what it did for the old one.  My worry is that these are brushed motors and I wonder how much longer it will last.  Horizon is not typically forthcoming on specs on their electric motors especially these micros so I have little hope I’d ever be able to replace this motor when it’s time has come as the motor for the old cub is no longer available either…  That will be a sad day.

So my feelings on the new NV are mixed… but weighing toward the positive.  I wish they had given it something equivalent to the cub motor to start with, especially with the increased weight but it sill flies crazy lite so it’s not a big issue and the added features are nice additions.  I have no qualms about giving up my old NV… I think this will be a worthy successor.




UMX P-47 Electrical Issues Resolved

I received this UMX P-47 as a Christmas gift a couple years ago.  I have a warm place in my heart for the P-47 as my Grandfather helped put thousands in the air while working in the Republic plant in Evansville, Indiana.  I checked the markings and this model is based on an Evansville bird!  Excellent.

Here is what the little UMX looks like:

The P-47 was one of the primary work horses of WWII.  It was a favorite with a lot of pilots as it offered that most favored of qualities, survivability.  With plenty of armor protecting the pilot, a reliable air cooled engine and (as long as you had altitude) a dive speed that almost no other plane could match providing an escape if worse came to worse, a lot of pilots survived missions in a P-47 that would have had different results in other birds.   This led to a popular saying during WWII “If you want to get the girl fly a P-51, if you want to go home to your girl strap on a P-47.”

It was also heavily armed with 8 fifty caliber machine guns and could carry 3400 rounds of ammo along with an impressive load of bombs equal to more than a third of what the B-17 bomber could carry and so became a favorite with the ground troops as well, providing a lot of support to the boys below.

For all these reasons, I love a P-47 and though I don’t get to fly it often I do enjoy it.  It flies well for its size, is fast enough to look like its doing what it should be, and it tracks nicely, I’m sure partly due to the on board AS3X stabilization.  It requires a good size space to fly indoors and can’t take too much wind so outdoors is limited, thus the limited flying time.

Starting last year I’ve had the opportunity to fly at one indoor venue over the winter months that is large enough to enjoy flying this bird in.  It was during one of these events that I started having a weird issue with the aircraft.

Occasionally, the bird would suddenly and completely lose power while taxiing.   This happened once and I thought I just had a bad battery.  The second time it started working again when I picked it up and re-plugged the same battery…  odd.    After that flight it went back in it’s portable hangar and sat for a couple weeks ’till the next indoor at which time I took it out and tried to fly again… It was only when the spark happened as I plugged in the battery that I recalled the previous issues.  I quickly disconnected a rather warm battery…  YIKES!  A close examination of the area helped locate the issue…

As you can see, the insulation has pulled back and several strands of the multi-stranded wire are trying to make some “non-approved” connections!  

To cure this problem I first cut off the remaining strands and then reattached them with the use of my handy “helping hands” soldering clamp.


Once that was accomplished I used some liquid tape to insure that no more unapproved connections were going to occur.

Then to help further protect the connection I applied some shrink wrap.  Here’s the final product.

I’ve since gotten 4 flights on the “Jug” without issue.  Unfortunately, with the recent outbreak of Covid-19… further flights are probably months away, but I am happy to report that the P-47 is back to mission ready status.  Here’s hoping we can all be healthy and back to this wonderful hobby soon.

First flight on a Parkzone UMX B-17G

Saturday night at our local indoor fly I had the opportunity to fly the new Parkzone UMX B-17G. Here are the specs from the Horizon website:

Wingspan: 26.0 in (660mm)
Overall Length: 18.3 in (465mm)
Wing Area: 87.5 sq in (5.65 sq dm)
Flying Weight: 2.75 oz (78 g)
Motor Size: 6mm in runner (Left and RIght Rotation)
Radio: 4+ channel DSM2/DSMX transmitter required
CG (center of gravity): 38mm back from leading edge at wing root
Prop Size: 72×65 3 Blade
Speed Control : Brushed ESC (included)
Recommended Battery: 3.7V 1S 250mAh 20C LiPo Battery
Scale: 1/48th Scale
Experience Level: Intermediate
Is Assembly Required: No

