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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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Last Word On The Extra EXP___ For Now

The Old Faithful Blue Extra EXP

I've been flying my Extras almost exclusively for about a month and have developed a pretty decent rythmn with them. I had hammered my original blue relentlessly and it felt like I could almost fly that plane with my eyes closed.  Everything about it was instinctual, easy and natural.

My original blue Extra EXP  had already taken a considerable beating. I flew my other Extras a bit here and there, but the original blue did most of the work, and made most of the videos, and it got treated with a much higher level of complete and total disregard. I probably flew this airplane harder and abused it more thoroughly than any plane I have ever owned, but it didn't seem to affect it negatively.

In fact, the harder I beat it, the better it got.

I have been extremely impressed with how well this plane has handled the abuse, which included a pretty nasty crash with very little damage. These are extremely well built airframes, and the generous use of expensive composite materials throughout  (especially in critical areas) makes them hold up really well. In spite of how hard this plane has been knocked around, it still looked absolutely brand new.

In the end, though, nothing could have survived catching a wingtip on the ground and slamming in on the nose at 100 mph.

Previous to that, the Extra EXP had given me a lot of awesome flights. I didn't keep exact track of it, but I lost count at around 150 flights or so, give or take a few. It was still a lot of flying jammed into a short time period.  I was so comfortable with that plane that I merely forgot what can happen. That, or I truely did not believe I could wreck that plane. Of course, you can wreck any plane if you fly stupid enough, and that's exactly what happened.

On of the first things my father taught me about model aviation is never to fall in love with anything that flies. Under the best of circumstances, models will still sometimes crash and die, but if you fly anything hard, you are going to wreck it, wear it out, or it will seccumb to the stress. You push hard, you tear stuff up..... simple. Extreme aerobatics simply takes this to the .........errrr, extreme level of destruction. You still hate to tear up a good flying plane, so I was mad at myself for a few days. I was flying hard, and maybe a bit I deserved it.

I flew this airplane unreasonably hard, and it really should have just given up under the stress and fatigue, and literally blew itself into a thousand peices. It never did. This plane looked good and flew perfect, right up until the bloody, bitter end. She went down with absolute honor.

I have to rate this as the best airplane I have ever owned. Ever......which is a long time.

Big Red

The big surprise came with my second Extra EXP.  Seeing that I was getting a bit too crazy with the original, I built a backup red Extra, which flies just as wonderfully. I was jumping back and forth from the blue to the red without hardly noticing a difference, so clearly these airframes are built to an exacting tolerance. I really did not expect it to be that good right out of the box, but it was.

I don't really have a lot on this plane just yet, simply because it only has two flights on it. So far it flies just like Old Faithful Blue, and you can see the confidence I have in the plane by how hard I pushed the low level parachute and other high risk maneuvers.

The New Blue

A nice distration along the way has been the second blue Extra EXP we built up for the EXTREME FLIGHT Extra EXP Sport report.  Lately my building has been a mix of Jim putting the tails on (because he is a better builder than me) and I do everything else, but this time no one touched it but me. It went together extremely well and flies beautifully. I have never been a really good builder, simply because I have lacked patience and confidence, but with these planes I think I have made considerable progress. Patience isn't a problem because these EXPs are so nice that I enjoy putting them together.

I am almost satisfied with the job I am doing in building and maintaining my EXP series planes, but my standards remain much higher than my ability.  It is quite satisfying to put a whole project together and have it come out so well, but the EXP series are designed like that.

As soon as the video for the sport report was done, I put the plane in 3D trim and it flies just like the other two.The nice part of having this plane is that gave me three ready to fly Extra EXPs, which would soon become very handy indeed. Here is the new blue's first flight as a 3D plane.....

I have since ordered a new blue Extra EXP, and I will put it together some rainy day, or another time when I am bored and want a project, which is often. I guess I enjoy building these things more than I cared to let on. There is just a nice buzz about to working on a fine product and building something as special as an EXP.

However, I am just getting too comfortable and too crazy with my Extras. I've also got two nice MXS EXP and three Edge EXPs that I am ignoring, so the Extras will get a rest for now. I am sure I'll be back to hammering on them soon enough, but for now the MXS needs some love.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Extreme Aviation Video Showcase__Extreme Flight Extra EXP__4s

We have been doing a lot with the Extra EXP lately. I sort of rediscovered my original blue one and have been hammering it pretty good. This plane is approaching 200 flights or so and has had a really hard life. I am really pleased it has held up so beautifully. It is in much better condition than most of my planes when they get this kind of extended torture.

