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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MXS EXP__200 Flights of Extreme Toughness

I was way too comfortable flying my Extra EXPs. Putting "Old Blue" into the ground was a severe, confidence shattering jolt. I needed to get back flying something badass, and flying it really hard, which meant the oldest, most beat up plane in the fleet. I started flying my old, reliable MXS again. It was only a few flights short of 200, though still in remarkably good shape...nearly perfect, actually. This plane has seen me though a lot..... I was actually flying this plane when I had my heart attack in November, and by that I mean it was in the air at the time it happened!

So, it is hardly surprising that I bonded with this airplane so quickly.

Extreme Flight MXS__200 Flights from Doc Austin on Vimeo.

Extreme Toughness
The MXS has had a few mishaps. Once I caught the fiberglass wingtip in a high speed KE pass and ripped it off. That busted the SFG up pretty good too, not to mention I was very lucky that I didn't completely destroy the entire airplane. I managed to shoot some CA through the covering and into the balsa breaks with a small hypo, tightened it all back up with a trim iron, and it's like nothing ever happened to it,  

I also hit the LVC, stalled and downwind, naturally, and that broke a gear leg and scuffed up the bottom of the cowling. It was a big impact, and on most planes it would have ripped the bottom out, but the G10 composite landing gear block didn't even blink. I just had to replace the gear leg set and we were back flying again.

Oh, and once she fell over out of a hover and landed on her canopy......and didn't even get a scuff. I mean, I didn't even have to wipe it off.  Thanks, Extreme Flight, for using quality materials.

So, it spite of some harsh and sometimes unlucky treatment, plus over 200 solid thrashings, the MXS is still like a new plane.  I attribute a lot of that to the extensive use of carbon and G10 in critical areas. For example, even though I piledrove my Extra EXP into the ground straight onto the spinner, the G10 reinforcing kept the motorbox together. Having blown a few motorboxes out of other brands, I found it astonishing  you could hit it that hard and not hurt it.

I also think the geodetic construction in the tail has saved it a few times too. I have banged the rudder really hard several times in low level walls, bad harrier landings, etc, and outside of peeling the covering back a bit you can't even tell. On other planes I have busted the rudder up really good like this.

One of the most vunerable points of every 3D style plane I have ever owned are the elevator counter balances. When you pull up elevator and drag them in the grass (or otherwise catch them on the ground), you can peel them right off. It you are really unlucky it will shred the whole thing. I caught a counterbalance with the MXS once and broke it loose at the front, but because of the geodetic construction, the damage was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. It just broke the leading edge of the elevator where it met the counterbalance, and one of the glue joints for a diagonal stringer.  I just pushed everything back into place and hit it with thin CA and then put a small patch of covering over the repair. One really sweet thing about the geodetic construction is that there was not a huge open area to recover. I just sealed it down over the stringers and the repaired covering is a very small area, which makes it a lot less noticable. I am generally leery of  repairing any elevator, but this came out so solid that I am not worried about it, and it's held up for 50 flights or so.

Most Excellent Covering
Something else I noticed is how well the covering has held up. I sort got used to having most of my maintainence be tightening up wrinkles and bubbles, and sealing edges, but not on these planes. There doesn't seem to be any sort of inconsistancy in quality, sheen or how well the covering stays tight. I will usually have to do a little work on covering when I take the plane out of the box, but then it is just a matter of tightening a few things up only every so often.

Apparently Extreme Flight uses qenuine Oracover (Ultrakote) every single time. Lots of manufacturers will save a few dollars by going with cheapie imitation stuff, commonly called "Chinakote," but that just doesn't hold up nearly as well. Because I am so obsessive about how my planes look, I really, really appreciate that it takes so little work to maintain their awesome appearance.

Killa Hardware
Also making my Extreme Flight planes durable and reliable is the excellent hardware package. The ball links, pushrods, wheels, axles, etc, are all well proven pieces, but the tailwheel assembly is a brand new deal. Initially I was skeptical because I was used to doing it another way, but these tailwheel assemblies have been bulletproof and maintinence free.....and you can't ask for anything more than that.

The tailwheel is just another small example of the engineering excellence seen throughout the EXP series. First, being critical to save weight in the tail, there could be no other choice but carbon for the mount. You will never break this piece. Also notice the coil in the tailwheel wire is designed to asorb shock instead of transferring it to the airframe, and it also makes the tail sit higher off the ground. In a big tail-first impact (such as doing a wall too low, or dropping into a hard harrier landing), the tailwheel is more likely to hit first and the coil in the wire absorb the impact instead of transferring it to the rudder or airframe.

Oh, you can hit the rudder, and I have, but more often the tailwheel takes the abuse, which is fine because it is easy to replace. Usually by now I have ripped a tailwheel out or broken the wire from fatigue, but the Extreme Flight unit has been more durable than I could have imagined. When the time comes, if ever, to replace a tailwheel unit, it will just be a matter of removing three screws instead of digging a wire out of the rudder and then expoxying a new one in.  It's quick and it's clean.

OK, the tailwheel assembly is just a small part of the entire airframe, but it's an example of the planes being designed by someone who flies them every day and wanted to do away with aggrivating little problems that can shorten flying sessions. The Extreme Flight assembly is simple and durable, and if you do ever have to replace it at the field, it would only take a matter of seconds.

Again, a small example of how these planes are engineered, but if you take the time to look inside the planes you can see that every square inch has been thought out just as carefully as the tailwheel assembly was.

Of course, using genuine Oracover, thicker canopy marerial, carbon rods,  G10 composite reinforcing makes and high quality hardware can make for a more expensive airplane, but Extreme Flight planes are priced very competitively, and in fact, sometimes a little bit less expensive. However, the Extreme Flight planes are so well built and engineered, and they hold up so well that they would be worth it even if they were more expensive.

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