e-flite U5380 Umx B-17g Flying FoRTRess

   Parkzone UMX B-17  <– Click here to view purchasing options on Amazon

The first thing you need to be aware of is that there is no steering on the tail-wheel so you need to get some forward speed quickly so that the rudder becomes effective and you can turn! Not a big issue as doing a ROG takeoff was accomplished fairly rapidly and without any real need for rudder input. The counter-rotating motors and three blade props seem to provide good power without causing any yaw that I noticed. I was flying in a gym that consists of 3 side by side basketball courts and was off the ground in about 10 feet. The B17 flies fairly slowly though I would rate it moderately fast for an indoor venue of this size. I had to apply a fair amount of down trim to keep it from nosing up but I suspect the battery could be moved a bit more forward to offset some of that. Probably 15 clicks of trim before I got level but this was not my radio so I don’t really know what the trim steps were set for (it was a DX9 I believe).

I’m fairly sure no expo or rates had been set, just a very vanilla setup. In spite of this the B-17 flew smoothly with a fairly wide speed envelope. Roll and Yaw seemed to be adequate though I did not try to do a full aileron roll, stall turns or any thing of the sort considering it was not my airplane nor did I have much room to work with. All I can really say is that it flew smoothly and turns were easily accomplished though a bit of rudder coordination seemed to make for much better turns. In a gymnasium you quickly learn to turn while maintaining altitude or you will be bouncing off the floor or dodging rafters on a frequent basis. With the help of the AS3X system, this was not very difficult. The only concern is on landing as the B-17 does what all my AS3X ships do… it wants to keep level and will attempt to do so by applying more and more elevator as you back off on throttle until the plane stalls abruptly!! This can be a bit disconcerting the first time you experience it so my advice is bring the B-17 in a bit hot to stop this from happening until you learn the stall speed of the plane at altitude. A few clicks of throttle will keep this at bay until you learn the characteristics of the plane. This seems to be an AS3X thing, not exclusive to the B-17.

All in all, the plane flies much better than such a small multi-engine like this really should! And it is really impressive how much scale detail they pack into such a small package. Flying it isn’t difficult, the intermediate rating they apply seems appropriate. I’d love to fly one outdoors to see what it can really do… I’m going to guess that basic aerobatics (more than a B-17 should be doing) are within its grasp and flying smooth and looking impressive it can certainly pull off. Wind handling will be interesting but based on other AS3X craft I’ve tried I expect a 5-10 at most would be within reason with a little practice.

It’s hard to believe that all 4 engines running at around half throttle didn’t kill the battery after 8 minutes of flight. I thought I could detect it slowing a bit at that point but it was still flying when I landed it with only a minor bump into the wall as the roll out lasted a bit longer than expected! No damage, so NO, I don’t own one yet! I do encourage you to get one though… and then let me know when you’d like me to come over and fly it for you a bit!

Blade Nano QX – Radio configuration

I’ve had the Nano for a few days now… maybe a dozen flights and I’m enjoying it very much.  Straight out of the box and with the radio configured per the instructions (Using my DX18) it is a nice flying aircraft.  However… there’s always room for improvement, right?

So here is what I’ve done to program my DX18 to help the little quad fly even better.  Here’s my list of “wants” that I came up with:

  • First of all, I wanted a throttle cut.  I consider throttle cut to be a necessary safety feature on any aircraft and on electrics especially.
  • Obviously I need a timer.  The flashing light on the Nano that signals a low battery has so far been unnoticeable for me.
  • Finally, I wanted to institute Expo and End Point adjustments in concert with the change from Stability mode and Agility mode.

With that in mind I started to do some programming on my DX18.  As I thought about what I needed, it hit me that what I really wanted was to use “flight modes”.  With the FM feature, a single switch or combination of switches can change multiple settings including end points, dual rates, expo settings and more.  I have never had a real need for FM, though in some cases it might be equivalent to or better than what I do now, but this seemed the perfect fit.  I wouldn’t want to enter the agility mode without also dropping my rates down and adding some expo and doing that all on one switch seemed ideal.  I knew there was some reason I bought this expensive radio!

