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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Extreme Flight EXPs for Real Flight



One of my little side hobbies is making planes for the Real flight G3.5 simulator. Most of them are Extreme Flight EXP planes, and you can find them here:



Extreme Flight Edge 540T EXP__4s Video Showcase


Oddly enough, this is part three of our 48" Edge 540T EXP report. We just had a little trouble with the camera and that is what delayed our video coverage.

Notable differences from my 3s Edge is a Hi Tech HS85MG servo on the elevator, and also the new 6 volt Airboss 45 ESC. The 85MG has more torque and is a more robust servo, and when you add in the 6 volts supplied by the Airboss, you have absolute control authority. As you can see in the parachute and wall maneuvers, there is no stalling or blow back of the elevator servo. When I pull the elevator, it goes and it stays where I put it.

This actually took a little bit of adjusting to because this Edge has much better pitch authority than I was led to believe by my previous Edge. The HS65MG I had on the elevator of that plane was stalling, blowing back, and really crippling the airplane, though at the time I was otherwise enjoying it so much I didn't realize that I wasn't nearly tapping the plane's potential.

But now, I think we are getting a little closer........






UTTER RED ROCKS!



Coupled with the EXP's huge elevator and 90 degrees of movement, pitch maneuvers are nearly off the scale. Parachutes feature a satisfying "pop," and wall maneuvers truly are like the airplane has run into a solid wall, less the carnage, of course. I had to be a little careful in the beginning not to pull the airplane completely over on her back! When you pull the stick, the Edge responds.

Doing waterfalls with this plane are just plain easy. With all that elevator authority you can blow the tail right over the nose with about half throttle, though full throttle makes it whip around so quickly that you have to learn how to catch it exactly where you want it. This isn't a bad thing. It is easier to learn to deal with the extra authority than it is to hustle a less responsive plane. I've almost got the waterfall into a hover figured out, though I need to get it down on the deck a bit more.

I am still experimenting with tumbles. Past EXP experience shows these planes are about as bulletproof as they can be made, but now the Edge is capable of so much violence that I want to work up to really rowdy stuff like full throttle blenders a bit at a time. I've blown up a few lesser brand planes like this, and that can leave you a little paranoid.






I am still not afraid to throw the Edge into a full throttle tumble, though. As you can see in the video, she will turn herself right inside out on a dime when you hit it right.  Conversely, simply centering the controls makes her stop almost dead in her tracks. This works extremely well because if you are going to do low level violent stuff you  don't want the plane going off in a direction you weren't expecting. Controlling a good tumble and flying out of it is like calling your shot in billiards and then hitting it. Slop doesn't count in billiards and it doesn't count in precision extreme aerobatics, which is mostly enforced by the ground.

These things are much easier with the extra grunt afforded by the Thunder Power 4s 2700 30C Pro Power batteries. My examples have been charged fast, run hard and generally taxed almost to the point of abuse, yet they still deliver a charge of 16.82 or so and stay balanced almost every time. I only have four of these packs, so they have really had the cycles run through them in every single EXP I have ever owned. I am estimating they are well over 200 cycles each, but they are still very strong batteries. 


Still, we need to be flying what is current so we can keep our readers informed. With the new G4 Pro Powers on the market, we'll be hammering on some of those and reporting back.




NAIL
The Edge reveals a little more about herself every time we go out together. Of course, like any other plane, you have to learn her intricacies, but those came faster with the Edge than any other plane I can remember. None of her intricacies are bad, however. It is just things like hitting the timing perfect on a tumble, or getting the right amount of power down on a flat spin.

This has not at all been a difficult plane, except for maybe I have liked it too much and held back as a result. If anything, it has been the biggest joy to fly of any plane I can remember. By starting with a brand new concept in the EXP, flying on 3s and moving to 4s, it has been a valuable and rewarding learning experience. This plane has taught me a lot...... a whole lot.

I really, really loved my first Edge EXP, right up until I got killed flying it too stupid. If you fly that hard and then switch to something so completely extreme as an EXP, you have to expect a little of that is going to happen. I'm just really glad I have a well trimmed example, plus another under construction.

This is probably going to be my front line show off plane.


Extreme Flight Edge 540T EXP__The 4s Report


 


Well, here's another report that is going to be just a little bit different. In our last report, EXTREME FLIGHT Edge 540T EXP__The 3s Report , we ran so long that I had to split it up into a 3s report, and this 4s report, with set up and equipment information. I guess I got so carried away gushing about how well the Edge 540T EXP flies that there was no room for the other info.

And thusly, this is the 4s report. Ken is on a Caribbean cruise with his lovely wife, so we are two weeks away from having video, but for now, we've flown the plane and can report our findings.  After the flying section, there is set up info and photos.



FLYING

EXP series planes were designed to be flown primarily on 4s batteries. Some guys don't like that much power, so the EXPs were designed to fly just as well on 3s, though they do fly differently. Pick your batteries based off the flight characteristics you are after.

For example, I love the Extra EXP being gentle and easy to fly on 3s, so I fly my blue one that way. But I also love the Extra to be fast and bad ass, so I built a red one to fly on 4s! The MXS, being it's own dog, is bad ass all the time, so it gets nothing but 4s all the time.

But, you get the idea: 3s is for relaxing run and easy 3D, while 4s is just for being badass.



While I immensely enjoyed my Edge 540T on 3s, I learned from the Extra 300 and MXS how 4s packs makes the EXP series planes come alive. Additional power does virtually the same things to all the EXP planes, so I am going to say much the same things as I did on the MXS 4s report.

