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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Laser EXP Celebration

100 Flights?
Or so.  I've had such a great time with this plane that I sort of forgot to count.  As seen in Extreme Flight Laser__25 Raging Flights it did not take me very long to fall in love with how this plane flies.
From what I can tell, the Laser shares the same wing platform as the Extra EXP. I also held my Laser EXP over top of my Extra EXP and it seems the tail moment is fairly close to the same distance,  so it was not a big surprise that the Laser EXP flies a lot like the Extra EXP in a lot of ways.
Considering how much I love the Extra EXP, that's the highest praise I can give a plane. However, some flying characteristics have been improved.
Pitch Authority
Right away, I could tell that, comparing to the Extra EXP, there is a big difference in the pitch authority. I sort of suspected this could be the case because the Laser has a larger elevator, much like the one on the MXS.
The Laser is very nearly as good here as the MXS, and it is certainly enough. The laser will pop up into a wall effortlessly from almost any speed, and you have to be careful to remember it isn't going to balloon up like the Extra will. The Laser doesn't quite throw the tail under the plane and start sinking like the MXS does when you throw it into a wall, but it's pretty close.
For parachutes, the laser is really sweet. The plane will rotate to level with a very satisfying "pop" and settle into a high speed elevator while it bleeds off speed. If you hold it like this you can add a little power and start moving it forward into a harrier, which this plane does nicely as well.

The Laser harriers extremely well. It is almost as good as the Edge, which is as good as it gets. You can get it to rock a little if you are sloppy enough, but it is never enough to make the plane wallow off course. With just a little care the Laser harriers with the nose way up there and tracking straight.

I consider the elevator maneuver to be a harrier of sorts that is not moving forward, because you fly them essentially the same, except for the moving forward part, that is. The Laser does a really pretty elevator maneuver with very little correction. Again, not as completely foolproof and effortless as the Edge EXP, but not very far off either.

Here the Laser is very close to the precision king, the Extra EXP. She tracks extremely well, making slow and point rolls very straight and pretty. However, with the big elevator the Laser gives up a little pitch stability to the Extra, but it is not horrible or anything. The Laser is still very, very solid at high speed, just not as absolutely locked in as the Extra.

To get around this, I fly my precision works on low rate and that works very well. It is a small price to pay for the additional pitch authority I like to use in my 3D works. I should really be using rates anyway, but the Extra is so solid on high rates it has made me lazy.
Snaps, Spins, And Tumbles
And here's where we get to the Laser's really strong suit. Snaps are very clean and spins are tight. It is very much like the Extra here, which is again the highest form of praise, but when you get into the KE spin, it becomes a different game.
All you have to do with the Laser is put in the right commands and hold it there. Then it is almost like the Laser has a KE spin autopilot, and it just drops right in. I don't really do a lot of KE spins with the  Laser because they are too easy, but it sure does them pretty.
Pop tops are crazy and I can get two full turns out of one. The times I hit it a little sloppy the Laser will blow out tail first and then squirt across the sky backwards. It's the strangest looking thing. You can see it at about 1:40 in the first video on this page. In the second one I simply put the sticks in the KE spin position mid maneuver and she drops right in. Too easy.

Generally Speaking
When I fly the Laser, I just fly it. It is very much like the Extra EXP in that it does exactly what I ask from it with absolutely no fuss. It's as close to a point and shoot kind of plane as I have ever flown.
The Laser does seem to fly like a conglomeration of all the other EXPs put together, but considering how well all of them fly, and how each of them has their shining strengths, this makes for an extremely well rounded airplane. Again, it is much like the extra EXP in this respect. It has very well rounded performance. The difference between the two is the Extra, while being a great freestyle sort of plane, is biased more toward precision, and the Laser, while still very precise, tends to favor being flown in a more freestyle sort of way.
Perhaps as much as I have compared it to the Extra EXP it is fitting that the Laser gets the same kind of unconditional approval  that I reserve for planes like the Extra EXP.
Graphix And Such 

It took a little while to get my Laser EXP fully finished. I think I was just so stressed out about doing a perfect job on the decals that I kept putting it off. Of course, this is a bit ridiculous because I ordered a set from B and E Graphix, and those are air release vinyl with application tape. I've been using those for years for my Thunder Power and Extreme Flight decals and they go on very easily
Still, I was too stressed out to do it, simply because the Laser is such an important plane for me. Finally my friend Ken Elder put them on for me and it came out really nice. As you can see, he did a beautiful job on it.  

The Laser And Me
The story of the Laser 200 and myself is over 30 years old. In 1980, Leo Loudenslager won the world aerobatics championship with his own design, the Laser 200, which was a development of the Stevens Acro.  Leo obviously then became my instant hero, and the Laser 200 was a plane that I would have to have.
Of course, back then, everything was built from a kit..... a real kit which was nothing more than sheets and sticks of wood that you had to glue together, sand and cover with Monokote. For some odd reason, no one built a decent Laser except Bob Godfrey. His was damm nice, but it was a 1/4 version and a the bare airframe less covering went for around $1200.... and that was in 1980 dollars, which was real money.
I wanted a laser so bad that I couldn't stand it. In desperation I tried a host of other scale aerobatic planes like Caps, Zlins, and El Diablo and all that, and I even considered a Dalotel, though that plane was so ugly I would have rather gouged out my own eyes with a rusty spoon. Finally, I was sick of racing, and I was sick of pattern competition, and the last thing in the world I wanted to look at was another Ugly Stick. Well, that or a Dalotel.
So, in 1988, bored with all the ugly and unappealing planes out there, I quit flying and took a job as a scuba dive guide.
In 2005 I got another plane. At first I just wanted to fly my foam RTF in the park, but going online I saw what incredible things were being done with electric scale aerobatic planes. The Edge 540 looked sort of like a Laser, and I went through a succession of those, and later Extras, Velox', and a Yak or two.  It's really been a blast flying such interesting and good looking planes, but I never gave up hope that someone would build a nice Laser, especially in an affordable 48" size.  

Team Extreme Flight
All the while I kept eyeing those large Extreme Flight planes, and I even had some of the 45" Extras and Edges. I loved those planes and I also really dug the Extreme Flight Radio Control Aerobatic Team logo. I was really jealous of those guys who got to wear that on their backs. 

So, I always had this sort of  impossible little day dream about being on Team Extreme Flight. Why not dream big and be on the best team in the industry, fly the best planes going, and wear the coolest logo ever?  Actually, it seemed so impossible that I dreamed it once, and then put it out of my mind, because it could simply never happen. I may as well have dreamed of having an affair with Megan Fox or Jennifer Love Hewitt before something ridiculous like Team Extreme Flight  choosing me would happen.
And then, the impossible actually happened. I was put on Team Extreme Flight. It's been a year and a half and I still can't put it into words how much that means to me.
Now the only thing missing in my modelling world was a really nice Laser. With the full scale plane now over 30 years old, it did not seem likely that anyone would actually produce one, but then again, I was starting to believe in the impossible.  

Six months into my dream come true, Extreme Flight principle Chris Hinson sends me photos of the then-secret 48" Laser EXP.
And I flip out. Another dream come true.
 So, with all of this in mind, perhaps I can be forgiven for writing a slightly out of whack article. After all,  having to wait 30 years for my dream airplane, and then getting to fly it for my dream team, wouldn't it seem a little odd if I wasn't completely disjointed over it? 
 Laser Desktop Artwork
It's still a bit early in the Laser story, so we don't have a lot of artwork made up just yet. For you Laser fans who want a cool Laser desktop, click on the picture to make it go large, then right click and choose "save as."