The throttle cut function was easily added as was a timer… very standard and easy to do stuff.  But the next part got a bit more difficult.  The mode change (Stability or Agility) on the Nano is set to operate off of a temporary switch… in this case button “I” which is often used as the trainer switch on most radios.  I now wanted this to move to one of the 3 position toggles so that it would happen in concert with my flight mode changes.  It isn’t difficult to reassign this function (in this cast AUX1/channel 6) but when I did that I quickly realized that this was not going to work as intended.  I had thought I would have 3 flight modes.  FM1 would be stability mode with full throws and a little Expo (maybe 30%) thrown in to help me be smoother on the controls.  FM2 would be agile mode with moderate throws and a similar amount of Expo with FM3 being “crazy 3D guy” mode with full tilt throws and a much greater expo setting (maybe 70%) in order to keep things from being to touchy.  Not sure I’ll ever need that mode and maybe I’ll switch this around later to 2 Stability modes and only 1 Agile mode option but this is my desired starting point.  After adding in the “Quad” graphic the main screen shows the modes as seen here.

Here’s FM1 – Named Stability Mode


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And FM2 – Agility Mode I



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And finally FM3 – Agility Mode 2

2014-11-18 20.08.17

That all looks good but after moving the AUX1 channel to a three way toggle, a quick on-bench test immediately brought a problem to light.  The Nano wants to see a temporary Off-On-Off type of signal to change from Stability to Agile and vice versa.  Just going Off-On didn’t do anything until you came back to Off.  Imagine toggling the switch from 0 to 1 (no change in Stability mode but more throws) or moving on to 2 with lots of throw and expo but still in Stability mode… no big issue yet.  But, then going back to 0 and suddenly you’re in Agility mode but with full throws and low Expo… yikes!  For a bit I thought I was stuck… but then the DX18 came to the rescue.

The DX18 has something called a sequencer.  With the flip of single switch you can have a series of events occur.  In this case I setup the sequencer so that going from 0 to 1 (or 1 to 0) caused the Aux1 channel to move to full (step 1) and then back to start (step 2) with a delay of about a half second in each direction.  This sent the correct sequence of events just like hitting a temporary switch.  Moving from position 1 to 2 does not have an associated sequence as I’m already in Agile mode after I move from 0 to 1.  Nifty!  The only catch here is that you have to start with the switch in the correct position.  That’s not a big problem as I have a habit of having all switches pushed away from me when I power up my radio.  I found a way to help with that issue as well though.  More on that a bit later.

With that solved (it’s easy to test for this on the bench as the Nano changes its LED from blue to red when you enter Agility mode) I moved on to setting up my throws (End Points and Dual Rates) as well as my Expo settings for each mode.  With that all accomplished I did a quick trial flight and so far everything is working as planned.  Of course nothing is perfect and I started thinking that I really wanted to insure I powered up the radio in flight mode 1 and with the throttle cut engaged.

This got me to looking at another underutilized (at least by me) feature of my DX18 and that is the preflight checklist.  I immediately found this feature to be quite simple to use.  I have to say I sure wish I could edit the checklist descriptions, but I found two that are close enough that reading them will get me to thinking about these two important switch settings.  My Mode Switch is using a switch that I often use for flaps on other aircraft so the “Flap Position” checklist item works for that and the “Thro. Trim Position” gets me thinking about throttle enough to remind me to check the throttle cut switch.  Of course these check box items don’t actually check the position of those switches for you, but you can (and I did) set the radio so that it will not start sending RF until I check the boxes, and you have to do it before each flight (assuming you turned off the radio or went to another model memory in between).  At least it gives me one more chance to get it right before taking control of the Nano!  Here is the setup screen for that feature.

2014-11-18 20.08.54

And Here is what the preflight screen looks like on power up.

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Lastly another thought occurred and I went into the warning screen and made it so my radio would alarm if my throttle wasn’t at idle (or at least nearly so) and/or I wasn’t in FM1 when I start up the radio.  That’s even more foolproof than the checklist!  Here is the setting for that:

2014-11-18 20.10.58

I think this gets me “in the ballpark” as far as radio setup goes.  I’ll undoubtedly adjust my expo and dual rate settings but those are minor tweaks.  With this configuration I have checked off all of my wish list and gone a bit further on safety and initial start up settings.  So far after a couple more test flights after all this was configured I am well pleased.


Only 0ne more issue to tackle… that of visibility.  I have some ideas on that and I’ll post on that soon.  Happy hovering!

My Second Quad – The Blade Nano QX. First Impressions

Two months or so after first picking up the ProtoX, I was in my local hobby shop. I was just perusing through the latest toys and thinking how I really liked the looks of the new Platinum series Super Cub from E-Flight… but decided to wait on that for a while. I already have plenty of unfinished projects in the shop. As I continued browsing I came to the section where all the quads were displayed. I started thinking of what I wished my ProtoX could do… Binding to a “real” radio, better stability, maybe just a bit bigger to make it more visible… and not too expensive.