Most obvious is blistering top end speed, but that works to make the Edge easier to fly because it locks itself hard into a solid groove.  Almost all planes groove better at higher speeds, but the the massive throws and rearward CG you put on a 3D plane definitely works against smooth high speed flight. Part of where the EXP series shines is high speed smoothness and stability in spite of running a full tilt 3D set up. Most of the time I don't even bother with my rate switch when I move from 3D into a precision sequence. The EXPs are so smooth and solid that you can do precision on high rates. Since the EXPs are so stable, precise and groovy anyway, making these traits even more prevalent with 4s is a good thing.

For me it is hard to get used to a plane doing such excellent 3D, and then having no skittishness at high speeds. It's too good to be true, so at first it is a little spooky. It's so good that it must be a trap, and you are waiting for it to bite you ... but it never does.

At speed the EXP's are very much like the old AMA pattern planes that we used to fly at full tilt speed through all our maneuvers. They get up to speed and they don't want to change direction, as if they are flying on a giant, invisible rail. We like to say the airplane grooves, as if it is flying in a groove, and we like to say "locked in," and these terms very much apply to how the EXPs fly at higher speeds on 4s power. They are even pretty locked in on 3s too, but 4s puts them in another world. I have flown some planes that are pretty good at both ends of the speed spectrum, but the EXPs, to me, seem to be the best at both ends.


While the Edge powers out of a hover respectably with 3s, there is a definite rush to blasting out with devastating 4s authority. When you hammer the throttle it is almost like lighting off a D series Estes rocket. This kind of power is a little harder to handle in harrier and hover, but the flip side is that if you get it wrong, you have plenty of grunt to bail you out.

Finally, one of the big rushes of 4s power for me is the instant blinding acceleration. Part of the beauty of extreme aerobatics is the ballet of speed extremes, and the violence, suddenness and surprise with which you can go back and forth. For awhile we have been using hard rotation maneuvers to quickly dissipate speed and energy, but with Torque motors and newer higher discharge batteries, we are getting that speed back nearly as shockingly.

That, and a bad ass airplane is just plain fun.

SET UP

Having already built one Edge 540T EXP, two Extra EXPs, and two MXS EXPs, this plane didn't have any surprises for me. Every brand has it's own peculiar way of doing things, but I'll admit the EXP series is extremely similar to what I was used to from before. A lot of things are done the same way, and I believe even some of the hardware are the exact same pieces. This is good because it's all top of the line stuff.

Ailerons
The aileron linkage couldn't be any easier. Screw the ball links on both ends of the push rods and then bolt the ball links to the control horn and servo arm. I always use Dubro 2mm hardened allen bolts simply because I like the way they look.


In the only complication of the entire build, I had to snip approximately 1/16" off one end of each aileron push rod because they were too long. I like this because it means the threads are buried so deep into the ball links that it would be almost impossible for them to pull out.

By using the long single arm that comes with the HS65MG servo and cranking the end points on my transmitter, this is just the perfect amount of aileron for my flying style. This is the same on all three EXP series designs. I like them all set up exactly this way.

Elevator
One place we deviated from the manual on this build was using an HS85MG servo on the elevator. I was getting blow back and stalling on my first 48" Edge EXP. I believe airframe performance has increased to the point that in some cases the HS65MG servo is marginal. With the EXP series' huge elevators and big movements, we need a little more torque.

Since the 85MG is specified and works so well on the MXS, we decided to try that on my Extra EXPs. The HS85MG has worked out so well on all of those planes that I knew it was the right way to go on the Edge 540T as well.

We only had to trim the servo opening a little bit, but it was worth it because this is a big upgrade. One thing to be careful of is to remember the push rod is set up to be the right length for an HS65MG servo. If you just cut the servo opening forward, the whole servo is going to move forward, and with it, the servo arm. Then your push rod will be too short. I made this mistake on my first Extra EXP, and since, I have made sure I mark where the servo output shaft sits when I put an HS65 in the servo opening (fore/aft wise), and then I cut the opening so the servo output shaft on the HS85MG sits in the same place.

Another thing to be careful of if you choose to go with the 85MG servo, check the servo arm clearance to the stabilizer before you drill the holes. You may have to drop the servo down a bit so it doesn't hit. Ours fit, but it was close.

The HS85MG is only a slightly bigger servo, but it has got a lot more torque and will not stall on this plane. The HS85MG simply refuses to take no for an answer, and you get instant, full deflection even in moves like full throttle walls and terminal velocity parachutes. With the 85MGs greater torque, you will be able to get the most out of the Edge's outrageous elevator authority.

Again, ball links on both ends of the push rod gives you a nice, tight connection that is free of slop, but with smooth, drag free operation. First class set up.

Rudder
Dual Ball links on the rudder linkage gives a nice, smooth action and full travel, with excellent centering. As you can see, I got away with using the standard arm that comes with the servos.


Like this I didn't get a chance to try Extreme Flights' most excellent G10 servo arm extensions. I was a bit disappointed because they are simple, functional, well engineered and well made pieces. I always like to use stuff like that. I used one on my new MXS rudder servo, and it works perfectly and looks awesome.

Here is a close look at Extreme Flight's exclusive G10 servo arm extension. I used Durbo self tapping button head screws to attach the extension to the standard Hi Tech arm and then ran a bead of thin CA all the way around the arm to lock it down really tight. The kit comes with two of these, one for rudder and the other for elevator. These arms give you as much throw as you'll need to make the Edge stand up and bark.


As of this writing I am satisfied enough with the rudder response. The Edge 540T can do full throttle knife edge loops without needing full deflection, so I don't think I need any more. Initially I was worried about blow back simply because the rudder is so large, but I have a secret weapon in the new Airboss 45 ESC that now runs the servos on 6 volts. The little 65MGs scream their guts out on this much voltage and torque is much improved. I need a little more time to fly the plane and see what we have, but as of right now I don't see a need to change the rudder servo out for an 85MG.