Somewhere along the line in this latest round, I reached what I think is a very good understanding of this plane. Oh, it is nothing like the way Daniel Holman or Jens Van Dorp understand this plane, but there was definitely a moment when I thought "Oh, I got this."

I believe that generally this is how we learn. I do best when I stick with one airplane and hammer it to pieces. The more you fly an individual airframe, the more you learn it's nuances and the more confident and comfortable you become with it. Of course, I love this plane right away, but it took some time to discover just how hard I could push it, and what I had to do to get the most out of it,

So, we are in good shape to bring you much more on this plane. The original blue is still going strong, and I have a brand new red  Extra EXP with two flights on it as a backup. Also,  we just built one for the Sport Report and it is now in full tilt 3D set up. We have plenty of Edges to thrash this summer, so you can definitely expect some fun times.

Sport Flying The EXTREME FLIGHT Extra EXP

Sport pilots for too long have been scared off from trying a lot of good aerobatic planes because they were told those planes were "too hot" for them, or "you can't handle that plane."

I am here to tell you right here and right now, you can. You can do it, and it is not even that hard.

If you can fly a Park Zone T28 or something similar, you can adjust the set up on many different extreme aerobatics capable planes and turn them into really sweet sport planes. This article is aimed at you T28 pilots, and other pilots like you who are learning aerobatics, are finding the T28 a bit too easy, and want to fly something a bit more capable. You need a new challenge, and this is it.

You can go a lot of different directions, but the cream of the crop is the Extreme Flight EXP line up. Of those planes, I believe the Extra 300 is the best suited to tailor to wards sport flying, but the other EXPs are certainly capable.

You can read much more about the Extra EXP, it's design and construction at  Extreme Flight Extra 300 EXP__Clean Sheet

First, at 48" the Extra EXP is a much bigger plane than what most of you newer pilots are used to flying. It's going to be a smoother plane, for one, because it is bigger, and for another, it is a very advanced and refined design. Everything about it is designed to make it fly smoother and with laser like precision. The Extra will go and stay right where you put it. While this requires a little more attention from the pilot, it is actually easier because you aren't constantly correcting it to make it go where you want it to go. You simply point it and let the plane do the work for you.

It might seem a little odd that the hardest thing you are going to have to do to adapt to a better plane is to just relax, but that's the truth. Let the plane do the work for you. You still have to fly it, but you aren't fighting it and it isn't fighting you. Point it where you want it to go, and then let it go until you are ready for it to do something else.

There is also nothing to be afraid of from the Extra EXP in the way of bad manners. With a sport set up it is a very, very gentle plane that is easy to fly, yet does all the conventional maneuvers. You T28 pilots might be nervous for a flight or two, but after that you will trust the plane  and probably push harder than you ever have.

48" is also as large as you can go and still have a practical airplane. All my 48" planes fit in the back seat or the trunk (with the seat folded) of my Nissan Altima fully assembled. I merely take them out of the car and fly them, which is a welcome relief from the larger planes that have to be assembled and pre-flight inspected at the field. Generally the only time I take a wing off one of my 48" planes is when I do a very thorough maintenance.

From the moment I saw the first pictures of the Extreme Flight Extra 300 EXP, I knew it would be an outstanding choice for either extreme aerobatics or sport flying. With it's long, smooth, flowing lines we knew sport pilots were going to want a piece of this plane. We knew because of the Extra's long tail, big stabilizers and tall fuselage that it would do really good precision, but with the reduced throws and slightly forward CG of the sport set up, it is almost like a competition precision plane.

The Extra grooves really, really well, goes, and stays exactly where you put it. This makes it extremely easy to fly because the plane really does most of the work for you. The plane flies straight, tracks straight and stays right on that big line you are drawing with it.

The Extra flies precision so well that you almost won't care about it's slow speed manners, but those are just as outstanding. The Extra is a big airplane for it's wingspan with a long and tall fuselage, and huge stabilizers. Add in the big SFGs and you have a lot of lift almost no matter what position the plane is flying in. The Extra is nice and floaty, and as a result can be flown very, very slowly.

When you combine irreproachable high speed grooving and impeccable slow speed manners, you've got an excellent all around performer, which incidentally makes for an awesome sport plane. There is one other crucial ingredient for a good sport plane, and that's durability. I have absolutely tortured my first two Extras, and they have thrived where other planes have crumbled under the abuse. I've bounced them, cartwheeled them, and I even drove one straight in at high speed and barely hurt it.

Clearly there aren't many sport pilots who will treat a plane this badly, so I am more than confident the Extra EXP will withstand the rigors of every day sport flying.