After looking over the options I realized the Blade Nano QX might be a lot closer to what I really wanted… and for only $65 or so plus a couple spare batteries… This thing looks great… I should get one. I deserve one. I was reaching for my wallet when I remembered. I was just looking!! I tore myself away just in time and roared out of the parking lot with my money intact… Whew… that was close.

24 hours later I was walking out of the hobby store with my new Blade Nano QX… I was already thinking about how i could program my DX18 to make this thing smooth. Hey, I’m only human!!

Here are the most important parts arrayed on the table…

2014-11-18 20.30.22


To buy your own from Amazon click here –>BLADE Nano QX BNF Quadcopter

In addition to the additional props, extra canopy and grommets (shown above) there is a USB charger for the included 150mah 25C single cell LiPo.

So I’ve only got a few flights but here’s what I’m thinking so far.

First of all the Nano QX can fly in one of two modes, Stability or Agility.  Stability mode utilizes the built in SAFE (Sensor Arrested Flight Envelope) system to keep the 18g quad from getting to far off level to quickly.  The biggest noticeable effect of this mode is that when you release a directional control, the system seems to feed in opposite control in order to arrest whatever motion was happening.  Add this to the slightly heavier airframe (compared to my ProtoX) and this thing is much easier to keep in a smooth hover.

Switch into the Agility mode and “wow” does everything change.  No more automatically stabilizing the Nano when you release the controls.  If you push in some “aileron” and then release… the Nano just keeps on moving.  You now have to push in some opposite control to get things back to level.  It’s very easy to get into oscillations… trailing behind the flight and over-correcting.  It can quickly become a problem if you don’t switch back to Stability mode!  This is no fault of the Nano of course, just my inexperience with the little quad showing through.

Flight times seem to run about 5:30 to 6:00 minutes before she powers down and forces a landing.  The on board LED is used to let you know this is occurring as well as signaling the two modes, for binding, etc…  It is not particularly useful for orientation.  For that you will have to rely on the canopy coloring and shape along with the color of the 4 props.

I have been flying the Nano QX with the setup of my DX18 configured exactly per the manual for the first flights but I now have some ideas about additional programming I intend to add.  I’ll cover that in another posting soon.

Overall I am very happy with the QX so far.  It looks like the Stability mode is doing a very nice job and the overall flight characteristics in this mode are very encouraging.  Having the advantage of full capability radio (the Nano is a DSMX compatible craft) even doing just the very basic functionality allows for much smoother control of the QX.

I’m already seeing that the biggest disadvantage of the QX is the lack of “navigation” lighting.  This means that when moving quickly or when the airframe gets off at a distance, orientation becomes a challenge.  I’ll have to look into ways to address that eventually.  I’m also going to start with some additional programming to help tame the Agility mode.

Otherwise, my initial impressions are that this is a big step forward compared to the ProtoX.  I’m looking forward to getting in some more flying and learning a bit more from the Nano QX.

My Introduction to Quads… The ProtoX

Recently at a charity event I was looking for a way to contribute a few dollars to the “Toys for Tots” when I noticed a tiny little quad on the auction block.  I really was just looking to either contribute some money or drive someone else into giving a bit more to the charity but ended up owning a brand new Proto X.  Since that event, I’ve been doing a little flying with this little nano-sized quad and having some fun with it.

This is a big departure for me in some folks eyes because I am an unabashed… helicopter basher I guess is the phrase.  Much of it is in fun, I have every respect for a good pilot regardless of what he flies.  It’s just that I have very little interest in helicopters, especially when flown 3D style.  They seem to me the epitome of what I dislike about 3D flying of all types.  No grace or beauty… just smashing the sticks and overcoming gravity with pure power.  Sure, I know lots of folks love that kind of thing… I’m just not one of them.  15 minutes of watching “3D” flying or helicopters flying in a “non-scale” manner has me itching to do something more interesting.  Watching a glider “defying gravity” or any aircraft flying a well flown scale sequence is much more inviting and awe inspiring to me.  I know I’m in the minority, but that’s OK with me.

I still have little interest in helicopters in general but the new breed of quad and other multi-rotor platforms are fascinating.  With the development of stabilization systems and superior battery technology these things now have some unique capabilities.