Radio Installation
I really like the way the radio compartment is laid out in the EXP series, simply because it's easy to get a clean install. I put the receiver where the manual says, run the wires up through the slots cut in the tray, and always comes out perfect. Also notice how the braces on the formers make a nice little place to run the servo extension wires through. This keeps the wires from flailing around and beating themselves to death.

There is no scientific proof that a neat and tidy installation makes a plane fly better, but I sure feel better about it when the install comes out this clean.



Power System

Torque 2814
Using the Extreme Flight power system with Torque 2814 motor and Airboss 45 ESC makes for a clean installation. All EXP series aircraft are designed for use with Torque motors. The firewalls come pre drilled with blind nuts pre installed so the Torques bolt right no with no fuss. The cowlings also line right up perfect with these motors.


While the fact the planes were designed for these motors is reason enough to use Torques, you will also not find a smoother, more reliable power plant. We have been flying Torques exclusively for four years and they have been golden. I fly them extremely hard and they take the abuse with no problem. Some of my Torques are the original units I bought four years ago, but I swap them around so much I have lost track. Not that it matters....I'll put any Torque I own into a brand new plane and never give it a second thought.

Airboss 45 Elite ESC
We have a new secret weapon in the latest Airboss 45ESC. A while back Extreme Flight reprogrammed the Airboss to operate on 6 volts, meaning that's how much voltage is going to the servos. Before, the servos were getting approximately 5.22 volt, but bumped up to 6V, all the servos absolutely scream.

I have been saying for a while that airframe performance has made so many quantum leaps that the original HS65MG servo is getting close to being marginal. In addition to blowing back elevator servos in parachutes and such, high speed roll rate would suffer, and KE loops were dicey because of rudder servo stalling. Bumping the Airboss' voltage up to 6v has cured this problem.

Before, my KE loops were always a bit lame because I had no faith on the downside. In retrospect, I was stalling the rudder servo, and like that you can never be sure how much control you have. Now, with the 6V Airboss, my KE loops are round and low to the ground. My whole KE game has gotten better because I have a new found faith and control, due to the new Airboss.

Adding to the airboss' legendary "plug it in and fly" simplicity, it now comes with a Deans plug already installed! Truly, you just plug it in, put the cowling on and forget about it until the airplane is worn out. Then you just move it to a new plane and start over!

The Airboss 45 will run on 3, 4, and 5s battery packs, and it does it automatically. The Airboss auto detect feature knows how many cells your are running and adjusts the low voltage cut off accordingly.

Unchanged is Airboss legendary reliability. I have been torturing my new Airboss units without giving it a second thought. These are the only units we run on our 48" class planes. I also run these on my 40" class planes, because even little planes need reliability.

I am not sure how to tell the new 6 volt Airboss from older units outside of the wires for the switch are longer. This is presumably so you can mount them on the bottom of the EXP series plane's motor box (as called for in the manual) and still use the pre cut switch hole in the fuselage side.





EXTREME FLIGHT Edge 540T EXP__The 3s Report

This report is going to be a little different from previous ones in that I have already owned the plane, wrecked it due to bad luck (stupid flying), and am waiting for another one to be delivered! I flew my first Extreme Flight Edge 540T EXP on 3s power and it was smooth, easy but agile, precise, and awesome. It was incredibly nice all the way around and it encouraged me to try the rest of the EXP line up.

This report will be about flying the Edge on 3s, and when I get my new one built, we will come back and report on 4s flying and how we set the aircraft up, complete with set up photos.


Hard on the heels of Extreme Flight's ground breaking 48" Extra 300 EXP comes the Edge 540T EXP. The EXP series is full of design and build innovation. Much of this is covered in our Extreme Flight Extra 300 EXP_Clean Sheet  report.

Since the flying is the most important part of any report, let's just dive right in. Sections on set up and equipment will follow in our next Edge 540T EXP report.

Flying

General
What I have always loved most about the Edge 540 is how comfortably it allows you to fly extreme Kamikaze 3D with total confidence. This was enough for me, but now the Edge 540T EXP blows the envelope wide open by doing very nice precision work as well. This is where my previous Edges fell a little short, but remember we are now dealing with an EXP series plane.

The EXP series fly differently. They are very, very stable airplanes with long tail moments, huge stabilizers, and tall fuselages with a wide, flat bottom. Add to that the huge, stability inducing side force generators (SFG) and you've got a plane that flies very smoothly and locked in. The EXPs go and stay exactly where you put them. Then, when you do want them to turn, roll, yaw or snap hard, the EXPs have huge control surfaces with lots of movement to give you great control authority. Not only does the stability keep you out of trouble, but you can push the airplane extremely hard and it will never lose it's composure. At first, I had to force myself to fly these airplanes that hard, because the stability had me refusing to believe they could also be so agile, but they are.

The Edge does conventional aerobatics with ridiculous ease. It will roll, loop, snap, spin, and do basic maneuvers with as much ease as nearly any sport plane, but the real surprise comes with KE, point rolls, and other precision maneuvers. The entire EXP series really shines here, and much of this has to be due to Extreme Flight's excellent pedigree in IMAC and precision competition.


You end up with a plane that is smooth and stable enough for precision pattern and IMAC work, yet still agile enough to do every 3D move in the book. All the EXP series airframes are so smooth that I generally leave my rates on high and even do my precision maneuvers this way.

The outstanding feature of the Edge 540T design is the straight leading edge (LE) of it's wing. This goes a long way to eliminating wing tip stall, and in dampening wing rock in harrier and elevator maneuvers. The straight LE also helps keep the wings level in high rotation maneuvers such as walls and parachutes. This has always made the Edge design a 3D favorite, though the EXP goes to another level. Of all the planes I have flown, the Edge is the most solid in harrier, and in elevators.

The Edge and the rest of the EXP series track like arrows, but are as agile as anything I have ever flown. They are the best of both worlds.



Harrier
All the EXP series planes harrier exceptionally well. The Edge is just the best one of them for this. Using a conventional set up of 50 degrees of elevator travel, they are all pretty similar, though the Edge 540T has zero wing rock at all times no matter how sloppy you get with it. All of them are absolutely excellent, but the Edge 540T has the.....uhhhh, edge here.

First, as noted before, the straight LE of the wing makes for an exceptionally stable platform that doesn't tip stall and won't rock. The pilot can still induce a bit of rock if his form is sloppy enough, but the big side force generators (SFG) kill that almost instantly. The stability in harrier with the Edge 540T is almost obscene. The plane is a joy to just drag around with the nose way up in the air, and she will turn very hard like this on the rudder. This just makes it so much easier that doing extreme 3D with the Edge 540T EXP is almost like cheating.

Pitch Maneuvers
Also, in super hard pitch rotations such as in walls and parachutes, you know the Edge wings will go where you point them. You can do high intensity, low level parachutes at ridiculously low altitudes, simply because after one of two of them, you have that kind of confidence in the airplane. You can go lower and lower knowing she will pop to flat with her wings level every time. At some point, though, that's low enough, though I have actually popped a parachute and rode it into a perfect 3 point landing with this plane.

It's the same thing with wall maneuvers. You know you can hammer the stick back and the plane will rotate with the wings level until you let go. Again, the straight LE keeps the wings where you want them, so the Edge won't fall off to one side or roll where you don't want it to go. The last thing you want is to drop a wing towards the pits when you pull the nose to straight vertical and dead stall the plane right on the deck, which is why you don't want to try that unless you have a plane that gives you the kind of confidence the Edge does.

With all the EXP series planes, the tail will whip hard around the wing tube in a waterfall maneuver. The Edge though, takes a little less rudder correction and tracks through it straighter. The waterfall just seems to be easier with this plane.



KE Spin
Knife edge spins with the Edge 540T EXP are criminally easy. You simply put in full left rudder, full down elevator, full throttle and 1/8 left aileron. The Edge 540T EXP just falls into a beautiful KE spin with the tail just snapping over and over and the Torque 2814 screaming it's guts out. You can manipulate the throttle from there, but it seems at about half power you get an absolutely tortured growl out of the prop that makes it sound like the whole airplane is coming apart!

The best part is, provided your CG is close, that you can enter the KE spin from just about any attitude or speed and the plane doesn't care. Like this you can turn a conventional spin into a KE one, or enter from a stall turn, outside loop or ever from upright level flight. With some entries it will wallow about a bit first, but it always goes in if you just leave the sticks there.

I like to enter from the top of an outside loop because it flows right in. It looks like an outside loop, only you surprise onlookers by dropping it right in as she comes over the top. Since the transition is so seamless and there is no waiting, I can enter a KE spin at a pretty low level, get a couple of rotations and fly away right on the deck. The Edge comes out of the KE spin just as soon as you release the sticks, so you can get low pretty confidently.

I like to go to full power right before I know I am coming out. This gives me a lot of airflow over the controls, because remember, the wing is absolutely dead stalled and has no forward momentum at this point. When I want the plane to stop rotating, I release the controls and still hold just a smidge of down elevator....... and she will fly out inverted. You are holding down elevator anyway, and to me it looks smoother to fly her out on her back. The trick is to release the controls when she is pointed the direction you want her to fly out in, but that is just a timing thing you have to work on, and I still mess it up more often than I would like.


Knife Edge Flight
The EXP series features huge SFGs which add lift and stability in KE. Actually, I think they add stability all the way around, and I like to use them on all my planes.

Since I started flying the EXP series my KE game has evolved. I almost never used to fly any KE, simply because I wasn't any good at it. Lots of planes squirm around, act unstable and all in KE, not to mention they don't fly in a straight line like this. With the added stability of EXP sized SFGs, and the EXP's tall fuselage sides, these airframes ae much more stable, and have much more lift when flying on their side. When you add to that the EXPs are very nearly KE coupling free, you can see how much confidence you can get out of a plane that flies KE in stable, straight line.

Edge 540T EXP VRS The Extra 300 And MXS EXP
I fly each of these planes to their strengths. While the three of them are very similar in the way they fly, each has areas where it is stronger than the others. If I feel like working on being smooth and precise, the Extra is the best plane for that. If I want to fly wild, unrestrained, off-the-hook 3D, the Edge is the best choice for that day.

The Edge does give up a little to the Extra's double tapered wing in rolling precision, but most of us aren't good enough for that to be a big issue. The high alpha stability you gain with the Edge's straight LE, especially in harrier and hard rotation moves, is a fair exchange.

While the Extra might seem to be a little more stable than the Edge, I think this is an illusion created by the Edge's greater agility and the Extra's more refined precision manners. The Extra is definitely easier to fly, though for hardcore 3D, it also isn't quite as capable as the Edge.

The Extra is a little better when you mix precision with your 3D, but the Edge is better for hardcore 3D. However, you can still flip to low rates and the Edge 540T does excellent, smooth and precise IMAC work. She is great all the way around, though tailored a bit more for hardcore 3D than the Extra.