The quad I picked up is the Proto X Nano-Sized, Ready-to-Fly.  The Proto comes with most of what you will need to fly.  A couple AAA batteries inserted into the also-Nano-sized transmitter and a quick charge at the nearest USB port and you are ready to go.



You can buy your own Proto X at amazon by clicking here –> Estes 4606 Proto X Nano R/C Quadcopter

Above is most of what comes in the box… note that you get a spare set of props.  The wall wart USB charger is NOT part of the package.  I quickly added it to the box so I’d always be able to charge the on board battery if I could find an AC outlet.

Here is my experience with the little quad so far.

First, the good.  This little flier is tough.  Running it into furniture, ceiling fans (off), walls, etc… has resulted in almost no damage.  I have always tried to drop power whenever a collision is imminent, and I believe that helps.  Occasionally a blade will pop off… or two… but as long as you can figure out which motor they came off of (they are coded by letter, blade A to motor A and B to B and you will be fine) it is usually just a matter of press fitting them back in place and you are ready again.  In theory you want one color of blade in front and a different color in back but once they start spinning neither are highly visible.  There are 8 LEDs on the Proto (Blue in the front) and these serve to keep directional orientation much better than the colored props ever will as well as warning of low voltage (blinking with ~30 seconds left before power loss forces a landing).  These make a huge difference in keeping orientation… a real concern for such a small quad.  It also has plenty of power and seems to fly for a nice long 5 minutes on a charge.  I’ve never timed it but it seems like 15-30 minutes will have it recharged and ready to go again.  Here’s a shot of the LEDs doing what they do.


The range of the radio seems to be more than sufficient… I haven’t been able to get far enough away to lose radio link.    The Proto is to small to fly more than about 50 feet away anyway!  I have read on-line that the battery in the Proto was not meant to be replaced but upon taking off the canopy, I found the battery simply taped in place with an easily removed connector and batteries order-able on line from several sources.  I presume earlier models did not have this options so Kudos to Estes/HobbiCo for getting it right!


Above is what it looks like minus the canopy.  As you can see the battery is easily replaceable.

Another big hit is the price… at $40 (and even $30 in some places) the value at the price seems quite good.

Now for the bad.  The included controller for the Proto is more toy than RC hobby grade.  For my big hands it is difficult to find a comfortable position to hold the controller.  The trim buttons only exist for the right stick and are oddly placed.  Finally, the on off switch has “ON” to the left… OK, I realize that may not be universal but it seems like 90% of everything in the world is up or right = on.  Here is what it looks like.


I understand there is a better controller available out there that will mate up with the Proto and also enable some additional functionality but that is not what comes with the Proto, and I don’t think I really want to double down on my investment.  I find the included controller very distracting/difficult to master.  The sticks are just very toy like/very short sticks and not comfortable to my feel.  Granted, I’m spoiled with my DX-8 and especially the DX-18.  I’d love to try flying this with a real RC radio but sadly just about every manufacturer these days is incompatible with every other.

Continuing on, here are my general impressions of the Proto.  I think the Proto is a fun little quad.  I don’t know if it’s possible to make such a small and light quad any more stable but I find it to be quite difficult to get the Proto to hover in place or really fly in a truly straight line.  It always wants to twist or drift one way or the other.  I can herd it in the direction I want it to go and maneuver around obstacles but you have to be constantly correcting to do it and forget getting it trimmed to hover “hands off” and hold position.  If that’s possible I haven’t figure it out yet.  Add to that the understandable tendency of a craft this small to get pushed around by literally any air movement and stability is not really in its ballpark.

In spite of that, I enjoy flying the Proto.  Hopefully, I can still learn some directional awareness the way you can learn control reversals for a fixed wing by flying on your simulator.  Fixed wing craft don’t do much flying tail first as a rotary craft can, so that is probably a useful skill to work on.  Otherwise the small controller and stability issues will probably limit my learning much I can apply to larger quads.  That’s not to say I won’t keep flying it for a while.  It’s still a lot of fun.  Just more toy than RC fun in my estimation.  For $30 it would be hard to find anything better.  This is the definition of a beginners quad.

Pick one up if you want some basic flying fun in the living room.  Just make sure you turn off the ceiling fan! 🙂


Parkzone Mini Vapor – lesser relation to the Night Vapor


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


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


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.

Parkzone UMS Sbach 342 3D


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.