As compared to the MXS, that one seems to be right in the middle of the other two. The MXS is sort of it's own dog, and flies a bit differently. I think the MXS is probably a bit of the best of both the Extra and Edge, and it is very nicely balanced to do 3D and precision with equal ease and grace.

Flying The Edge On 3s
My original Edge flew on nothing but 3s and I loved it that way. It was nice and floaty, and super easy to fly. I sort of like moderate power systems anyway because it is so much easier and less stressful to fly them that way. It is also easier to be precise when you aren't spending the whole time hanging on to it!

The previous two videos of my original Edge were flown on on 3s packs. You can see how smooth and easy she is like this. Not quite as graceful as the Extra, but still damm smooth for a plane that does monster 3D so well.

THE FINAL NAIL

Of the current three EXP series airframes, I had not intended to do the Edge 540T report last. It just sort of worked out that way. I had an Edge from the original first shipment, and it was my favorite plane at the time, but we sort of ran into some bad luck (stupid flying) right as Extreme Flight sold out of Edges and I couldn't get another one right away. So, we sort of had to back burner the report.

This was probably just as well. I would have been content to buy another Edge, and probably wouldn't have discovered what killa planes the Extra 300 EXP and MXS EXP are. I've been flying and loving those, but you can believe it that I was chomping at the bit to get started when UPS dropped off my two new Edge 540 EXPs earlier this week.

Flying With Extreme Elevator Travel
One feature exclusive in this size to the EXP series is the insane available elevator throw. I get about 88 degrees on mine, which, believe me, is enough. Where this comes in handy is for violent pitch rotations, and added elevator authority all the way around. This is simply an insane amount of control surface movement, and you don't need it unless you are going for absolutely extreme, outer limits 3D performance. For most sport 3D pilots, elevator movement of 50 degrees is more than enough.

In walls, parachutes, and extremely hard turns, the Edge remains composed because of it's straight LE. While running a more conventional 50 degrees of elevator movement, the Edge is slightly better in this respect than the other EXP series planes, but when you use the available 90 degrees of travel the Edge truly sets itself apart.

We are going to cheat a little here because I lost most of the photos of my original Edge in a hard drive crash. This is a photo of the elevator travel on my MXS, but the Edge gets every bit as much movement.....


90 degrees of elevator deflection is simply a ridiculous amount of throw. It gives you the kind of pitch authority to absolutely whip the tail over the nose in waterfalls, and nearly throw the tail under the airplane in wall maneuvers.

Parachutes are just plain disturbing because the airplane will rotate to completely horizontal with a satisfying pop, and the whole airframe jolts to a stop and becomes own parachute, floating down gently. You can do high intensity, high speed parachutes at ridiculously low altitudes, simply because after doing one of two of them, you have that kind of confidence in the airplane. You can go lower and lower knowing she will pop to flat with her wings level every time. At some point, though, that's low enough, though I have actually popped a parachute and rode it into a perfect 3 point landing with this plane.
While this kind of control throw will give you insane pitch authority for walls, parachutes and other hard pitch rotation moves, you do have to be more careful in a harrier with all that travel.

Extreme Elevator Travel ... The Downside
On any plane this additional movement will make things a bit trickier. On some it would make the airplane evil or even impossible to fly, but the EXP series are so stable you can get away with it. The only downside I have found is that harrier becomes just a little trickier.

In harrier you are on the ragged edge (so to speak) of a complete stall, flying off the partial lift from the airframe and thrust from the propeller. While the plane is flying around in a mush, with a full 90 degrees of elevator travel you can still rotate the plane hard enough to dump all of the remaining lift pretty quickly. What fools you when you get to critically slow speed is that the rudder and ailerons are nearly ineffective, but you still have enough elevator to pitch the nose past that critical angle of attack and stall the plane completely. It helps to lead with the throttle a little, and after you get the hang of it, you can almost anticipate when you need to apply a blip.

With the Extra and MXS, you have to be smooth at critically slow speeds, or all that throw can bring on the stall so quickly that it can surprise you. Also, in elevator maneuvers, if you use too much elevator movement the plane will yaw off a bit, and then you end up chasing it back and forth with the rudder.

Conversely, the Edge 540T, with the straight leading edge wing, has a stall that is straight, progressive and predictable, so it mushes it's way into it so straight and smoothly that you almost can't make it surprise you. For this reason, I think it is the best EXP airframe for hardcore unlimited 3D antics. You can go ridiculously deep into a stall and the airplane will never do anything evil. No mater how hard you push the Edge, it remains composed and sure footed.

While the Extra and MXS are much easier to harrier on a mid rate of 50 degrees elevator or so, the Edge 540T simply doesn't care nearly as much. I never take mine off high rates and the full 90 degrees of elevator movement. Even with this extreme elevator movement and flying at an extreme angle of attack, there is absolutely no wing rock. The Edge is completely solid all the way around. This doesn't mean you can't stall it or anything, but you won't have to fight it so hard in a harrier because the wings are going to stay level.

The extreme elevator movement does make all the EXPs a little twitchier in a harrier, but it is something you adapt to pretty quickly and learn to fly around. Something else you can do is use a triple rate.....low rate for precision, high rate for 3D (with 50 degrees of elevator) and insane rate (90 degrees elevator) for, uhhhh.....insane 3D.

However, I go back and forth from alpha to high speed and back again so rapidly and so often that I don't have time to be flipping switches, if I even remember, that is. As a result, I have just learned to leave my rates set on kill and live with it. It's not that bad with an EXP because they are so smooth, stable and predictable, even on the highest rate I can put into them. I do all my precision and 3D on one rate, simply because the plane is good enough to let me do it that way.

More Extreme Flight Extra EXP Fun

We shot some Extreme Flight Extra EXP  video in the week after Christmas. I just love flying this plane. It is so sweet and so well balanced on 3s 2700 batteriers that I can fly it comfortably right on the edge all day.


Next time out we hope to shoot some video with my new red Extra EXP, though this will be a dedicated 4s plane. I've put two 4s flights on it so far and it sure is bad ass with all that power.

Frankly, I've got more than enough red airplanes, but the Extra EXP looks so good that just having the blue wasn't enough. Keep checking bad and hopefully we'll have a 4s report soon.



Extreme Flight Extra 300 EXP__Clean Sheet

Greeting to our friends from http://www.rcmania.cz/ who are looking in on this report. Welcome and please check out the other articles here.
 


The original Extreme Flight 45" Extra 300E was a ground breaking airplane. Along with Extreme Flight's 45" Edge 540T, it pioneered the 45" 3D ARF class, and set a new industry standard for quality and performance. Those planes were everywhere, and since they kept selling out, Extreme Flight had to keep on making more while the competition learned from their design and closed the gap.

 Eventually,  the Extra 300E was surpassed by the newer designs. So much has been learned since the original Extra 300E design that it would no longer be enough to update the plane. What was needed was a clean sheet of paper, and that is exactly what Extreme Flight started with for the EXP series.


Knowing how Extreme Flight does things, I was not at all surprised that the EXP series are another step along the line in 3D airframe evolution. The big surprise is how different that are from their predecessors. It is almost like they are something, well....something completely different. Let's be very clear here .... there is nothing left of the old Extra 300E. Everything on this plane is brand spanking new. Extreme Flight threw away everything they had, and replaced it all with something better.

OK, maybe Extreme Flight carried over the wheels, and maybe a bolt, a nut or two, but everything else is a brand new piece that is designed and made better, stronger and lighter than Extreme Flight has ever done it before.


I have also owned the Edge 540T EXP and currently fly an MXS EXP, so I am very familiar with the EXP series and how they are put together.  While this review is about the Extra 300 EXP in particular, much of the innovation we will talk about is specific to the entire EXP lineup.

Since the flying is always the most important part of any review, we'll start with that, and then follow up with an in depth look at the new construction and material innovations that make the EXP such a special series of airplanes.


FLYING


If you read my MXS review you will have seen the word "different" used a lot in the flying section. That's because the MXS series flies differently from what I have been used to, and the Extra, while tamer and more precise, flies in a very similar fashion.

The EXP series is even different visually. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers are  bigger in proportion to the rest of the plane than we are used to seeing, and the control surfaces are enormous. I am guessing Extreme Flight made the EXP series as stable as they possibly could with a huge wing area, big tail surfaces and long tail moment. Lots of stability generally works against agility, but Extreme Flight got that back with huge control surfaces and big degrees of movement.




The Extra wasn't designed to be quite as wild as the MXS, and with a little more stability built in, it is more smooth, precise, and gentle. I find the MXS to be easy enough to fly, but the Extra seems a little friendlier and a bit more forgiving. I'de say the Extra is much better for a newer pilot and the MXS would be the next step. I guess we kind of got out of order here because it would have been better to review the Extra first and then move on to the more advanced MXS. There are just too many good planes in the EXP series to know where to start.

Both airplanes do everything well, so the differences between them are subtle.  I find precision maneuvers to be better with the Extra and wild 3D is better with the MXS, so they are two different planes built for two different purposes. You can fly decent enough IMAC with the MXS, and I have, but the Extra seems just a little better suited for it.





I really enjoy drawing big lines with the Extra, and working on my point and slow rolls. I like flying the Extra as precisely as I can because that's what it likes. Fly the extra smoothly and it will reward you by making you look good.

With a full 88 degrees of elevator deflection, the Extra's pitch authority is startling. We've had a lot of good laughs at how instantly the MXS will go utterly flat in a parachute, and the Extra is nearly as spectacular. The Extra has a slightly longer tail moment, which takes away a little pitch authority, but you get back pitch stability in return. The Extra has enough of both, so it doesn't really give up anything here. For most guys, it is just fine the way it is, whereas the MXS has insane pitch authority that newer pilots simply don't need. Trading away a little insanity to get smooth stability is what makes the Extra a bit better plane for the newer pilot.

One thing I plan to try is a triple rate so I have my precision rate, an insane high rate, and a medium rate with full throws except the elevator cut back to 50 degrees or so. I've found that I get a better harrier if I concentrate on using less elevator stick, so the mid rate could be the ticket for everything except the crazy tumbles, waterfalls, walls, parachutes and such.



Thing is, we have never before had this kind of elevator movement to play with, so it is all going to be a learning process. The planes become more and more capable and the pilots remain the weak link. So much of 3D is about understanding what the plane is doing and why, and with the EXP series that cerebral process is starting for me all over again. This is just part of becoming a better pilot, which I am always working for.
Using the set up in the manual for the ailerons, I've found the roll rate is exactly what I am used to. Because the controls are so big, you have good roll authority all the time, as long as you have a little power blowing air over them. I've found as long as I have enough air going over the plane to hold it up, the ailerons won't stall.

The Extra has a very powerful rudder which makes tight harrier turns a breeze. I'm still working on the Chris Hinson "donut" move, where he spins the plane in a flat  horizontal 360 turn, but I'm not that brave yet. KE coupling is minimal, though I'm running a 3% up elevator to left rudder and 4% up to right rudder mix. I'm still dialing it in, but that's where I ended up with the MXS. That's where I started with the Extra and it is pretty close.

The side force generators (SFG) come into play really big in knife edge flight. The nice thing about these SFGs is they give you enough additional lift to rotate the nose up confidently when you are low to the ground. I've been cutting my KE flight pretty close lately, and I've got to blame these SFGs for making me so confident! When the ground is coming up, you want that rudder to be able pitch the plane up, and the SFGs give you enough extra lift to make that easy.




KE with the Extra is more like conventional flight on it's side than the foreign thing it used to be. I mean, it's still not completely natural for me, but it's much easier with a plane that likes it so much. The SFGs give so much stability and yaw control that I've now got a lot of confidence in KE.

Not only does my field have rolling terrain, but the city is doing so much construction that I have to fly up and over trees, dirt and mulch mounds, and construction equipment. The stuff gets moved around every day, so it's challenging to get a good knife edge game going. The SFGs are so effective and help the rudder so much that I simply fly around the stuff and go up when I need to go up, and dive when I need to dive. I've got enough rudder control, so I am learning to do this.

With the monster SFGs, the Extra's harrier flight is really stable. I didn't get any sort of wing rock, and both elevator maneuvers parachutes are dead solid. Some people will say the jury is out of SFGs, but I completely disagree. They definitely make the plane fly better, and that's all I really care about. Some people don't like the way they look, but the Extra flies fine without them. Leave them off if you want.

The Extra had no nasty surprises for me. It was just smooth, stable and predictable. I know I have said that about a few planes lately, but all the planes from my favorite two manufacturers are getting to be so damm good it's hard to find anything to complain about.

In general, the Extra EXP is great 3D plane, but the part that impresses me the most is it's grace and precision. There are wilder planes out there, but I don't think that's what you want from this plane. While it's wild enough, the Extra is still easy and reassuring to fly. I think the Extra EXP would be an excellent 3D trainer, and with a good sport set up (which we will develop shortly) the Extra would make a great trainer for conventional aerobatics too. No doubt, the Extra is a fantastic go-to plane. 

I'll continue to enjoy this one, but I also want to pick up another one for the closet. This is just one of those planes you never want to be without. Already got a blue. I'm thinking red.


EXP Design and Construction

When the rumors of a new series of Extreme Flight 48" planes began to surface, I tried to hound Chris Hinson for as many details as I could get out of him.  He didn't want to give away too much, but he told me that every single aspect of design, construction and performance was going to be critically examined so as to find a better way of doing things and delivering a better flying plane, a better looking plane, an easier assembling plane and a more rugged airplane.

No big deal, really. We're just going to reinvent the airplane, that's all.

We now know that he was talking about things like geodetic construction and extensive use of composite materials, innovations that have never been seen on planes in this size before. There are also other features such as the control surfaces being designed to deliver a whopping 90 degrees of travel and still maintain a very small hinge line gap.

Let's start at the front and work back.  The firewall and forward part of the motor box is reinforced with Extreme Flight's exclusive G10 composite material. This is very stout stuff that is still very light. It's not quite carbon fiber, but it's very close and not so expensive that the plane becomes unaffordable.


Of course, carbon definitely has it's place, and the firewall is braced with carbon longeron tubes from each corner to the first bulkhead in the fuselage. This makes for an extremely rigid motor box that will not only take a lot of abuse, but will also waste less power by flexing, and instead send it to the propeller where it belongs. I am not sure it is bulletproof, but it certainly looks the part.

A nice touch is that the firewall is pre drilled for Torque motors, but of course. There's no screwing abound with measuring, drilling and installing blind nuts. You just bolt your Torque on and go fly. There are cooling holes cut in the firewall right behind the rear air exits of the Torque motor, so the air goes straight in, and comes straight out with no restriction. I have flown Torque motors in a lot of planes, and they definitely run cooler in the EXP series planes. I'm guessing the way the air flows through the motor, out the back, and unrestricted through the firewall helps this a lot.


Moving back to the battery compartment, under the battery tray is the landing gear mounting block, which is made entirely out of good old G10 composite material. Again, this is strong stuff and I have tested it pretty rigorously on more than one occasion. Lots of 3D airframes fall woefully short on strength in this area, but not the EXP series. I imagine you could probably break the plate out in a big enough impact, but you'de have much bigger problems by then!

In this picture, you can also see the carbon rods that brace the fuselage sides. These run all the way to the tail, so that is a lot of expensive composite material stiffening things up.


Also in the battery compartment, notice the G10 reinforcing around the wing bolt holes, and wing tube mounting brackets. There's lots of stress on these parts, and using G10 to keep it all together is a strong, lightweight solution.


Also, on the MXS, G10 is used in the reinforcement around the holes for the wing anti-rotation pins. This is an area subjected to constant stress, and after enough wear on a material like wood, the holes can wallow out and allow the pins to move around. This lets the wing move around, and then you can forget about having a precise flying plane. Nothing loose on an airframe is good, especially if it's the wings, so using G10 in this critical area keeps the airplane tight and the wings aligned. You'll have a more precise flying plane that stays that way for longer.

Also note the anti rotation pins themselves are carbon rods, so you'll have a hard time wearing these pieces out too. It's expensive to use carbon, but if you restrict it to the areas it will help the most, you greatly improve the rigidity  and durability of the plane without driving costs off the scale.


There are a generous amount of carbon stringers used to brace and strengthen the length of the fuselage. You can clearly see the long carbon rods bracing the turtle deck, and lower are one that braces the fuselage side, and another that acts as as a stringer. These carbon rods run from just behind the  first former all the way to the tail of the aircraft.  These weigh next to nothing, but they definitely stiffen things up, and a stiffer airframe flies more precisely.


Now that we're at the tail, let's look at geodetic construction whole purpose was to make stronger vertical and horizontal stabilizers, and stiffer control surfaces, while saving weight at the same time.

Don't laugh. this is the best picture I could get without ripping the covering off the stab!


Extreme Flight succeeded in this because even with the Extra's long tail movement, the tail is so much lighter that the plane will balance even with relatively lightweight batteries in the nose. So, now we have saved weight in the tail, and in the nose.

The stab, fin, elevators and rudder are built up, but there is minimal sheeting because structurally it isn't needed. The geodetic construction makes the surfaces strong and rigid without the sheeting, thus cutting weight down.

Looking at the elevator and stab, notice the deep hinge line bevels.  This allows you to get a monstrous 90 degrees of elevator travel and still run a tight hinge gap. Normally control surface travel on these smaller planes is limited by the need to keep a small hinge gap, but with the deep bevels, we can now have both.


SET UP
Having built both the Edge 540T EXP and the MXS EXP, the Extra build didn't have any surprises for me. Every brand has it's own peculiar way of doing things, but I'll admit the EXP series is extremely similar to what I am used to. A lot of things are done the same way, and I believe even some of the hardware are the exact same pieces. This is good because it's all top of the line stuff.

Ailerons
The aileron linkage couldn't be any easier. Screw the ball links on both ends of the push rods and then bolt the ball links to the control horn and servo arm. I always use Dubro 2mm hardened allen bolts simply because I like the way they look.


In the only complication of the entire build, I had to snip approximately 1/16" off one end of each aileron push rod because they were too long. I like this because it means the threads are buried so deep into the ball links that it would be almost impossible for them to pull out.

By using the long single arm that comes with the HS65MG servo and cranking the end points on my transmitter, this is just the perfect amount of aileron for my flying style.

Elevator
One place we deviated here was using an HS85MG servo on the elevator. I was getting blow back and stalling on my 48" Edge EXP, and since the 85MG is specified and works so well on the MXS, we decided to try that on the Extra. We only had to trim the servo opening a little bit, but it was worth it because this is a big upgrade. The 85MG simply refuses to take no for an answer, and you get instant full deflection even in moves like full throttle walls and terminal velocity parachutes. With the 85MGs greater torque, you will be able to bet the most out of the Extra's generous elevator authority. Maybe with this kind of control I'll have the confidence to bring back the Z bend landing.


Again, ball links on both ends of the push rod gives you a nice, tight connection that is free of slop, but with smooth, drag free operation. First class set up.

One thing to be careful of if you choose to go with the 85MG servo, check the servo arm clearance to the stabilizer before you drill the holes. You may have to drop the servo down a bit so it doesn't hit. Ours fit, but it was close.

Rudder
Dual Ball links on the rudder linkage gives a nice, smooth action and full travel, with excellent centering.




As you can see, I got away with using the standard arm that comes with the servos, and on the elevator I used a High Tech 85MG with the long durbo arm. Like this I didn't get a chance to try Extreme Flights' most excellent G10 servo arm extensions. I was a bit disappointed because they are simple, functional, well engineered and well made pieces. I always like to use stuff like that. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try them on my next project.

Here is a close look at Extreme Flight's exclusive G10 servo arm extension. I used Durbo self tapping button head screws to attach the extension to the standard Hi Tech arm and then ran a bead of thin CA all the way around the arm to lock it down really tight. The kit comes with two of these, one for rudder and the other for elevator. These arms give you as much throw as you'll need to make the Extra stand up and bark.


As of this writing I am satisfied enough with the rudder response. The Extra can do full throttle knife edge loops without needing full deflection, so I don't think I need any more. Initially I was worried about blow back simply because the rudder is so large, but I have a secret weapon in the new Airboss 45 ESC that now runs the servos on 6 volts. The little 65MGs scream their guts out on this much voltage and torque is much improved. I need a little more time to fly the plane and see what we have, but as of right now I don't see a need to change the rudder servo out for an 85MG.

Radio Gear Installation
I really like the way the radio compartment is laid out in the EXP series, simply because it's easy to get a clean install. I put the receiver when the manual says, run the wires up through the slots cut in the tray, and it came out perfect. There is no scientific proof that a neat and tidy installation makes a plane fly better, but I sure feel better about it when the install comes out this clean.


A nice touch is the holes for mounting the switch are pre cut. What's nice is that all of this stuff is already thought out for you. Just put the gear where the manual tells you and everything comes out perfect.



Power System
Using the Extreme Flight power system with Torque 2814 motor and Airboss 45 ESC makes for a clean installation.


Here I glued a balsa block to the motor box and velcroed the Airboss 45 to it. This location puts the ESC right in the cooling airflow coming into the cheek cowling. Also, like this, it is in the right position so the switch can be bolted to the mounting holes that come pre cut in the fuselage sides.

Batteries
We have always used Thunder Power batteries exclusively for all our projects, so we had a good supply of 3s 2250 and 2700 Pro Power 30C pack on hand that worked so well in planes such as The Edge 540T EXP and MXS.

While the Extra was designed to run on either 3s or 4s, this last year I have been flying my 47" class planes primarily on 3s, aiming for that magic 180 Watts Per Pound  figure.  While I am generally too lazy to do the math, I have a good feel for what I like, and all three of the EXP series planes (Extra, Edge, MXS) that I have owned fly beautifully on 3s. I've tried the MXS on 4s and it will continue that way, just because it's so bad ass. The Extra, however, I plan to fly more smoothly and gently on moderate power. It just seems really sweet like this to me.


With the lighter 2200 pack, the plane balances fine with the battery where you see it, and I'm flying the heavier 2700 pack a little further back. There is more room to go back if we needed to, but using the CG location specified in the manual (balance on the center of the carbon fiber wing tube) we are dead on. 

As well thought out as this entire series of planes seem to be, this was certainly no surprise either.